[License-discuss] objective criteria for license evaluation

Gervase Markham gerv at mozilla.org
Mon Dec 10 10:57:10 UTC 2012

On 09/12/12 18:46, Luis Villa wrote:
> So let me restate the question to broaden it a bit. If you had a
> *blue-sky dream* what subjective information would you look at?
> For example, if you had the resources to scan huge numbers of code
> repositories, what numbers would you look for?
> * ranking by LoC under each license
> * ranking by "projects" under each license
> * ... ?

If we are blue-sky dreaming, then I would like to rank by "_useful_, 
unique lines of code under each license". "Useful" in the sense that 
some half-finished barely-compiling "my first Windows CD player" on 
Sourceforge counts for nothing, whereas jQuery counts for a lot. 
"Unique", in the sense that I shouldn't be able to game the stats by 
going to github and forking every project with my preferred license.

> Similarly, if you could declare objective criteria for textual license
> analysis and had the time/resources to read all of them, what would
> those criteria be? e.g.,
> * has/has not been retired by the author

This is important; however some licenses such as the HPND have no 
identified author, but yet are deprecated.

> * has/has not been obsoleted by a new license published by the same author

- one can imagine a license which has been obsoleted by its author but 
is still in wide use, and even specifically chosen over newer versions 
(e.g. GPL 2)

> * has/doesn't have an explicit patent grant

- I am of the view that even if the OSI finds it impossible politically 
to recommend specific licenses, it should try and get to a place where 
it can recommend license features - with an explicit patent grant being 
in pole position.

> * ... ?

I think there is also a place for "lawyers generally think it's vague 
and has sub-optimal word choice", which might apply to e.g. Artistic v1.

 > * Plays well with other popular licenses. We now have a "can use in" 
progression which goes:

MIT/BSD -> Apache 2 -> MPL 2 -> LGPL 3 -> GPL 3 (-> AGPL 3)

(Those GPL numbers could be 2 rather than 3 if there was a warning about 
the Apache2/GPL2 incompatibility which the FSF asserts.)

If your code doesn't slot somewhere into that ecosystem, you are (IMO) 
significantly reducing the likelihood of it gaining widespread use, all 
other things being equal.


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