[License-discuss] objective criteria for license evaluation

Gervase Markham gerv at mozilla.org
Mon Dec 10 17:31:58 UTC 2012

On 10/12/12 17:23, Luis Villa wrote:
> How to define "useful" objectively? Size is the obvious,
> plausibly-obtainable proxy here for "useful"- "projects over X LOC" or
> something like that. I suppose if you had a custom crawler that had
> knowledge of git/svn/cvs/etc., you could do "projects over 5
> committers" or "projects with over 100 commits" or something along
> those lines. Richard suggests community size, which would be great but
> is probably not computable, no matter how many people/how much money
> you throw at it.

Perhaps we could have multiple criteria - either size, or being used in 
 > N other projects. If there were some way of detecting that. Some 
modern SCMs now allow you to explicitly pull in other repos; perhaps 
that could be detected.

>> This is important; however some licenses such as the HPND have no identified
>> author, but yet are deprecated.
> Deprecated by *who*? :) (Note that we don't even have a "deprecated"
> category right now; we've only gotten as far as "redundant with more
> popular licenses.")

Well, http://opensource.org/licenses/HPND says:

"This License has been voluntarily deprecated by its author."


>>> * 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.
> Any others?

Nothing so concrete. One would want the license to have been drafted 
with international concerns in mind, especially if it did not have 
choice-of-law. But that's much harder to spot.

> As Richard points out, it is very hard to imagine how to make this
> objective, but I'd encourage folks to think creatively about it.

Richard's point is a fair one :-)

> I like the intuition here, but I'd like to push us to think about more
> objective criteria: what does it mean to "play nicely"? Presumably
> "compatible", but who determines compatibility? What does it mean? Can
> that be determined objectively?

A good question. What is compatibility? It is a non-transitive relation, 
such that X is compatible with Y if code from license X can be used in a 
project with license Y. (If we want to pick a better term than 
"compatible", I wouldn't object.)

Who determines compatibility? Aside from the well-known disagreement 
about Apache 2 and GPL 2, I'm not sure (perhaps I'm naive!) that there 
is much disagreement about compatibility as defined above, for popular X 
and Y.


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