[License-discuss] [Infrastructure] Machine readable source of OSI approved licenses?

J Lovejoy opensource at jilayne.com
Mon Feb 10 16:02:10 UTC 2014

Hi All,

A little behind in my email lists reading, but I know that Phil Odence already posted about this topic and the possibility of sharing the work that SPDX is already doing along these lines.  I did not see any response to his post, so thought I’d bring it up again.

In short, what you see on the SPDX.org/licenses web page is actually generated from a “master” spreadsheet listing the license names, short identifiers, etc. and corresponding text files with the license text.  That blob is available on Git here: http://git.spdx.org/?p=license-list.git;a=summary 

We are in the process of updating the text files with markup to implement the license matching guidelines located here: http://spdx.org/spdx-license-list/matching-guidelines - the goal being to provide a way to ensure that when one SPDX user identifies a license, it is reliably the same as when another SPDX user identifies the same license.  Of course, the main example of this is the BSD 3 and 4 clause licenses and Apache 1.1, which may include the names of the specific copyright holder even though the rest of the license is exactly the same (goal being to avoid concluding every BSD-3-Clause with a different copyright holder name gets identified as a different license.)

In any case, this work is on-going currently.  I’d hate to see someone else expend the time to do something similar, so it seems wise to coordinate efforts in some way or at least discuss how to do so.  



SPDX Legal Team co-lead
opensource at jilayne.com

On Feb 5, 2014, at 5:00 AM, license-discuss-request at opensource.org wrote:

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> Today's Topics:
>   1. Re: [Infrastructure] Machine readable source of OSI approved
>      licenses? (Luis Villa)
>   2. Re: [Infrastructure] Machine readable source of	OSI approved
>      licenses? (Karl Fogel)
> ----------------------------------------------------------------------
> Message: 1
> Date: Tue, 4 Feb 2014 12:00:21 -0800
> From: Luis Villa <luis at lu.is>
> To: License Discuss <license-discuss at opensource.org>
> Cc: Joe Murray <joe.murray at jmaconsulting.biz>,
> 	"infrastructure at opensource.org" <infrastructure at opensource.org>,	Simon
> 	Phipps <simon at webmink.com>
> Subject: Re: [License-discuss] [Infrastructure] Machine readable
> 	source of OSI approved licenses?
> Message-ID:
> 	<CAFPTOkWENuOxOQYm+gZLrjUmYbd23LGTj3Lg_0Lv9mc=3fJtXw at mail.gmail.com>
> Content-Type: text/plain; charset="iso-8859-1"
> On Tue, Jan 7, 2014 at 7:45 AM, Patrick Masson <masson at opensource.org>wrote:
>> Could this be a working group?
> It seems to me still too unformed an idea, and with too few people
> committed to actually working on it, to make it a WG. But I may be
> misreading the level of committed involvement.
> Luis
>> On 12/19/2013 10:03 AM, Simon Phipps wrote:
>> This sounds useful and I'd support the idea if a group were willing to
>> make it happen. I suggest a staged implementation with the "Popular
>> Licenses" being made available first and the others set up to return a
>> placeholder message or error.
>> On Thu, Dec 19, 2013 at 2:07 AM, Joe Murray <joe.murray at jmaconsulting.biz>wrote:
>>> Would it be possible for OSI to make available a machine readable list
>>> of the licenses approved by OSI? The format - a csv, xml or some other file
>>> in a repository, or a REST or some other service from opensource.org -
>>> is not as important as that the content be authoritative. There may be an
>>> official specification for how software licenses should be made available,
>>> but I am not aware of it. http://spdx.org/licenses/ provides a list of
>>> licenses but it too is not designed for automated use (though it might be
>>> scrapable). Ideally, it seems like the recognition of licenses by OSI
>>> should produce some output that could be used by SPDX tools, but this
>>> request is a bit simpler.
>>> Background:
>>> CiviCRM would like the set of licenses in this form in order to ensure
>>> that any extensions that we list on civicrm.org and provide
>>> auto-download services for via civicrm.org are using licenses approved
>>> by OSI. However, the request seems of broader interest. Karl Fogel
>>> suggested I pose it to these two lists.
>>> CiviCRM decided to try to up its game with respect to licensing of its
>>> extensions partly as a result of someone coming across
>>> http://www.zdnet.com/github-improves-open-source-licensing-polices-7000018213/.
>>> While early on most civicrm.org listed extensions were hosted on
>>> drupal.org and thus were guaranteed to have a GPL license, now most of
>>> our new listings are for software on github. CiviCRM would also like to
>>> 'assist' extension developers in actually including an accurate license
>>> text file in their extension by checking it is present in the extension's
>>> root directory and that its text matches what they are listing as the
>>> license. I've been asked to liaise with OSI on the availability of such a
>>> machine readable list of these licenses.
>>> Possible implementation strategy:
>>> If OSI decides it would like to do this, it may be technically as
>>> simple as copying the licenses on opensource.org from one type of node
>>> to another, then doing a bit of cleanup to support some requirements for
>>> automated use. Looking at opensource.org, I see a content type was at
>>> some point created specifically for licenses, though no content has been
>>> posted of that type, and all the licenses are currently created as nodes
>>> with content type=page.
>>> In terms of fields for automated use, it would be useful to move the
>>> short title into its own field rather than having it in parentheses at the
>>> end of the long title, and to make a plain text version of licenses
>>> suitable for inclusion as a LICENSE.txt file in source code available in
>>> addition to the current html formatted ones. If the approved licenses on
>>> opensource.org were put into suitable content types, they could easily
>>> be made available as a feed or exported periodically to a file that could
>>> be stored in an authoritative repository.
>>> I am also trying to understand the proper way to handle headers in
>>> license files, particularly for the small number of cases where they make a
>>> difference, eg GPL-3.0 versus GPL-3.0+ (see
>>> http://opensource.org/licenses/gpl-3.0.html#howto, and the differences
>>> between the 'How to Apply These Terms to Your New Programs' sections of
>>> http://spdx.org/licenses/GPL-3.0 and http://spdx.org/licenses/GPL-3.0+).
>>> This seems like something we want to assist developers in getting right by
>>> using reasonable defaults. One possibility we are mulling over is
>>> optionally automating the creation of a LICENSE.txt file using metadata
>>> about the Author, publication date, and license and suggesting that authors
>>> use that file in their repo or request a manual review of their
>>> LICENSE.txt. It would be convenient if suggested header text for licenses
>>> was made available in machine readable form from OSI, including for the
>>> differences between 'version x only' and 'version x or later' headers.
>>> I am willing to volunteer with doing some of the implementation work if
>>> a decision is made to provide this new service.
>>> Joe Murray, PhD
>>> President, JMA Consulting
>>> joe.murray at jmaconsulting.biz
>>> skype JosephPMurray twitter JoeMurray
>>> 416.466.1281
>>> _______________________________________________
>>> Infrastructure mailing list
>>> Infrastructure at opensource.org
>>> http://projects.opensource.org/cgi-bin/mailman/listinfo/infrastructure
>> --
>> *Simon Phipps*  http://webmink.com
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>> Patrick Masson
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>> Open Source Initiative
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> ------------------------------
> Message: 2
> Date: Tue, 04 Feb 2014 14:03:24 -0600
> From: Karl Fogel <kfogel at opensource.org>
> To: Luis Villa <luis at lu.is>
> Cc: Joe Murray <joe.murray at jmaconsulting.biz>,	License Discuss
> 	<license-discuss at opensource.org>,	"infrastructure at opensource.org"
> 	<infrastructure at opensource.org>
> Subject: Re: [License-discuss] [Infrastructure] Machine readable
> 	source of	OSI approved licenses?
> Message-ID: <87ppn2tzlf.fsf at ktab.red-bean.com>
> Content-Type: text/plain
> Luis Villa <luis at lu.is> writes:
>> It seems to me still too unformed an idea, and with too few people
>> committed to actually working on it, to make it a WG. But I may be
>> misreading the level of committed involvement.
> Well, i think the idea is pretty well formed; it's just a matter of
> actually doing it.  I'm not sure it needs a WG either, though; it's
> quite susceptible to being done by a contractor, or by volunteers who
> would like to make it happen.
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