[License-discuss] [Non-DoD Source] notes on a systematic approach to "popular" licenses
luis at lu.is
Tue Jan 10 19:00:40 UTC 2017
I may not have been clear - under this proposal, the "special purpose
licenses" category would continue to exist, and could be used for licenses
like the ones you describe, Cem. Same with categories with more negative
connotation, like "redundant", non-reusable, superseded, etc.
It's not entirely clear what level of scrutiny should be applied to new
licenses proposed in these older categories. I tend to think less
(reserving the highest scrutiny for those proposed as significantly
innovative general-purpose licenses), but Richard may tend to think more,
and I've not thought it through very carefully.
On Tue, Jan 10, 2017 at 10:28 AM Karan, Cem F CIV USARMY RDECOM ARL (US) <
cem.f.karan.civ at mail.mil> wrote:
> I agree with the idea of this, but there will always be niche licenses
> that are needed and won't make it into the popular list. E.g., licenses
> that can be used on public domain software (like US Government works, which
> generally don't have copyright). These will need to be handled carefully,
> as for some of us these are the only licenses we're permitted to use, but
> we'd still like to be Open Sourcing our stuff. So, is there a method of
> weighting the list based on unavoidable factors?
> Cem Karan
> > -----Original Message-----
> > From: License-discuss [mailto:license-discuss-bounces at opensource.org]
> On Behalf Of Luis Villa
> > Sent: Tuesday, January 10, 2017 11:08 AM
> > To: License Discuss <license-discuss at opensource.org>
> > Subject: [Non-DoD Source] [License-discuss] notes on a systematic
> approach to "popular" licenses
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> > Hey, all-
> > I promised some board members a summary of my investigation in '12-'13
> into updating, supplementing, or replacing the "popular
> > licenses" list. Here goes.
> > tl;dr
> > I think OSI should have an data-driven short license list with a
> replicable and transparent methodology, supplemented by a new-and-
> > good(?) list that captures licenses that aren't yet popular but are high
> quality and have some substantial improvement that advances the
> > goals of OSI.
> > Purposes of non-comprehensive lists
> > If you Google "open source licenses", OSI pages are the top two hits.
> Historically, those pages were not very helpful unless you already
> > knew something about open source. Having a shorter "top" list can help
> make the OSI website more useful to newcomers by suggesting a
> > starting place for their exploration and education about open source.
> > In addition, third parties often look to OSI as a trusted (neutral?)
> source for "top" or "best" licenses that they can incorporate into
> > products. (The full OSI-approved list is not practical for many
> applications.) For example, if OSI had an up-to-date short list, it might
> > been the basis for GitHub's license chooser.
> > A list that is purely based on popularity would freeze open source in a
> particular time, likely making it hard for new licenses with
> > important innovations to get adoption. However, a list based on more
> subjective criteria is hard to create and update.
> > Past attempts
> > The proliferation report attempted to address this problem by
> categorizing existing licenses. These categories were, intentionally or not,
> > seen as the "popular or strong communities list" and "everything else".
> Without a process or clear set of criteria to update the "popular"
> > list, however, it became frozen in time. It is now difficult to credibly
> recommend the list to newcomers or third parties (MPL 1.1 is
> > deprecated; no mention of Blackduck #4 GPL v3; etc.).
> > There was also substantial work done towards a license "chooser" or
> "wizard". However, this runs into some of the same problems - either
> > the chooser is opinionated (and so pisses off people, and potentially
> locks the licenses in time) or is borderline-useless for newcomers
> > (because it still requires substantial additional research after using
> > Data-driven "popular" list
> > With all that in mind, I think that OSI needs a (mostly) data-driven
> "popular" shortlist, based on a scan of public code + application of
> > (mostly?) objective rules to the outcome of that scan.
> > To maintain OSI's reputation as being (reasonably) neutral and
> independent, OSI should probably avoid basing this on third-party license
> > surveys (e.g., Black Duck < Caution-
> https://www.blackducksoftware.com/top-open-source-licenses > ) unless
> their methodologies and data
> > sources are well-documented. Ideally someone will write code so that the
> "survey" can be run by OSI and reproduced by others.
> > Hard decisions on how to collect and "process" the data will include:
> > * choice of data sources: What data sources are drawn on? Key Linux
> distros? GitHub? per-language repos like maven, cpan, npm,
> > etc?
> > * what are you counting? Projects? (May favor small, throwaway
> projects?) Lines of code? (May favor the largest, most complex
> > projects?) ... ?
> > * which license tools? Some scanners are more aggressive in trying
> to identify something, while others prefer accuracy over
> > comprehensiveness. In 2013 there was no good answer to this, but my
> understanding is that fossology now has three different scanners,
> > so for OSI's purposes it may be sufficient to take those three and
> > * Could throw in Black Duck or other non-transparent surveys
> as a fourth, fifth, etc.?
> > * new versions? If a new version exists but isn't widely adopted
> yet, how does the list reflect that? e.g., MPL 1.1 still shows up in
> > Black Duck's survey; should OSI replace 1.1 with 2.0 in the "processed"
> list? What about GPL v2 v. v3? BSD/MIT v. UPL?
> > * gaps/"mistakes": What happens when the board thinks the data is
> incorrect? :) e.g., should ISC be listed?
> > Part of why we didn't go very far in 2013 is because there are no great
> answers for these - different answers will reflect different values,
> > and have different engineering impact. They're all hard choices for the
> board, the developers, hopefully license-discuss, and perhaps a
> > broader community.
> > Hat tip: Daniel German was invaluable to me in thinking through these
> > Supplementing with high-quality, value-adding options
> > To encourage progress, while still avoiding proliferation, I'd suggest a
> second list of licenses that are good but not (yet?) popular. "Good"
> > would be defined as something like:
> > 1. meets the OSD
> > 2. isn't on the data-driven popularity list
> > 3. drafted by an attorney (at minimum) or by a collaborative, public
> drafting process with clear support from a sponsoring-
> > maintaining organization (ideal)
> > 4. has a new "feature" that is firmly in keeping with the overall
> goals of open source and can be concisely explained in a few
> > sentences (e.g., for UPL, "GPL-compatible permissive license with
> explicit patent grant")
> > 1. but not "just for a particular community" - has to be at
> least plausible applicable to most open source projects
> > 2. this is unavoidably subjective; suggest having it fall to
> the board with pre-discussion on license-review.
> > #4 allows for some innovation (and OSI support of such innovation) while
> #3 applies a quality filter. (Both #3 and #4 have anti-
> > proliferation effects.) Hopefully licenses that meet #3 and #4 would
> eventually move into #2, but you could imagine placing a time limit
> > on this list; if you're not in the top 10 most popular within five
> years, then you get retired? But not sure that's a good idea at all - just
> > throwing it out as one option.
> > If a new license meets #1, but not #3 and #4, then OSI's formal policy
> should be to approve, but bury it in one of the other proliferation list
> > groups. (Those groups are actually quite good, and should be fairly
> non-controversial — once you have a good policy for what gets in the
> > more "favored" groups.) I don't think a new "deprecated" group is
> necessary - the proliferation categories are basically a good list of that
> > already.
> > This is still a somewhat subjective process, and if it had been in place
> in '99-'06, it would have been fairly fraught. However, I think most of
> > the "action" in open source organization has moved on to other areas
> (e.g., foundation structure, CoCs, etc.), and the field has matured in
> > other ways, so I think this is now a practicable approach in ways it
> would not have been a decade or even five years ago.
> > Miscellaneous notes
> > * I don't recommend merely updating the existing "popular and..."
> list through a subjective or one-time process. The politics of that
> > will be messy, and without a documented, mostly-objective, data-driven
> method, it'll again become an outdated mess.
> > * The OSD should probably be updated. At the least this should be by
> addressing things like whether a formal patent grant is
> > required of new licenses; more ambitiously it might follow Open Data
> Definition 2.x < Caution-http://opendefinition.org/od/2.1/en/ > by
> > splitting out open licenses from open works.
> > * With SPDX and Fedora providing more comprehensive lists of FOSS
> licenses, it might make sense for OSI to link to those as
> > "extended" resources, to reduce pressure from obscure license authors to
> get their license approved.
> > * The biggest pressure on this process will continue to be licenses
> that try to open up space for new commercial business models
> > (e.g., Fair Source). The more OSI can write/document/buttress OSD #1,
> the better.
> > * I used to think a license wizard was a good idea, but I don't any
> more. I thought copyleft spectrum was really the only important
> > decision-making factor, which made the idea plausible, but non-copyleft
> factors matter much more than I once thought, and make
> > simplifying to a "wizard" too hard for OSI (though perhaps still
> plausible for a third party).
> > * Documentation of what the copyleft spectrum is, what the key
> licenses on it are, and what other factors might be relevant, is still
> > a good idea, but are secondary to getting the basic lists right.
> > HTH-
> > Luis
> License-discuss mailing list
> License-discuss at opensource.org
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