Procedure for using an approved license

Mitchell Baker mitchell at
Mon Oct 7 21:11:27 UTC 2002

First I'll respond to the question of renaming the license, then to some of the particular issues raised with the MPL.

Using the MPL unchanged is helpful for combining code from projects and avoiding complexity.  But if this is not acceptable, then Dave's technique is a good one.  First, it lets people know of the only change quickly.  Second, the only change concerns a potential future event -- the possibility of a different future version.  Until that possibility occurs, the code from the two projects is effectively licensed under the same terms.  So combining code from the two projects is simplified.  Not as simple as if both used the MPL of course, but still well within the realm of possibility.

I can't speak as to OSI certification.

As to the particular issues raised with the MPL, I can give some 
background as to why the MPL is the way it is.  And James, if there are 
other things in which your lawyers are interested, please feel free to 
have them contact me.  I can explain the thinking when the MPL was 
written, as well as what we've learned since.  Also, I' m interested in 
learning what works well for people and what doesn't.

Section 6.1.  We felt some provision for changing the license was 
necessary.   We realized that the chance of the MPL being perfect in its 
first release (or really, any particular release) was small to nil.  
Perfection is the goal, but we we're not so arrogant as to think we've 
reached it J  Code evolves, a license might need to as well. 

The GPL has been undated several times.  New laws might be enacted which 
would suggest changes be made (UCITA perhaps being one).  A lawsuit 
could do the same thing.  Also, as time goes on, the community might 
find new needs arising, and some way to respond in the licenses will be 

Once we decided that some way of accommodating change was needed, the 
obvious question is:  who will make this decision.  I'd prefer to Netscape immensely, but is not a separate 
legal entity for historical reasons.  For practical purposes, the MPL is 
managed by staff, but that's hard to write into a legal 
document.  So we ended up with Netscape.  It is clearly understood that 
this right to change the license is one of stewardship.  And that 
changing the license without a consensus is dangerous, and changing the 
license to benefit Netscape is deadly.   

Section 11.  Venue and jurisdiction is an area where I don't think we 
have a good solution yet.  It seems to me that the next version of the 
MPL should allow different choices for new Original Code.  (That is, 
code not based on releases.)  So others could adopt the MPL 
for use with their project and make their own choices.  I think the MPL 
community would want this, though we haven't yet had extensive 
discussions.  I suspect there will be some issues when code with 
different choice of law and venue provisions are combined and end up in 
court, but I haven't done research on this lately.

Hope this is of interest.


James E. Harrell, Jr. wrote:

>Open Source friends,
>I've been looking at MPL 1.1 as well. One of the reasons I would
>replace the word "Netscape" with my own company name is #6.2:
>>6.2. Effect of New Versions.
>>Once Covered Code has been published under a particular
>>version of the License, You may always continue to use it
>>under the terms of that version. You may also choose to
>>use such Covered Code under the terms of any subsequent
>>version of the License published by Netscape. No one other
>>than Netscape has the right to modify the terms applicable
>>to Covered Code created under this License.
>The last sentence is a difficult one for me- why would I ever want
>to be able to supplant this license with what they deem to be another
>version? That version might say "All covered code automatically becomes the
>sole property of Netscape corporation..." Not suggesting that they would,
>Further, if I take this license to legal review and finally do find it to
>be acceptable for my product, what happens when MPL 1.2 comes out? The legal
>review is then pointless (or at least has to be re-done); but worse, if I
>like the terms of MPL 1.2, now I have a product that is licensed under terms
>that I don't find acceptable- and I have now way to keep you from using it
>the terms of MPL 1.2.
>Now, give that MPL 1.1 is probably one of the most suitable licenses for
>commercial Open Source products... but there are some minor things that
>not be acceptable for our lawyers... does that mean it's time to try another
>one specifically geared to Open Source commercial products that solves the
>templating problem (and maybe some others?)
>-- OR --
>Perhaps someone can really address the question that Dave asked- or maybe
>really my re-phrase of the original question:
>Is this *a* correct procedure? (I change "the" to "a")
>Given this procedure, is this license automatically 'OSI certified'?
>*NOTE* MPL 1.2 is solely used in conjecture for the purposes of this email!
>Thanks for help understanding this too!
>>-----Original Message-----
>>From: David Johnson [mailto:david at]
>>Sent: Sunday, October 06, 2002 10:03 PM
>>To: Dave Nelson; OpenSource Licensing Discussion Group
>>Subject: Re: Procedure for using an approved license
>>On Sunday 06 October 2002 02:10 pm, Dave Nelson wrote:
>>>I wish to use the Mozilla 1.1 license, but don't know the exact
>>>procedures here.
>>>I copied the Mozilla 1.1 license from your site, replace 'Netscape' with
>>>my company, and 'Mozilla' with my product, and Netscape trademarks with
>>>mine. No other changes were made. Then added a line under the title
>>You did too much unnecessary work. The MPL is sufficiently
>>"templatized" that
>>you don't need to do all this.
>>You only need to change the words "Mozilla" and "Netscape" if you make a
>>derivative license of the MPL. This does not seem to be your intent.
>>Far simpler: Just fill in EXHIBIT A with your name, software,
>>etc., and you
>>are done!
>>You *do* want to keep the name "Mozilla Public License", because people
>>already know what it is and what rights it confers. Changing the name will
>>only cause confusion.
>>David Johnson
>>pgp public key on website
>>license-discuss archive is at
>license-discuss archive is at

license-discuss archive is at

More information about the License-discuss mailing list