Subject: RE: [osi-discuss] A question for themembershipaboutlicenserecommendation
From: "Lawrence Rosen" <>
Date: Sat, 6 Sep 2008 18:13:53 -0700

{Forwarded to license-proliferation-2, for continued discussion of the
license proliferation issue]


Thank you for revisiting history with us. My memory is a little different. I
recall that FSF proposed the GPL, and the reaction by many companies and
open source projects was the drafting and approval by OSI of several very
important licenses including the MPL, Python, and PHP licenses, and licenses
from IBM, Sun, Apple, and others. We approved the Artistic License, and many
others, because FSF didn't care about anything but the GPL and reasonable
people wanted something different.

Several years later, partly in response to license proliferation by so many
companies, and with the help of members of the OSI board and others, I
created the OSL and AFL to give people non-corporate alternatives to the
GPL. I also began to work with the Apache Foundation and came to support and
promote their license also. 

During this entire period, you and the FSF promoted your GPL and made short
and non-helpful "approved" lists of licenses compatible with it. NONE of the
licenses I named above were deemed compatible. 

Quite frankly, Bradley, the FSF and its GPL have fostered much of the
license proliferation problem because you refuse to encourage the
compatibility of your license with the expressed wishes of whoever remains
in the FOSS world besides GPL advocates. That's your right, of course, but
don't blame the result just on OSI.

And the result, by the way, is the existence of about 20 open source
licenses that collectively account for 99.9% (approximately) of all FOSS
software. Calling this a mess, and blaming the mess on OSI, ought not to be
repeated on this list.


> -----Original Message-----
> From: [mailto:osi-discuss-
>] On Behalf Of Bradley M. Kuhn
> Sent: Saturday, September 06, 2008 4:51 PM
> To:
> Subject: Re: [osi-discuss] A question for
> themembershipaboutlicenserecommendation
> David Ascher wrote:
> > In particular, I think that OSI is responsible for license
> > proliferation.
> Historically, I believe strongly that this is true.  For example, one of
> the arguments that kept the FSF and the OSI at such a great distance in
> the late 1990s and very early 2000s was precisely OSI's desire to
> actively encourage creation of new licenses and FSF arguing that FLOSS
> license proliferation would be a really bad outcome of OSI's
> encouragements for drafting of more licenses.
> I created the license-list at FSF in the late 1990s primarily to bring
> attention to this dangerous proliferation that was occurring, which was
> in turn coming from the new license approvals churning out of OSI.
> I add this point not to rehash the past, but to bolster David's point,
> and to point out again that OSI has a responsibility to make licensing a
> major agenda item still.
> > It's would therefore be good manners for OSI to help clean up the
> > mess.  I can't think of any more effective way than to explicitly
> > promote a small number of licenses, possibly with deprecating some
> > "bad" ones.
> Agreed.
> Larry wrote:
> > I'd be interested to understand what *specific* problems you've
> > encountered as a result of proliferating licenses,
> This has been well documented and discussed in many venues since the
> late 1990s.  Do we really need to rehash the decade-long conversation
> here?
> Russ wrote:
> > We already recommend that people use only licenses that comply with
> > the Open Source Definition is they want an open source license.  I
> > don't see how adding further characteristics to "open source license"
> > and recommending just one of many licenses is any different.
> I think you're taking a huge and excellent step forward in trying to do
> this.  There's a good opportunity to correct past mistakes.
> --
>    -- bkuhn
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