Subject: Re: I'd love a change of topic -- me too
From: Ben Tilly <>
Date: Tue, 23 Aug 2005 17:17:32 -0700

 Tue, 23 Aug 2005 17:17:32 -0700
On 8/23/05, Seth Alan Woolley <> wrote:
> On Tue, Aug 23, 2005 at 01:19:24AM -0700, Bruce Perens wrote:
> > Seth Alan Woolley wrote:
> > Until there are 100. And then 1000. Surely you see the problem.
> I see the problem, but I mentioned "templatable equivalent".  By
> equivalent I mean not having a substantive difference that lawyers (i.e.,
> this committee) would care about.  Perhaps the following wording is more
> appropriate: If there's a meaningful niche for a specific license while
> meeting all previously established criteria, it should be approved.

At first I didn't see this as a problem, but then I thought about it
more, and now I do.  Sorta.

There are two issues.

The first is that codebases released under different licenses cannot
generally borrow freely from each other.  Sometimes figuring out when
they can takes some real work.  A few widely used licenses encourages
more code reuse than many narrowly used licenses.

The second is an internationalization problem.  As open source
spreads, open source licenses get applied under legal systems that are
very different from what the  drafters anticipated.  It would be nice
to audit open source licenses  for potential problems in different
countries, and either fix issues, or suggest alternatives if no easy
fix presents itself.  This is, of course, far easier if only a few
licenses are in use than if there are many.

However I only sort of see this as a problem.  Because open source
code is donated effort.  You may request until you're blue in the
face, but in the end if someone wants to donate their effort, then
they get to dictate the terms under which it is donated.  And I view
flawed donations as better than no donation.

> I think making approval subject to revocation is something to be
> considered.  The criteria might change with the times.  You can even
> give certain licenses a temporary approval, or even a "we don't approve,
> but it meets the criteria" approval.  Call it "Open Source Compatible"
> and "Open Source Approved" or something like that.  I think what end
> users really want is to know if it meets the criteria without having to
> read the license.  Open Source Compatible can do that.  Perhaps the
> problem is simply one of not enough resolution.  You don't even need to
> advertize the Open Source Compatible licenses -- they just link to the
> compatibility seal ala verisign.  The situation seems to need outside
> the box thinking (and I hope Bruce has that festering in his mind for
> his website presentation).  The FSF doesn't seem to have this license
> proliferation problem.  They just got enough questions and wrote about
> what's GPL compatible or not.  Surely this isn't as big a problem some
> people are making it out to be.

And this is the solution that I was independently thinking would be good.

Incidentally the FSF *does* have this license proliferation problem
since they maintain a list of free software licenses.  This list has
over 50 licenses on it now.  However in a sense they are using your
solution because they make it clear that they want everyone to use the
GPL or LGPL except in fairly rare circumstances.