Subject: Re: Releasing under OS, what License?
From: "Jonathan S. Shapiro" <>
Date: Sun, 24 Jun 2001 12:34:45 -0400

> well, i've been convinced that i should release all my software projects
> under OS. now my only question is what license?


The resolution to your question depends a lot on what you are trying to
achieve. Different open source licenses serve different needs, and
(religious nut cases notwithstanding) there isn't any one right answer.

I think the first question you need to ask is: do you wish to enforce a
"quid pro quo?" You are letting others make use of (presumably) valuable
software. Do you wish to *ensure* that in exchange they give something back
to the community?

If you wish to *ensure* this, the current best license choice is probably
GPL, because its flaws are not fatal and a very large body already uses it
and has established a community concensus of understanding around the

If you do *not* wish to require this, then a variety of options open up,
including the Mozilla or the X consortium license.

A middle ground would be LGPL, which ensures that changes to *your* code
must be published but allow your code to be compiled in to other code
without imposing a publication requirement on the other code.

I'm going to let others debate the merits of the various licenses. I only
want to point out one issue that is often overlooked: combining rules.

Many companies have said: "I'm not happy with this or that or the other
aspect of the available licenses, I'll create my own." IBM, Lucent, and AT&T
have done this, for example.

From the community's perspective this is a mistake, because it is very hard
to understand the rules for combining code under one license with code under
another. The end result is that each license tends to balkanize a body of
code. The bottom line is that creating new licenses should probably be

The second issue is ownership: if 1,000 people own bits and pieces of a
program, it becomes very unclear who has the right to enforce the license.

The EROS Group eventually decided to use GPL, in spite of its flaws. We are
working around the lack of patent provisions by creating a patent
cross-licensing pool in parallel with the distribution. We are asking all
parties to assign ownership of their changes to us as a condition of
incorporation into our code base. We immediately give the donator a
completely unrestricted license, so they can still do whatever they want.

Jonathan Shapiro