February 16, 2005 7:30 AM PST

Open-source board eyes fewer licenses

BOSTON--The Open Source Initiative, an influential open-source organization, is devising ways to cut down on the rising number of open-source licenses attached to software.

The issue was on the front burner at this week's LinuxWorld conference here. Open-source software makers are concerned that a proliferation of licenses could hurt the spread of open source by creating compatibility problems and complicating potential sales.

The OSI, a nonprofit group that issues certifications for open-source licenses, has been investigating the topic since last year. Involved in the discussions are members of the OSI's board and of the Open Source Development Labs (OSDL), an industry group dedicated to making Linux better suited for corporate customers.


Sam Greenblatt, a member of the OSDL's board and senior vice president at Computer Associates International in charge of Linux strategy, told CNET News.com that he is actively working on a proposal for consolidating the number of open-source licenses down to three from the current figure of more than 50.

"You'll see some movement on that in the next six to eight weeks," he said Tuesday.

Although no specific plan has been put in place, the OSI considers the number of open-source licenses an industrywide problem, said Russell Nelson, who became president of the OSI earlier this month.

"Certainly a lot of people are upset about the license proliferation problem," Nelson said.

"Confusing as hell"
Incompatible licenses among different products prevent people from sharing code from different open-source projects. Having too many licenses complicates potential sales to corporate customers, which may have to do extensive legal reviews and manage multiple kinds of open-source contracts.

"It's confusing as hell to explain to customers," said Michael Olson, CEO of open-source database company Sleepycat Software. "It's confusing?because we are just wrapping our heads around what (different licenses) mean to us as businesspeople."

There are a handful of popular open-source licenses, such as the General Public License (GPL), which is used for Linux, and the Apache Software License, which

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4 comments

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I've heard this before...
We've heard this before. Yeah, from Redmond. So now the comments that Ballmer and Gates make about open source aren't so ridiculous?

That's why treating open source as religion isn't good for anybody.
Posted by Jeff Putz (302 comments )
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Why would MS care
If certain OS licenses conflicted with others? They would like that situation as one of the few true arguments they have against it. There is more wrong with MS licenses then all the oS ones combined.

Streamlining them all is a very good idea, after all the point of OS would be negated if one could not share with everyone else.
Posted by (28 comments )
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Interesting issue, not just for open source...
While OSI might be worried about it, the issue is
equally if not more pertinent in the closed
source domain (where the issue is largely
ignored). For example, those familiar with their
Windows EULAs would recognize that the use of
Citrix and WebEx are prohibitted, yet they are
the predominant platform with which these
applications are used.

Many commercial software licenses prohibit the
development of compatible products or integration
with other software. Some licenses prohibit
addressing bugs or flaws in the software without
service by the company, et cetera.

On a typical corporate PC, you can sit down with
all the EULAs for all software loaded on it and
count dozens of incompatible clauses between the
packages. That said, there appears to be a
"gentlemen's agreement" in the industry to look
the other way, but it's a cesspool of potential
liability waiting to be ignited by a sinking ship
seeking revenue.

I think that in this regard, the OSI licenses
tend to be somewhat less severe. Perusing the
list on their website, it doesn't seem to get
sticking until you start to retask code from a
body of code under one license to be used with
code under another license. All of the OSI
licenses are without liability to an end-user or
deployer of software licensed under an OSI
approved license.

Even with a proliferation, OSI-approved licenses
are more boilerplate than the customized one-offs
you get with other software. I think that the
value of this won't really be appreciated until
the software industry starts suing it's consumers
ridiculously like the entertainment industry is
starting to theirs.
Posted by Gleeplewinky (289 comments )
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hi guys am new here , forums looking code, hope to find out some good info
Posted by sndrsndvz (1 comment )
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