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Clash of the Open Standards 215

Rollie Hawk writes "Open Source Initiative (OSI) and Computer Associates (CA) may agree that some housework is needed with open source licensing, but they may not be able to reconcile their views on the best solution. CA has a couple of possible solutions in mind for its proposed Template License. This license will likely be based on either Sun's Common Development and Distribution License (CDDL) its own Trusted Open Source License. OSI, which does not favor corporate-centered licensing, opposes such moves on a number of grounds. Specifically, they point out that CDDL is not GPL-compatible. While acknowledging the problems with license proliferation, OSI prefers a solution involving stricter criteria (including that approved licenses must me non-duplicative, clear and understandable, and reusable) and is proposing a "three-tier system in which licenses are classified as preferred, approved or deprecated." While there is no legal requirement for any open-source license to be approved by OSI, it is currently common practice for developers to get their license blessing from it."
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Clash of the Open Standards

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  • GPL-compatible (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 12, 2005 @08:22AM (#12211036)

    Specifically, they point out that CDDL is not GPL-compatible.

    Umm... so? Since when was the GPL the pinnacle of open source licensing anyway? Licenses pushing a corporate agenda aren't really any worse than the GPL which pushes a political agenda.
    • Re:GPL-compatible (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Otter (3800) on Tuesday April 12, 2005 @08:50AM (#12211241) Journal
      And OSI has an official standard [] that doesn't demand GPL compatibility. I sympathize with their opposition to license proliferation (although in the absence of proliferation, why would licenses need to be certified?), but it seems inappropriate to deny certification to licenses that meet their published standards.
    • Umm... so? Since when was the GPL the pinnacle of open source licensing anyway?

      It is not a pinnancle but a standard. It is like talking about a computer that is not compatible with a Windows network. If they couldn't coexist in the same network (product), it would be a niche computer (license) regardless of its qualities.

      A standard boilerplate corporate license would be great, compared to the custom brew everyone has today. But to make an OSS license that is almost-but-not-quite compatible with the GPL,
      • Re:GPL-compatible (Score:5, Insightful)

        by marvin2k (685952) on Tuesday April 12, 2005 @09:23AM (#12211486)
        While I understand the need for different licenses like GPL - LGPL - BSD, creating several licenses to serve the same purpose is a waste for everyone.
        What worries me is that most people seem to be so fixated on the GPL that they don't realize that this license simply doesn't work for everybody. I think there need to be three "template licenses" instead of one:

        One "I only want to make my work available to other open source authors" license (GPL).
        One "It's ok if my work becomes part of a non-open-source product but I still want that people contribute any changes to my code back to the community" license (LGPL).
        And finally one "I don't really care" license (BSD).

        I think trying to force everyone to use the GPL simply *has* to end in things like the CDDL because the companies don't feel they have any other choice.
        • they don't realize that this license simply doesn't work for everybody

          On the contrary: I think they realize very well the implications of the GPL, but they have raised ethical concerns to the level of a zero-sum game.
          However, I don't see how anything less than such a viewpoint can keep a market going, given the tendency towards monopolies, and the indifference of the government towards those monopolies.
          Maybe if we put all of the extreme characters in a room and force them to watch Barney until they agree

        • Re:GPL-compatible (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Ithika (703697)
          All three of the licences you list are compatible with the GPL.
        • Another important license (at least as far as I'm concerned) is zlib, as that's about as close to public domain as you can get in Germany. German copyright law doesn't allow you to abandon your ownership of a work; if you have written it you have the copyright, period. (No, we don't have unlimited copyright; in Germany the copyright times out after 70 years, no matter how long the author lives.)

          Occasionally I organize programming contests in a small forum. Of course all entries have to be delivered as pub
        • I like the way the Creative Commons licenses work. Simple web-interface, you describe the attributes you want, they give you the legalese. Problem solved.
    • Re:GPL-compatible (Score:5, Insightful)

      by squiggleslash (241428) * on Tuesday April 12, 2005 @09:08AM (#12211375) Homepage Journal
      The GPL is a neutral copy-left. It doesn't give special rights to the "initial developer". It's well understood, there's a large body of code licensed under it, and whether you agree with the politics behind it or not, it's a good baseline for those who want a copy-left license.

      Why is this important? Because most developers want compatability with some common license. If the MPL and CDDL were compatable with the GPL, then there would be ways of mixing code licensed under one with the other.

      Not having compatability harms Freedom. It means that you cannot "use" code under circumstances that most Free Software advocates, and probably most Open Source advocates, would consider reasonable and a requirement for software to be considered Free or Open Source.

      Yes, it doesn't have to the GPL. But there are no other real candidates. The BSD license doesn't do it because it has no requirement that further conditions be eliminated, so while BSD code can go in an MPL project, the fact the CDDL is compatable with the BSD license doesn't mean CDDL code can go into an MPL project.

      Other licenses are, for the most part, more obscure and are no better than the GPL, or are not neutral. Some are even incompatable with themselves as they grant special privileges to an "Initial Developer", which means two projects under such licenses with different initial developers cannot share code.

      So for the time being, GPL compatability needs, as far as many people are concerned, to be the baseline test of whether a license is a good one, regardless of whether - on the surface - it is "too political".

      If you hate the fact that software can be called Free or Open Source and yet you can't use code from one project in another, you should be opposed to incompatable license proliferation. Incompatable licenses are killing Free Software.

      • You have an odd definition of neutral. In fact it would appear that your definition of neutral is almost synonymous with "GPL-compatible". The GPL places restrictions on downstream developers, and it's well known by now that GPL code is not usable in large code bases, unless that base is already GPL to begin with.

        A better choice for a truly neutral default license, that imposes as few restrictions as possible on the end user, would be the BSD license.
        • In fact it would appear that your definition of neutral is almost synonymous with "GPL-compatible".

          No, my definition of neutral is neutral. The GPL doesn't favour any project or any developer. Your suggestion incidentally suggests you didn't bother to read anything I wrote, as the discussion is about finding a license to be compatable with. As I said, the issue right now is that there's no other candidate on the table. The GPL is the only neutral license that's widely used and provides for no further res

          • Re:GPL-compatible (Score:2, Insightful)

            by SunFan (845761)
            "The GPL doesn't favour any project or any developer."

            The GPL favors GPL projects and GPL developers.

            If those projects are a mix of CDDL, MPL, et at, we can't do that.

            Please show me how code under the BSD license, CDDL, and MPL are impossible to combine in a single project (e.g,, one linked into a single executable binary). My understanding is that they can be combined with no problems, given licenses don't mix within individual files.

            "Suppose I want to take some Solaris code and put it in Darwin."

      • The BSD license doesn't do it because it has no requirement that further conditions be eliminated, so while BSD code can go in an MPL project, the fact the CDDL is compatable with the BSD license doesn't mean CDDL code can go into an MPL project.
        I guess it depends on what you mean by "doesn't do it." There are many very successful open-source projects that have BSD-ish licenses, including Perl and FreeBSD. Yes, that means it's possible to take code from them and incorporate it into proprietary software wi
    • Licenses pushing a corporate agenda aren't really any worse than the GPL which pushes a political agenda.
      You must have a fascinating moral paradigm.

      I, for one, think that political agendas that aim to benefit people at large (and have a track record of success at doing so) are less immoral than corporate agendas that seek to enrich their investors at the expense of unwitting customers.
      • I, for one, think that political agendas that aim to benefit people at large (and have a track record of success at doing so) are less immoral than corporate agendas that seek to enrich their investors at the expense of unwitting customers.

        You must have a fascinating moral paradigm, in some sense of the word ``fascinating''.

        ``... corporate agendas that seek to enrich their investors at the expense of unwitting customers.''? That sounds like fraud, which we have laws against. If those laws are twisted

      • I, for one, think that political agendas that aim to benefit people at large (and have a track record of success at doing so) are less immoral than corporate agendas that seek to enrich their investors at the expense of unwitting customers.

        So you think it's immoral to sell stuff?
    • Re:GPL-compatible (Score:4, Insightful)

      by jbolden (176878) on Tuesday April 12, 2005 @09:35AM (#12211593) Homepage
      Since when was the GPL the pinnacle of open source licensing anyway?

      When Linux (speaking of the kernel) became the flagship opensource project the GPL became the pinnacle. Linux brought a huge number of people into Unix and gave them a political orientation that while somewhat hostile to the FSF as "leader" was very congruent with their philosophy.


      1) The GPL is far and away the most common open source license

      2) Projects that were not previously GPL have converted over, Mozilla (the project) being the most important example. That is there has been a shift towards even greater adoption.

      3) Licenses which are not compatible with the GPL tend to receive very little community support.

      If that isn't the pinnacle what is?
      • I think that the public focus, at least towards open source software, has shifted to see firefox as the most glaring example. Still GPL IIRC, so the point is moot, but as far as i can see, firefox has more users than linux will for a while.
      • Linux brought a huge number of people into Unix and gave them a political orientation

        No, fuck that. I don't look to my COMPUTER OPERATING SYSTEM for a "political orientation", and neither should anyone. I look to an OS to make my computer usable. EOM.

        (Go ahead and mod me down for speaking so bluntly, I've got Karma to burn...)
        • Well not discounting your personal opinion, but how does your opinion about what you look for address my 3 points in response to the original poster?
        • I don't look to my COMPUTER OPERATING SYSTEM for a "political orientation", and neither should anyone.

          I second that. This whole GPL debate has decomposed into a Chevy-vs-Ford pissing contest, complete with those Calvin-pissing-on-stuff window stickers.
    • Re:GPL-compatible (Score:4, Informative)

      by eviltypeguy (521224) on Tuesday April 12, 2005 @09:59AM (#12211822)
      Technically, it's the GPL that's incompatible with the CDDL, not the other way around. This is because the GPL states that the other code can't have any additional requirements basically.

      Just a technicality...
      • No, it's the CDDL for not allowing additional requirements either. More seriously, they are both incompatible and would be equally responsible except for the fact that the GPL was written first. The onus is on newer licenses to be GPL-compatible, not the GPL to be compatible with as-yet-unwritten licenses.
    • First, the GNU General Public License is not "open source" except that the Open Source Initiative happened to define their terms broadly enough to allow the GPL to qualify as an OSI-approved license. The GPL was written by the FSF (most notably RMS) for the free software movement years before the open source movement existed. Even a cursory glance of the GPL's terms will confirm it speaks to a philosophy the open source movement rejects.

      Second, to equate a corporate agenda to a social movement's agenda i
  • by syntap (242090) on Tuesday April 12, 2005 @08:23AM (#12211041)
    proposing a "three-tier system in which licenses are classified as preferred, approved or deprecated.

    With all the nuanced licenses appearing, this is good to see. Then again for my needs all I want to know is GPL-compatible or not.
  • Actual impact (Score:4, Insightful)

    by danbond_98 (761308) on Tuesday April 12, 2005 @08:23AM (#12211043)
    But the question really is, how much do people care about this? There seem to be a couple of licences most open source softwares use, being the GPL and the BSD licences, and only odd examples use others. Yes, the big big things like apache and the like have their own licenece, but for most people writting a small application, as well as a lot of larger projects, those two seem to cover it.
    • Re:Actual impact (Score:3, Informative)

      by foobsr (693224)
      Maybe a little more complicated, given that the FSF lists [] some 80+ licenses, documentation related ones not included.

    • Can't speak for anyone else, but for myself, I care about the Artistic License, which to me has always seemed a very nice middle ground between BSD and GPL. I'd be sorry to see it drop off the OSI-approved list.
    • Re:Actual impact (Score:4, Interesting)

      by CDarklock (869868) on Tuesday April 12, 2005 @09:09AM (#12211383) Homepage Journal
      I think there's one major faction which isn't covered by GPL and BSD, where people don't want their software redistributed in modified form. OSI recognises this and provides for it by allowing licenses which require redistribution to be in P3 format (Pristine Plus Patches), but there's no real consensus on one license that covers this need.

      There are a lot of companies who agree completely with the idea of releasing source code, but really dislike the "unrestricted redistribution" thing. A solid industry-standard P3 license would alleviate some of their fears, and could get more projects out there in the open source world.
      • Are company's with this opinion OK with people taking parts of their code and creating similiar projects?

        If so: Then how is this different than a heavily modified version? If the issue is the name then why not just use trademark protection (i.e. you change it you have to call it something else)

        If not: Then what is the virtue of making it open source in the freedome sense at all? Why doesn't the company just retain all rights and redistribute "official versions: themselves?
        • > what is the virtue of making it open
          > source in the freedome sense at all?

          Theoretically, having the source *available* is what open source is REALLY about. All the technical benefits of open source come from a large community of users and developers examining the source code -- what OSI calls "massive peer review". This is good, and it's never anything *but* good.

          Exclusive redistribution rights, on the other hand, have a significant value. Giving those away is painful for a traditional company, be
          • OK this explnation makes sense (except the last sentance). I'm not sure you'll get the massive peer review however without outside people working on the code. The history of asymetrical licenses (most of which are far short of P3) is that you don't attract outside help. So my guess is that in practice the company doesn't get much and open source world doesn't get much. I guess from an internal standpoint though if developers know the code will be public they might be less likely to go for ugly hackish
      • Re:Actual impact (Score:3, Insightful)

        by SunFan (845761)

        This is very likely why Sun doesn't cave into demands that their Java implementation be completely converted to the GPL. If they were to do this, all of their major competitors can start doing "value added" modifications to lock in their customer bases. That would be a bad thing for Java.
        • But there are perfectly good PPP open source licenses, the QPL being a prime example, and Sun has already written what, 4 new licenses to use with some part of Java, so the fact that there's no major PPP-only license can't be what's holding them back.
    • Re:Actual impact (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      the GPL and the BSD licences ... those two seem to cover it.

      I guess for most people. Personally, I'd like a license that lets me release code to the public and allow royalty-free distribution, but I don't want the GPL problem of people being able to take over my project (1), nor the BSD problem of companies being able to profit from my work (2).

      (1) - I wouldn't want someone like taking a previous version of my software and forking it, effectively destroying my userbase -- for any reason other than
      • Those sorts of licenses exist. They start with XYZ retains all rights. Then you specifically grant some feature like:

        1) You have the right to redistribute without cost
        2) You have the right to use this project for learning


        But that's a commercial license not a free license so it doesn't come up.

      • Re:Actual impact (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Ithika (703697) on Tuesday April 12, 2005 @10:10AM (#12211954) Homepage
        Given requirement (1), why bother use an open licence at all? If you can't fork, why bother opening in the first place? If I can't improve it without your say-so, it's not really open.
      • Your "no forks" idea is pretty much incompatible with the whole idea of open source, not just the GPL. "Here's my code, don't use it" isn't open source.
      • I believe your license is called 'Shared Source'.
      • That's copyright (Score:3, Insightful)

        by spitzak (4019)
        Just copyright your code. No license at all. That's exactly what you are asking for.

        Actually you did mention "allow forking if I discontinue the software". You might be able to write up a small license that says somebody can violate the copyright if you stop supporting the software, though exactly how to word that is questionable.
    • the LGPL is an important license too. if you write a library and dont want those corporate types using your code without releasing the changes, but want them to beable to link with it (GTK for example), the LGPL is very useful.
    • More than one project has gotten all the developers together and switched from a GPL license to a BSD license. It doesn't happen often, (And the attempt sometimes fails when someone disagrees with the change) but once in a while it happens. If developers cared about license issues this could not happen. In the real world programers like to program, not deal with legal stuff.

      I've heard (but not encountered myself) that some projects just slap GPL on software because it is the only license they know abo

  • licensing-nonsense (Score:5, Insightful)

    by N3wsByt3 (758224) on Tuesday April 12, 2005 @08:24AM (#12211048) Journal
    Free licence are free, and if they aren't, they shouldn't be portrayed as such.

    We're not going into that debate again, I hope? the same thing with "which is more free: BSD or GPL".

    There is NO difficulty here: BSD, by nature, is more free, yes. But to *keep* it free, GPL is better suited.

    And such is the case with all 'open' licenses: some may be more free, others may suit some particular need better.

  • Look closely (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bogaboga (793279) on Tuesday April 12, 2005 @08:24AM (#12211049)
    When one looks closely at these licensing issues, one discovers that it ia always about the money and control. I will admit bias here. I read all the links with the bent mind toward the belief that it's always about the money.
    • It's about the money because some (most) programmers have themselves or possibly a family to feed and the mortgage really is due at the end of the month. The college student existence with no money and free as in beer is fun for a while, but eventually we all have bigger goals and those usually, but not always, require money.
  • by 00squirrel (772984) on Tuesday April 12, 2005 @08:27AM (#12211076) there are so many to chose from!
  • more than two? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by brontus3927 (865730)
    Not to ask a stupid question (I know there are no stupid questions, just stupid questioners), but:
    Exactly how many open source licenses are there? When I first started looking at open source, I only knew of GPL. Then I learned of BSD. Up till now, I was under the impression that those two were the only open source licenses.
    • Re:more than two? (Score:4, Informative)

      by squiggleslash (241428) on Tuesday April 12, 2005 @08:38AM (#12211155) Homepage Journal
      FWIW, anyone who needs a fairly reasonable list of licenses will find a reasonable collection, with related discussion, here [].

      The OSI has a list of "approved" licenses here [], but it's literally just a list (no explanation of the differences or analysis of their implications), and I get the impression the OSI is regretting approving so many of them, given most of them are incompatable with one another (some of them can be incompatable with themselves, depending on the precise circumstances!)

  • by xxxJonBoyxxx (565205) on Tuesday April 12, 2005 @08:37AM (#12211143)
    Why is CA involved in this in the first place?

    Their #1 revenue model is to buy a software product from someone else, cut development and rake in maintenance checks. Are they branching out?
  • Licenses are important but different developers see licenses differently. I think it is rational to offer a license of choice by the author of the software. I wouldn't want a standards committee telling me what my license should be and I wouldn't want a RIAA/MPAA-type organization either. While I'm at it, why make a license compatible with another? If I want my license to be compatible with GPL, why not just use the GPL? The BSD vs. GPL is a matter of what freedoms one wants in their license. As long as the
  • component-based (Score:2, Insightful)

    by kars (100858)
    Would it be feasible to define some standard groups of clauses for topics so you could just plug them together as components to get an actual license? Then you could just pick one out of several options for copying restrictions. Or if that's not possible, at least try to standardise it in some way. It'd make licenses a lot easier to read.

    But of course, IANAL, so there's probably a very good reason why this hasn't been done. Or maybe it has and I'm just ignorant :)
    • That is exactly what CA means by a template system. A standard group of clauses. Except they are going further and having these clauses change in different countries so that they become meaningful in countries with different legal systems.
  • For example, a TLA should be registered and if there are two TLA that are the same, then they should have a .x after them, where x is a number.

    For example

    OSI stands for Open Systems Interconnect, and OSI.1 stands for Open Source Inititive
    PSP stands for "Paint Shop Pro" and PSP.1 stands for Play Station Portable.

    Okay, it defeats the purpose of TLAs by making them FLA.2* (Five letter abbrieviations) but hey it's all too confusing!

    * FLA stands for Finance and Leasing Association, and FLA.1 is Fair Labor As
  • In other news... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by HomerJayS (721692)
    Lawyers around the world are gearing up to make millions of dollars/euros/yen/... litigating the nuances of the conflicting "Open Source" licensing models.
  • by sellin'papes (875203) on Tuesday April 12, 2005 @09:35AM (#12211587) Homepage
    It seems to me that corporations are struggling to find what is cool and then immediately take ownership of it. The CDDL open source is an example of this.

    Open source is an extremely revolutionary idea and fairly unique in the history of the world and I would be concerned at how a major corporation would interpret and alter the concept.

    Another example of corporate involvement in revolutionary ideas is Slashdot itself. Every time I view a forum discussion a message from friendly Microsoft pops up telling me not to switch my operating system from Windows to Linux. This message also prevents me from reading replies and thus altering my pleasurable Slashdot experience.

    • ...fairly unique in the history of the world...

      Not really. The scientific community has been doing "open source" for several centuries. Even Eric Raymond pointed that out in one of his various books on the subject.

    • I find that one problem is that Open source is not that revolutionary of an idea. When debating with my peers the advantages of Open Source, I sometimes have problems distinguishing it from communism.

      My friends (and myself included) are very republican, and "Shared work by a community to reach a common goal" sounds very red to us. I can see how this model works in application to Free or Open Source software, but I have trouble explaining it to others.
      • On the contrary, in the GPL sense, I see open source as capitalistic.

        You code an application and release it under GPL. A corporation finds the code useful, but wants a certain feature.

        At that point they either pay you (the original developer) money to implement the feature, or implement it themselves and pay you with new code and an enhanced application.

        Either way, you profit.
      • The GPL does not force you to do anything. By their explanation Ford motor company is "communist" because to use their cars you are "forced" to give them money.
      • This is just one example of how Red Fever has irreparably damaged this country. You can't talk about doing ANYTHING for ANY reason other than money before the spectre of the Red Demon gets trotted out. McCarthy should be proud of himself. 50 years later and we have a software development method that is modeled more on the scientific method than any political ideology and some people can't resist red-baiting.
  • OSI is formed because they want to make free software more appealing to corporations by supressing essential discussions of freedom. This leads to a profusion of 'open source' licenses. Sensing opportunity in the confusion rapacious corporations hatch their own restrictive licenses and call them 'open source'. OSI responds by aligning more closely with GPL. There is a lesson here. To all of you 'open source' advocates, stop writing licenses! Use GPL and let Stallman think for you!

  • somebody hit me with a stick of details please. the story so far:

    cddl is an OSI approved license of sun's getting mixed reviews for not being gpl-compatible and raised eyebrows for coming from a corporation.

    CA is another corporation with an osi-approved license called trusted open source. a vp there claims here [] that

    some 60 percent of all our Linux revenue will come from outside the United States, and some 95 percent of the [Open Source Initiative]-approved licenses are unenforceable outside the United S
  • So, basically, CA's plan is to come up with a Creative Commons-type license structure for software? Sounds good to me.
  • I can't talk about "good" licenses or "bad" licenses in the abstract without some concrete definition of "good" and "bad". I can think of lots of arguments that go both ways. I prefer the GPL.

    Now if you propose some specific goal, then we can talk about whether licenses are "good" or "bad" for achieving that goal. Or, omitting relative virtues, we can discuss the social effects (PLURAL!!) of each particular license.

    But I can't rate most licenses in the abstract as "good" or "bad". (I can think of a few exceptions...but they are always made so difficult to read that it's impossible to have a reasoned discussion about them.)

    I prefer the GPL. It's pretty good at achieving the goals I want for my software, and I'm quite comfortable with the limitations that it places on my actions. And it's quite reasonable for other people to have other preferences. Actually, if the situation were assymetrical, then I might prefer to chose to recieve code under the BSD license, and offer it under my own, but I would consider it unreasonable to expect people to go along with that. And I'm comfortable with the GPL in a symmetrical context.

10.0 times 0.1 is hardly ever 1.0.