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Clash of the Open Standards 215

Posted by Zonk
from the draw-lightsabers-and-go dept.
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 @09:22AM (#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.
  • Actual impact (Score:4, Insightful)

    by danbond_98 (761308) on Tuesday April 12, 2005 @09:23AM (#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.
  • licensing-nonsense (Score:5, Insightful)

    by N3wsByt3 (758224) <Newsbyte&freenethelp,org> on Tuesday April 12, 2005 @09:24AM (#12211048) Homepage 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 @09:24AM (#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.
  • by 0x461FAB0BD7D2 (812236) on Tuesday April 12, 2005 @09:25AM (#12211056) Journal
    It's open, but that doesn't mean that anyone can do what they want with it. That amounts to licentiousness, and not freedom.

    Licensing open-source software ensures that the developers work is not abused or ripped off by companies seeking a quick profit. Any code written under an open-source license is to remain free forever, at least theoretically.

    And before Slashdotters start asking why it's ok for developers to license code and not for the RIAA to license music, remember that the former means profit for the violator, while the latter doesn't.
  • Why CA? (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 12, 2005 @09:39AM (#12211158)
    Can someone give reason why CA should be solving FOSS license issues? Why is it an authority? Why not ask directly from Microsoft for a good suggestion on the next GPL?
  • Re:GPL-compatible (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Otter (3800) on Tuesday April 12, 2005 @09:50AM (#12211241) Journal
    And OSI has an official standard [opensource.org] 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.
  • component-based (Score:2, Insightful)

    by kars (100858) on Tuesday April 12, 2005 @09:56AM (#12211286) Homepage
    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 :)
  • Re:GPL-compatible (Score:5, Insightful)

    by squiggleslash (241428) * on Tuesday April 12, 2005 @10:08AM (#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.

  • Re:Actual impact (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 12, 2005 @10:09AM (#12211384)
    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 X.org taking a previous version of my software and forking it, effectively destroying my userbase -- for any reason other than discontinuation of my software. Even if they added features I didn't have. Even if their software was better than mine. Call that greedy if you want, but I don't think it's unreasonable to want to control your work to avoid dillution of strict standards it follows [think incompatible themes/formats/whatever between various alternative versions of your software], and control over the direction your application progresses towards.
    Given the open source code, I wouldn't mind people using it as a reference for an original from-scratch project, nor for personal modifications.

    (2) - Not much needs to be said here. I wouldn't want Microsoft or whoever to benefit from my code without compensating me for my efforts. Nor would I personally want to be compensated for what is, ultimately, a hobby to me.
  • by dallaylaen (756739) on Tuesday April 12, 2005 @10:12AM (#12211397) Homepage
    There are too many "The Only Right Ways To Go". Some of them are wrong. And some aren't even ways to go!

    No we do not need *one* license.

    BTW, if GPL ceased to exist somehow, the CDDL vs BSD flamewars will spread. Some people tend to like flamewars...
  • by Danuvius (704536) on Tuesday April 12, 2005 @10:20AM (#12211464)
    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.
  • In other news... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by HomerJayS (721692) on Tuesday April 12, 2005 @10:21AM (#12211468)
    Lawyers around the world are gearing up to make millions of dollars/euros/yen/... litigating the nuances of the conflicting "Open Source" licensing models.
  • Re:GPL-compatible (Score:5, Insightful)

    by marvin2k (685952) on Tuesday April 12, 2005 @10:23AM (#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.
  • by sellin'papes (875203) on Tuesday April 12, 2005 @10:35AM (#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.

  • Re:GPL-compatible (Score:4, Insightful)

    by jbolden (176878) on Tuesday April 12, 2005 @10:35AM (#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.

    Today:

    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?
  • by ClosedSource (238333) on Tuesday April 12, 2005 @10:57AM (#12211799)
    "Any code written under an open-source license is to remain free forever, at least theoretically."

    This is just open/free source propaganda. Any code that is placed in the public domain or under a BSD-style license will "remain free forever" without a GPL style license. In other words, no corporation can make it illegal for you to use it or extend it.

    A license like the GPL makes it impossible to "lock up" derivative works that are distributed, but that has nothing to do with the "freedom" of the original code.
  • by Rich0 (548339) on Tuesday April 12, 2005 @11:15AM (#12212007) Homepage
    Actually - I'd argue that GPL gives more freedom to the original developer. That is the freedom to use all derived works.

    The original BSD developer for the TCP stack has no access to the MS implementation of that stack - since they slapped a proprietary license on it.

    On the other hand, the original GLP developer of linux code has full access to the Linksys implementation of it - since Linksys is compelled to release updates.

    You will note that while companies love BSD-licensed projects (since they can just steal code from them), they rarely distribute their own works under the BSD, and that limits your ability to profit even more than the GPL, and arms your competitors with your technology. Companies only release under BSD if they don't care about the code at all, or if it is a reference implementation of something that they actually want everybody to just use as widely as possible - probably because it interfaces with some expensive proprietary product.

    BSD does let you do more with the code, but GPL does more to protect the open source community, and to protect the original developer - and that is the person whose blood, seat, and tears were invested in the first place...
  • Re:Actual impact (Score:3, Insightful)

    by SunFan (845761) on Tuesday April 12, 2005 @11:41AM (#12212358)

    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.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 12, 2005 @11:48AM (#12212441)
    When someone uses in the name of a product or service the words "trusted", "secure", "best", etc., it's a good indication that the product may be best only from the seller's point of view, may be insecure and definitely should not be trusted.

    "Trusted" Computing? "Secure" online banking? Yeah, right ...
  • Society and Profit (Score:5, Insightful)

    by rumblin'rabbit (711865) on Tuesday April 12, 2005 @11:53AM (#12212521) Journal
    All companies use the work of others to make profit. They have access to all of the science and technology (except for the small percentage under IP protection) that has come before. They have access to lessons learned by past companies. Even social infrastucture plays a vital role. Profits are not something companies alone generate, but something societies generate.

    When a scientist makes a discovery and doesn't patent it (you know, the good ol' days), that discovery may be used by all of society in any manner what so ever. Is it immoral for a company to use that discovery? Not only is not immoral, by refusing to use the technology they would be depriving their customers of the benefits.

    To declare that it's immoral to make use of the work of others to make a profit is to declare that all profits are immoral. That's not a political system I buy into it.

    And your use of the word "quick" is silly and pejorative. While companies won't pass up quick profits, in real life they are far more focused on sustainable profits. Or they are if they want to be around for any length of time.

  • Re:Actual impact (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Jussi K. Kojootti (646145) on Tuesday April 12, 2005 @12:25PM (#12213023)
    I believe your license is called 'Shared Source'.
  • by 2short (466733) on Tuesday April 12, 2005 @12:38PM (#12213213)
    But the BSD might give the original developer the freedom to use more derived works, because more may exist. Heck, the original developer has the freedom to use all derived works if they just keep their source closed. Protecting the rights of the original developer seems like an odd standard to judge free/open source licenses on. We call them free/open because the original developer gives up some of their rights.

    "You will note that while companies love BSD-licensed projects"

    In the interest of full disclosure: I work for a company. Please don't hate me.

    "(since they can just steal code from them)"

    It's not stealing. The copyright owners have specifically authorised us to use the code. Presumably they even want us to.

    "they rarely distribute their own works under the BSD"
    We don't release all our works under the BSD, and certainly not those central to our competitive advantage, but we don't use others BSD code for that either, or there wouldn't be any advantage. However, when we use BSD code, we most certainly do release enhancements and bug fixes to that code under the BSD. Contrary to your imaginings, we release code under the BSD when we want others to be able to use and add to and our work.

    The GPL only does more to protect the original developer, if the original developers wishes are what the GPL stipulates. I'm not sure the open source community needs protection; The BSD allows more people to be part of the open source community.

    Saying one license is better then another is silly; they have different goals. People judge licenses by all sorts of different criteria, and judge "freedom" in all sorts of ways. Some of which seem pretty convoluted to me. Personally, I judge licenses by one yes or no question: "Can I do whatever the hell I want with the code?"
    I like whatever-the-hell-you-want compatible licenses. You're free to like whatever licence you like. But arguing that any license is "more free" than a whatever-the-hell-you-want licence is going to require some pretty twisted logic.
  • Re:GPL-compatible (Score:2, Insightful)

    by SunFan (845761) on Tuesday April 12, 2005 @01:21PM (#12213800)
    "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."

    You create a module that contains the Solaris code and link it into the final program. What in the licenses prohibits this?

  • by Bent Mind (853241) on Tuesday April 12, 2005 @01:45PM (#12214106)
    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.
  • That's copyright (Score:3, Insightful)

    by spitzak (4019) on Tuesday April 12, 2005 @02:10PM (#12214473) Homepage
    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.

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