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FOSS License Proliferation Adding Complexity 201

Posted by kdawson
from the do-what-i-say-no-me dept.
E5Rebel writes "Business is embracing open source like never before, but the effective demise of SCO's claims against Linux doesn't mean an end to licensing problems, an analyst warns. The debate on Slashdot seems to focus on the GPL and its virtues, but there are 1,000-plus open source licenses (according to analyst Saugatuck), and businesses face having to manage multiple licenses within a single open source product. What can be done to minimize multiple-license pain for corporate open source adopters?"
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FOSS License Proliferation Adding Complexity

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 24, 2007 @04:54PM (#20348075)
    Open source has a long ways to go to match the number of different closed source licenses and eulas. Amateurs....
  • 1000+ ??? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by someone1234 (830754) on Friday August 24, 2007 @04:59PM (#20348131)
    I'm pretty sure there are no 1000+ OSI approved licenses.
    10 OSI approved licenses probably cover 90% of all open source.
  • by CaffeineAddict2001 (518485) on Friday August 24, 2007 @05:02PM (#20348169)
    Ignore it.
  • Re:1000+ ??? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by CastrTroy (595695) on Friday August 24, 2007 @05:03PM (#20348193) Homepage
    How many different closed source licenses are there? Probably about 1 for every application.
  • by Infonaut (96956) <infonaut@gmail.com> on Friday August 24, 2007 @05:05PM (#20348211) Homepage Journal

    They cover a broad range of licensing needs. If there are hundreds of different licenses out there, it's only because the lawyers working for the firms involved have sold these companies on the notion that they need a custom-crafted license.

  • by leuk_he (194174) on Friday August 24, 2007 @05:10PM (#20348279) Homepage Journal
    If you use open source software, and not redistribute it you can mostly ignore the open source license. You can use it on as many computers as you like with many strange license combinations. For closed commercial software you have to track all the licenses, for open source you do not have to track the number of uses.

    The real question begins if you want to distribute a packet of open source software and want to know if they are license compatible. ANd the real trouble starts if you want to use a loophole of some license to sell it bundled it together with your own commercial software.
  • by Brian Gordon (987471) on Friday August 24, 2007 @05:12PM (#20348295)
    Why does everyone love the GPL? By forcing users of the code to obey the hacker ethic, it's breaking the hacker ethic. Code is code, and it doesn't make any sense to put restrictions at all on it, even if they're just copyleft restrictions. BSD for me- it's basically public domain (the best solution IMO) but it strokes my ego by making sure my name is included in the code :)
  • by GrEp (89884) <crb002@gma[ ]com ['il.' in gap]> on Friday August 24, 2007 @05:17PM (#20348333) Homepage Journal
    How about commercial licences? At least with FOSS you have a few major ones. With commercial every one is unique and usually much more complicated.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 24, 2007 @05:21PM (#20348357)
    It matters because then people have trouble hooking things together in a useful manner. You know, actually *using* that other code.

    Which should make things interesting with the Microsoft licenses submitted to OSI which are all GPL-incompatible. Then, I'm sure we could just make new GPL-compatible versions in addition to those.

    Also, I like how they get their name attached to a whole set of licenses. Perhaps Sun, IBM, Apple, etc. should have license sets named after them? Could be a great new source of revenue for OSI...
  • I don't get it (Score:3, Insightful)

    by tie_guy_matt (176397) on Friday August 24, 2007 @05:24PM (#20348389)
    Don't most open source licenses have one thing in common: you can use the software and install it on as many computers as you want free of charge. The problem comes up when you modify the code and then want to redistribute it. My question is how many businesses are modifying tons of different programs so that they have to worry about tons of different licenses? And if your company is big enough that you are modifying tons of programs then don't you have legal department with an army of high priced lawyers who would love to do nothing else but make sure you dotted all your i's and crossed your t's when it comes to the licenses? Maybe I missed something.
  • by Ant P. (974313) on Friday August 24, 2007 @05:30PM (#20348441) Homepage
    A quick check (ls -1 /usr/portage/licenses | wc -l) gives me 861. Not over 1000, but not exactly nowhere close either.
  • by jhantin (252660) on Friday August 24, 2007 @05:51PM (#20348591)

    See the flamewar on the OSI mailing lists; all the above concerns and more have been aired.

    No, seriously... large complex component-based software system + GPL = instant holy wars, because the line where one work ends and another begins is no longer clear.

    "Dammit Jim, I'm an engineer, not an attorney!", but it seems to me that in practice, the GPL's process-boundary condition becomes little more than a performance issue because you have to use message passing over some kind of communications link instead of loading in-process. For additional flavor, release the "client side" of the message passing bits under the AFL or similar, and the "server side" obligingly under the GPL.

  • by fsmunoz (267297) <fsmunoz.member@fsf@org> on Friday August 24, 2007 @06:17PM (#20348837) Homepage
    I disagree with you in the hacker ethic part[1], although I can see your point. More importantly though is the fact that I agree with you and disagree with parent when he said "just use GPL". *I* am all for the GPL but can perfectly see why people would prefer some other license, especially a BSD/MIT/ISC one (free, non-copyleft with attribution). This "license proliferation" thing is not IMO something terrible. It can be a bit overkill, especially in the non-copyleft ones (many licenses ammount to the same with different wordings) but if people use them then clearly they have a good reason to exist. It should especially not be used as a way to promote "unification" around a single license: there are reasons for using the GPL, which I personally think are good ones, as there are reasons for using the BSD license, and that's all there is to it. Conditioning choice in the name of simplification is not the way to go at all.

    [1] Pardon my laconic answer but I think that everyone is up-to-date in what regards the differences in perspective about the GPL and the BSD licenses from each "camp" :)
  • by Ohreally_factor (593551) on Friday August 24, 2007 @06:22PM (#20348875) Journal
    Wrong: Internal distribution is fine and doesn't really count as distribution regarding the GPL.

    This article is semi-FUD, anyway. FTFA:

    Business users of open source software should review their Open Source licensing agreements, audit their use of Open Source and create formal policies for managing source code, especially mixed-source code.
    Which a business that is distributing code is doing anyway, via their legal department, outside counsel, and/or consultants.

    This issue has been highlighted in some open source discussion forums, but it is largely being ignored by IT and business leaders.
    Because the licenses are generally human readable by IT leaders, and business leaders have lawyers to handle that.

    The general attitude in the OSS world that I'm picking up is that license proliferation is not a major problem. Choice is supposed to be good, no? Find the license that best satisfies your needs, or write your own. The two camps that seem to have the most concern about too many licenses are the FUD-spinners trying to damage OSS or the Free-bies that are trying to steer everyone towards GPL 3 and FSF hegemony. (Yes, I'm a bit biased.)
  • by Chandon Seldon (43083) on Friday August 24, 2007 @06:29PM (#20348939) Homepage

    There are two completely separate cases:

    Using Software

    With Free Software, this is always allowed. No problem.

    With Proprietary software, this can be pretty complicated. Each piece of software has its own license with its own requirements, be it per-user licensing, per-seat licensing, per-CPU licensing, per-year licensing. Better hire a dedicated lawyer to make sure you have all your licenses lined up right.

    Modifying/Redistributing Software

    With Free Software, this can be pretty complicated. There are a number of licenses - some of which are incompatible with each other. You'll probably want to put some effort into license tracking, or even hire a lawyer if your situation is especially complicated.

    With Proprietary software, this is always prohibited. No problem. (unless you screw up somehow, then you're liable for millions in damages.)

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