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LinuxWorld: A public discussion of open source licensing

Having a public discussion of open source licensing is
usually a recipe for trouble. Attempts at serious discussion tend
to get derailed by the “General Public License is communism”
people, the “only BSD is truly free” faction, or sundry personal
attacks. LinuxWorld Conference and Expo’s panel discussion on open
source licensing, fortunately, managed to steer its way around
those reefs, for the most part.
This is probably in part
because the panelists — consultant Michelle Kraus (former CEO of
OpenSales), Mitchell Baker from Mozilla.org, Brian Behlendorf of
CollabNet (and the Apache Web server project), Kevin Lenzo of
Carnegie-Mellon University, Dave Mandala of Linuxcare, and Eric S.
Raymond and Bruce Perens of the Open Source Initiative — were
veterans of last year’s Open Source Licensing Workshops, in which I
also participated.”

“Licensing has become something of a minefield as open source
software has grown in popularity. Several major problem areas were
essentially unanticipated by the authors of current open source
licenses, and will likely need to be addressed in future license
versions. Moreover, this needs to happen without a change to the
overriding aim of such licenses, best articulated by Raymond: “We
want to make sure that naive users never need to read a
license.”

“As open source software becomes more widespread, the risk of
accidentally violating someone’s patent rights increases. Also,
we’re starting to see the practice — pioneered by Microsoft with
its Active Streaming Format — of using patents to quash open
source software entirely when proprietary software publishers find
its interoperability a threat.”


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