Are too Many Licenses a Bad Thing?

“One country . . . one ideology, one system is not sufficient. It is helpful to have a variety of different approaches . . . We can then make a joint effort to solve the problems of the whole of humankind.” Dalai Lama


Open source and Linux is currently at the forefront of the new OSI Licensing Process and the GPL version 3. This usually would boil down to nothing for me and most likely boils down to nothing for most end users. However, in the cases of both of these ‘improvements,’ there are alternative motives. Don’t fool yourself into believing that all intentions of the OSI is to make Joe Common and his laptop full of Linux happy. While they may have Joe’s best interests in mind…they have his pot on the backburner while the new Teflon coated enterprise pot is heating up nicely on the front one.

You’ve heard me talk about this before in a couple of articles [1] [2] that attempt (albeit, my first attempt so please be kind :) ) to address the issues that come into play when businesses and corporations assert their influence into open source communities and projects. Once again, I feel that not enough people are looking at the whole picture. Not to say that I have any ability to understand anything better than others; just that I make a consorted effort to always look at things in 3-5 different ways (leftover habit from college philosophy class).

What do I have a problem with this time? Let’s start with the OSI wanting to ‘trim the fat’ and drop or de-emphasize licenses. Why do we need this? Intel seems to think that it is needed and the community seems to think that there are too many licenses also. Why too many? Who says that this is needed? Can fewer licenses even be feasible?

I don’t think the OSI is actually thinking about things…they’re listening too hard to businesses and enterprise to be thinking. They’re listening to these enterprises and large businesses whine about having to hire X number of lawyers to sift through licenses to make sure that they know what they have to do in order to use the code. Notice I put emphasis on what “they” have to do i.e. the business or corporation. My reasoning lies in the fact that, by nature, a business wants to do as little work as possible to A) save money while at the same time they want to B) save time. In this case, they want to have their cake and eat it too. They want the benefit of few licenses to sift through and they want the OSI to do it for them…and for free. What’s the best way to do this? Have a keynote speaker (HP’s Martin Fink) from a company that is Linux-friendly (HP) give a call-to-arms at Linuxworld.

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