Thursday, June 17, 2010

OSSCC clears OSS license jungle

Collaboration between different OpenSource Software groups and projects currently increasingly suffers from a wide variety of OSS licenses. This problem is caused by the imperfect compatibility of the licenses. The OSSCC (OpenSource Software Collaboration Counseling has the mission to foster collaboration between different OpenSource Software groups and projects. The OSSCC amongst others offers to counsel authors with making licensing decisions that allow best collaboration with other projects.

To support such collaboration, OSS authors should select OSS licenses that are compatible with each other and that allow to create greater works based on code from different sources. For better collaboration, it would also desirable to select licenses that allow code flow from and to any project using an OSI compliant license to any other project using an OSI compliant license. As some licenses create a one-way of code flow towards the specific license, licenses need to be selected carefully in order to grant collaboration that is more than a one-way.

To simplify license selection, OSSCC provides the OSSCC license interoperability guide together with a commented list of preferred OSS licenses. See:

Licenses that allow to merge parts of the code from one work into other works are called compatible and support collaboration in the OSS area. When judging, OSSCC also considers problems problems that are caused by permissive licenses (like the BSD license) that does not make free of charge patent grants.

The OSSCC intends to help with gaining legal certainty with collaboration in OSS projects. The statements regarding license compatibility are based on statements from independent lawyers (like Lawrence Rosen, the legal advisor of the OpenSource Initiative and Catherine Olanich Raymond, the wife of Eric Raymond). The OSSCC is proud to present the initial publication of an essay on OpenSource license compatibility from Thomas F. Gordon.

In future, other projects e.g. a platform for translations are planned.