[annotator-dev] Proposal: License Simplification

Benjamin Young bigbluehat at hypothes.is
Fri May 29 22:33:10 UTC 2015

Last fall I posted an issue to GitHub on this topic:

The conclusion was that this was better discussed on the Mailing List,
so here we go. :)

Currently Annotator uses an "either or" licensing scheme (as jQuery
did pre-2012 [1]).

I'd like to propose that we simplify this down to either the MIT or
the Apache 2.0 license.

Two key things would need to happen to make this a reality:
 - pick the new license
 - get the consent of all contributors
 - state who the copyright holder is--either in the form of "The
Annotator Contributors" or assign it to a foundation, single person,
or entity.

We can use the AUTHORS file and git history to find all the
contributors. I'm happy to do the "grunt" work to make this happen. I
was part of a similar process for the Twitter Bootstrap community
which involved everyone giving consent to the license change in a
GitHub issue.

Having a clear license and a stated "owner" (even if it's "all of us")
makes things much easier for folks wanting to use Annotator in larger
projects such as enterprise software--which could also provide
additional contributors, etc.

Without clear licensing and ownership using Annotator in a larger work
can be seen (by lawyers mostly) as a risky thing. Removing that FUD
makes it an easier/faster choice--which means developers can get back
to developing. :)

Lastly, I'd personally love to see Annotator choose the Apache 2.0
license for the additional things it provides over the MIT.
MIT - http://choosealicense.com/licenses/mit/
Apache - http://choosealicense.com/licenses/apache-2.0/

Quick comparison (of those pretty, but non-binding bullet points)
shows that Apache adds:
 - the need to state changes
 - a patent grant (which is why enterprise likes it so much...but
getting the grant is good for everyone)
 - prevents name confusion by preventing the use of the trademark
   -- Annotator is not yet a trademark (afaik), but it would provide
the opportunity for it to be...which could be helpful.

Here's a screenshot of the two lists:

Lastly, switching to the Apache license opens the door for becoming
part of the Apache Software Foundation--through the incubation
process--where Annotator would sit along side some larger projects
such as Hadoop and CouchDB, but also be able to cozy-up to various
content management and natural language processing systems under that
same banner--again, another great opportunity to get Annotator into
more hands. I'll save proposing that (and it's process) for another
mail. ;)

So...in conclusion:
1. do we think narrowing to a single license is a Good Thing?
2. if so, which license?

I'm here to help make this happen, but I won't do anything until I
know it's what the group wants. :)

Benjamin ;)
Developer Advocate

[1] http://blog.jquery.com/2012/09/10/jquery-licensing-changes/

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