[open-bibliography] Wikipedia project: bibliographic-archival data base

Tom Morris tfmorris at gmail.com
Thu Sep 15 22:07:02 UTC 2011

On Tue, Sep 13, 2011 at 3:18 PM, Peter Murray-Rust <pm286 at cam.ac.uk> wrote:

> OSI-compliant codes all have their licences which are legal documents. If
> you break those contracts you may be pursued by lawyers. The OSI declaration
> effectively says "there are a very wide range of cases wher you can re-use
> this code without worrying about minute details of the licence". Yes, I have
> been through detailed licence stuff, including negotiations with FSF and
> Microsoft so I understand that details can matter. But to a first
> approximation an OSI-licence makes a large number of actions clear.

As a long time software engineer, product manager, and intellectual
property rights enthusiast, this is very much at odds with my

If a team member came to me in my role as a project leader or product
manager and said "Can I incorporate this OSI-licensed software in our
project?," I would have zero information on which to base a decision.
The only way I'd be able to render a decision without additional
information (ie the actual license being used), would be if the
project was already using the most restrictive OSI-approved license
(AGPL v3).  In any other case, I'd need to know the actual license
being used.  And, honestly, even if the licenses were compatible, I'd
still go and check the provenance of all the included
libraries/components/etc to make sure that they had compatible
licenses to.  There are far too many cases where people are already
violating the license of some included component.

The clarity and value comes from having a (relatively) short list of
standardized licenses.  Once you've read and understood a license, you
don't need to go back and re-read it every time you encounter it.
Since the license texts are copyrighted, you can also be (relatively)
confident that no one has made a small but significant change to it.

If you look at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comparison_of_free_software_licenses
you'll see that OSI is just one of the organizations that expresses
approval or disapproval of open/free software licenses (and you'll
also see the complexity of the compatibility situation).

About the only place I know of where the phrase "OSI-approved license"
actually has meaning is things like code repositories (Google Code,
SourceForge, Tigris) which are restricted to that set of licenses.


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