Intel Strikes a Blow for Open-Source License Sanity

By Steven Vaughan-Nichols  |  Posted 2005-04-01 Print this article Print

Opinion: Finally, finally, someone is withdrawing an open-source license. Now, if only about a few dozen other companies and groups get the idea, we'll all be better off.

Someone up there must like me, because a major company, Intel, is actually withdrawing an open-source license. Will miracles never cease! Ive been saying that there are too many open-source licenses for quite some time now.
I mean, I make my living from following open source and such and I cant keep the licenses straight. What chance do most programmers or businesses have?
Really, the only practical solution has been to use Black Duck Softwares products or services. Read more here about Black Ducks intellectual property compliance-management software. Other people have agreed with me that there were just way too many licenses, but nobody was doing anything about it. Until now. A few days ago, the Intel attorney responsible for the companys legal practices and policies relating to open source, McCoy Smith, said in an e-mail to the OSI (Open Source Initiative), "Intel has been studying internally the issue of license proliferation. One step Intel would like to take to reduce license proliferation (both internally, and externally, to Intel) is to have the Intel Open Source License (aka BSD License with Export Notice removed from future use as an approved OSI open source license." Finally. After all, like so many of the more obscure licenses, its not like anyone much was using it. Smith himself only found "approximately 25 projects on SourceForge [] using the license." And even of those 25, "most…appear to [be] able to use just the plain BSD license without an export notice," said Smith. Do you think we can do without this license? I do. Now, if only a few other companies and organizations would get the hint, wed all be a lot better off. This point was brought home to me today when I talked with a programmer who put his program out under the BSD license. Hes sorry about that now, because with the BSD anyone could, and in his case, it appears, did, take the code and place it within a proprietary program. Part of the problem? He didnt think it would happen to him, and the myriad of licenses had left him confused about which would be the right one for him. To read a Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols column on the dangers of software patents, click here. He cant afford Black Ducks services, or an intellectual-property attorney for that matter. Heck, for what hes doing, he really doesnt need that level of support. What he needs is just an easy-to-understand set of open-source licenses. Maybe with Intel leading the way, and the upcoming revision of the GPL (General Public License), he, and all the rest of us, will finally get licenses that a layman, rather than a lawyer, can understand. We can but hope. Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest open-source news, reviews and analysis.
Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols is editor at large for Ziff Davis Enterprise. Prior to becoming a technology journalist, Vaughan-Nichols worked at NASA and the Department of Defense on numerous major technological projects. Since then, he's focused on covering the technology and business issues that make a real difference to the people in the industry.

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