Hoping to bring some order to the chaotic system of open-source licenses, Computer Associates International Inc. is spearheading a campaign to create a single, common open-source license to which options can be added through a template.
The Template License is designed to help address the proliferation of open-source licenses that currently exist—more than 60 at last count—many of which have never been updated and are unenforceable, said Sam Greenblatt, a senior vice president at CA, in Islandia, N.Y.
The company took a hard look at its complex Trusted Open Source License and decided that it did not want to be in the licensing business.
“We want to be able to create a template that can deal with the issue of internationalization. Some 60 percent of all our Linux revenue will come from outside the United States, and some 95 percent of the [Open Source Initiative]-approved licenses are unenforceable outside the United States,” Greenblatt said.
The Template License would be an overarching license that is internationally acceptable without much alteration, Greenblatt said. Open-source products would be licensed under the Template License, and a template addendum would be customized for other countries so as to meet their legal, patent and intellectual property laws. This would be done in association with a law firm local to that country. That way, the license would be enforceable in every nation where the product is sold, Greenblatt said.
Stuart Cohen, CEO of Open Source Development Labs Inc., in Beaverton, Ore., which employs Linux kernel creator Linus Torvalds, confirmed his support for the Template License but said, “We dont expect to ever reach a point where one license serves all needs.”
Eric Raymond, the founder of OSI, said the OSI board will be discussing CAs license proposal but had not yet decided to support it. While the idea of just one internationally acceptable and enforceable license is probably impossible due to the diversity of jurisdictions, the proposed CA license would be applicable in several countries with legal systems close to that of the United States. “We agree thats a good idea,” Raymond said.
While it is “both desirable and possible to sharply reduce the number of licenses in active use,” a single non-GPL license was “almost certainly not possible,” Raymond said.
“In our customer councils over the past year in Europe, Asia and the United States, as well as with governments and universities, all have been asking for OSDL to work on limiting the number of licenses that they need to review and accept in order to deploy open-source software,” Cohen said. “If we can get the number of licenses that people broadly use down to a much smaller number, that would be a terrific next step.”
Greenblatt said there are a couple of existing licensing models under consideration for the Template License, including Sun Microsystems Inc.s Common Development and Distribution License, which Sun created for the OpenSolaris project, as well as CAs Trusted Open Source License.
The license will be written by lawyers and cost $100,000 to $250,000 to draft. That money will come from the companies in the community. The license is expected to be complete by years end.
CA said its willing to give up its Trusted Open Source License and adopt this internationalized, common license if its accepted.
Such a license may simplify things moving forward, but it will not apply to software now licensed under the many existing open-source licenses, since the owners of the affected intellectual property would have to back relicensing.
If the Template License becomes pervasive, vendors could use it to license new products. “This way, the OSI is taken out of the licensing business, and we will prune the number of existing licenses,” Greenblatt said.
Asked what effect a Template License would have on the GNU GPL (General Public License), under which the Linux kernel is licensed, Greenblatt said the industry could not wait for another two years for that license, which is being rewritten.