Problems with open source licences

Lawrence Rosen cannot be accused of being an outspoken attacker of open source. He is one of the main advisors for the OSI, and has written a very good book on open source licences. However, he has recently expressed some lingering concerns about this licensing scheme. He describes some problems with the multiplication of open source licences, which poses a problem to developers as they will have to look at different documents to choose one that fits. This is the thorny problem of standardisation versus customisation of licences. Should OSS developers choose one of the existing OSI certified licences, or they should just draft one that fits their needs? This is an increasing problem because there is growing concern about the international validity of some OSS licences, particularly because most of them are American-centric licences. Rosen says that “It’s a legitimate reason for submitting a new license if there is an aspect of your license that doesn’t satisfy the law of your country“. There is already a French GPL, but moves towards creating new licences may be stopped by the German case declaring the GPL valid.

This could be a good time to be smug and say “I told you so“. I believe that there is nothing wrong with customisation because not all of us should be forced to consume American licences. Are we in danger of creating a McOSS culture?

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