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April 29, 2005

When More is Too Darned Much

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Posted by Alan Wexelblat

Philip H. Albert has a nice opinion piece on LinuxInsider noting that the proliferation of open source licenses is harmful to the field as a whole. With so many options, all of which really require evaluation by a lawyer, the disincentive for a company to use any of them goes up quickly. Companies and people just pick whatever seems best rather than crafting a best-fit solution because the cost of best-fit is too high.

The result is a bunch of ill-fitting agreements and higher dissatisfaction both on the part of creators, who aren't getting the behavior they really want, and on the part of consumers who have to read and understand all these myriad licenses if they want to use open source.

It's essentially the same disease the all-but-killed Unix/Linux in the marketplace. You can argue the merits of Debian vs Red Hat vs Solaris vs HP-UX vs vs vs until you're blue in the face but unless you're in that miniscule 1/100th of 1% of ultra-geekdom you really don't care. What I want is a fast, safe, functional open-source system that doesn't require me to memorize a Brittanica'sworth of pointless esoterica. Why nobody(*) in the OSS community seems to recognize this is a lesson in and of itself.

Anyone from Creative Commons want to provide a different perspective?

Update: John Wilbanks provides this link to the CC GPL.

(*) Yes, I recognize there are exceptions, but they're all too atypical.

Comments (8) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: IP Use


1. Robert T Childers on April 29, 2005 11:36 PM writes...

Well your not the only one that is attacking this problem. Eric Raymond had a couple of very good essay's called the luxury of ignorance, parts 1 and 2. In part one he detailed out the problems that he faced with attempting to configure cups for a new printer. The whole idea of the essays was on how the design of the ui's is an area where F/OSS is sorely lacking. The second part of the essay was on the repsonses he had received. Most of which were along the lines of So I am not alone in feeling this should be better. That it shouldn't be this hard to use the programs.

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2. James T. on April 30, 2005 8:43 AM writes...

Pretending that this problem is specific to Open Source is classic FUD. Could someone remind me how many different EULAs there are for closed source software?

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3. Branko Collin on April 30, 2005 7:36 PM writes...

And pretending that the choice between distributions is specific to Linux is also FUD. The only reason you don't spend time thinking about which Windows version to buy is because you're being force fed Windows with your PC.

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4. cjovalle on April 30, 2005 11:03 PM writes...

I'm not sure what the intent of this post is... The article was mainly addressing problems for open source developers and companies creating software, not the end users. For the end user, every piece of software, open source or not, has potentially confusing licenses associated with it. As an end user who has to read all kinds of these licenses when acquiring software for work, I prefer open source licensing because of the standardization that already exists (and the terms are usually a lot friendlier). As far as proprietary licenses go, they tend to be created on a company-by-company basis, which means that I have to take a great deal more time with those licenses. Now, I would *love* to see the simple face on the GPL that CC licenses have, or some kind of standarzied way of addressing what common terms a license may or may not have.

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5. Neo on May 1, 2005 5:01 AM writes...

Check out Ed Foster's GripeLog at -- there's some push for a standardized "fair" EULA there.

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6. john wilbanks on May 2, 2005 2:51 PM writes...

>Now, I would *love* to see the simple face on the >GPL that CC licenses have

That exists.


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7. cjovalle on May 3, 2005 5:54 PM writes...

Thank you! I had read about that being made, but I never saw the result (and admittedly hadn't looked in awhile).

Now, if we can get easy to read symbols and interpretations of other licenses, provided by the company or made by the public, that would be very interesting...

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8. Neo on May 4, 2005 1:59 PM writes...

Great! Now let's see about CCifying some other common open source licenses. Artistic, BSD, and so on until whichever one begins with Z. ;)

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