[Linux-aus] Re: [Osia-discuss] Chosing an Open Source licence

Brendan Scott lists at opensourcelaw.biz
Tue Apr 25 14:39:02 UTC 2006

Avi Miller wrote:
> Hey guys,
> Hypothetically, if one were to be trying to decide which OSI Approved 
> Open Source licence one might hypothetically wish to apply to one's 
> product, where would one go to get a nice side-by-side comparison of the 
> various licences? It would be great if there was a site that had some 
> Australian legal ideas as well.
> Essentially, I'm trying to work out which licence would be the best fit 
> for a particular product, based on certain commercial requirements. I 
> know I can read each licence, but I Am Not A Lawyer and I'd hate to get 
> something wrong. :)
> Any tips/suggestions appreciated,
> Avi

This is my experience:

(a) open source licences are more subtle than most people realise.  What licences are doing are conditioning a market (ie the market for the software) and the important stuff is how that market will operate in the future.  The effect that a licence will have in conditioning that market is not generally immediately obvious from the wording of the licence;

(b) analysing the available licences is very time consuming and therefore costly, even if only doing a handful, but especially so if you want to review them all;

(c) most publically available analyses of the licences I have read are deficient in one way or another.  Usually the deficiency is that they are based on folk knowledge rather than actually reading the words of the licence.  Another deficiency is that the analysis is superficial.  A final deficiency, related to the first, is that people doing the analysis do not have a sufficient understanding of the legal concepts involved (in particular contract v licence);

(d) many licences are written by non lawyers. Some of them are ambiguous or internally inconsistent.   Each of these reduces certainty of outcomes. 

(e) using another person's analysis requires you to first understand what their purpose was in conducting the analysis.  An analysis for the purpose of acquisition may be misleading if used for the purpose of a supply.

See also:



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