Google bans the Mozilla Public License

Google has wrongly banned the Mozilla Public License from its accepted licenses for Google Code. This is wrong-headed and misguided.

First it was the Affero General Public License that Google banned from its Google Code site, an open-source code hosting site. Google contended that it didn't want to encourage license proliferation by accepting projects using licenses that don't have widespread use and acceptance.

This week, however, Google nixed a highly popular, important license license: Mozilla Public License.

Google's Chris DiBona played the proliferation card again against the MPL, but also admitted that how Google determines whether a license is suitably popular is "so arbitrary." Great. That makes me feel better. At least there's a clear criterion for deciding. Not.

While some projects have moved away from the MPL in recent years, it remains one open source's standard licenses. I've got to think this has more to do with MPL derivatives (It's no secret that DiBona disliked the "badgeware" licenses that derived from the MPL) and their potential impact on Google's ability to consume their code, just as with the Affero GPL , than with any respect for license proliferation.

If it were about proliferation, Google would settle on GPL/LGPL, BSD/Apache, and MPL. Between those, most licensing preferences would be covered. By leaving out the MPL, however, Google has mistakenly dumped the baby with the bath water.

Tech Culture
About the author

    Matt Asay is chief operating officer at Canonical, the company behind the Ubuntu Linux operating system. Prior to Canonical, Matt was general manager of the Americas division and vice president of business development at Alfresco, an open-source applications company. Matt brings a decade of in-the-trenches open-source business and legal experience to The Open Road, with an emphasis on emerging open-source business strategies and opportunities. He is a member of the CNET Blog Network and is not an employee of CNET. You can follow Matt on Twitter @mjasay.


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