Google's weird ways with open-source licenses

Company takes an odd, circuitous route to reapproving two popular open-source licenses, Mozilla Public License and Eclipse Public License, for its Google Code open-source repository.

CNET's Stephen Shankland has already picked up on Google's decision to allow two popular open-source licenses back onto its Google Code open-source repository. Up until now, the Mozilla Public License (MPL) and Eclipse Public License (EPL) were both banned from the site.

The reasoning Shankland reports for Google belatedly approving the licenses, however, is a bit bizarre. In the case of the EPL, Google's Chris DiBona argues:

Eclipse is an important, lively, and healthy project with an enormous plug-in and developer community that uses an otherwise duplicative license. They aren't interested in using the BSD or other open-source licenses that are readily combinable with EPL code. We have decided that after nearly 2 years of operation, that it was time to add the EPL and serve these open-source developers.

Well, yes. But that was true before Google opted to ban them. DiBona is a smart, super open source-savvy guy. He didn't need anyone to tell him that the EPL is critical to Eclipse, and that Eclipse is highly important to open source. So why the lag?

As for the MPL, while DiBona doesn't state it outright, I suspect that Google's decision to re-up its commitment to Mozilla for three more years probably involved some strained discussions about Google's weird decision to dump the MPL , one of the industry's most popular open-source licenses.

Regardless, all is well that ends well. Google came to the right decision, however odd the logic.

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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