Open-source board eyes fewer licenses

The Open Source Initiative is taking aim at the "proliferation problem" as the number of open-source licenses grows, CNET has learned.

BOSTON--The Open Source Initiative, an influential open-source organization, is devising ways to cut down on the rising number of open-source licenses attached to software.

The issue was on the front burner at this week's LinuxWorld conference here. Open-source software makers are concerned that a proliferation of licenses could hurt the spread of open source by creating compatibility problems and complicating potential sales.

The OSI, a nonprofit group that issues certifications for open-source licenses, has been investigating the topic since last year. Involved in the discussions are members of the OSI's board and of the Open Source Development Labs (OSDL), an industry group dedicated to making Linux better suited for corporate customers.

Sam Greenblatt, a member of the OSDL's board and senior vice president at Computer Associates International in charge of Linux strategy, told CNET that he is actively working on a proposal for consolidating the number of open-source licenses down to three from the current figure of more than 50.

"You'll see some movement on that in the next six to eight weeks," he said Tuesday.

Although no specific plan has been put in place, the OSI considers the number of open-source licenses an industrywide problem, said Russell Nelson, who became president of the OSI earlier this month.

"Certainly a lot of people are upset about the license proliferation problem," Nelson said.

"Confusing as hell"
Incompatible licenses among different products prevent people from sharing code from different open-source projects. Having too many licenses complicates potential sales to corporate customers, which may have to do extensive legal reviews and manage multiple kinds of open-source contracts.

"It's confusing as hell to explain to customers," said Michael Olson, CEO of open-source database company Sleepycat Software. "It's confusing?because we are just wrapping our heads around what (different licenses) mean to us as businesspeople."

There are a handful of popular open-source licenses, such as the General Public License (GPL), which is used for Linux, and the Apache Software License, which

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