Criteria review begins by License Consistency Working Group to update licenses to current standards

Over the 25 years of OSI operation, our understanding of what makes an Open Source license successful, and what things cause problems, has evolved considerably. Ideas that were interesting experiments in 2002 have been shown not to work, and provisions like patent grants have been shown to be necessary. We’ve also learned the value of non-proliferation.

This means that it’s time for the board to review OSI’s library of licenses against current standards of what meets the Open Source Definition (OSD), as well as what’s legally valid licensing language. The board has delegated this to the newly formed License Consistency Working Group (LCWG), consisting of six OSI community members who have long standing involvement in license review. The LCWG, which includes both lawyers and developers from the US and Europe, started work in August.

Since this is maintenance twenty years in the making, the new committee is proceeding with deliberation over at least a year.  Work is happening in three phases: criteria, policy and review.  Currently the LCWG is in the Criteria phase. Members are reviewing the OSI’s library of licenses based partly on notes taken by the legal contractor who collated and consolidated license approval records earlier this year. Based on this review, the committee will be able to find if we have problems in older licenses, and what kinds of problems we have. From there, they will be able to move on to making recommendations about how these problems are to be resolved.

We emphasize that, while de-listing a license due to critical problems is a possibility, the committee expects most of its work to center around far less drastic resolutions. For example, some licenses have more recent versions, and others have differences in text between the OSI listing and the document used by the project. In most cases, we expect any changes to be a matter of cleanup rather than removal. Should any license need to be de-listed, the OSI will take care to assess the impact on any users of that license.

The consistency review is a one-time effort at the direction of the board, and will not be an ongoing license grievance process.

If you have questions or feedback for the LCWG, please reach out to board members Josh Berkus and Carlo Piana.

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