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Perhaps the Creative Commons license might be worth a look?

Richard Wallis

Creative Commons is a great idea except it specifically excludes software (Can I use a Creative Commons license for software?)

They point you at OSI or the Free Software Foundation, which seems a bit of a cop out to me. Why should the intellectual property contained in software be handled differently to that contained in other things that are authored?


Software is a bit different from a non-executable document. In many ways software is as much a machine as it is text, so things like indemnification and patent rights intrude. It would be nice to have something like Creative Commons, so you could point to a 'non-commercial with attribution license' that everyone would understand.
Of course, Creative Commons has the CC-GNU GPL, but I don't see the advantage over simply using the GPL

Richard Wallis


Of course, Creative Commons has the CC-GNU GPL, but I don't see the advantage over simply using the GPL

Practical I agree with you, but it is a great shame that CC doesn't encompass software. There would have been a simple elegance about a single 'non-commercial with attribution license' that could cover content and the software that is used to deliver it.

Maybe we could start a campaign to get CC to at least take another look at the software side of things.

MacKenzie Smith

It sounds like your goals for OCLC research-produced open source software are:

-- widest possible non-commercial use
-- mandatory contribution of modifications to the code, but free reign for unmodified distributions

The Mozilla Public License requires "modifications" to be made available under the same terms as the MPL (free of charge) but does not require them be contributed back to Mozilla -- just hopes that they will be. Larger (combined) works are allowed under any combination of licenses (and may not be free). Fedora uses this license and it's working well for them. Similar to this one are the Common Public License (used by the IBM Eclipse project), and the Common Development and Distribution License (from Sun, for java stuff). If you adopt this type of license then the situation where, as with DSpace, there is a "combined work" that includes unmodified OCLC code like OAIcat along with code under a different
license, including BSD, will be fine.

As to your hesitation to allow commercial use of your code, the Mozilla license does allow a vendor to sell a product based on their proprietary code (or BSD or MPL-licensed products DSpace or Fedora) that also includes some MPL code, as long as that part of the code has proper attribution and is still under the MPL. But they can't sell just the MPL-covered code by itself. Another approach is what SRB did: distribute their code under a license to "non-profit academic institutions for internal educational and research purposes in its facilities, without a fee, and without a written agreement", but I can't find a standard OSS license like the MPL with that particular clause.

As it stands now, with the statement in your license that "The Program must be distributed without charge beyond the costs of physically transferring the files to the recipient." we really shouldn't ship DSpace with the OAIcat code included... if a company sold a product based on DSpace+unmodified OAIcat they would be violating your license... the same is true if Fedora or any other Mozilla-licensed product includes OAIcat and allows vendors (e.g. VTLS) to sell turnkey versions of the system. I don't *think* that's what you intended, but since DSpace and Fedora are more liberally-licensed that is the effect.

Personally I don't think you should worry about vendors trying to sell your code -- since you make it freely available it's unlikely anyone would be duped into paying a vendor for it... and if a vendor or other OSS project has a larger/combined product they sell that includes your code, well, why not? You're not losing significant revenue and you're promoting standards that you want to see adopted (e.g. OAI or SRW). I would urge you to to consider adopting the MPL or one of its close cousins to get you the local virality you want for code modifications without preventing other projects from including your stuff when it can do some good.

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