HP: Too many open source licences

HP: Too many open source licences

Summary: HP: Too many open source licences.

Martin Fink, Hewlett Packard's Linux vice-president, yesterday slammed the open source community's complex licensing schemes, suggesting that there are too many open source licences for developers to manage properly.

Closing a presentation at the Linux World Conference and Expo in Sydney yesterday, Fink said, "If there's one thing that you take home from my speech today it is: do not make more open source licences."

He said there were currently "58 open source licences in use," and the task of keeping up with them created many difficulties for open source developers. Its something of a personal crusade for Fink, who said, "I've spent a lot of my time stopping people from creating more [licences]", before going on to say, "[HP has] never ever created an open source licence. If we never had to, why do you?"

The various open source licences are approved by the Open Source Initiative as a way to standardise and regulate licensing in the open source community. However, with so many different licences now approved, figures such as Fink see the strong potential for developer and business confusion as something that stands in the way of further open source adoption by business.

It is a point of view echoed by HP's open source and Linux chief technology officer, Bdale Garbee, who confirmed there are, "too many licences out there; it's a real headache for developers," in an interview with Builder AU at the Sydney Linux World Conference and Expo.

Topics: Hewlett-Packard, Linux, Open Source, Software

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  • Yeah, but...

    Well, I certainly agree that there are too many open source licenses in use today, I disagree with Fink's simplistic statement that since HP never had to create a license that no one else should have to. Licenses need to be created to accomplish certain goals that can't be accomplished using an existing license. It's certainly possible that another person/organization could have different goals than HP and thus would need to create a license to accomplish those goals even though HP didn't.
  • Too simple an approach!

    To say that "Open Source" has too many kinds of licenses shows simplistic thinking. FOSS is not a monolithic block of people acting as a single organization. To expect it to react as such is just silly.

    Every organization has its own objectives, culture, and restrictions. Those that participate in the FOSS movement are not exceptional in this respect. Licenses, like warrantees are custom jobs designed to achieve the organization's aims.
  • A poorly phrased comment.

    Yes there are 59 open-source licenses recognized by OSI, but about half affect only one product or project.

    Of the 43,000 projects registered with freshmeat.net (excluding the 4.8% that are simply labelled "freeware" without being specific about the license), 70% use the GPL, 6.1% LGPL, 5.8% BSD, 1.8% PERL Artistic, and all the others combined constitute about 17%. That's 83% of all the OSS software uses one of the top 4 licenses.

    How does that compare to commercial software licensing? It seems to me that each package comes with its own EULA, which is ammended by additional licenses terms negotiated at the time of purchase, possibly subject to change by the vendor.

    I don't think it's a valid criticism to say that there are too many F/OSS licenses. In practice, few are used and even then it is clearly a superior situation to the alternative.
  • If HP doesn't want to comply with a Developer's license...

    then they are certainly 'free' to not use (or Distribute) that software.

    Garbee says that too many licenses "are a real headache for developers". But it seems that their REAL complaint is, too many licenses are a headache for the big corporations such as HP which want to use and distribute this "Open Source" software... while not wanting to read and comply with the license terms which the AUTHORS have CHOSEN. In this light, HP is speaking as a *Marketing* company, not a Developer (and not as a qualified Developer's Neurologist, either).

    HP has been somewhat friendly towards FLOSS (thanks for the openoffice.org support, now where's my pre-loaded with Mandriva PC in a first-world Country ????). But I think it's over-reaching to proclaim that the Developers get headaches by doing what they choose, rather than what YOUR Company wants.
  • I can't believe it

    He means "too many for HP lawyers to know when they can give the green light for HP tech to freely take advantage of what is out there". For any commercial software out there, their is a very restrictive license, they need not only the lawyers, but contract negociations and license payment and litigation when things go wrong.

    With opensource, you just need to analyse the license. Don't even need to make contact with the maintainer.

    Someone is having a laugh or is it me who is a bit unfair ?

    If big wealthy HP wants to use superbly cost effective opensource, at least, make a list of the license you like and stop complaining.
  • too many distro's

    not just too many licences, too many linux distro's that scare people away from the switch to open source.
  • complain??? who? never.

    it is the end user that is affected in the end, maybe open source should think about what the consumer wants, not how best to serve them in ways that they don't understand.I do love open source, but the take-up among home and office users seems a bit long winded, considering i have been using linux since 1998 and as everyone then would have told you, linux would overtake windows in 2-3 years, i'm still waiting, and that is what will kill it in the end.