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Q&A Part 2: IBM exec says curbing open-source license glut is ¿wishful thinking'

Steve Mills says trying to end the license proliferation is a 'waste of time'

By Carol Sliwa
August 12, 2005 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - SAN FRANCISCO -- Steve Mills, senior vice president and group executive for IBM's software division, discussed open-source licensing issues and patent reform during an interview with Computerworld here at the LinuxWorld Conference & Expo. Part 1 of the interview -- in which he discussed Linux usage trends, IBM's involvement in the development of Linux and open-source virtualization software, and the company's plans for AIX -- is also available online (see "Q&A, Part 1: IBM exec says Linux no longer just a Unix replacement").
Part 2 of the interview follows:
One of the topics that cropped up during a couple of keynote speeches here is the need to stop the proliferation of open-source licenses. Stuart Cohen [CEO of Open Source Development Labs (OSDL)] said the Open Source Initiative recognizes 57 open-source licenses. What's your take on that? I haven't counted them, but if there are 57, I'm sure there's a lot of duplication inside of that 57. That incorporates a lot of subtlety. I suspect that inside of that, they reflect a few different models of licensing. There's always going to be more than one. I mean, it's hard to imagine that the world's going to get to one licensing model. So we're not necessarily bothered by the fact that there are multiples. We kind of expect that.
What about the call for the GPL? I guess this was HP's thing [on Tuesday]: Everybody should adopt GPL. Well that's never going to happen. There are multiple viable popular sets of terms out there. ... You can net this down to two major camps. One is a GPL license, which is very prescriptive in terms of what it means to package things with GPL and the obligation to deliver open-source for anything that is literally packaged with a GPL-licensed product.

We use the Apache license as an example, [and] there are many derivatives of that license. That's actually the more common licensing type for open-source in the industry. Our license looks very similar, as do other licenses. That license does not carry the same restriction on delivering everything. So if you have code that incorporates that license into a product, you're not obligated to deliver everything else in the product as open-source.
Didn't the IBM-created Eclipse project have its own licensing model? It's an Apache-like model. It's not a GPL-like model. ... You get different dot-orgs, you're going to get different derivatives. It's hard to say to any independent body that they can't have their own licensing. ... Look, every software vendor in the industry has a



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