Licence to Kill

One of the well known problems of open source is licence proliferation. In a sense, this is a tribute to the success of the GNU GPL, which demonstrated how copyright could be used to give rights to users over and above what was usual. Once the hack was published, others soon followed suit with their own variations. Choice is generally good, but is not always an unmitigated blessing. In particular, companies struggle to keep up with the dizzying array of open source licences, and their varying legal implications.

Against that background, here comes news from Mike Milinkovich, Executive Director of the Eclipse Foundation, that a licence is being phased out:

I am happy to report that the Eclipse Foundation and IBM have collaborated to do our bit to help by superseding the Common Public License (CPL) with the Eclipse Public License (EPL). This means that the CPL will no longer be considered an active open source license.

Here's what that means in practice:

For those projects that are currently using the CPL and wish to continue using it, not much. However this will open up an additional option for those CPL-licensed projects wishing to migrate to the EPL.

Using OSI’s classification of licenses, it means that the CPL will move from the “Licenses that are popular and widely used or with strong communities” to the “Superseded licenses” category as maintained by the OSI. It does not mean that the CPL has disappeared. However, it is the recommendation of the OSI, IBM and the Eclipse Foundation that new projects use the Eclipse license rather than the CPL if this “style” of license appeals to you.

This move underlines the continuing rise of the Eclipse Public Licence as one of the leading open source licences, something highlighted by the recent decision of the Symbian Foundation to release its massive code base under the EPL.

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Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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