Google Code blacklists Mozilla Public License
Less is more
OSCON The Mozilla Public License (MPL) is the latest casualty of Google's decision to remove open-source licenses from its popular code hosting service.
The search giant has said Google Code is no longer accepting projects licensed under MPL, although existing MPL-licensed code is allowed to stay.
The move comes two years after Google Code launched, when MPL was one of just seven licenses Google allowed developers to use. Others included Apache, BSD and the Free Software Foundation's GPL and LGPL.
Google's MPL ban follows the block on FSF's Affero GPL. That decision's seen a number of projects abandon Google Code for rival hosts.
As with Affero, the reasons for Google's decision are not entirely clear.
On the one hand, it sounds like Google is using its critical mass to force an industry reduction in the number of open-source licenses. Open source programs manager Chris DiBona said - as with Affero - the move is designed to stop license proliferation inside Google Code. A decent objective.
He told the O'Reilly Open Source Convention (OSCON) developers are welcome to host MPL projects elsewhere, just not on Google Code. He noted you could still build plug-ins for Mozilla's Firefox browser without licensing under MPL.
Here's where the proliferation argument stumbles, though. DiBona said MPL is not widely used to justify a place on Google Code - also the reason given for blocking Affero.
OK, so proliferation as a concept is bad.
Proliferation is not bad, though, when a license grows in popularity. Two things are needed to pass muster on Google Code: to be used in "thousands" not "hundreds" of projects, plus a dose of "gut measure" from DiBona and his team. "It's so arbitrary," DiBona told The Reg.
It’s Kafkaesque in its simplicity.
It really, though, sounds like Google is concerned about the threat some licenses might pose in terms of code authors and hosts (Google) getting prosecuted by holders of intellectual property (IP) and by the degree of ownership over its own code Google might have to surrender.
He added: "That's the reason we use the Apache license as the default license," for Google's projects.
So, no surprise: Apache is considered "safe" for developers, and safe for Google's own business.
This could certainly explain Google's aversion to Affero, which says companies like Google running services are distributing code and must allow consumers of those services to modify and pass on that code. That could threaten the Google's secret algorithmic sauce.
MSL, though, seems relatively harmless. And, how can Google dump MPL when it still seems to accept GPL, a license Microsoft takes strong exception to.
As DiBona told us of the decision to drop MPL: "We [Google] will be unpopular for a while."®
Bonsall's got it wrong
"I'm trying to think of another thing that someone could buy and reasonably demand full access to the thousands of hours of work that went into it so they could make sure it worked"
You think this is what open source is about? That's not what it's about. Without open source what we have now is this: If a software product were a coffeemaker, it's maker is, say, Braun, and I buy one, and I don't like how it makes coffee, so I modify it, Braun would sue me. If I put instructions on how my Braun Coffemaker Modification was implemented on the web so others could change their coffeemakers to work like mine, I would be thrown in jail. This is a set of laws written by pernicious people in the software biz who managed to wool people who have no idea what happens to anything once it has electricity running through it (i.e. Lawyers). It's a sick joke.
The model for the future you describe (that of an Application Service Provider) works great until data portability becomes an issue. Then everyone realizes that the last thing they want is to have a mission critical app hosted at an ASP. ASPs aren't all bad, but ASPs are not "the future". It's just one way to solve a problem that will not replace other ways.
re: Better Idea
You'd still need more than one license anyway, depending on what you were allowed to do with the source once you had it. Verify and run, modify for private use, modify and provide the modifications to the community, modify for commercial gain, extend but not modify, extend for commercial gain, each varient would require a different license, and would be governed by different laws. You'd also have to seriously rewrite copyright and patent law, not to mention trade secret protection law, which would require years, millions of pounds and international cooperation.
I'm trying to think of another thing that someone could buy and reasonably demand full access to the thousands of hours of work that went into it so they could make sure it worked, or make changes because it's not quite to their liking, and I can't think of one. Go to a resturant and insist on watching the food being cooked so you could change the seasoning if you think you can do better? Watch your car being built, so you can pick the nuts and bolts yourself? Buy a book and change the ending so it comes out the way you want? You could do all these things, but if you have the skills needed to do it well, you also have the skills to do it from scratch, exactly to your liking. It might take a while, but then it took the original developers a while as well.
Personally, I have never sold or supplied a single copy of any piece of software I have written. I sell access to my software, which runs on machines I own and control. My clients have no need to see, and would have no idea what to do with, the source to the applications they use. All they need it to know how the interface works, what the business logic is behind the application, and the data model that backs up the logic. This is why they hired me in the first place. And if they are interested, and were prepared to spend some more money, I might let them know the details of the API, so they could build their own interface.
This is the future. And also the past. It's only the present model that's flawed, where users think they own the software they paid to use.
How about "It's el-register-onian in it's IT-relevant-ness"?