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Google makes Mozilla licence U-turn

'A bit more nuanced'

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Google has done a swift about-face and decided to allow code released under the Mozilla Public Licence (MPL) into its Google Code silo, just a month after it was judged redundant and banned.

In late July we reported from OSCON how Google caused a stir by booting MPL code. The firm's chief open source fancier Chris DiBona said Mozilla's licence wasn't widely used enough to justify its place on the Google Code site.

Software watchers said the true motivation for the MPL embargo was more likely concern by Google that its intellectual property might be legally imperilled by association with the licence's potentially wobbly terms. "Most open source licences have not a thing to say explicitly about patents or trade marks," DiBona said. "We [Google] will be unpopular for a while."

It seems Google simply couldn't handle the wrath of the open source crowd.

On Wednesday he wrote on the Google blog that a similar two-year Google Code ban on the Eclipse Public License, yet another open source licence, was being lifted "to show [Google's] solidarity with our friends at the Eclipse project".

"In that light," DiBona continued, "our removal of the MPL from the site seemed a little absurd. So, our bad.

"We're putting that option back up for new projects. The groups that want to use the MPL to enable their additions, extensions and more for Firefox and other Mozilla projects are legion and considering their recent summit, represent a very healthy global collection of developers."

However, he maintained Google's stance that too many very similar open source licences is damaging for the development community - "but how we think about licences is getting a bit more nuanced".

Dibona said the EPL now merits a spot on Google Code because although not many projects are licensed under it, the software has a large user base. Kicking out the MPL was "just a mistake", he admitted in response to a comment on his posting. ®

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