Intel Wants Off Open Source Listing

Intel has asked to have its name removed from a list of open source licenses promoted by the Open Source Initiative
(OSI). The move has some members of the open source community smiling.

In an e-mail to the OSI this week, McCoy Smith, senior intellectual property attorney at Intel, asked to have the “Intel Open Source License” (also known as “BSD License with Export Notice”) taken off the list of licenses approved by OSI and that can be used in future projects.

“We’re not pulling the plug on the license altogether, we’re just
asking OSI to de-emphasize this license as part of their list,” Smith

OSI, which manages and certifies open source licenses like the GNU General Public License , the Mozilla Public License (MPL) and the Apache Software License (APL), has been debating ways of consolidating its list of nearly 60 approved permits. The licenses are used to regulate how programmers can read, redistribute, and modify the source code for a piece of software.

The concern by community leaders is that an over abundance of
licenses, some with only subtle differences between them, ends up
costing companies more time and money than some would like to invest.

Open source dignitaries like lawyer Larry Rosen and HP’s Linux guru Martin Fink are among those championing OSI’s consolidation efforts.

Smith said Intel was in the process of reviewing its files when it
found that the license hadn’t been used inside of Intel for about five years and that there were only a handful of places outside the Santa Clara, Calif.-based company that used it as well. The decision was further solidified, Smith later told, after seeing how Rosen and Fink had rallied the open source community around the effort.

“It does not appear that the Intel Open Source License has found much use,” Smith said in a posting to OSI’s public mailing list. “There approximately 25 projects on SourceForge using the license, most of which appear to have been able to use just the plain BSD license without an export notice. Therefore Intel believes the Intel Open Source License could be removed from the approved list without causing significant problems.”

Fink and others in the community immediately applauded Intel for its efforts, describing the gesture as one of true “leadership.”

OSI, Director of Legal Affairs, Laura Majerus, told that since this is the first time a company has volunteered to no longer promote a license, the license has not been pulled down yet because the organization is still working on the process for how to formalize Intel’s request.

“Because Intel is the originator of this license, of course they can decide that they do not want to promote it for future use,” Majerus said. “And it makes sense that people and organizations who have already released code under a license in the past should be able continue to use the license and call it ‘open source.'”

The barrier at this point, according to Majerus, is that even though OSI can tell developers that certain licenses are no longer promoted by the people who wrote them, OSI has no real mechanism to tell people that they cannot use a particular license anymore.

“The OSI needs a more formal procedure to allow companies to remove licenses from ‘active license’ status,” she said. “If nothing else, we need to make sure that all relevant parties in a corporation agree that they want to change the status of a license.”

As for Intel, Smith said the company is concerned that de-listing the Intel license does not impact legacy projects.

“The ‘de-approval’ of this license should not be retroactive to past uses, since we do not wish to force companies (including Intel) and individuals to have to go through the trouble of re-licensing code they may have released in the past under Intel Open Source License when it was an OSI-approved license,” Smith said. “Perhaps a solution would be to categorize this license as ‘obsolete for future use.'”

Smith said he would let OSI decide how to deal with that one.

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