Thursday, July 26, 2007

New Open Source License: Common Public Attribution License

I am proud to announce that the Socialtext Common Public Attribution License was approved by the OSI board on Wednesday morning. It will be the only OSI approved license that includes a provision enabling attribution and "filling" the ASP hole. The license is designed as a template for use by other companies and Socialtext and I believe that this license will fill an important need for open source companies.

The attribution provision was quite controversial and the license went through many drafts in order to satisfy those concerns. Many open source application companies have felt the need for an attribution notice: more than fifteen have adopted the MPL + attribution first used by SugarCRM, so the approval of this license is quite important to them. The participants on License Discuss at OSI were very opposed to the initial proposal on attribution. However, we and Socialtext worked with the members of License Discuss, the OSI Board as well as other members of the community to modify the provisions to meet these concerns. The real hero of the story is Ross Mayfield, CEO of Socialtext, whose patience and persistence during the eight month process were critical to its success.

The license is based on the Mozilla Public License Version 1.1 but Sections 14 and 15 have been added to provide for limited attribution for the Original Developer and cover use of software over a computer network. The attribution provision in Section 14 permits an attribution notice with the following information: copyright notice, short phrase (10 words), graphic image and URL. The network use provision in Section 15 is based on the "external deployment" approach (rather than the Affero approach) and requires that a company that makes the software available over a network (such as providing service as an ASP) provide the source code to persons who use such application over the network.

I realize that I may be biased, but I encourage companies to consider using the CPAL.