Compromise: attribution "rider" on any OSI license?

I’ve just reviewed Ross Mayfields proposal for an attribution provision that can be added to any other OSI approved license and still remain OSI approved.

First off, I’d like to say that I think the spirit is right here.  Instead of approving specific attribution clauses in each of the licenses, come up with one that can be added to any license.  This DOES help with proliferation!  Well done!

However, the specific text is still too broad to limit a world where this is possible.

I’m one of the strongest critics of these licenses (I don’t really matter either).  I’m a peon who has little to benefit if these particular companies succeed or fail.  I do have a vested interest in the success of revenue generating Open Source (ie, companies that generate real $$ from OPEN SOURCE projects).

I’d think that if you limited the attribution clause to an appropriate statement to allow for headless/GUI-less uses and “reasonable attribution”

Generic Attribution Provision

Redistributions of the original code in binary form or source code form, must ensure that each time the resulting executable program, a display of items (a),(b),(c) same size as found in the original code released by the original licensor on a (e.g., splash screen or about page or banner text) of the original licensor’s attribution information if such a splash screen or about page is present in redistribution, which includes:

(a) Company Name
(b) Logo (if any) and
(c) URL

Original Licensor grants limited use of Trademark and Logo as necessary to fulfill obligations of this provision.

I think this is reasonable and in line with previous OSI approvals (ie, documentation, source code, executable startup, about box).  The trademark grant is necessary to ensure that there can’t be a royalty tied to use of the software (clearly in violation of OSD) but only so much as to comply with this provision.  Ie, if you HAVE to put their trademarked company name/logo on your about page they can’t come after YOU and required you to pay for use fo that mark or to stop using it.

Is this attribution, clearly identifying the original work fo the company and community sufficient?  This is pretty common practice in creative commons as well.  ie, Creative commons says you have to ATTRIBUTE, not that you have to attribute in EVERY PAGE of your magazine and blog.   You just have to acknowledge somewhere.  I still think this isn’t very “open source – eee” but it’d be something would remove most of my objections.

3 thoughts on “Compromise: attribution "rider" on any OSI license?

  1. Javier

    Hello Nicholas,

    I find this proposal a good idea. And also think that the discussion about if this software is or isn’t open source, is very important. Congratulations for starting the debate about this issue!

    I think that us, in the side of companies generating value using open source software, support your views.


  2. Pingback: Nicholas Goodman on Business Intelligence - Musings on reporting, OLAP, ETL, open source » Email to OSI license-discuss re: Generic Attribution Provision

  3. Christiaan Erasmus


    Your “general attribution” is a very good idea to overcome the OSI definition # 10 problem, namely that software must be technology independent.

    I do however think that there might be a problem with a limited Trademark grant as that might cause a Trademark to become unenforcible.

    I have mentioned the article in my blog as it affects us as well because we released source sode under an attribution license.

    You can view the blog at should you be interested.


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