PROPOSAL: licensing guidelines

Daniel Quinlan quinlan at
Tue May 16 20:34:05 PDT 2000

(Since we don't quite have mailing lists set up yet,
I'm cross-posting this to li18nux and lsb-discuss.)

This is a proposal for the Free Standards Group licensing guidelines.
This is primarly based on discussions, interviews, and talks from over
the course of the last year.  Most recently, this issue has resurfaced
due to availability of Motif under an "open source" license, which may
or may not meet the Open Source Definition (same as the Debian Free
Software Guidelines).

Going forward, I'd like to document this policy on the
web page so we're all in sync.  We also need to stick to our mission:

  We are a non-profit corporation organized to accelerate the use and
  acceptance of open source technologies through the application,
  development and promotion of standards.

In other words, we shouldn't do things that sabotage the use and
acceptance of open source technologies.  For example, our specifications
should not *require* software that isn't open source.

If this proves to be too controversial, we can postpone a decision until
later, but it seems fairly straightforward to me.

Finally, it may not be the case that all parts of this proposal will
work for all subsections of the Free Standards Group, but I do think it
makes sense to have a single set of basic guidelines.


 - Free Standards Group specifications will be published on the internet
   (under a zero cost and non-restrictive license).

 - Free Standards Group software will be published on the internet
   (under an Open Source license).  This includes both test suite and
   sample implementations.

 - An Open Source implementation of any specified software must exist
   (in a state sufficient for common use and deployment).

 - Any specifications referenced by our standards should be currently
   available to the public for a reasonable cost.

 - "Open Source" is defined by the Open Source Definition (Version 1.7)
   as published at with the following

   - Clause 9. License Must Not Contaminate Other Software.

      While using the GPL for libraries is conformant with this OSD
      requirement, we do not want the runtime linking of any GPL
      libraries to be required for conformance with our standards.

   - Software licenses should be OSD-certified except in the case of
     licenses specifically approved by the Free Standards Group board.

 - Software commissioned by the Free Standards Group should be licensed
   under the appropriate license for the project (X11 license for X
   software, LGPL for most libraries, etc.) or using one of the
   "recommended" licenses (assuming it makes sense).

 - Software commissioned by the Free Standards Group should be copyright
   "Free Standards Group" unless it is being assigned to an approved
   legal entity (for example, the Free Software Foundation).  (Large
   assignments need be approved, patches and other small contributions
   do not.)

   (Legally speaking, copyright assignments need to be signed by an
   officer of the company.)

 - "Recommended" licenses are currently the GPL (2.0) except for
   libraries, the LGPL (2.1) for libraries, and the MIT license.


 - The license for our test suites is not yet defined.  A license that
   meets the special requires for test software needs to be located or

 - For reference, you may want to read the LSB mission document located


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