Open Source Initiative approves new licenses from Apple, IBM


Author: JT Smith

– by Robin “Roblimo” Miller –
According to a post on the Open Source Initiative‘s license-discuss email list today from attorney Larry Rosen, the OSI board has decided that two new software licenses, one from IBM and one from Apple, comply with OSI’s Open Source definition and are now entitled to carry the OSI Certification Mark.The Apple Public Source License, version 1.2, was originally posted at on January 4, 2001. It is the license under which Apple has released Darwin, the FreeBSD-based “core” of Mac OS X, as well as a number of other Apple-sponsored software development projects. This license is far away from The Free Software Definition in concept; for example, it specifically states:

You may create a Larger Work by combining Covered Code with
other code not governed by the terms of this License and distribute the Larger Work as
a single product. In each such instance, You must make sure the requirements of this
License are fulfilled for the Covered Code or any portion thereof.

IBM’s Common Public License, version 0.5, which is also quite different from one designed primarily to encourage Free Software development, is much simpler and shorter than the Apple Public Source License. A fast layman’s reading of the Common Public License shows it to be more concerned with limitations on corporate liability than anything else, especially if a “contributor” to software released under this license sells some or all of that software as part of another product. Here’s a sample paragraph:

For example, a Contributor might include the Program in a commercial product offering, Product X. That Contributor is then a Commercial
Contributor. If that Commercial Contributor then makes performance claims, or offers warranties related to Product X, those performance claims
and warranties are such Commercial Contributor’s responsibility alone. Under this section, the Commercial Contributor would have to defend
claims against the other Contributors related to those performance claims and warranties, and if a court requires any other Contributor to pay any
damages as a result, the Commercial Contributor must pay those damages.

This license is the second one from IBM that has been approved by OSI; the IBM Public License Version 1.0 (which also contains the paragraph quoted above) has been around for a while. Developers working with IBM may want to look carefully at the difference between the two, and may want to obtain legal advice before contributing to, or using code from, any project released under either license.

The same “check with a lawyer first” advice holds true of work done under the Apple Public Source License, too, of course, and of virtually all other Open Source and Free Software licenses, whether or not they are on the OSI’s “approved list.” That list now contains (counting the two additions just announced) 23 separate software licenses, each of which contains its own set of caveats, clauses, freedoms, restrictions, and disclaimers.

(It’s sad that there can’t just be two or three simple, easy-to-understand Open Source and Free Software licenses that everyone agrees to use, but so it goes.)


  • Open Source