I sit on the “Strategic Leadership Board” of COIN-OR (COmputational INfrastructure for Operations Research). There is a lot of great code at COIN-OR, and I find it very useful in my research.
Despite being on the SLB, I get very confused when it comes to open source. It seems that 90% of the discussions on the SLB hinge on either legal issues with regards to open source licenses or on the paperwork necessary to satisfy COIN-OR’s process for meeting those legal issues. It is rather unsatisfying: all of us on the SLB would rather talk about operations research and software rather than legal stuff.
A big part of the issue is the proliferation of “open source” licenses. Check out the listing at opensource.org. There are 65 licenses listed! Who can keep track of all those? And, while there are some sites to help you pick a license, things get more complicated when you combine codes under different licenses.
At COIN, there are a few different licenses used, but the most common is CPL (Common Public License), due in part to the influence IBM has had in supporting COIN.
IBM and Eclipse have announced that the Eclipse standard ECL will supersede CPL. See the postings by Ed Burnette at ZDnet, and by Mike Milinkovich of the Eclipse Foundation (thanks Robin for the pointers!). Mike explains why this superseding was done:
License proliferation in open source is a real issue. It costs businesses to review multiple licenses, and the plethora of licenses can be confusing to someone starting a new open source project.
Over the past five years we have seen the Eclipse Foundation go from a good idea that might work to one of the most successful open source communities out there. We have seen the Symbian Foundation adopt the EPL as its license, thereby bringing a huge community and code base in its own right to the EPL, plus demonstrating the utility of the license well outside of the Java domain that it is best known in. More recently, Google also added the EPL as one of the licenses it supports on Google Code. It is clear that if we wanted to consolidate on one license, that the EPL made the most sense.
Generally I am very happy about this. There will be some immediate hassles as we try to sort out what this means and how this affects COIN-OR. But perhaps this move to EPL will grow larger, and we can get on to the business of creating great code, rather than getting stuck on legal issues.
I do have one question to all developers of open source software in operations research: are you happy with EPL as a license? Are there aspects of that license that you find troubling? Is anything a deal-breaker, meaning you would not license under EPL but instead would insist on another open source license for your work?