After months of grueling work and legal battles, the Open Source Initiative (OSI) has officially approved the Common Public Attribution License (CPAL) originally submitted by Socialtext nine months ago. With CPAL on the OSI’s approved list of open source licenses, Socialtext can now carry the OSI-certified label and proudly call itself open source.Socialtext, the Palo Alto, California based provider of enterprise wikis, can now breath a sigh of relief and put the controversy of the submission process behind them.
The process began nine months ago with the submission of the General Attribution Provision (GAP), a new license that intended to deal with the 40 or so Mozilla-like attribution licenses that failed to follow the OSI submission process, such as SugarCRM, Scalix, MuleSource and Zimbra.
Unfortunately, Socialtext themselves failed to follow the OSI's submission process and the GAP appeared to be at a dead end. However, rather than relent to the mounting dissent, Socialtext took the work they had done on the GAP and coupled it with the Mozilla Public License. Then, before submitting what would become known as the Socialtext Public License, the decision was made to include a network use clause from Affero that solves a problem in the software-as-a-service business model, but did not have OSI approval.
Parts of the story were covered in an interview with eWeek where Socialtext CEO and co-founder Ross Mayfield noted that "one of the valid concerns with the Socialtext Public License, as it was then known, was whether the license technology was neutral. For example, there are applications that do not have a user interface, but we were specifying that there had to be one. So that was a change that was valid and necessary."
Thankfully, the intervention of another open source licensing luminary, Larry Rosen, resulted in the inclusion of a key external deployment clause and thus the CPAL was created. Upon the conclusion of this battle, Mayfield had this to say: “Our position has hopefully now been validated but, as with any policy change, there will be those who would have preferred another policy. But I'm confident it will play out favorably."
Mayfield also revealed that Socialtext is working on a project that would allow employees to contribute to a project of their choice, at any time, so long as it is under an OSI-approved license. Currently known as “the social contract,” this new ambition could definitely turn some heads.
What is your opinion of the CPAL and Socialtext's efforts? Is the controversy deserved? How will the OSI's approval of the CPAL effect the open source landscape? Drop down to the comments section and let us know what you think.