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Updating the Mozilla Public License
Thursday, March 11 2010 @ 11:07 AM EST

Mozilla is updating its license, and you can participate, just as you did in the GPLv3 updating process. It'll be going on for a while, until the end of 2010, in monthly stages, and each part of the schedule will only last one month, so I'm letting you know now, even though we are all riveted to Utah and the trial at the moment, so you can begin to think about it and maybe make use of intermissions in the Utah story.

Where they are now is they'd like you to let them know if you have any issues with the MPL, things you'd like changed, or things you think can be improved. You do need Javascript turned on to be able to use the commenting tool. They are working with, which looks intriguing. I need to check that out when I have some time after the trial.

The idea is to modernize the license, which hasn't been updated in about a decade, so it's easier to use and ideally more effectively represents what people want the license to do. They "do not currently plan to make major changes to the scope of the copyleft." Mitchell Baker's blog:

Over the years we’ve received feedback about the license, and we’ll use some of that, plus early comments here, to produce an early “alpha” version of what a new license might look like. Once we have published an alpha draft, we will have time for commentary, discussion, and further drafting, followed by beta and release candidate drafts.
If you have comments about the process or schedule or anything that doesn't relate directly to the license wording, you can use the mailing list, mpl-update.

Harvey Anderson — Updating the MPL:

On Monday we announced a public process to update the Mozilla Public License. The goal of the update is to incorporate learnings gathered over the years so we can simplify, modernize, and make the license easier to use. Mitchell Baker’s post this morning provides some good historical context and you can find more information about the process, rationale, and how to get involved on the MPL update web site. I’m pretty excited about the prospects although it’s going to be a big chunk of work and with any open process some respectful disagreement from time to time, but that’s ok.

More than a decade ago, I had the chance to work with Mitchell on the MPL. At the time, I had never worked on an open source license – nor had most attorneys back then. It seemed like another cool project to work on, but I certainly didn’t fully comprehend the possibility at the time. It was also my first exposure to creating legal artifacts in an open and transparent way. It was a bit of shock and I’m still in awe at how open source products are created.

In my experience practicing law, transactions come and go, and not often do you work on the same “deal” again. Especially in the Internet sector, it’s rare that that you get two shots at anything. So this means either that the license is enduring, relevant, and worth working on again or perhaps more simply that I’m getting old. I opt for the former.

Frederic Wenzel:
Today, Mozilla is starting the public process on revising its signature code license, the Mozilla Public License or MPL. Mitchell Baker, chair of the board of the Mozilla Foundation and author of the original MPL 1.0, has more information about the process on her blog....

Of course, I made the website (the design is borrowed from, so I am naturally happy to see it being available to a wider audience.

But I also hope that the revision process itself will be successful. While the MPL has been a remarkable help in Mozilla desktop projects’ success, it is unpleasant (to say the least) to use in web applications, for a number of reasons:

The hideous license block. The MPL is a file-based license. It allows any file in the project, even in the same directory, to be licensed differently. Therefore, each MPL-licensed code file must have an over 30 lines long comment block on top. For big code modules, that’s fine. For web applications, whose files often have a handful of lines, this balloons up the whole code base and makes files horribly unreadable. Sadly, the current license only allows an exception from that rule if that’s impossible “due to [the file’s] structure” which would essentially only be the case if that file type did not allow comments.

He was hoping to weaken the copyleft provisions, he goes on to say, but Mozilla says that's not on the table at the moment. So, have at it, if this is a topic that interests you.

Here's what interests me: I'm hoping to watch closely to make sure no one pushes to make the patent clause weaker in the name of "freedom to do what you want" or some such nonsense. After reading Jonathan Schwartz's account of a meeting with Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer where they tried to sell him a license to use and distribute OpenOffice, it's vital, in my view, that patent clauses are, if anything, strengthened. Microsoft is real life. They don't change. There is no footnote to that truth.


Updating the Mozilla Public License | 79 comments | Create New Account
Comments belong to whoever posts them. Please notify us of inappropriate comments.
Corrections Here
Authored by: hardmath on Thursday, March 11 2010 @ 11:39 AM EST
Using ye olde Subject Line to Mark Out the Nature of Saeme

"It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends
upon his not understanding it!" -- Upton Sinclair

[ Reply to This | # ]

Off Topic Threads
Authored by: hardmath on Thursday, March 11 2010 @ 11:41 AM EST
Anything irrelevant (or irreverant) goes here...

Clickies appreciated for reference to further reading.


"It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends
upon his not understanding it!" -- Upton Sinclair

[ Reply to This | # ]

Comes: what's up, docs?
Authored by: hardmath on Thursday, March 11 2010 @ 11:44 AM EST
Transcriptions, summaries, etc.


"It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends
upon his not understanding it!" -- Upton Sinclair

[ Reply to This | # ]

News Pick Discussions
Authored by: hardmath on Thursday, March 11 2010 @ 11:46 AM EST
Please put the News Pick headline in your Title until the Discussion wanders
completely off the beaten path.


"It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends
upon his not understanding it!" -- Upton Sinclair

[ Reply to This | # ]

Updating the Mozilla Public License
Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, March 11 2010 @ 12:18 PM EST
My advice, only partially tongue-in-cheek, is that they should first work out
some powerful oath that each participant is required to swear to the effect that
"I do not now nor have I ever worked for Microsoft in any way shape or
form". It would be a major pity to amend the license and then find out you
gave Firefox into the hands of its enemy.

[ Reply to This | # ]

"Microsoft is real life."
Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, March 11 2010 @ 02:00 PM EST
Not if the Supreme Court says otherwise in Bilski.

I'm keeping my fingers, toes, and eyes crossed that that will be the case.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Updating the MPL and FUDing the GPL
Authored by: grouch on Thursday, March 11 2010 @ 04:32 PM EST
The article Updating the Mozilla Public License includes this: 'While the MPL (unlike the GNU GPL) does not have a tendency to “taint” other code, this is not at all compatible with the BSD or MIT licenses’ notion of “take it and do (almost) whatever you please with it”.'

That is simply FUD. The GPL does not "taint" other code. A developer chooses; code under the GPL does not go out on night raids looking for other code to "taint".

-- grouch

GNU/Linux obeys you.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Mozilla!?! who cares! I want to hear what happened in court!
Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, March 11 2010 @ 04:58 PM EST
the suspense is killing me

now back to your regularly scheduled "open source and the law"
discussion already in progress

[ Reply to This | # ]

If memory serves me...
Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, March 11 2010 @ 05:38 PM EST
If memory serves me, the great thing about MPL is what it says about patents. Of
course, a license is only as good as its weakest link, so since it is
triple-licensed under MPL, GPL. and LGPL, it can be weakened.

Mitchell Baker is, IMHO, right up there with the greatest people I have been
acquainted with, and I have met and worked with quite a few people.

[ Reply to This | # ]

off topic-Day 4 partial
Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, March 11 2010 @ 05:40 PM EST
I attended partially today. It was hard to keep up.
The public benches were pretty much open. I noticed 12 people at first in the
audience, during one of the breaks I noticed that all the people were pretty
much a part of the counsel as they all gathered and talked to each other. All in
all there were probably only about 3 real public audience members.
1 other public guy looked like he was taking notes.

The jury had 6 women and 6 men. Mostly alert and attentive with notebook and
pen in hand.

hatch wearing maroon bow-tie.

Normand spoke for SCO- soft spoken and pleasant voice. Jacobs for Novell he was
taller. I think Mcbride was there but either he looked younger or it was his
brother. I am not sure, but he had the Mcbride look.

I heard 2 and a half depositions. 2 were recorded and one was in person.

The 1st deposition was a CEO of Santa Cruz I believe, Didn't get the name, but
pretty much he wasn't relying on his memory, but just mainly stated that the
intent was that with buying the business, the copyrights were pretty much
guaranteed to be transferred. But he couldn't remember anything specific about
the APA and didn't even know about ammendment 2 when asked! when I asked to
remember things he would blow it off like that was so long ago. He would joke
about it, but the lawyer would just restate the question seriously and politely.
The jury even smiled and laughed to themselves quietly. It seemed to me the
guy was just saying the intent was there, but he couldn't remember anything
specific. i don't think the guy was that credible.

The next deposition was interesting the most. It was Bert Levine. Started at
USL in 1991 and I beleive he was a lawyer. He was involved with drafting the
APA. When Novell bought USK he transferred to Novell. then after a few months of
the sale to Santa Cruz he transsfered to Santa Cruz. He again testified that
the intent was to convey everything. Intent was used many times. Novell asked
what specific in the agreement points to the conveyance. Levine cant point to
anything specific. Novell asked him about the Excluded assetts. It turns out
that the intial draft had some mark ups that he had faxed to novell. Something
related to the Excluded assetts. Levine asked what excluded assetss means. there
were 8 items on exluded list. IP specifically exluded. I don't remember all the
details, but the point was that he took out some language after drafts, but the
exluded language remained. So he had a chance to reflect on the language and
didn't change it so it adds weight to Novell's argument.

There was an email from Levine to Challos (name?) it sounded like, they read
from it. something about the language of waiving rights. It had something to do
with HP agreements.

Last deposition was Bill Broderick, he was sworn in. He was orginally at USL and
transferred to Novell after the sale. He said when Novell decided to focus on
netware and sell the unix stuff, he wanted to go to santa cruz. He worked on
the software license contracts. Binary and source code licensing. Novell
objected to questioning along the line of did Bill ever hear anyone say that the
copyrights were transferred. Novell said that Bill had no direct involvement so
he can't testify about it. The judge said SCO could continue as long as the
questioning didn't get specific. Well a few questions later Novell objects
again. Normand and Jacobs had about a 15 second exchange back and forth with the
judge. Normand can talk fast, ( he spoke faster than normal) I couldn't
understand what he was saying, the judge sided with Normand and let the
questioning continue. Basically Broderick said that from his perspective the
licensing for unix was part of the business and he showed emails sent out about
the Novell - S-Cruz changes to the customers. He didn't finish his deposition
and will be back in the morning at 8 :30. The court recessed at 1:30. The judge
admonished the jury to not watch or read any media related to the case. He also
told them not to start judging or deciding who is right or wrong. There will be
a lot more evidence in the future. The jury left then the counsels for the
sides talked for a few minutes with the judge regarding a witness that Novell
wasn't aware of. SCO said they will have the witness testify "out of
turn" so that Novell can be prepared.

Jacobs brought up something said in the opening statements that wasn't right.
The phrase " "to this day" in the context that Novell to this day
refutes SCO's claims of copyright ownership. Anyway the judge told him to put
something in writing and get it to him.

Normand spoke then about who would testify tomorrow. Mattingly, Masiak and a
video tape recording of Ogara. Sorry if the names are spelled wrong I jut wrote
how they sounded. Anyway a point of controversy exists relating to the Ogara
tape. No doubt it probably deals with the slander of title claim. It wasn't
resolved about the Ogara tape yet.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Easy license update
Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, March 11 2010 @ 05:53 PM EST
Just use GPL v3 and call it a day. No discussion needed, they need to stop
being all wishy washy.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Updating the Mozilla Public License
Authored by: JimDiGriz on Thursday, March 11 2010 @ 11:22 PM EST
Luis Villa — Updating the MPL

Yesterday Mozilla announced that we will be updating the MPL, with the aim of making the license simpler, easier to use, and more robust. Mitchell’s post captures what we want to do in more depth; if you’re interested in the process, you should go read it and our full website at

I have the privilege of being heavily involved in this project. I use the word ‘privilege’ because, since right around the time I went to law school, my home page has said something to the effect of ‘Luis’s goal is to help innovators do their thing with minimal interference from and maximum assistance from lawyers.’ ‘Helping innovators do their thing’ is exactly what this project is all about, so I’m excited to be part of the process.

We’re looking to involve the Mozilla community, of course, and we’re also looking to involve people who aren’t normally part of the Mozilla community, like licensing lawyers. So the process will involve a lot of very smart, experienced, and often opinionated people, some of whom will have been working with the license for a decade. I will get the luxury of being the project manager/cat-herder: working on this much of the day, encouraging involvement, organizing feedback, sifting it for gems, and collating all of it into the starting points we’ll use for further discussion and improvement. I’m just the organizer, though- Mitchell (as original author and tentative module owner) has the final say on the text, and the voice of the community will be the community themselves- we’re looking for broad involvement from anyone who has something valuable to say about the license or their experiences with it. If you’re interested in helping out in any way, check out our participate page for more information.

The day-to-day work that this huge community of volunteers does to produce software actively chosen by 100 million people is much more important than the legalese that binds them. But the legalese does matter- it communicates our values and helps structure how we work with each other. So improving this legalese is important for the community, and a great opportunity for me to help out, and I’m excited to get started on it.


[ Reply to This | # ]

Add GPL/LGPL compatibilty
Authored by: dwheeler on Friday, March 12 2010 @ 11:32 AM EST
I hope that when they update the MPL, they make it LGPL and GPL compatible (v2
and v3 ideally). The LGPL and GPL are far more common licenses, and the
incompatibility is a problem. And, I believe, an unnecessary problem. This has
been resolved in Mozilla with the triple license, but that doesn't help other
projects that use just the MPL. If anyone can encourage them to make the MPL
LGPL/GPL compatible, that'd be great. It took a while to do this with the
Apache license, but it's been done, so there's hope here too.

So, please submit comments to the MPL process that GPL/LGPL compatibility is
important. Thanks.

[ Reply to This | # ]

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