I am writing to announce the launch of Blue Oak Council, a new effort in the art and science of software licensing. Blue Oak publishes materials to help everyone — developers, lawyers, and others — to better understand software licensing. It will be our ongoing mission to provide clear, easy-to-use materials that are practical and freely available. We hope Blue Oak will be a home for many projects in the future. But today, we have released our first project, and I am excited to tell you about it.
Our first project is a list of permissive public software licenses. That might be sound like a simple thing, but it’s both highly useful and not so easy to create. There are countless variations of permissive licenses. We could not possibly include them all. But as a realistic start, we included all the permissive licenses on the OSI and SPDX lists. Then, we rated each license from gold to lead, based on criteria we developed, like clarity of drafting, simplicity, and practicality of conditions. We published our results as a data package, as well.
To show the list “in action”, we also published some example provisions for contracts and grants, as well as an example corporate open source policy that “green lights” permissive licenses. That policy is loosely based on one I have been using in my practice for years, but it was streamlined and improved for this purpose.
As a byproduct of working on the list, we found ourselves preparing a model permissive license, working backwards from the informal criteria we used to rank existing licenses. While that license began as a thought experiment and reference point, it is also free for anyone to use.
I am thrilled to see this project launched, but I want to emphasize that I am not alone in it. The process of sorting out the rankings and the model, among Kyle Mitchell, Luis Villa and me, was a great exercise in challenging our assumptions and learning from each other.
Blue Oak welcomes feedback, ideas for projects, but most important, we would love to welcome other lawyers into the fold, and to serve as a conduit and facilitator for more practical group projects that can help spread knowledge and advance the state of the art.