Wiki software vendor SocialText announced this week that the licensing committee of the Open Source Initiative has approved its Common Public Attribution License (CPAL) as an OSI-approved license.
The approval means that SocialText can now officially declare itself to be an open source vendor without fear of condemnation by open source purists. It also gives vendors that favor a license with attribution an OSI-approved option.
The approval of CPAL should bring to an end a long-running debate within open source circles about whether attribution licenses are approved or not. Like many other vendors, SocialText had previously used a modified version of the Mozilla Public License that required attribution in the form of a logo and link back to the company’s web site.
While the MPL+Attribution license enabled SocialText to ensure its contribution was recognized by developers that used modified code as part as a hosted or Software as a Service package, it upset many open source purists as while the MPL is OSI-approved, the Attribution terms were not. The approval of CPAL therefore gives Attribution proponents an opportunity to ensure that they are also using an OSI-approved license.
It is an opportunity that SocialText’s chief executive, Ross Mayfield, expects them to take. As an OSI-certified license, CPAL should provide a solution for commercial open source application projects and companies, he wrote on his personal blog. I expect many of the 40+ companies using MPL+Attribution licenses not approved by OSI to apply the license to their products to meet both their commercial and community needs.
CPAL was SocialText’s second attempt at getting an Attribution license approved by the OSI. The company asked the OSI to approve its SocialText Public License, as well as the Generic Attribution Provision in November 2006, but withdrew them from consideration following a procedural problem in favor of the alternative Common Public Attribution License.
Unlike vendor-specific MPL+ licenses, which require attribution to a specific vendor or copyright holder, the CPAL includes a template for adding limited attribution terms, which could be via a splash screen, rather than permanent logo placement.
The CPAL also notes that the attribution requirement only comes into force where the software includes a graphical user interface, eliminating confusion about how to deal with the license when the software is deployed in headless environments.
Other software vendors using MPL+ licenses include collaboration software vendors Scalix and Zimbra. Content-management vendor Alfresco moved from its MPL+ to the GPLv2 in February, while customer relationship management vendor SugarCRM this week announced that it is moving to the GPLv3.