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May 21, 2019

Mortarboard Licensesgraduate to new public license terms

I’ve just published a new project, Mortarboard, with several form licenses that commit stewards of publicly licensed projects to transition to new public license terms on reaching stated milestones. They’re very short, so let’s take a look at one, filled out for a hypothetical company-led open source software project:

Mortarboard Revenue License

Version 1.1.0

Licensor: Example, Inc.

Project: Ten Penny Database

Repository: https://github.com/exmaple/tenpenny

Target License: The Apache License, Version 2.0

Announcement URL: https://blog.example.com

License

The licensor hereby licenses the project on the terms of the target license, effective as soon as the licensor reaches USD 50,000,000 in revenue in a single annual accounting period from its hosted database as a service line of business.

Reliability

The licensor cannot revoke this license.

Scope

This license covers versions of the project that the licensor makes available under the terms of the current license.

Announcement

You can rely on any notice posted by the licensor at the announcement URL that the milestone has been achieved to determine whether the license granted by these terms has taken effect.

I’ve come up with three other variants, with different milestones:

  1. reaching a given number of outside contributors

  2. reaching a given number of years straight with significant outside contributions

  3. reaching a given number of years without any significant change to the project

I’m interested in both in how to improve the language for each of those variants, as well as what other milestones will be useful.

I’m most interested in this approach as a commitment for companies leveraging copyleft strategically to protect themselves from proprietary competition, or as foundation for public-private licensing, early on. When these companies articulate their licensing strategy, which often involves loosening license rules over time and contribution licensing programs, they hear understandable concerns about how others can rely on those plans. Mortarboard licenses give those firms a public, accountable way to commit to the licensing roadmaps they announce, to encourage adoption and contribution.

The action is on GitHub.

Your thoughts and feedback are always welcome by e-mail.

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