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All content by Kyle E. Mitchell, who is not your lawyer.

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Support the Blue Oak License Listfund the Web’s actionable allow-list of software licenses

This post is part of a series, Blue Oak Council.

If you’ve benefited from this blog and other licensing material I’ve published, please consider donating to Blue Oak Council’s license list this year!

Even donations of just a few dollars will help us:

Blue Oak’s permissive license list currently identifies over 180 licenses. Each was reviewed by a council member, identified as permissive, and rated—sometimes after extensive discussion—from “Gold” down to “Lead”.

The ratings are functional, not ideological or political, producing a list that can be “imported” like a module into development contracts, grant conditions, company policies, and other terms, in addition to software. Blue Oak’s license list is at work today in everything from open source policies at small nonprofits to commercial contracts with household-name public companies. It draws a clear line around the open licenses that are welcome nearly everywhere and always.

Since its start, the Council has used SPDX license IDs to list licenses. Meanwhile, SPDX itself has continued identifying more licenses, often submitted by Linux distributions that use SPDX IDs in package metadata. Blue Oak uses a GitHub Action to compare its lists against SPDX’s each quarter, outputting a backlog of licenses to assess. That backlog has been growing. Here’s the output from a re-run today, over 200 licenses long:

Blue Oak License To-Do List

Blue Oak’s mission was born out of the dearth of open software licensing expertise, which leaves small and nonprofit orgs, as well as solo developers, without good guidance:

Blue Oak Council opens the software commons up to those who can’t find or afford specialized legal help by bringing experienced lawyer-technologists together to publish free, practical materials about software licenses.

That same shortage keeps the volunteer members of the Council very busy. Nonetheless, I have personally done several weekend sessions powering through dozens of licenses for Blue Oak’s lists. Even with the speedy eye of someone who’s read many, many licenses over the years, those sessions runs hours long.

The long-term solution to this problem obviously isn’t any magic spell that gives Council members 25 hours per day. It’s welcoming in and mentoring new open licensing talents who gain from contributing to free resources. Talents that would grow on the chance to review and discuss more open licenses with practicing experts.

A number of us on the Council work with new or aspiring lawyers in various capacities—as subcontractors, as assistants on academic projects, as fellow volunteers serving charities pro bono publico. Our goal is to turn the license list backlog into a structured, paying opportunity for exposure and mentorship, producing both an improved license list that orgs can reference and rely on, as well as new legal talent available to advise on other needs and projects.

Your online donation, deductible from income tax in the US, would further all those objectives. Thanks so much for considering.

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

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