IL Open Source License
The Office of Technology Management is pleased to announce a major achievement for software development and licensing at the University. The University of Illinois/NCSA (National Center for Supercomputing Applications) Open Source License was approved as a certified Open Source Initiative (OSI) license at the March 28, 2002 OSI board meeting. This certification not only allows University software programmers and developers an avenue to license in the open source community under University-approved licensing but also provides the worldwide software community a new licensing standard.
How Open Source Works
In software development, allowing multiple developers to work with source code (high level compiled computer language) in an open and flexible environment is called open source. This allows enhancement of the software among a community of users. Organizations and individuals share in software development in ways that couldn’t be achieved in smaller groups. Because the source code is in public view, it is exposed to a greater level of scrutiny, which is deemed to increase the software’s reliability. The Linux line of software is an example of successful open source collaboration over the years (see: http://www.linux.org).
An open source license allows software to be freely distributed with two critical characteristics: • The source code must be distributed with executable code (code that carries out program’s instructions) allowing the study, use, or modification of the software; and • The initial software must be allowed to be distributed and redistributed in modified form promoting continual building and redefining of the original software
Under certain circumstances, open source licensing may allow for greater collaboration because administration of intellectual property issues is expedited. Also, because most federal sponsorship requires software developed under federal funding be made available to a wide audience, open sourcing is one avenue to fulfill such requirements. And, in an environment such as at NCSA, which has a 50 member institution alliance collaborating on many projects, open source licensing helps streamline administrative matters greatly. Gelato.org is an example of such a development and was one of the initiating factors for the University seeking the OSI certification. Information regarding Gelato can be found at: http://www.gelato.org/.
Benefits of Open Source
OSI is a respectable non-profit international organization built within the private sector and academic software community dedicated to managing and promoting the open-source philosophy. OSI certification allows the University to license based on terms with which it is comfortable. It is expected that this will also add to the branding value of the University through the software that uses the University of Illinois/NCSA Open Source License. This license was the result of the efforts of a campus committee set up specifically to create a license for NCSA in 2001.
Although other certified open-source licenses are available through OSI, this license was approved because OSI felt it added value to the open-source community due to its clarity and brevity in a more comprehensive manner than its MIT and BSD (Berkeley Software Distribution) license counterparts.
What Should be Considered for Open Source?
The University has been offering “copyright but free” academic and research licenses for years for many departments across campus. This open-source license brings us to a new level and will help carry us through the first part of the 21st century. Although OSI certification is noteworthy and this license is available for use, potential users at the University are requested to contact the OTM before adaptation. Because each software has its own peculiarities, open-source licensing should not be considered appropriate for every situation.
Many avenues exist for licensing, and much of the software development on campus may be better suited through another licensing structure. There are pluses and minuses of each type of licensing, so it is important to review the facts before deciding what license to use. This may be determined after disclosure to the OTM and ample discussion has taken place about the software.