Mozilla

Updating the Mozilla Public License

March 10th, 2010

Twelve years ago I spent the month of March frantically drafting version 1.0 of the Mozilla Public License. That was a public process, a part of the launch of the Mozilla project. Approximately a year later we created the 1.1 version.

Since then a decade has gone by without any further revisions of the MPL. This is in part a great success story. At the same time, a decade is a long time not to look at something as basic as the license. Ways of working that were “best practices” a decade ago may not make sense today. FLOSS (Free Libre Open Source Software) is far better understood today. When I wrote the MPL we drew upon the GPL v2 for many ideas, and on the MIT and BSD and early Apache license. Since then, both the Apache license and the GPL have been updated.

It’s time to look at updating the MPL. It’s time to see if we can make the MPL easier to use and incorporate a decade’s worth of experience. In particular I’m hoping to modernize and simplify the license while still keeping the things that have made it and the Mozilla project such a success.

We’ll do this through a public process of course. Here are the tools available, as of today:

Over the years we’ve received feedback about the license, and we’ll use some of that, plus early comments here, to produce an early “alpha” version of what a new license might look like. Once we have published an alpha draft, we will have time for commentary, discussion, and further drafting, followed by beta and release candidate drafts. We hope to complete the process by the end of 2010.

The organizers of this effort to date are below. We expect this group to grow.

  • Gerv Markham (who has been working with Mozilla licensing issues for almost a decade himself)
  • Luis Villa (long time open source contributor, recent law school graduate)
  • Harvey Anderson (assisted with MPL 1.0 and 1.1);
  • me; and
  • possibly you!
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27 comments for “Updating the Mozilla Public License”

  1. 1

    James Boston said on March 10th, 2010 at 11:05 am:

    I asked a developer about copyright assignment for Mozilla Firefox once and got this response:

    “The Mozilla project never uses copyright assignment. Copyright is owned by whoever attached the patch. The question is whether they *licensed* that code under the appropriate open source license.”

    Can the codebase for Firefox can be moved to a newer license without the explicit approval of all contributors? I know the linux kernel can’t be moved to GPL3 for this reason.

    Here is what I assume is the relevant passage from the MPL:
    —–
    6.2. Effect of New Versions

    Once Covered Code has been published under a particular version of the License, You may always continue to use it under the terms of that version. You may also choose to use such Covered Code under the terms of any subsequent version of the License published by Netscape. No one other than Netscape has the right to modify the terms applicable to Covered Code created under this License.
    —–

    If I read that correctly, then Firefox can released under newer versions of the MPL without complication. (The use of “Netscape” throws me a bit though.)

  2. 2

    Pingback from Updating the Mozilla Public License | fredericiana

    [...] Today, Mozilla is starting the public process on revising its signature code license, the Mozilla Public License or MPL. Mitchell Baker, chair of the board of the Mozilla Foundation and author of the original MPL 1.0, has more information about the process on her blog. [...]

  3. 3

    Pingback from Updating the MPL « hja’s blog

    [...] simplify, modernize, and make the license easier to use.  Mitchell Baker’s post this morning provides some good historical context and you can find more information about the process, rationale, and how to get involved on the MPL [...]

  4. 4

    Tony Mechelynck said on March 10th, 2010 at 2:59 pm:

    @James Boston:

    IIUC, and according to a recent post on Gerv’s blog, intellectual property of code written by Mozilla employees belongs to the Mozilla Foundation, not to the person writing the code. (And II didn’t UC, I’d like to understand better.)

  5. 5

    Mitchell Baker said on March 10th, 2010 at 3:42 pm:

    James: When the Mozilla Foundation was formed Netscape (technically AOL by then) transferred the right to modify the MPL to the Mozilla Foundation. That’s one thing we need to fix in an updated version.

    Tony: Mozilla does not require copyright assignment from all contributors to include code into the shared source repository, as some FLOSS projects do. An individual or organization that contributes patches can retain ownership. When someone becomes an employee of a Mozilla organization, then the employer generally owns the copyright of their work product, and in Mozilla’s case ownership accrues to the Foundation.

  6. 6

    Pingback from How do I restore a salvage title for a vehicle? What license is required if I resell these vehicles? | Salvage Cars For Sale

    [...] Updating the Mozilla Public License | Mitchell's Blog [...]

  7. 7

    Benjamin Otte said on March 11th, 2010 at 2:51 am:

    Why is it even necessary to use the MPL?
    Can’t you just take one of the many existing Free software licenses (Apache, MIT) instead?

  8. 8

    Pingback from links for 2010-03-11 « Wild Webmink

    [...] Updating the Mozilla Public License Mitchell Baker announces the revision of the Mozilla Public License. This is a welcome development; if it had been done 7 years ago we wouldn't have the CDDL today. (tags: Mozilla MPL FOSS Open Source licensing) [...]

  9. 9

    Ian M said on March 11th, 2010 at 7:51 am:

    As well as Apache license compatibility, I would dearly love to see LGPL/GPL compatibility.

  10. 10

    Pingback from Links 11/3/2010: Fedora 13 Frenzy, Free Software in City of Athens | Boycott Novell

    [...] Updating the Mozilla Public License Twelve years ago I spent the month of March frantically drafting version 1.0 of the Mozilla Public License. That was a public process, a part of the launch of the Mozilla project. Approximately a year later we created the 1.1 version. [...]

  11. 11

    Lior said on March 11th, 2010 at 2:38 pm:

    It would be useful to have a document (wiki?) outlining some of the requirements for the license. This should include both ones already satisfied by the existing license and requirements for the new revision. For example, such a document would explain why GPLv3, say, is not suitable [I think the handling of patents might be an issue, for example, but I have no idea]

  12. 12

    Alcoser said on March 11th, 2010 at 4:31 pm:

    [...] Updating the Mozilla Public License Twelve years ago I spent the month of March frantically drafting version 1.0 of the Mozilla Public License. That was a public proceas, a part of the launch of the Mozilla project. Approximately a year later ww created the 1.1 version. [...];

  13. 13

    Pingback from Linux Blog » Blog Archive » Mozilla Public License bude aktualizována

    [...] Jedná se o softwarovou licenci, která je hojně používána i mimo projekt Mozilla. Jak v týdnu zmínila Mitchell Bakerová, autorka licence, aktuální verze (1.1) vznikla již před více než 10 lety a je proto potřeba [...]

  14. 14

    Jeffrey said on March 12th, 2010 at 2:43 pm:

    I 2nd the LGPL/GPL compatibility.

  15. 15

    Pingback from Getting Your Real Estate License | Real Estate Online Guide

    [...] Updating t&#1211&#1077 Mozilla Public License | Mitchell's Blog [...]

  16. 16

    HarzG said on March 13th, 2010 at 2:20 am:

    I hope with the new license Mozilla and Debian can make a new deal.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mozilla_Corporation_software_rebranded_by_the_Debian_project
    Please stop the rebranding and let’s work together.

  17. 17

    Pingback from Online Real Estate Schools Alabama | Real Estate Online Guide

    [...] Updating t&#1211&#1077 Mozilla Public License | Mitchell's Blog [...]

  18. 18

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  20. 20

    Tony Mechelynck said on March 13th, 2010 at 6:28 pm:

    Why those two Cyrillic letters in this blog article’s title? In what looks like the article “the”, U+04BB CYRILLIC SMALL LETTER SHHA instead of U+0068 LATIN SMALL LETTER H, then U+0435 CYRILLIC SMALL LETTER IE instead of U+0045 LATIN SMALL LETTER E — in each case they look alike but (as quotes with &# in them demonstrate) they are not “the same letter”.

  21. 21

    Terrell Prude’, Jr. said on March 15th, 2010 at 7:03 pm:

    The most used Free Software licenses are the various versions of the GPL and the BSD variants.

    Why not just use GPL v3? Given its existence, why is there even a need for a separate “MPL” anymore?

  22. 22

    Farooq Azam said on March 16th, 2010 at 9:57 pm:

    It would be great work to make LGPL/GPL compatibility.

  23. 23

    mitchell said on March 23rd, 2010 at 3:14 pm:

    To those who asked why we don’t just use the GPL; here’s the relevant text from the FAQ (which is found at http://mpl.mozilla.org/faq/)

    Q: Why are you not planning to consider altering the scope?

    A: Changing the scope of the copyleft probably means choosing between a GPL-style strong copyleft and the Apache style “no-copyleft.” The Mozilla community includes some people who are strongly drawn to each of these options, and for whom living exclusively with the other option would be surprising and difficult. As a result, adopting either of these options exclusively is likely to be highly disruptive. The current file-level copyleft allows all of us to work together, which is a better outcome and a net positive for the Mozilla community.

  24. 24

    Pingback from In Honor of Ada Lovelace: Top (Female) Innovators « Hypios – Thinking

    [...] current plans for Mozilla include updating the Mozilla Public License to maintain open source standards. Baker also writes a blog, Lizard Wrangling, about Mozilla, the [...]

  25. 25

    Pingback from Revised Mozilla Public License — Beta 1 | Mitchell's Blog

    [...] March of this year we kicked up a process to update the Mozilla Public License. We recently released the first beta of the MPL 2.0 and we believe that this beta is now feature [...]

  26. 26

    Pingback from Revised Mozilla Public License — Beta 1 | Mitchell's Blog

    [...] March of this year we kicked up a process to update the Mozilla Public License. We recently released the first beta of the MPL 2.0 and we believe that this beta is now feature [...]

  27. 27

    Pingback from Release Candidate for Updated Mozilla Public License; New Module Peers | Mitchell's Blog

    [...] for much of its code, including that of Firefox and Thunderbird.   In 2010 we started the work of updating the MPL (The current version was written in over a decade ago.)    The process incorporates a number [...]

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