New open source license is for the birds

OSI officially considering the merits of the Chicken Dance License

OK, I'm slow on the draw, but it's still April Fools Day, so I'm in the office a little late to get this off my chest. The story is factual, though the subject is somewhat of a tongue in cheek: Last week, one Andrew "Tuna" Harris formally requested approval from the Open Source Initiative (OSI) of the Chicken Dance License (CDL). It looks like it won't fly (yuk, yuk) but it seems to have gotten some semi-serious consideration.

By way of background, while there is no universal definition of open source, there is general acceptance in the community of the OSI as the authority and their definition of what constitutes an open source license. They have a nice round list of ten criteria a license must meet in order to be considered open source. Open source licenses can't restrict redistribution, for example, and must allow distribution of the source code. Currently there are 67 licenses on the OSI approved list, and eyeballing the Black Duck data, I'd say they cover 98% of the free software on the web today.

So, along comes the Chicken Dance License. It joins a good company of unusual licenses that I detailed in a 2010 blog called I could license you to use this software, but then I'd have to kill you. The license is based on the BSD license with an additional clause that allows for distribution of the software without source code provided that affiliates of the entity doing so (among other things) create a video of themselves performing the Chicken Dance. For those of you who aren't familiar, I highly recommend this video from the Lawrence Welk Show which includes a "how to" for what is described as "one of the most popular dances in America."

Lest you assume that this was just a spur of the moment thing for Tuna, I found a discussion thread dated two years ago in which his ideas were first beginning to hatch, if you will. Mr. Harris was shooting for something "less restrictive than the GPL," but which would provide him with "more lulz," which I confess I had to look up in the Urban Dictionary. The CDL definitely has more lulz than virtually every OSI approved license.

I gather that the OSI elders are taking this all with an appropriate mix of seriousness and amusement and seem to have made efforts to back up their gut instincts about the CDL by citing inconsistencies with the OSI criteria. Simon Phipps, for example, who sits on the OSI board, opined that "Clause 4 appears to conflict with OSD clause 5 because people with disabilities or cultural obligations preventing them from either singing or dancing (or religious issues portraying chickens) would not have equal freedoms under the license."

The Tuna-man is showing some pluck announcing he intends to rethink some of the clauses and to get back to the OSI in a year or two. No chicken heart he. Stay tuned.

Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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