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Simon Phipps

With a focus on open source and digital rights, Simon is a director of the UK's Open Rights Group and president of the Open Source Initiative. He is also managing director of UK consulting firm Meshed Insights Ltd.

Google Ends AGPL Embargo

After nearly six years of going its own way, Google finally brings its code hosting site into harmony with the FSF and OSI.

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In a low-key announcement at the end of last week, Google's open source supremo Chris DiBona announced that their project hosting service, Google Code, is ending its embargo on open source licenses they don't like. These include the Free Software Foundation's (FSF) controversial AGPLv3 (a licence designed to make the give-back compulsion of the GNU GPL apply to web-hosted services like the ones Google provides) and Sun's CDDL (the licence used by OpenSolaris and by many of the former Sun's Java projects).

Google Code won't actually list any of these 'minority' licences as an option for new projects, but they will at least allow applicants to write in a box the name of the licence they have chosen to use, presumably for manual verification by a Google employee. While the company still discourages use of any licences not on its 'preferred' list, on the laudable grounds of discouraging casual licence proliferation, projects may now use any open source licence approved by the Open Source Initiative and come to their own conclusions about whether a licence is appropriate for their project.

Google had originally been criticised for taking the rules into its own hands and using its code hosting site as a way to discriminate against the parts of the open source movement with which it disagreed.This new openness on Google's part is a welcome move, aligning more with the wider open source  and free software movement and reducing friction with the FSF and OSI.

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