Corporate Licenses

The embrace of open source software by such IT companies as IBM, Sun, Apple, Intel, and many others has led to a third generation of licenses issued by corporations rather than individuals or not-for-profit foundations. While the terms of each license vary and typically concern specific projects and source code bases, they have become the second most popular model, after the GPL, for the creation of new licenses, and hence are worthy of study by any organization considering a similar path.

The Netscape Public License (NPL) and Mozilla Public License (MPL)

In 1998, Netscape released the source code for its pioneering Navigator web browser under an open source license. By this time, Navigator had lost significant market share to Microsoft’s Internet Explorer in the “Browser Wars,” and the decision was widely seen as a last-ditch effort by Netscape to recruit the army of programmers needed to keep pace with Microsoft. Netscape kept the Navigator name for its own commercial browser and released the source code under the name Mozilla, which had until then been an internal reference to the browser. Today, the Mozilla effort is run as a not-for-profit foundation (publishing popular programs such as the Firefox web browser and the Thunderbird email client), and its license, which has undergone several iterations, has proven to be one of the most popular contemporary alternatives to the GPL.

When drafting the original Netscape Public License (NPL), Netscape’s executives first ...

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