Certification Mark

Submitted by nelson on Mon, 2007-03-26 15:37. ::

The Open Source Definition spells out the essential qualities of open source software. Unfortunately, the term "open source" itself is subject to misuse, and because it's descriptive, it can't be protected as a trademark (which would have been our first choice). Since the community needs a reliable way of knowing whether a piece of software really is open source, OSI is registering a certification mark, OSI Certified, for this purpose. If you see this mark on a piece of software, either the software really is being distributed under a license that conforms to the Open Source Definition, or the distributor is misusing the mark and thereby breaking the law.

The OSI Certified mark applies to software, not to licenses. What people really want to know is that a package consisting of software together with its accompanying license is an open source distribution. Also, licenses alone probably wouldn't qualify as "goods", which is what the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office registers certification marks for. However, software authors obviously have to be able to identify their distributions as OSI Certified Open Source software, when appropriate, without asking us ("self-certification"). So certification comes in two steps:

  • OSI maintains a list of open source licenses that conform to the Open Source Definition, have been through public scrutiny, and have been approved by us. If you have a license that you would like added to this list, please contact [email protected], which starts the process described here.
  • If you want to use the OSI Certified mark on your software, you can do this by distributing the software with an approved license from the list and marking the software appropriately, as described here.

The above was just a summary. Here are the details on getting licenses approved, and on using the OSI Certified mark on your software.

Getting a License Approved

  1. Put the license on a web page in HTML form. We will convert it into the same style as the existing approved licenses. You can help us by publishing it in that style yourself to save us the conversion step. ASCII text is preferred if asked to post your license to the 'licence-discuss' mailing list.
  2. Tell us which existing OSI-approved license is most similar to your license. Explain why that license will not suffice for your needs. If your proposed license is derived from a license we have already approved, describe exactly what you have changed. This document is not part of the license; it is solely to help the board understand and review your license.
  3. Explain how software distributed under your license can be used in conjunction with software distributed under other open source licenses. Which license do you think will take precedence for derivative or combined works? Is there any software license that is entirely incompatible with your proposed license?.
  4. Send your proposed license by email to [email protected]. Indicate in the email whether you want the license posted to the license-discuss list with your identification or anonymously. (We are willing to consider licenses that the author doesn't want posted at all, but since community review is an important part of the approval process, we will have to circulate such licenses privately to individual reviewers: because of this, licenses not posted to license-discuss at all may take longer to approve, and are likely to require more interaction with you.) You are invited to follow discussion of the licenses by subscribing to [email protected]. This mailing-list is archived here.
  5. If we find that the license does not conform to the Open Source Definition, we will work with you to resolve the problems.
  6. At the same time, we will monitor the license-discuss list and work with you to resolve any problems uncovered in public comment.
  7. As part of this process, we may also seek outside legal advice on license issues.
  8. Once we are assured that the license conforms to the Open Source Definition and has received thorough discussion on license-discuss or by other reviewers, and there are no remaining issues that we judge significant, we will notify you that the license has been approved, copy it to our website, and add it to the list below.

QUICK FAQ: 1) The board meets as needed and on the last Wednesday of every month. Motions may be entered at any time but resolutions are only passed at scheduled meetings or when all board members have voted via email. 2) You should hear back from us within two months. Due to various people's travel schedules we cannot count on having a quorum every month.

Using the Mark

You may use the OSI Certified mark on any software that is distributed under an OSI-approved license.

To identify your software distribution as OSI Certified, you must attach one of the following two notices, unmodified, to the software, as described below. The full notice is:

This software is OSI Certified Open Source Software.
OSI Certified is a certification mark of the Open Source Initiative.

The shorter notice is:

OSI Certified Open Source Software

Each form of distribution of your software has its own requirements:

  • If the software is being distributed in electronic form (not in tangible form), you must put the full notice in a README file, or other similar file intended to be the first file that a human user would read.
  • If the software is being distributed in tangible form, you must do all of the following that are applicable:
    • If the software is distributed with any accompanying printed matter, you must place the full notice in the printed matter.
    • If the software is distributed on removable information media such as diskettes, CD-ROM, cartridge tape, etc., on which it is physically possible to place at least the shorter notice in a manner that can be read by the unaided human eye without impairing the functioning of the media, you must place either the full or the shorter notice on the media.
    • If the tangible object containing the software is distributed in a package that prevents the notice (if any) on the object from being read, you must place the full notice on the outside of the package.

If none of the above apply to your distribution, contact us, and we'll add guidelines for your situation to this list.

You can also browse a list of OSI-approved licenses.