A Face Lift For The MPL

Mozilla Foundation Chair Mitchell Baker

As Phyllis Diller would attest, a face lift isn't necessarily a bad thing. Most things — legalese included — can use a good going over from time to time, and that's just what the good people at Mozilla will be doing this year.

The face being lifted, as it were, is the well-known Mozilla Public License, the legal agreement that covers use of the organization's many software projects. The original MPL, version 1.0, was released some twelve years ago, the result of what Mozilla Foundation Chair Mitchell Baker describes as "frantic drafting." A second version (1.1) followed, and continues to be the license in force for Mozilla users everywhere.

Now, more than ten years later, 1.1's number is up — or at least will be going up. According to Baker, 2010 will be the year of the revision, with Mozilla seeking public comment from community members on what the next version of the widely-used license should say. She notes that Mozilla has received a great deal of input on the license in the past decade, and will utilize it, along with preliminary comments from the community, to create a working draft from which further comment will stem.

Baker announced the decision in a post to her "Lizard Wrangling" blog, saying:

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.

A provisional group has been formed to lead the project, including Gerv Markham, Luis Villa, Harvey Anderson, and Baker — her post indicates that the group is expected to expand as the project moves forward. Public comment will be solicited in several ways, including a "comment tool" for discussion of the license's language and drafting, a mailing list for non-language/drafting commentary, and a special licensing section of the Mozilla website. All members of the community are encouraged to join in the discussion.

Mozilla hopes to complete the project by the end of 2010.

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