Google responds to WebM license backlash

Google solicits help from free and open source experts to revise WebM license

Just 10 days ago, open source pundits were questioning whether WebM was truly open source. A deeper look into the WebM license and into Google's approach to working with the Open Source Initiative (OSI) demonstrated that even Google can make Microsoft-like mistakes surrounding open source.

[ See Savio's original post on the topic: "Google's WebM license could undermine the meaning of 'open source'" | Keep up on the current open source news and insights with InfoWorld's Technology: Open Source newsletter. ]

The larger issue was the bad precedent that Google, a key vendor in many open source projects, was setting by working around the OSI. In my blog entry on the Google WebM/OSI topic, I asked the following question:

For better or worse, an OSI-approved license has become the de facto requirement for vendors calling themselves or their products "open source." When Google, one of the largest supporters of open source, goes out and purposefully circumvents the OSI, what signal does this send to other vendors? How important is using an OSI-approved license likely to be in the future if other vendors follow Google's lead?

Google just announced a revised WebM license that separates the copyright from the patent grant. The Google WebM FAQ states:

As the copyright license is simply a BSD license, and the patent grant is fully separate from it, it is not a new license. When we first released VP8, we had a clause in the patent grant that called this into question. We’ve since fixed that by decoupling the patent grant from the copyright license. We are confident that this new regime is broadly compatible with permissive and copyleft licenses.

In the blog post announcing the new license, Google Open Source Programs Manager Chris DiBona wrote:

Thanks for your patience as we worked through this, and we hope you like, enjoy and (most importantly) use WebM and join with us in creating more freedom online. We had a lot of help on these changes, so thanks to our friends in open source and free software who traded many emails, often at odd hours, with us.

It great to see Google listening to concerns from open source experts and reacting so quickly. Every company makes mistakes; it's what they do next that matters.

Follow me on Twitter at SavioRodrigues. I should state: "The postings on this site are my own and don't necessarily represent IBM's positions, strategies, or opinions."

This article, "Google responds to WebM license backlash," was originally published at Read more of Rodrigues et al.'s Open Sources blog and follow the latest developments in open source at

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