Center for Advanced Study & Research on Innovation Policy


CASRIP Newsletter - Autumn 2007, Volume 14, Issue 4

Open Source Simple Public License (SimPL) Receives OSI Approval

The GNU General Public License (GPL) version 2.0 is the most commonly used open source software license. Despite its popularity, GPL 2.0 is a very complex license which makes it hard for programmers to understand and use. As Linux creator Linus Torvalds has put it: “In many ways, my only gripe with the GPL has been how many words it seems to need to say something very simple.” The recent update to the GPL, GPL 3.0, has added additional complexity rather than simplicity. See Robert W. Gomulkiewicz, A First Look at General Public License 3.0, 24 COMPUTER & INTERNET. LAW. 15 (2007).

In 2005 Professor Robert W. Gomulkiewicz published a plain language implementation of GPL 2.0 which he called the Simple Public License (SimPL). Last spring, he and UW School of Law student Jim Sfekas submitted the SimPL to the Open Source Initiative (OSI) for its approval. OSI is one of the key players in the open source software community, so its imprimatur provides an important signal that a license truly meets the definition of licensing under open source terms and conditions. OSI approved the SimPL in early November 2007.

According to Russ Nelson, chair of OSI’s license approval committee: “After a lengthy consideration, the Simple Public License (SimPL) has been added to the list of approved licenses. The concern was that because the SimPL is a reciprocal license, it could create its own ghetto of code unusable by any other project. However, because it contains language that allows relicensing under the GPL v2.0 or v3.0, this will not happen. That should give developers the confidence to adopt the SimPL without fear of marginalization. Thanks to Robert W. Gomulkiewicz for writing it, and his student, Jim Sfekas, for submitting this license.”

You can find the SimPL on the OSI website at:

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