Those who have followed the spread of open source software (OSS) know that a bewildering thicket of OSS licenses were created in the early days. They also know that although the Open Source Initiative was formed in part to certify which of these documents should be permitted to call itself an “open source software license,” that didn’t mean that each approved license was compatible with the other. Ever since, it’s been a pain in the neck to vet code contributions to ensure that an OSS user knows what she’s getting into when she incorporates a piece of OSS into her own program.
In the intervening years, more and more entities – private, public and academic – have decided to make public the increasingly large, various and valuable data sets they are producing. One resulting bonanza is the opportunity to combine these data sets in order to accomplish more and more ambitious goals – such as informing the activities of autonomous vehicles. But what if the rules governing these databases are just as diverse and incompatible as the scores of OSS licenses unleashed on an unwitting public?