Beta
×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

How Many Open Source Licenses Do You Need?

CmdrTaco posted more than 5 years ago | from the he-should-start-an-organization-or-six dept.

GNU is Not Unix 276

jammag writes "Bruce Perens, who wrote the original licensing rules for Open Source software in 1997, notes that there are a sprawling 73 open source licenses currently in existence. But he identifies an essential four — well, actually just two — that developers, companies, and individuals need. In essence, he cuts through the morass and shows developers, in particular, how to protect their work. (And yes, he favors GPL3 over GPL2.) For his own coding work, he's fond of the 'sharing with rules' license, which stays true to the Open Source ethos of shared code yet also enables him to get paid by companies who use it in their commercial products."

cancel ×

276 comments

Sorry! There are no comments related to the filter you selected.

Over 9000 (2, Funny)

Reality Master 201 (578873) | more than 5 years ago | (#26874131)

Maybe more.

Still waiting for a matrix. (1)

khasim (1285) | more than 5 years ago | (#26874241)

IANAL but shouldn't it be fairly easy to construct a matrix of the various licenses and what rights/responsibilities are characteristic of each and how they compare to the other licenses?

At least that way any new licenses could be compared to the existing licenses to see if they were really needed or if they simply duplicated an existing one. Such as requiring that text block X be included in all copies ... but text block X differs from licenses A and B and C.

Re:Still waiting for a matrix. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26874265)

you mean like this matrix [wikipedia.org]

Replying to A.C. (2, Informative)

khasim (1285) | more than 5 years ago | (#26874333)

you mean like this matrix

No. That doesn't show the differences between the licenses. Look at how many of them have the same answers in the same columns ... yet have different restrictions if you read the licenses.

Re:Still waiting for a matrix. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26874619)

You mean like this?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_matrix [wikipedia.org]

Re:Over 9000 (1)

arogier (1250960) | more than 5 years ago | (#26874731)

It like asking how many axioms there need to be, or how many languages are needed to develop a project. As many as is necessay, while recognizing Godel's incompleteness theorem.

Your license can either be complete or consistent.

Imaginary property law exists for a reason.

It's over 9000!!! (0, Offtopic)

kojot350 (1330899) | more than 5 years ago | (#26874865)

It's over 9000!!! Here, fixed it for ya.

Re:It's over 9000!!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26875423)

Wow. Way to make a shitty joke even shittier.

Hi again (5, Informative)

Bruce Perens (3872) | more than 5 years ago | (#26874159)

Hi Folks,

I happen to be at my desk again today, and can discuss this article, if any of you have questions or, more likely, comments :-)

If I write 30 responses, there will be a break. Slashdot locks me out for four hours after 30 postings from one IP.

Bruce

Re:Hi again (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26874187)

Hi Folks,

I happen to be at my desk again today, and can discuss this article,
if any of you have questions or, more likely, comments :-)

If I write 30 responses, there will be a break. Slashdot locks me
out for four hours after 30 postings from one IP.

Bruce

Will you lick my pussy? Geeks are such a turn on!

Re:Hi again (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26875151)

I'm sure that Bruce doesn't need to get hairballs.

Next thing you know, you're in a high profile meeting, and you start hacking up a big glob of fur. It's just isn't professional. Never mind the being-on-all-fours with an arched back as you hack this glob of hair up.

Unless you're talking about one of those hairless cats.

Re:Hi again (1)

blane.bramble (133160) | more than 5 years ago | (#26874195)

Surely the answer in most cases, and for most people, is 1. However that may not be the same 1 license that anyone else needs.

Re:Hi again (4, Interesting)

gclef (96311) | more than 5 years ago | (#26874507)

Hi, Bruce,

While I agree in general that there are too many licenses, one of the problems I ran into (which you mention in passing) was that I'm not necessarily the one who gets to decide what license I'm using. When I talked with my organization's lawyers, they didn't care about license proliferation...they cared only about what they thought was important. So, we ended up with a modified BSD license: the standard 3-clause plus one more to address the lawyer's concerns...personally I think the fourth clause is redundant, but I'm not a lawyer, so they weren't listening to me.

In short, while I think it's good to get this group (ie, the coders) to start agreeing on licenses, the lawyers that we talk to need a bunch of education also. They all seem to want to customize licenses.

Licenses that address one attorney's fear (5, Insightful)

Bruce Perens (3872) | more than 5 years ago | (#26874783)

So, we ended up with a modified BSD license: the standard 3-clause plus one more to address the lawyer's concerns

This is a problem. It seems that every attorney has their own fear, which they insist on writing into their own license that you must use.

But IMO the largest part of the problem is that few companies are effective at managing their own attorneys. Many technical managers feel that law is a black art and that they can only manage what they understand. Top managers with this problem tend to structure the company so that middle managers can't push back on Legal, and must do whatever Legal says. And thus, company attorneys generally get their way even on small points. A general counsel who sits on the board is even able to do this to the CEO, if the other board members aren't good at managing attorneys.

If it is imposed on the attorney that using an OSI-accepted license is important, the attorney can probably do a reality-check on their own fear. The fact that this doesn't happen is more an issue of management effectiveness than anything else.

Thanks

Bruce

Re:Hi again (1)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 5 years ago | (#26874665)

Hmmm. I think that what you really want to say is that 2 (or 4) are fine with you. The simple fact is, that many companies do not agree with these 4 BECAUSE they do not handle every situation. Saying that a very limited number should work for everybody would be like saying that 1 OS or even 640K will work for everyone.

Re:Hi again (3, Insightful)

Bruce Perens (3872) | more than 5 years ago | (#26874843)

The simple fact is, that many companies do not agree with these 4 BECAUSE they do not handle every situation.

Well, if you want me to believe you, try showing how those licenses don't satisfy a particular business purpose that would be satisfied by one of the other 70. Cite the particular text of the licenses that applies to the business purpose you're interested in.

The point here is that we need to be more analytical about this issue.

Bruce

Re:Hi again (1)

TheLink (130905) | more than 5 years ago | (#26875351)

"try showing how those licenses don't satisfy a particular business purpose "

Doesn't help justify some lawyer's existence ;).

Re:Hi again (2, Interesting)

thermian (1267986) | more than 5 years ago | (#26874833)

There is, is there not, a difference between 'need' and want. After all we probably only 'need' a small number of programming languages, but we have, and want, many.

It would, I beleive, be a mistake to cut down the number of licences. Evolutionary theory makes it quite clear that lack of diversity leads to a much higher liklihood of extinction in the event of a crisis, and Open Source is no exception.

Personally I'm very boring in my licensing. I use the GPL, or I just public domain my code without any if its trivial enough.
That said, I did do a lot of research when making my choice of licence, and while I wouldn't have minded it if the process of reviewing licences were simpler (like for instance a site where you describe your project and people suggest licence types), I didn't think there were 'too many'.

Re:Hi again (1)

mpthompson (457482) | more than 5 years ago | (#26874901)

Any pointers to a fairly concise guide to what issues need to be considered when dual licensing software or pursuing the option you describe as "sharing with rules"? I'm working on code that I would like to offer under GPL3, but I would also like to retain the option to offer it to commercial companies as well. Maintaining copyright ownership of the entire codebase seems obvious first step, but it seems the devil is in the details of how one might go about this if other developers become interested in contributing to the project.

Lessons you learned (both negative and positive) while pursing a "sharing with rules" licensing approach would be useful to those of us wishing to follow this model.

Re:Hi again (4, Insightful)

Bruce Perens (3872) | more than 5 years ago | (#26874983)

The hard part is giving contributors an incentive to sign over their copyright (or at least a right to relicense). It worked for MySQL because people wanted their contributions to be in the supported version of the server, which everybody else was hacking upon. It did not work for Sun, but then again Sun handles Open Source horribly. Marten Mikos just left there, following Monty out the door.

Maybe I'll write an article about dual-licensing in the future.

Thanks

Bruce

Re:Hi again (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26875237)

Please cover Digium's Zaptel driver. I bought one of their cards several years ago because it had an open source driver. However, I have found it annoying that they haven't upstreamed it yet. The next time I have money to spend on a toy like this, I will be looking at other companies' products to see if one of them works better with the kernel devs.

GNU/Linux Distros (2, Interesting)

chill (34294) | more than 5 years ago | (#26875163)

I once too the time to put the core programs that make up a basic Linux distro into a spreadsheet, making notes on the programming language they used, file size and license. I used Linux From Scratch, so I could get an idea of a "core" working system, as opposed to thousands of packages. I think I narrowed it down to just over 60 packages to provide the basics. It taught me a couple of things.

1. Richard Stallman is right, the correct term is GNU/Linux. I was amazed at the percentage of packages in the core OS -- not applications -- that were from the GNU project. It was something like 75% or so.
2. C is by far an away the most dominant programming language. (Yeah, I know it should have been obvious. Duh!)
3. There are too many licenses. Off the top of my head I bumped into: GPL2, GPL3, BSD-2, BSD-3, MIT, Artistic, OpenSSL's "thou must advertise us" variation, Vi's Charityware, and at least one public domain.

Have you looked at it from this perspective? And would you consider approaching some of the existing projects with changing their license to one of your four?

Re:Hi again (1)

noidentity (188756) | more than 5 years ago | (#26875205)

If I write 30 responses, there will be a break. Slashdot locks me out for four hours after 30 postings from one IP.

Would a web proxy work around this?

Re:Hi again (1)

Richard_at_work (517087) | more than 5 years ago | (#26875361)

Bruce,

I would just like to thank you for including a non-GPL based license in the recommended list - I fully expected your list to be completely dominated by forced-sharing licenses, and its a breath of fresh air to have a popular public figure acknowledge that there is certainly a place for gift licenses in the software community.

Well, actually it's a matter of preference (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26874173)

How many do we need? Why does that matter? If you don't like a particular license, don't use the software. Just because Perens is pedantic doesn't mean a thing. I'm sorry we can't tidy up the world for you, Bruce, and put everything in one of four arbitrary little boxes. Freedom means free, and that includes being free to define a license any Goddamn way you want.

A question of values (3, Insightful)

CRCulver (715279) | more than 5 years ago | (#26874175)

Obviously you need a license that matches your values. If you think the same way as Stallman, who has communicated his principles in such places as the biography Free as in Freedom [amazon.com] and the Free Software Song [gnu.org] , you'll chose his license. If, on the other hand, matters of "hoarding" don't worry you at all, you'll chose another license. The quest for the one true open source license is an unreasonable expectation that human beings all think the same.

Re:A question of values (2, Funny)

jellomizer (103300) | more than 5 years ago | (#26874407)

I think I agree with your point. That the developer should choose a license that they agree with for their product. However you wording is kinda off. RMS has a unique view of Software, Business and the world, and really isn't open to opposing ideas, and likes to place people in Good and Evil Categories, with a thin gray area.
While others don't see the world like that there is much more of a gray area and different ideas of fair use.

Such as Free for Personal and Education however if you are going to make money off that software you should get a cut too.

Or the FreeBSD license where you are OK if the people take you code and use it without any extra responsibility.

Then there others who say they don't want their code used for Military/Government use.

Others want full control of the product and doesn't want it to fork.

The GNU isn't the only game in town and it may not be the most moral as well. Such as the "TiVoization" distinction between Consumer User application and Corporate use applications, aka Lets be nice to IBM who is a big supporter, and let some things slide for them.

Re:A question of values (2, Insightful)

SanityInAnarchy (655584) | more than 5 years ago | (#26874967)

I think the problem is that RMS has encoded his values into his license, and one of those values is, "Proprietary software is evil."

My main problem with the proliferation of licenses is, even if using 100% open source, you're not necessarily in the clear -- BSD and GPL don't fix, for example. But, less than that, like the LGPL, is problematic because it could be linked into a proprietary program, not just free ones.

Lately, I have been leaning towards MIT-licensed stuff, mainly because the license is short, sweet, well-understood, and compatible with just about anything. I'd much rather have my work used for proprietary programs than become complete abandonware, even among open source, for licensing issues. And thanks to Steamboat Willie, a poor choice of license can't be fixed (except by explicit permission from all copyright holders, likely meaning all contributors) for over a hundred years -- so I'm actually really tempted to follow sqlite and release as public domain.

I would feel much differently if everything passed into the public domain in 15 years, and patents lasted 5 years.

Re:A question of values (3, Informative)

Bruce Perens (3872) | more than 5 years ago | (#26874485)

Obviously you need a license that matches your values.

The purpose of my article is to get you to explore those values and select a set of licenses that really match them. Some of the people who select GPL do so not for Richard's given reasons but for business purposes. I would not want to mislead them that their values demand a "gift" style license which is less effective for their particular business purpose. And making Free Software under the BSD license is not incompatible with Richard's philosophy. Remember that Richard is against software being copyrighted, and BSD licensing is pretty close to abandonment of copyright.

Thanks

Bruce

Still seems to me a little simplified (1)

Moraelin (679338) | more than 5 years ago | (#26874949)

I have actually RTFA, but it still seems to me a little simplified.

E.g., you yourself give the example of AFFERO GPL as a case where an extra tweak was considered needed because of the software-as-a-service phenomenon. That both are "sharing with rules" just glosses over a distinction that obviously someone thought relevant to their values. One camp basically says "I only want your sources if you distribute the software in binary form", while the other basically says, "I also want them if you run them on your servers." Over-simplified, but you get the idea.

That's just the kind of fine points that make the tastes and values of person X differ from those of person Y or from those of company Z. Even if they both can be lumped under the same "sharing with rules" pot, there's always some aspect or detail that two different people see in two different ways. Different details or distinctions can lead someone to really needing yet another license.

E.g., the LGPL you mention yourself is basically a case of wanting something in between "gift" and "sharing with rules". I don't think it's the only possible point between the two. Different people may well feel that a different point in that interval is the best for them.

Re:Still seems to me a little simplified (2, Informative)

Bruce Perens (3872) | more than 5 years ago | (#26875359)

One camp basically says "I only want your sources if you distribute the software in binary form", while the other basically says, "I also want them if you run them on your servers." Over-simplified, but you get the idea.

I think it's more a matter of history. There was no SaaS when the GPL was written, or the GPL would have addressed the issue. In the first discussions leading to GPL3, way back in 2004, we were talking about addressing the "ASP problem" in GPL3, not the Affero version. Further GPL revisions stick to the basic principles of the first.

It really breaks down into "sharing is possible" and "sharing is mandiatory", and everything else is an elaboration on that theme.

Thanks

Bruce

Re:A question of values (1)

SanityInAnarchy (655584) | more than 5 years ago | (#26874991)

Remember that Richard is against software being copyrighted, and BSD licensing is pretty close to abandonment of copyright.

Richard seems to prefer "copyleft" to no copyright at all...

And why not go all the way and start public domaining stuff? SQLite is public domain, for example.

Re:A question of values (2, Interesting)

Bruce Perens (3872) | more than 5 years ago | (#26875395)

And why not go all the way and start public domaining stuff? SQLite is public domain, for example.

Mainly because we want to be protected from patent lawsuits. It's really painful to give your stuff away with no strings and get sued for your trouble. The Apache license tries to protect you from that.

Bruce

RMS against "ownership", not copyright (1)

jonaskoelker (922170) | more than 5 years ago | (#26875013)

Remember that Richard is against software being copyrighted

Not quite exactly. What RMS opposes is the practice of not giving people freedom with respect to the software they run.

To your credit, it's true that copyright as it's typically applied is part of what RMS is against---but I suspect that he won't be happy if copyright was abolished tomorrow: we could all share our binary copies of Windows, but without source code freedoms 1 and 3 in effect don't exist. The freedoms are the crucial part (to him).

Whether the collective you agrees or not is up to you to decide; I'm just trying to present Richard's opinions and observations, as I understand them.

Re:A question of values (2, Insightful)

onefriedrice (1171917) | more than 5 years ago | (#26874763)

I think that your statement can pretty much end the discussion. Summarized: Choose the license that most closely matches your values of code sharing and the needs of your project. It's not any more complicated than that, and discussing license consolidation is next to useless since it will never happen for the obvious reason that everybody has different values and project needs.

I tend to stick with BSD/MIT-style licenses, but I have absolutely no problem at all with people who like and use GPL licenses. A license is a tool. I'm not going to get religious about what license a person chooses to use any more than I will if they choose to use a wrench versus a hammer when building furniture.

License consolidation may have some practical benefits, but mostly it reeks of religious zealotry trying to fit us all into one mold.

Re:A question of values (1)

moderatorrater (1095745) | more than 5 years ago | (#26874923)

I agree. The license should reflect what the programmer wants. If you look at closed source software, there are almost as many licenses as there are programs, because each program wants to restrict you differently. With open source that are usually just a few large categories with numerous sub-modifications. The three big categories being completely free (MIT license), free with restrictions (GPL), and finally the ones where the code is open, but you're not necessarily allowed to use it (Microsoft open license types). Subcategories may include differences between personal and profitable use, military vs education, etc. It's amazing how often people argue for freedom, and then criticize people when they use it "wrong".

As many as it takes? (1)

nine-times (778537) | more than 5 years ago | (#26874205)

Not that I would oppose attempts to standardize and consolidate licensing for the sake of making it easier for people to know their rights, but why shouldn't developers/publishers be allowed to use whatever license they want, and make up their own if nothing else meets their needs?

I don't see the point of any attempt to artificially limit choice here.

Re:As many as it takes? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26874229)

I'm not clear where you're getting the idea that anybody wants to limit choice.

Re:As many as it takes? (5, Insightful)

Bruce Perens (3872) | more than 5 years ago | (#26874335)

why shouldn't developers/publishers be allowed to use whatever license they want, and make up their own if nothing else meets their needs?

You are free to use your own license, containing whatever text you wish. The main limitations on you are 1) whether you can get anyone else to participate and 2) whether your license is effective in court. If your license requires me to sell my first born son into indenture, the court is not likely to uphold your license.

As you observe, standardization is desirable. One of the biggest goals of Open Source is to make more Open Source. You should be able to combine different Open Source programs into another new one, in a way the creators of the original pieces did not envision. To do this, the licenses must be compatible with each other. So, having everybody write their own is, in the long run, detrimental because all of those licenses will be incompatible with each other, or nobody will be able to understand if they are compatible or not.

So, I laid out one scenario in which lots of people and companies can use a minimal set of different Open Source licenses that fulfill the different purposes that people have for Open Source, and are compatible with each other. You are free to use that list, or ignore me.

Thanks

Bruce

Re:As many as it takes? (3, Insightful)

Bill, Shooter of Bul (629286) | more than 5 years ago | (#26874585)

I would add, in addition to the the possibility of it being held up in court, would be the probability of success in court. If we can generate a substantial case history full of precedents dealing with the main licenses, it would ensure that newer cases that handled similar issues would be handled quicker and with more predictable results. That would ensure that companies take the licenses more seriously, and /or make any actual legal action quicker and less painful to everyone involved.

Re:As many as it takes? (0, Offtopic)

dueyfinster (872608) | more than 5 years ago | (#26874609)

Hey Bruce, we watched you in RevolutionOS in CompSci OS Systems (Server) class today. Good to see your as committed as ever. Thanks!

Re:As many as it takes? (2, Insightful)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 5 years ago | (#26874797)

Given that, why would you advocate the GPL, in either revision, at all? I can't think of a single other Free Software license that is incompatible with as many other license as the GPL. The GPLv2 is even incompatible with LGPLv3.

Re:As many as it takes? (1)

Bill, Shooter of Bul (629286) | more than 5 years ago | (#26875215)

But everyone knows that. Its okay if everyone knows the license compatibilities at the beginning of a project and are trying to decide what license to use. But if you have to hire a lawyer to parse a pletera of poorly written licenses for compatibility with each other, then it sort of sucks.

Re:As many as it takes? (1)

grumbel (592662) | more than 5 years ago | (#26874413)

If you have to many licenses you can no longer combine two pieces of Open Source software, because the licenses are incompatible with each other.

Re:As many as it takes? (0)

jellomizer (103300) | more than 5 years ago | (#26874457)

Not if your license doesn't care about combining other licenses in your code. The GNU is big on that. But for other licenses it is less of an issue. Just avoid GNU products and you are probably good.

Re:As many as it takes? (1)

Kjella (173770) | more than 5 years ago | (#26875063)

Those "other licenses" in many cases collapse down to nearly one with a little bit different disclaimers and attribution requirements, If you take the OSI defintion [opensource.org] and at the same time say you want a license with no source requirements, there aren't really many variations left. To me they fall into four categories:

1. Don't want source, everything can be proprietary (BSD and friends)
2. Want modifications to library, but rest can be proprietary (LGPL)
3. Want the source of the whole work (GPL)
4. 3. and guarantee you can run it in place of the original code (GPLv3)

The few differences otherwise are more practical fuck-ups that keep licenses from being compatible IMO. Either because of overzealous advertising (really, even if it's in the license we can hide it pretty well if we like) or because several licenses are trying to do the same thing, e.g. two copyleft licenses are always trouble. If you're really happy with just giving it away you might as well use the ISC license which is as short and sweet as possible and doesn't conflict with anything.

Re:As many as it takes? (1)

jedidiah (1196) | more than 5 years ago | (#26874897)

Consumer protection.

        Most people don't get to "negotiate" with people they buy
software from or original authors. The expectations in those
situations should be pretty simple and predictable. When you buy
something, you should have a fairly good idea what to expect and
those expectations should have the force of law. IOW, you should
be able to sue or prosecute for something being unusable, unbroken
or not what it was advertised to be.

        As a matter of legal practice and efficiency, there should
be more "boilerplate" licensing and less "creativity" in this
area. This may lead to much longer "default" licenses but at
least some predictable expectations can be made.

        Commerce doesn't work well without some degree of predictability.

        Nevermind Free Software licenses. Licenses need to be
more standardized across the board or just plain done away
with entirely.

in the OSI, the GPL gets special treatment (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26874239)

I've emailed several of the OSI members,
and they tell me that the GPL -- and Stallman's
new variants -- are effectively grandfathered.
They really don't pass the OSI standards of
non-discrimination, yet, they are approved by
OSI for political reasons.

That Bruce pushes the GPL makes it even more funny. Perhaps he should join the FSF instead?

Re:in the OSI, the GPL gets special treatment (2, Insightful)

Omnifarious (11933) | more than 5 years ago | (#26874751)

Please be specific. How does the GPL not satisfy the OSI standard for non-discrimination. If you're going to throw around a random inflammatory accusation as an anonymous coward you should at least back it up with facts or reasoning.

You want fewer licenses... (2, Insightful)

geminidomino (614729) | more than 5 years ago | (#26874269)

You need fewer license zea^Wadvocates.

Seriously, the amount of FUD spread about by certain licenses about certain others is staggering (not naming any names), to say nothing of tautological mottoes revolving around redefinitions of words, self-serving rationalizations, and more FUD.

You're going to get this mess any time something becomes a platform for political agendas, because Bruce's single "Shared with rules" license gets forked depending on the rules. GPL3 has the obvious rules, but under that heading would be the "Kinda BSD, except can't be used by the military of any country/companies that test on animals/people who eat meat/etc..."

Re:You want fewer licenses... (4, Insightful)

Bruce Perens (3872) | more than 5 years ago | (#26874659)

Bruce's single "Shared with rules" license gets forked depending on the rules. GPL3 has the obvious rules, but under that heading would be the "Kinda BSD, except can't be used by the military of any country/companies that test on animals/people who eat meat/etc..."

This is why I wrote the DFSG / Open Source Definition. It provides a single name for a set of licenses that grant a particular set of privileges.

I did consider licenses that prohibit military use, and decided they were a bad idea, and the DFSG / Open Source Definition does not allow them. The license that was a bad example the time was the Berkeley SPICE license. This license was written during the period of South African Apartheid, and prohibited use of the SPICE circuit simulation software by the police of South Africa. 10 years after Apartheid was over, the license restriction was still in effect. Even though the police by that time were probably Black.

The other big prohibition to consider was Commercial Use. There were a number of "personal-use only" licenses at the time. I figured that licenses that prohibited commercial use made the software pretty useless and that it would not have effective collaboration to advance its development.

Licenses are important because they use rules to structure partnerships. We need to understand them, and how to use them. Yes, there are people who are very partisan. But just calling them zealots doesn't get at the reasons for their license, and whether those reasons make sense for you.

Bruce

Re:You want fewer licenses... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26875407)

I figured that licenses that prohibited commercial use made the software pretty useless and that it would not have effective collaboration to advance its development.

And yet the GPL 3 effectively preventing commercial sale of software doesn't make it useless? Developing software costs a lot of money and support fees will never cover that cost on the majority of software applications. There's a reason that there is only one publicly traded pure play software development compnay (Red Hat) and that company makes about 15% the amount of profit per employee its proprietary competetors make.

Re:You want fewer licenses... (1)

geminidomino (614729) | more than 5 years ago | (#26875463)

Licenses are important because they use rules to structure partnerships. We need to understand them, and how to use them. Yes, there are people who are very partisan. But just calling them zealots doesn't get at the reasons for their license, and whether those reasons make sense for you.

Bruce

Whether for business or hobby/personal work, I find it far less stressful to rewrite code from scratch rather than to partner with someone for whom choice of license is a religious/dogmatic issue rather than a pragmatic one. Such reasons *never* make sense for me.

You only need as many as you need. (2, Insightful)

y86 (111726) | more than 5 years ago | (#26874291)

Choice is good and the best licenses will grow to popularity unless tampered with by an outside force.

Hence the GPL is doing quite well. It does what most people want -- it allows for your work to stay free as it was intended.

If something better comes along, it may be used. Sort of like evolution -- survival of the best fit.

GPL v3 vs Linus (1)

Chris_Jefferson (581445) | more than 5 years ago | (#26874453)

The kernel, which is one of the biggest, certainly the most famous, GPL v2 project isn't planning to change to GPL v3.

I'm impressed how Perens feels he can just brush away all disagreement with the GPL v3 because "Linus had a personal issue with it, some I'm ignoring that".

Joining the GPL v3 steamroller isn't going to make developers any more willing to use it.

Re:GPL v3 vs Linus (1)

grumbel (592662) | more than 5 years ago | (#26874545)

Which issue are you talking about? Latest time I checked there weren't really any issues with GPLv3 itself, the issue was simply that Linux is "GPLv2 only" instead of "GPLv2 or any later version", which would make an update quite complicated and time consuming.

Re:GPL v3 vs Linus (1)

gclef (96311) | more than 5 years ago | (#26874591)

Philosophically, Linus sees no problem with "Tivo-isation", which is what a big part of the changes in v3 of the GPL were all about. So, since Linus sees no need for those protections, he's not terribly enthusiastic about using them.

Re:GPL v3 vs Linus (2, Interesting)

Improv (2467) | more than 5 years ago | (#26874773)

Linus is unfortunately one of the typically "can't we all just get along" geeks - he doesn't seem to care for the social good so much as being able to continue to work on his projects. Such people are certainly useful - "not seeing the big picture" isn't a barrier to being an effective technical leader (and by pretending such problems/disagreements don't exist or minimising them, they better enable people with substantive differences in the area to work together).

For people who do care about the public good, the best thing to do is to look for other people for inspiration on matters of licenses and large-scale strategy (like rms, BPerens, esr, theo, or one of several others, depending on one's particular inclinations). There's a lot of positions one might take on these matters, most of them better than playing ostrich..

Re:GPL v3 vs Linus (1)

Timothy Brownawell (627747) | more than 5 years ago | (#26875095)

Linus is unfortunately one of the typically "can't we all just get along" geeks - he doesn't seem to care for the social good so much as being able to continue to work on his projects. Such people are certainly useful - "not seeing the big picture" isn't a barrier to being an effective technical leader (and by pretending such problems/disagreements don't exist or minimising them, they better enable people with substantive differences in the area to work together).

For people who do care about the public good, the best thing to do is to look for other people for inspiration on matters of licenses and large-scale strategy (like rms, BPerens, esr, theo, or one of several others, depending on one's particular inclinations). There's a lot of positions one might take on these matters, most of them better than playing ostrich..

We also should refuse to "play ostrich" about countries currently going through something like the Industrial Revolution, and embargo them until they decide to lift themselves, unassisted, by their own bootstraps, into sufficient prosperity to care about working conditions.

Yeah, it's stupid, but this is no different.

Re:GPL v3 vs Linus (1)

Omnifarious (11933) | more than 5 years ago | (#26874825)

I think Linus happens to be wrong. I think the whole bitkeeper fiasco has amply demonstrated that Linus is not a trustable authority on software licensing and its political implications.

Re:GPL v3 vs Linus (1)

grumbel (592662) | more than 5 years ago | (#26875007)

As long as the result of being wrong is an awesome piece of software like 'git' I can totally accept that :)

Re:GPL v3 vs Linus (1)

Timothy Brownawell (627747) | more than 5 years ago | (#26875139)

I think the whole bitkeeper fiasco has amply demonstrated that Linus is not a trustable authority on software licensing and its political implications.

How did the downtime from the loss of bitkeeper compare to the time gained from moving to a half-decent DVCS before the others were ready?

Re:GPL v3 vs Linus (1, Insightful)

mkcmkc (197982) | more than 5 years ago | (#26874661)

I'm impressed how Perens feels he can just brush away all disagreement with the GPL v3 because "Linus had a personal issue with it, some I'm ignoring that".

When considered against the backdrop of the entire space of Open Source (-ish) licenses, the differences between versions 2 and 3 of the GPL barely warrant a footnote. They are completely immaterial for almost all projects, and the only real question is whether or not you feel that Stallman's tweaks (which were based on lengthy consultation with the community) are worth following. Virtually everyone who's using the GPL in the first place would be sympathetic to the goals of the FSF, and therefore ought to go with the latest GPL.

As always, the real question is whether you

  1. choose a license that gives for-profit corporations carte blanche to use your work, without compensation (e.g., MIT/BSD), or
  2. choose a license that requires some sort of quid pro quo (GPL).

I prefer to think of the first option as the "communist" option and the second as the "capitalist" option. :-)

Re:GPL v3 vs Linus (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26874735)

Well, Linus has said that he disagrees with some of the anti-DRM features of GPL3, seeing them as none of his business. That was early on however and probably something that could have been resolved.

The real reason the kernel is GPL2 only is that that's what the submitters has released their code under, and re-licensing the entire kernel under GPL3 would be a massive undertaking.

1997 ? (1)

Gothmolly (148874) | more than 5 years ago | (#26874515)

How did he 'write the rules' in 1997 when GNU & FSF long predated this?

Original author can have several licenses (1)

rcpitt (711863) | more than 5 years ago | (#26874631)

IANAL - but as I understand it:

As the original author of anything that is subject to Copyright you are free to license the same piece of work (even if it is undergoing continuous change by you) under several licenses - and it is also available under the basic grounds of Copyright in the country of origin too.

This means that I can write and sell commercial software - and also license the same software under the GPL (or Creative Commons for text/images, etc.)

But those who don't subscribe to the GPL/CC can still use Fair Use to talk about my code or other work - even down to publishing "abstracts" of it.

The major concern is not MY code - it is what is contributed by others to my (GPL or other license) code - and what I can do with it.

A license that states "you can make changes but I own all such changes that you submit to me and may sell them along with my code" is completely different from GPL.

So is a license that states "you can make changes but you license them to me such that I can sell them along with my code even without attribution to you"

Using license terms to allow an "open source" following to build your basic software's reputation so you can then sell your "premium" version of it is a growing method of doing business.

On the other hand we've seen businesses that have recognized that the open source version has ended up with better following and better (or at least more diverse) options - and ended up opening up their premium system too - and moving to the pure service/maintenance/extension business model.

There's room for it all - the market will tell which works best for each instance.

Biased... (2, Informative)

synthespian (563437) | more than 5 years ago | (#26874635)

The characterization of BSD, Apache, etc. as "gift" licenses just display Perens' bias.

These are licenses that allow you to work both in proprietary projects and open source projects at the same time.

The word "gift" implies the person does not have a job and is doing it for free when, in reality, the developer might be working for a company that would only use business-friendly licenses.

The real distinctions are: are you going to work for a project else who will demand that you give away your copyright and who will keep their right to fork it into a proprietary project. If the answer is yes, then, please do it. Just don't complain when you see your work being bundled into a proprietary fork while you have to keep convincing everyone that they must use GPL/viral licenses (which is easy to do if you're into the business of selling servers, like IBM, and you want to bundle Linux "for free" - which, simply put, is IBM's strategy against Sun Microsystems, obviously).

The GPL license, due to copyright laws, allows this dual-licensing, which basically means unequal rights for developers (those who hold the copyright and, thus, can fork it into a proprietary license, while demanding that everyone else stick to the GPL version).

If you want developers to have equal rights, i.e., they can do *whatever* I want (i.e., "freedom"), then don't chose the GPL, chose a license such as the BSD license.

Open source code is not a material resource; it is an information resource and cannot be "stolen" (as GPL zealots with faulty logic would have it) but only "copied."

Learn to recognize Linux PR when you see it.

Re:Biased... (1)

Improv (2467) | more than 5 years ago | (#26874895)

I don't think the use of the word "gift" implies that at all. It's more of a reference to the idea of a "gift economy".

On the dual-licensing, that's not really about the GPL versus other licenses so much as it is purely about how copyright works. The forms of the BSD license that required attribution had this characteristic as well, which were also (maybe a bit more loosely) an example of unequal rights. Dual-licensing also has social costs - it creates a tension between external contributors and the primary developer. If the primary developer wants to accept external patches, they either need to mandate copyright assignation or give up on the ability to dual-license, and it's quite doable for the community to establish their own repository and do a source-fork if the author requires assignation.

I don't think this is necessarily linux PR, although it is written from the perspective of the OSI folk (distinct from the FSF perspective, which would've written this article rather differently, and also distinct from the BSD-license folk). You can't really expect articles to be written from "no" perspective, can you?

sounds kind of biased in the other direction (2, Interesting)

Trepidity (597) | more than 5 years ago | (#26875047)

I frequently hear them characterized that way, and I talk mostly to Windows-using academics who're discussing how to release their code, and could hardly care less about Linux or the Free Software Foundation.

The general viewpoint of options that get bandied about is something like:

1. "Research-only" or "non-commercial-use" license: minimal release that will ensure researchers who want it can get it, while retaining all commercial rights that default copyright gives.

2. Copyleft licensing: release that allows code to be used commercially or non-commercially, but only in free-software projects using the same copyleft license.

3. Permissive licensing: release that allows code to be used for any purpose, provided the copyright notice is maintained.

The first is is probably, unfortunately, the most common release mode for research code (though this is changing), since it feels like "giving away" the least as far as potential commercial exploitation goes. The second is usually an easier sell than the third, because it at least guarantees that Microsoft can't put your algorithm into the next version of Excel without paying you, which is the main thing people who get cold feet about releases are worried about (that they're giving away a potential source of livelihood for free).

journal-article link (1)

Trepidity (597) | more than 5 years ago | (#26875213)

As an example of that viewpoint, this article (PDF) [mit.edu] , from a 2007 volume of the Journal of Machine Learning Research characterizes open-source license choices from the perspective of scientists releasing their software as follows:

1. "A developer who wants to give away the source code in exchange for proper credit for derivative works, even closed-source ones, could choose the BSD license."

2. "A developer who wants to give away the source code, is comfortable with his source being incorporated into a closed-source product but still wants to receive bug-fixes and changes that are necessary to his source when integrating the code could choose the GNU Lesser General Public License (LGPL)."

3. "A developer who wants to give away the source code and make sure that his program stays open source, that is, any extension (or integration) will require both the original and the derived code to be released as open source, could choose the GNU General Public License (GPL)."

Re:Biased... (1)

noidentity (188756) | more than 5 years ago | (#26875177)

gift - Something that is bestowed voluntarily and without compensation.

I think that was the definition implied when referring to BSD as a "gift license". Your characterization of Parens just displays your bias.

The GPL license, due to copyright laws, allows this dual-licensing, which basically means unequal rights for developers (those who hold the copyright and, thus, can fork it into a proprietary license, while demanding that everyone else stick to the GPL version). If you want developers to have equal rights, i.e., they can do *whatever* I want (i.e., "freedom"), then don't chose the GPL, chose a license such as the BSD license.

These unequal rights are due to copyright law, not any particular source code license; the developer of the code always has more legal options than anyone he licenses it to, even if he uses the BSD license.

So much for you calling out others' biases.

Different licenses for different business purposes (3, Insightful)

Bruce Perens (3872) | more than 5 years ago | (#26875255)

The Apache-style license is a gift because a company can use the work without any quid pro quo. Obviously, much Open Source is written as part of someone's employment, whether it is BSD or GPL licensed.

Dual licensing does give some special rights to one party. In general, this one party is the main contributor, and their business purpose doesn't work without dual licensing - because they won't have a revenue stream that supports their creation of the software. A license that does not fulfill that purpose is hardly more "business friendly" than one that does.

This is not a matter of philosophy, just business sense.

Bruce

Re:Biased... (1)

OdinOdin_ (266277) | more than 5 years ago | (#26875397)

The GPL license, due to copyright laws, allows this dual-licensing, which basically means unequal rights for developers (those who hold the copyright and, thus, can fork it into a proprietary license, while demanding that everyone else stick to the GPL version).

I never saw that issue was ever a problem, nobody is suggesting that all users have equal rights to the Copyright holder.

My own personal stance is that most software patents should be outlawed and those that remain have a maximum royalty term reduced to 5 years and that anything anyone can recreate with their own bare hands under their own Copyright ownership is legally theirs. The point of patents is to provide an industrial environment for R&D efforts to be rewarded but the computer industry already has enough healthy innovation and does not require a protectionist system to cause innovation to take place.

The issue of licensing comes into play when that work is allowed to be used in some way by a non Copyright holder. Yes thats means you have less rights than the Copyright holder since its the legal privilege of the Copyright holder to grant non-Copyright holders a set of rights.

I certainly do not believe in any unequal right baloney. All your rights belongs to collective humanity. When all the food and land also belongs to the collective humanity maybe we can take that step on technology.

Take for example CYGWIN it is dual licensed and I've made it very clear before that I will not sign any Copyright handover for contributions. I would only contribute to the licenses under which I was allowed to use. I see nothing wrong with that.

There is also the question of public domain, to me something can ONLY be put into the public domain once some legal entity has both claimed Copyright ownership to the work and then subsequentially wavered their "Copy Rights" at the same time through a public domain license. Since someone needs to stand up and claim legal ownership of the work so that no on else can come along and claim you are not the Copyright holder in the first place and you've simply stolen the work and added a PD style license. You can not have nameless/ownerless public domain works.

Good for the goose, good for the gander (1)

carou (88501) | more than 5 years ago | (#26874643)

GPL advocates generally it is a good, and necessary, freedom for people to be able to do things like recompile their software (e.g. a Linux kernel) modifying part of it, and perhaps distribute their modifications.

Yet it is apparently a bad thing for people to modify their Open Source software licenses, because of the number of different combinations which arise as a result. Indeed, the FSF copyright the text of their license, and do not allow modified versions to be distributed. The article asserts they were smart to do this.

Why is it "smart" to copyright text, but not smart (restrictive, proprietary, evil etc.) to copyright source code? Is the complexity of a software license really so much greater than the complexity of the Linux kernel?

Last post! (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26874651)

As part of my continuing attempts to diversify my trolling, and provide increased customer satisfaction, I would like to introduce the brand-new 'Last post'!

From the makers of 'First post' and 'p1st fr0st'; Last post is the result of over two years R&D at Anonymous Labs plc. We took your feedback from First post* and produced what we believe is the next generation in Slashdot trolling.

You moderated, we listened!

Look out for amusing anagrams of Last post in the near-future. Our scientists are working tirelessly, right now, for your benefit. Not only that, but Anonymous Slashdot trolls are all available under a Creative Commons Spam-a-like permissive license! So you're Free [fsfeurope.org] to take the fruits of our considerable labour, and share them with other appreciative audiences around the Web.

Say it with me now:

Last post!!11!one

Note: anyone posting beyond this point will be kidnapped by snakes and thrown into a pit of Nazis.

* Mostly: -1 Offtopic and -1 Troll.

Has The GPL Ever Been Proven (3, Interesting)

new-black-hand (197043) | more than 5 years ago | (#26874683)

From the article:

I want the people who extend my software to give their extensions to the world to share, the same way I gave them my original program. So, my payback for writing Open Source is that my software drives a further increase in the amount of available Open Source software, beyond my individual contribution.

Has anybody ever proven this?

ie. has it ever been proven that attaching a 'must share' clause to a license (ie. GPL vs BSD) actually results in more people sharing code.

I am inclined to think and believe, based on experience, that it does not. Those who share are likely to share regardless of license, ditto to those who take your code and improve it with no intention of sharing.

Just how much does 'sharing' contribute to open source anyway, considering that all the top projects are tightly controlled by a small number of lead developers who hold the keys to commitments and in accepting patches. Code being shared will likely just go unnoticed anyway.

So, after 10 years, has anyone proven that the GPL works?

Re:Has The GPL Ever Been Proven (2, Insightful)

Bruce Perens (3872) | more than 5 years ago | (#26874907)

I gave my particular example, which was a program written in a month of evenings that got a subsequent 5 man-year plus contribution from other developers. The primary two companies interested had a (probably misled) economic incentive to keep their work away from their competitor.

Bruce

Re:Has The GPL Ever Been Proven (1)

new-black-hand (197043) | more than 5 years ago | (#26875135)

I can name dozens of examples, and more recently they have mostly been with more liberal licenses.

The key question is, does enforcing sharing in the license actually provide for a better overall open source ecosystem.

From my experience, the answer is no - because the downside of having companies not wanting to touch GPL'd code for fear of legal challenge and problems *FAR* outweighs the potential benefits of having those companies contribute resources with more liberal licensed code.

Overall, I find that companies are *more likely* to contribute or to allow developers who work for them to contribute code if the license is a simple, more liberal license.

ie. the parameters of a BSD or MIT license are much easier to understand, and the decision making within a company is easier - especially considering that the driving force for wanting to share code usually comes from the bottom-up, ie. from developers themselves.

The theoretical question here is - would the top 10 GPL'd projects have been more or less successful if they were released under a more liberal open source license that didn't enforce sharing?

Re:Has The GPL Ever Been Proven (2, Insightful)

domatic (1128127) | more than 5 years ago | (#26875471)

Then again look at the Wine project. There is a class of developers that is content with attribution at most and no other conditions and those tend use licenses of the MIT/BSD/X ilk. There are others who are more prone to feeling taken advantage of and these people tend want more rules so feel comfortable contributing only some rules are stated. The amount of this comfort needed varies hence things like the LGPL.

IMHO there is an implicit fallacy here. The fallacy is if the copyleft licenses didn't exist then all FOSS developers would be content or at least have to be content with super permissive licenses. I think it more likely such developers wouldn't make their code available at all save perhaps under the only remaining option which is PMITA Federal Prison If You Flout The EULA.

Speaking as someone who is an end user most of the time, I find the terms of most any FOSS license to be "fair enough" and find most arguing over "The True Nature Of Code Freedom" to be so much mental masturbation and flamebait.

The answer is yes (by anecdote) (1)

jonaskoelker (922170) | more than 5 years ago | (#26875071)

I seem to recall that RMS, in one of his talks, highlights an example where a company uses libreadline in a program, and when finding out that libreadline is released under the GPL (I think through the FSF pointing it out), the company decides to release their product under the GPL.

I know, [citation needed]. I apologize that I can't give it. The jury will disregard this post ;-)

Re:The answer is yes (by anecdote) (1)

skeeto (1138903) | more than 5 years ago | (#26875385)

You may be thinking of CLISP [wikipedia.org] . It was non-GPL and used libreadline, Stallman pointed out the GPL issue, a public e-mail exchanged ensued, and Haible eventually agreed with Stallman and decided to go GPL with CLISP.

Re:Has The GPL Ever Been Proven (1)

SanityInAnarchy (655584) | more than 5 years ago | (#26875073)

Just how much does 'sharing' contribute to open source anyway, considering that all the top projects are tightly controlled by a small number of lead developers who hold the keys to commitments and in accepting patches.

Who's sending patches?

Re:Has The GPL Ever Been Proven (1)

noidentity (188756) | more than 5 years ago | (#26875121)

The GPL is to ensure that contributed code remains open. It's not about quantity.

Re:Has The GPL Ever Been Proven (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26875479)

Psst, any BSD contributed code REMAINS open as well. Only stuff never contributed to the code is closed and we never know that's around to care about it anyhow.

FUD from GPL users that BSD code 'disappears' somehow is bullshit. Once code is under the BSD license, that code is under it forever. If someone forks off some proprietary code somewhere private, it doesn't affect the open code.

there's a number of pretty clear examples (1)

Trepidity (597) | more than 5 years ago | (#26875133)

The clearest examples, of course, are the "hardball" ones: code releases where the person in question did not want to release the code for their derived version, but was forced to do so as part of the settlement of a GPL-violation lawsuit. For example, Monsoon Media released their source code only after being sued by BusyBox developers [cnet.com] . It seems pretty clear that had BusyBox not been copyleft-licensed, Monsoon Media wouldn't have released their code.

Re:there's a number of pretty clear examples (1)

new-black-hand (197043) | more than 5 years ago | (#26875295)

That is my point. Those who have no intention of releasing code are not going to regardless of what the license says.

When you have a party that derives code but then becomes uncooperative, what value do they add to the community in any case?

The key benefit of open source is that with an efficient ecosystem of code production and maintenance, developers have a readily accessible repository of code that solves known common problems.

This code can be used so that wheels are not re-invented, and so that businesses become more efficient by instead focusing on 'differential' aspects of their service or product offerings rather than plumbing code.

Since Linux, operating systems are now commoditized, and companies such as Google and Amazon have gone on to use this 'plumbing' to build great services. Without open source, both companies would have spent an extra 5-10 years on development, and likely would never have existed.

The problem now is that the FSF looked at all these companies with billion dollar valuations who were all built on open source plumbing code and decided that it wasn't fair - so they are trying to put an end to it with GPLv3 and the new services provisions.

These new forces being applied to what is an extremely efficient ecosystem of code sharing will completely break apart open source as we know it. The next Google or Amazon will have to look at either other commercial solutions, or more liberally licensed plumbing code in order to build their services platforms.

Forced sharing is simply another restrictive force in the economics of open code. Companies will be a lot less likely to contribute and a lot less likely to participate in this environment if they are restricted in what they can do with the code they have built on open code.

Re:there's a number of pretty clear examples (1)

Timothy Brownawell (627747) | more than 5 years ago | (#26875339)

These new forces being applied to what is an extremely efficient ecosystem of code sharing will completely break apart open source as we know it.

Can't happen. Any movement in that direction would very quickly result in the instigators being widely ignored, regardless of their (prior) status.

the point seems the opposite of that? (1)

Trepidity (597) | more than 5 years ago | (#26875343)

I don't see how you can draw your conclusion that "Those who have no intention of releasing code are not going to regardless of what the license says."

There are dozens of examples, one of which I linked, of them doing precisely that: people who had no intention of releasing code, like Monsoon, being forced to do so by the license.

Re:Has The GPL Ever Been Proven (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26875233)

To me the GPL is a sad license. There are 10 types of people that prefer GPL over BSD.

0 - People who think they are God's gift to humanity, and the best coders in the world. And one day might want to sell their code to some evil company that will realize how good they are. Psst. If you are so good why are you unemployed?

1 - People who lack any kind of confidence in human nature, and think that people must be forced to do good things, aka the Stalin^H^Hlmanists.

I only contribute to BSD and MIT licensed projects because they do it for the welfare of humanity and not their own proprietary agenda. We are where we are because we stood on the shoulders of giants.

Keeping people out of your advancements in the name of freedom is not any different than keeping them out in the name of economical benefit.

If something I write cannot be sold to a big company for a few billion dollars, it probably could have been written by anyone. Yes someone had to write it, but what's the meaning in keeping it to yourself and forcing other people to reinvent the wheel over and over again? I am more than happy leaving my name there in history as one of the valiants who moved the world forward.

Current Linux kernel source won't be free until circa 2300 when its copyright expires(Hope that lifespans don't get longer). BSD kernels are free now.

* sends money to BSD-licensed PCC compiler to get rid of yet another GNU blob *

Re:Has The GPL Ever Been Proven (1)

Kjella (173770) | more than 5 years ago | (#26875465)

ie. has it ever been proven that attaching a 'must share' clause to a license (ie. GPL vs BSD) actually results in more people sharing code.

Everyone that launched a GPL project? There's plenty software that otherwise would never have existed in the first place, because they weren't happy to release it under the BSD license. Freshmeat got a license breakdown:

http://freshmeat.net/stats/ [freshmeat.net]

It tells me about 70%+ are GPL licensed, 6% BSD licensed and the rest a good mix. Maybe or maybe not the 6% get more patches per project, but in volume it seems pretty clear to me that people start GPL projects and unless there's a really, really huge difference between OSS initiators and OSS contributors, which I doubt, the GPL makes more people share.

GFDL versus CC-BY-SA; noncommercial licenses (2, Insightful)

bcrowell (177657) | more than 5 years ago | (#26874723)

In addition to software licenses, we have licenses like GFDL [gnu.org] and CC-BY-SA [creativecommons.org] , which are intended for books, software manuals, etc. That whole situation is a total botch. The GFDL (without any of the added options like invariant sections, etc.) is essentially philosophically and legally equivalent to CC-BY-SA. The fact that we have two licenses for a single purpose is not a good thing. For instance, I've written some physics textbooks that are copylefted. Sometimes I've taken diagrams and photos I did for the books and added them to WP articles. Other times I've taken photos from WP and put them in my books. What makes this all unnecessarily difficult is that although WP uses GFDL (for historical reasons, because CC postdates WP), various other people use CC-BY-SA. We all want to share, but the licensing creates problems. I've ended up dual-licensing my books for this reason, and as far as I can tell, this allows me to bring in either CC-BY-SA or GFDL materials. On the other hand, if other people want to use a photo from my book, they have to look in the photo credits section at the back, and they may find that it's a photo I got from someone else under GFDL, but their project is CC-BY-SA, so they can't use it. They might be able to switch their own project to a similar dual-license scheme to get around this, but that might not be possible; e.g., look at the Linux kernel, which could never change licenses even if Linus wanted it to, because there are too many copyright holders.

One thing I would suggest to anyone uploading pictures to WP or Wikimedia Commons is that you use their recommended licensing option, which is now dual GFDL/CC-BY-SA.

Another real problem in this area is the tendency of people to pick CC-BY-NC, with a noncommercial clause. I see tons of people doing this even for materials that have zero commercial value. For example, there's an innovative physics textbook from the 1970's that went out of print. Cool book, but it was just a little too controversial; the big sellers tend to be the plain vanilla ones that can make everyone in a university department happy enough to sign off on adopting it. It's been out of print for 30 years, and the rights reverted to the author. He scanned it and put it up on his web site as a PDF. I contacted him, told him how much I liked the book, and suggested that he put it under a CC license, because, e.g., otherwise it would have to disappear from the world on the day he got tired of paying a webhosting bill. He decided to do that, which is cool, but he picked CC-BY-NC, which means the book can never be used as the basis for further collaborative work. I think people have this emotional feeling that they don't want to risk having their work exploited commercially by someone else, because that would be a ripoff. The problem is that they don't seem to do a good job of realistically assessing the chances that that would happen. Although the guy I'm referring to is a published author, there are many other people who just don't have a realistic idea of what it's like to try to make a significant amount of money by writing. There are just too many people out there who think they have the next bestseller on their hands.

Re:GFDL versus CC-BY-SA; noncommercial licenses (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26875125)

Another real problem in this area is the tendency of people to pick CC-BY-NC, with a noncommercial clause. I see tons of people doing this even for materials that have zero commercial value.

Then surely it is not a problem? No commercial value == no lost commercialisation by prevention of commercial derivatives? I fail to see your argument here.

He decided to do that, which is cool, but he picked CC-BY-NC, which means the book can never be used as the basis for further collaborative work.

Surely no further commercialised collaborative work? This could be extended by others willing ot license their material under a CC-BY-NC, because according to CC you are free:
to Share - to copy, distribute and transmit the work

to Remix - to adapt the work

Re:GFDL versus CC-BY-SA; noncommercial licenses (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26875221)

I've ended up dual-licensing my books for this reason, and as far as I can tell, this allows me to bring in either CC-BY-SA or GFDL materials.

My understanding is that this is one or the other, but not both simultaneously. That is, you can have a GFDL edition with only GFDL materials, and a CC-BY-SA edition with only CC-BY-SA materials. But you can't have one edition with both.

I would say, stick to CC-BY-SA -- it's easier, it has the "deed" concept, and people seem to be using it instead of GFDL in most places. Then, simply cite wikipedia as you would any copyrighted work, so it doesn't matter what license they use.

Another real problem in this area is the tendency of people to pick CC-BY-NC, with a noncommercial clause. I see tons of people doing this even for materials that have zero commercial value.

That actually makes a lot of sense. If it has zero commercial value, the NC will never be a problem, because it will only be used in noncommercial works. If you're complaining because you want to use it in a commercial work, then it obviously has commercial value -- he could potentially sell you the rights under a different license.

he picked CC-BY-NC, which means the book can never be used as the basis for further collaborative work.

Um, WTF? It's not even SA, which means it can be used as part of any collaboration, under any license, provided he gets credit, and it's not commercial.

If it is commercial, you can contact him and make a deal. I imagine he'll be reasonable about licensing it.

I think people have this emotional feeling that they don't want to risk having their work exploited commercially by someone else, because that would be a ripoff.

No, I think it has more to do with the fact that if you're going to be a major contributor to someone else's commercial product, you should be compensated for that.

If it's not going to be a significant chunk of your work, then again, cite it and use fair use, as you would any other copyrighted work.

There are just too many people out there who think they have the next bestseller on their hands.

Well, again, if NC is a problem, that means obviously I do have something of commercial value to someone. Why is it so wrong for me to want a cut?

Re:GFDL versus CC-BY-SA; noncommercial licenses (1)

spinkham (56603) | more than 5 years ago | (#26875369)

GFDL 1.3 has terms that allow Wikipedia to migrate all their content to CC-BY-SA, as long as they do it by the middle of this year. So score one for license consolidation.

Re:GFDL versus CC-BY-SA; noncommercial licenses (1)

bcrowell (177657) | more than 5 years ago | (#26875435)

GFDL 1.3 has terms that allow Wikipedia to migrate all their content to CC-BY-SA, as long as they do it by the middle of this year. So score one for license consolidation.

Interesting. I guess that still doesn't help much with material that was originally contributed to WP under earlier versions of GFDL, does it? Seems like it would make more of a difference for recently uploaded photos than for articles.

Re:GFDL versus CC-BY-SA; noncommercial licenses (3, Informative)

Bruce Perens (3872) | more than 5 years ago | (#26875483)

I agree that GFDL is a botch. I used the Open Content License (otherwise mostly unknown today) for my own books. My problem with Creative Content is that it's one name over a broad spectrum of incompatible licenses that have few rights in common other than the right to read the text at all. Can/can't distribute, can/can't do it commercially, can/can't modify, and so on.

Just one (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26874815)

You only need one license.. The WTFPL

standards (1)

DaveGod (703167) | more than 5 years ago | (#26874953)

Consider the "branding" issue: fundamentally what does "open source" tell you about the software? As someone unfamiliar with coding and all these licences, I have no idea what "open source" is supposed to mean beyond the source code being viewable for inspection. I would ask forgiveness for my ignorance, but with 73 incompatible licences I can't imagine it can mean much more than that.

I think that while people are (and should be) free to use whatever licence they wish, there should really only be a few which are encouraged, endorsed and in widespread use. Otherwise it does not carry the advantages from being a standard.

Lincoln (1)

Ogive17 (691899) | more than 5 years ago | (#26875113)

Abraham Lincoln says four score plus seven. It is President's Day afterall...

He missed one: public domain (2, Interesting)

ljw1004 (764174) | more than 5 years ago | (#26875297)

Bruce missed the one option I think is the most important: public domain. It's not a license and so captures the "giftiness" of the gift licenses better than any of them.

Load More Comments
Slashdot Login

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?

Submission Text Formatting Tips

We support a small subset of HTML, namely these tags:

  • b
  • i
  • p
  • br
  • a
  • ol
  • ul
  • li
  • dl
  • dt
  • dd
  • em
  • strong
  • tt
  • blockquote
  • div
  • quote
  • ecode

"ecode" can be used for code snippets, for example:

<ecode>    while(1) { do_something(); } </ecode>