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FSF On How To Choose a License

timothy posted more than 3 years ago | from the have-it-suit-your-endeavor dept.

Media 210

ciaran_o_riordan writes "FSF have put together their license recommendations, beyond just their own licenses, for software, documentation, and other works: 'People often ask us what license we recommend they use for their project. We've written about this publicly before, but the information has been scattered around between different essays, FAQ entries, and license commentaries. This article collects all that information into a single source, to make it easier for people to follow and refer back to. The recommendations below are focused on licensing a work that you create — whether that's a modification of an existing work, or a new original work.'"

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On the topic of choosing a CC license: (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36260822)

"Please don't use it for software or documentation, since it is incompatible with the GNU GPL and with the GNU FDL."

I find this advice very, very bad. This is where FSF's mentality goes so very wrong, and where they really don't seem to stand for freedom in any sense at all. Remember: freedom is a two-way concept, not a one-way concept as the FSF gladly would want it to be. "Of course we're all about open and free licenses, as long as you choose one of ours."

Re:On the topic of choosing a CC license: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36260836)

Let me try to put this in perspective:

It's documentation, who cares?!

Re:On the topic of choosing a CC license: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36260844)

Of course you find that advise bad, because you made it up yourself.

I don't find that sentence anywhere in TFA.

Are you just making things up now?

Re:On the topic of choosing a CC license: (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36260928)

No he isn't. It's on GNU License List [gnu.org] about Creative Commons license, like the topic says.

Re:On the topic of choosing a CC license: (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36260890)

Where the heel did you find that quote. Certainly not in the linked recommendation.

Let's say what they actually recommend regarding the CC:

If your work is not being created for use with a particular software project, or if it wouldn't be appropriate to use the same license as the project, then we only recommend that you choose a copyleft license that's appropriate for your work. We have some of these listed on our license list. If no license seems especially appropriate, the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license is a copyleft that can be used for many different kinds of works.

Re:On the topic of choosing a CC license: (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36260986)

he found it in the CC section linked from the article, if you'd just care to read....... http://www.gnu.org/licenses/license-list.html#ccbysa

Re:On the topic of choosing a CC license: (1)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 3 years ago | (#36261052)

Where the heel did you find that quote. Certainly not in the linked recommendation.

He probably found it here. [gnu.org]

Re:On the topic of choosing a CC license: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36260978)

It's a recommendation. They aren't forcing you to choose one license or another.

Re:On the topic of choosing a CC license: (1)

tao (10867) | more than 3 years ago | (#36261166)

This is quite ironic, since the GFDL isn't GPL compatible either...

Re:On the topic of choosing a CC license: (1)

PhilHibbs (4537) | more than 3 years ago | (#36261392)

Of course it isn't. It's a different licence because the GPL is not appropriate for documentation. If it were GPL compatible, there would be no need for it as you could just use the GPL.

Re:On the topic of choosing a CC license: (4, Informative)

Qubit (100461) | more than 3 years ago | (#36261200)

"Please don't use it for software ..., since it is incompatible with the GNU GPL and with the GNU FDL."

A little birdie dumped a codebase on my head recently and one of the many bugfixes I had to do before I could even legally distribute the thing was to rip out some CC-BY-SA code and replace it with something GPL-compatible.

I have no doubt in my mind that whoever chose the CC license for that code wasn't thinking. Or at least not that much. They wanted to open the code? Great. They wanted to copyleft it? Marvelous as well. A copyleft license like the GPL probably would have been fine for them. That's why we need more simplistic documents like the one that the FSF created.

I do have some concerns about the GFDL and the CC licenses for documentation. On the one hand I feel that CC-BY-SA doesn't have some of the legacy non-free baggage mechanisms that you can find in the GFDL. On the other hand I have personally run into problems where documentation for projects includes non-trivial code examples, and the Benton Fraser in me has dutifully tried to get specific permission or dual-licensing on the code examples so that I can use them in a program.

I hope that, just as there has been work to make the GPLv3 and Apache 2.0 licenses compatible, we'll see future work to make some of the CC licenses more compatible with permissive and/or copyleft code licenses. Remember that the FSF endorsed that relicensing escape-clause for Wikipedia and some other sites a little while ago, so it seems plausible that there might be some hope for reconciliation and cooperation in the future. At least we can all hope.

Re:On the topic of choosing a CC license: (-1, Flamebait)

maxume (22995) | more than 3 years ago | (#36261366)

Any involvement with the Wikipedia sham is a strike against them.

Re:On the topic of choosing a CC license: (4, Informative)

ais523 (1172701) | more than 3 years ago | (#36261384)

Even Creative Commons suggest that their licenses aren't used for code [creativecommons.org] ; they simply aren't designed to apply to it well, and Creative Commons don't suggest that you use licenses for situations they'd be inappropriate for. (On the other hand, you can meaningfully GPL an image, but only if the image has some sort of equivalent to source code, which would rather depend on how the image was created; this may be a bad idea for other reasons, though.)

Re:On the topic of choosing a CC license: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36261252)

FSFs work isn't about license freedom, it's about software freedom. It would be a legal nightmare with 2000 somewhat compatible OSS licences. FSF have a few very good ones, they are right to promote them.

The FSF is irrelevant today. (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36261334)

While they had a pretty significant impact 20 to 25 years ago, the FSF is becoming more and more irrelevant each day. GPL'ed software was once considered among the best available, especially given that it was free, but those days are falling further and further behind.

When it comes to licensing, performance, quality, and reliability, the Hurd never got anywhere and Linux plays second fiddle to FreeBSD's kernel. The only advantage that Linux has today is hype.

In terms of compiler frameworks, GCC has become a huge, bloated mess. Now we have LLVM as an alternative, which is released under a very liberal license. In many ways it's far superior to GCC, and can compile complex C++ code in a fraction of the time, while emitting binaries that perform very well.

The userland tools from the various BSDs are much better to use these days than the GNU userland tools. Plus they're available under a truly free license, not the GPL.

Even when it comes to databases, we have PostgreSQL and SQLite under extremely liberal and free licenses. There's just no reason to use MySQL any longer.

We can't deny that the FSF and GNU software was once important, and it did help set the stage for the widespread usage of open source software. Nevertheless, its time has passed, and every sensible person has moved on to alternative software that's better and released under truly-free licenses.

Proprietary EULA (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36260826)

Free software is dead. Even on the previously Linux rabid slashdot.
Slashdot readers grew into Mac using "app" buying pussy faggots.

Re:Proprietary EULA (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36260858)

No they didn't.

Re:Proprietary EULA (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36261244)

Yes, they did.

Re:Proprietary EULA (1)

Noughmad (1044096) | more than 3 years ago | (#36261176)

Free software is dead.

Did Netcraft confirm it?

Copyright Loophole (0)

TemperedAlchemist (2045966) | more than 3 years ago | (#36260846)

Your brain made an unauthorized copy of my work in your memory. Therefore, I may sue you for copyright infringement.

Re:Copyright Loophole (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36260872)

When we eventually fuse computers with our brains this will be a serious issue.

This Is Ridiculous (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36260852)

Notice how they never mentioned once the BSD license, arguably the most free license there is in the world.

The whole premise of this exercise is ridiculous.

Re:This Is Ridiculous (3, Insightful)

kyz (225372) | more than 3 years ago | (#36260882)

Why would they?

If you want "true freedom", put your software in the public domain.

If you want BSD levels of freedom, the Apache license is better.

Re:This Is Ridiculous (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36261472)

Apache 2 license is not compatible with GPLv2.

Re:This Is Ridiculous (1)

Lunix Nutcase (1092239) | more than 3 years ago | (#36261542)

If you want BSD levels of freedom, the Apache license is better.

Except for it's incompatibility with GPLv2 which is still far more prevelant in use than GPLv3 especially with legacy code?

Re:This Is Ridiculous (1, Insightful)

bky1701 (979071) | more than 3 years ago | (#36260886)

Free for developers looking to make closed derivative works. Not free for society, other developers, and certianly not users.

If you want it to be "free," just go public domain it. GPL is about actually keeping software free, not providing a toolkit to proprietary developers.

Re:This Is Ridiculous (5, Insightful)

jfrelinger (133817) | more than 3 years ago | (#36261262)

Free for developers looking to make closed derivative works. Not free for society, other developers, and certianly not users.

Just because someone makes a closed fork, doesn't mean the original disappears. The original is still there and still free for users, still free for other developers, and society. Your statement is pure copyleft FUD.

If you want it to be "free," just go public domain it. GPL is about actually keeping software free, not providing a toolkit to proprietary developers.

The whole reason the BSD license exists is to explicitly provide protections to the original author that public domain doesn't explicitly provide, like indemnity to lack of fitness, warranty etc.

Re:This Is Ridiculous (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36261352)

Just because someone makes a closed fork, doesn't mean the original disappears. The original is still there and still free for users, still free for other developers, and society. Your statement is pure copyleft FUD.

And what will happen to the original project when everyone simply piggybacks off of it trying to make a quick buck instead of contributing to it in a way everyone can benefit from?

You statement is that of a lazy developer who wont/can't write his own code and profit from it, relying on free source-handouts that you can polish up an interface for on iOS trying to produce something once that'll pay your meal forever.

Re:This Is Ridiculous (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36261388)

There is no such thing as "public domain" in many countries so public domain is NOT free. It's just talking stuff without permission and depending on where you are in the world thats ok. But free should me "free for everyone". Thats why BSD and the WTFPL have their use

Re:This Is Ridiculous (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36261416)

Thanks for the standard rap (how, *cough* Insightful), but you failed to see the point. But what is the point of some recommendation beyond your own license, when your choices are politically motivated? Indeed this exercise is without value.

Re:This Is Ridiculous (3, Insightful)

Skapare (16644) | more than 3 years ago | (#36261518)

This (GPL vs BSD) is where the fork in the road is. It depends on whether you want your code to be widespread one or or widespread the other way. In the GPL case, your code won't be used in certain products where they can't open the whole thing. In the BSD case, it can be used everywhere, but there's no obligated to release source for what it gets added to. You have to decide, for code you create, which way you want it to go. I recently switched to BSD for my library code, and staying with GPL for complete programs.

Re:This Is Ridiculous (5, Interesting)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 3 years ago | (#36260976)

What is the advantage of the BSD license over the Apache license (which they did mention)?

But it is not ridiculous anyway. It details what they think about how software should be licensed in order to further their goals.
Now your goals may be different to their goals, so the advice doesn't fit your goals. So what? You may not share the goals, but the article isn't about the goals, but how to reach them. It would be ridiculous if the advice obviously did not further their(!) goals. But it is totally irrelevant if they further your goals (except if your goals coincide with theirs). If you don't share their goals, then this article is not for you.

Of course you can argue whether their goals are right. But that's a different topic, unrelated to the question how to reach them.

Re:This Is Ridiculous (5, Informative)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 3 years ago | (#36261136)

What is the advantage of the BSD license over the Apache license (which they did mention)?

Simplicity. OpenBSD rejects Apache 2.0 licensed code from the base system, because the license is so complex that you can't expect developers without legal training to understand it. I've read the Apache 2.0 license a few times, and I'm still not sure I could answer with 100% certainty what I can and can't do with the code.

Perhaps more importantly, the Apache 2.0 license is incompatible with GPLv2 code. This means that you can not mix code under these two licenses in the same codebase. To give a concrete example of when this has been a problem for me, I wanted to index PDFs using code derived from Poppler (derived from xpdf, GPLv2) and Apache Lucene (Apache 2) - this was not possible without jumping through hoops, such as separating the code into two independent programs that could be used together. If either piece of code had been BSDL, then this would have been much easier.

The interaction between the GPL and APSL code here made it harder for me to write Free Software. In the end, I just bumped that project down my to-do list and hacked on BSDL stuff instead.

It would be ridiculous if the advice obviously did not further their(!) goals. But it is totally irrelevant if they further your goals (except if your goals coincide with theirs). If you don't share their goals, then this article is not for you.

TFA purports to be advice. Advice should be telling people how to reach their goals, not yours. If someone's goals don't agree with yours, then the polite thing to do is refuse to give them advice, not give them bad advice.

Re:This Is Ridiculous (2)

joib (70841) | more than 3 years ago | (#36261216)

If someone's goals don't agree with yours, then the polite thing to do is refuse to give them advice, not give them bad advice.

So the FSF should not put up a web page explaining which licenses they recommend and why, because someone on the Internet might disagree? Seriously?

Re:This Is Ridiculous (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36261218)

TFA purports to be advice. Advice should be telling people how to reach their goals, not yours. If someone's goals don't agree with yours, then the polite thing to do is refuse to give them advice, not give them bad advice.

That's absurd. It's a publically posted statement of the FSF's position on certain questions. It can't possibly be tailored to the goals of any random person who migth read it without being an insanely complex decision tree. You might as well say that the government shouldn't post advice against smoking because "what if if I've been sentenced to death and want to have a last smoke before I die - I don't care about lung canacer, they should worry about my goals". If you don't care about the opinions of the FSF then don't read them. If you do read them then what you're going to get are the positions of the FSF.

Re:This Is Ridiculous (3, Insightful)

djmurdoch (306849) | more than 3 years ago | (#36261402)

the Apache 2.0 license is incompatible with GPLv2 code.

I think they see that as a feature, not a bug. The FSF really wants everyone to upgrade to GPLv3 (which is also incompatible with GPLv2).

Re:This Is Ridiculous (1)

Lunix Nutcase (1092239) | more than 3 years ago | (#36261554)

What is the advantage of the BSD license over the Apache license (which they did mention)?

Compatibility with the GPLv2 which still makes up the vast majority of FOSS code especially things like the Linux kernel.

Re:This Is Ridiculous (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36261032)

FTFA:

In these special situations where copyleft is not appropriate, we recommend the Apache License 2.0. This is a permissive, non-protective software license that has terms to prevent contributors and distributors from suing for patent infringement.

To repeat: Apache 2.0 better than BSD because: patent protection

Re:This Is Ridiculous (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36261380)

Maybe because the BSD license is just a little bit too naive for a world in which not everything is kittens, sunflowers and kumbaya-singing hippies. ;) (Which I don't have anything against per se.)

As it is so free, that it allows the licensee to hang you by your own license. (TiVoization [linfo.org] )

I, for one, think that the only thing that's actually 100% free, is no license at all. (I.e. in harmony with actual reality, in which there is no property of ideas)
Even using a license at all, already validates the "IP" delusion. And any terms at all, are obviously less free than no terms at all.

So GNU is, sadly, validating the very position they oppose. (A common mistake of people not trained in social dynamics. [Keyword: reality dominance]) But at least it's, so your own works don't fall into the trap too.

Why anyone would use a license, that does nothing to protect you, but still validates the "IP" delusion... in essence doing only harm at no gain... is therefore beyond me.
If I had the BSD license mindset of wanting 100% freedom (which, in fact, I strongly do!), I'd choose no license at all.

(Ok, in reality, I only have one term you have to agree to:

I agree, that "intellectual property" (including, but obviously not limited to, DRM, copyright, trademarks, patents and DRM again) is a delusion, which in physical reality does not exist. Hence, if I ever acknowledge or believe in its existence, I will lose all freedom over these works/information/ideas retroactively for all time.

:)

They do mention permissive licences: Apache (2)

ciaran_o_riordan (662132) | more than 3 years ago | (#36261396)

If you want a permissive licence, use the Apache 2.0 licence.

FSF's doc says this.

I concur. Apache serves the purpose that permissive licences can serve, plus it contains patent protections:

http://en.swpat.org/wiki/Patent_clauses_in_software_licences#Apache_License [swpat.org]

Two views of copyright? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36260854)

You can't say that non-free software, music, games, films don't deserve protection and then turn around and say GPL'd (other other license) code _does_. Choose one or the other.

Re:Two views of copyright? (3, Interesting)

bky1701 (979071) | more than 3 years ago | (#36260916)

I don't believe copyright should exist, but as it does, support GPL-like licenses as a sort of attempt at perversion of the system to ends actually beneficial to society. It would be stupid to give one side all the legal ammunition by just using public domain.

Re:Two views of copyright? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36261248)

The GPL is not a 'perversion' of copyright. It allows authors to exert control over the work by taking advantage of copyright laws just like every other license does.

Nowhere in copyright code is profit mentioned, or proprietary. That businesses have devised ways to earn a profit from it doesn't mean that author with different goals are a 'perversion'.

You cannot be anti-copyright and pro-GPL at the same time and retain intellectual honesty. You are either for government enforced artificial scarcity or you are not.

Re:Two views of copyright? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36261386)

There is not neccessarilly any contradiction in being pro-GPL and anti-copyright at the same time.

To make a car analogy, it's like being for mandatory safety standards in cars, and at the same time wanting to outlaw cars altogether.

The GPL vs copyright debate is interesting, because of the whole source code / binary code dichotomy. The GPL is all about ensuring that everybody who redistributes GPLed code plays by the same rules, also allowing free redistrubition of their derivative work, and - significantly - the source code.

A world without copyright means that this mandatory redistribution of source code in combination with binary code would not be possible. But the other goals of the GPL would still be met, ensuring that nobody can make a derivative work of your software and then limit its redistribution.

Depending on which goals of the GPL you find more important, you can be pro-GPL and still anti-copyright.

You can even be pro-GPL and anti-copyright even if you think software freedom - the freedom to modify software is important. One possible solution, proposed by Richard M Stallman himself, would be to abolish copyright, and institute a regime where anybody who wishes to distribute software in binary form must either distribute source code as well, or submit the source code into escrow, to be released to anybody after a period of N years. This would apply to proprietary software as well. (The principle is not entirely unheard of, in Sweden for example, anybody publishing a printed work must submit a copy to the Royal National Library, so that it may be archived.)

Re:Two views of copyright? (1)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 3 years ago | (#36261002)

I think almost nobody says the non-free stuff deserves no protection. For example, if you took the non-free song of someone else and then claimed you wrote it and spread copies under that claim, I'm sure that the vast majority of people here would against you, including those who wouldn't otherwise have any problem with you spreading copies of the song left and right.

Re:Two views of copyright? (2)

walshy007 (906710) | more than 3 years ago | (#36261158)

If copyright were a reasonable length (say.. 15 years) this would not be an issue.

So linux 2.0 goes into the public domain, all the better for society yeah? People are completely free to make derivative works, and 2.0 is rather useless by todays standards. Whereas more recent works like 2.6 are still protected.

Windows 95 is then also public domain, especially useful if someone has the source code locked away somewhere (which would also expire from copyright) so it could be released to further the reverse engineering efforts of wine.

Meanwhile, all the music from the 80's is now free to be remixed and new creative works made.

I don't see the downside, 15 years is more than enough to make back money on your investment.

Re:15 years is more than enough (1)

TaoPhoenix (980487) | more than 3 years ago | (#36261282)

Phrasings like that are a bit polemic, because for certain titles, it the chops off crispy profits "just because you said so". Disney is of course the famous case, and Star Trek and Dr. Who might be the poster cases right behind them for longevity. On the music side, RIAA has been getting nice sales for 40 years on tons of titles.

I think these copyright proposals need a "small-profit (ad revenue on blogs) derivative works allowed" clause because tons of people just want to mash up stuff but they have no plans for big campaigns. They just want to submit their stuff to some site for street cred and some $100 of ad revenue.

The other clause that would be useful is a "retainer" on certain "grandfather" titles like said Disney and Star Trek and Dr. Who paid by the companies every year to keep the big properties intact, but then all the millions of b-list titles then aren't worth it so they come up for availability. Last I knew the street guys hate using top-hits for anything but parodies anyway and that's already almost okay. When they want to get creative they look to fresher stuff, precisely where the revenue=0 for the big companies to begin with.

Article summary (0)

pedantic bore (740196) | more than 3 years ago | (#36260860)

Use some variant of the GPL, or at least something that's copyleft. Use the Apache license if you just can't use GPL for some insurmountable reason. There are no other licenses.

Pretty much what one would expect from FSF.

Re:Article summary (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36260998)

One of the first paragraphs:

"When you contribute to an existing project, you should usually release your modified versions under the same license as the original work. It's good to cooperate with the project's maintainers, and using a different license for your modifications often makes that cooperation very difficult. You should only do that when there is a strong reason to justify it."

That's a key part of what they advocate and very different from the attitude that you attribute to them.

When they're talking about using a license for a new software project though, of course they recommend their own. It's specifically made to be the way they want it to be.

Re:Article summary (1)

guyminuslife (1349809) | more than 3 years ago | (#36261088)

Then why should we even talk about their recommendations? Microsoft recommends that you run a Windows operating system. The company that makes your toothpaste recommends that you use their toothpaste. Who the fuck cares? It's just self-promotion.

Re:Article summary (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36261184)

Then why should we even talk about their recommendations?

Whether you want to talk about their recommendations is up to you - I don't care whether you do or not. For people who are interested in knowing what the FSF's opinions are on licensing more broadly than just "I'm making my own software project from scratch and wondered what license to use" then there is more in this document than just that. But it is still a pretty light document - if you're adding code to someone else's project, use the same license as them, if you're starting your own software project use the GPL, if you're writing documentation use GFDL, if you're adding other sorts of copyrightable material (graphics, sounds etc) use the same license as for the code. That's about it. If I was in charge of accepting submissions then this wouldn't make it through but it's silly to pretend that ALL they say is that you should use GPL for software projects created from scratch. There is a broader position here that some people may be interested in and for those that aren't - might I suggest moving on to a different article?

No BSD (1, Insightful)

gclef (96311) | more than 3 years ago | (#36260864)

I guess it's predictable that the FSF wouldn't be in favor of BSD-style licenses, but if they're going to mention things like the Apache license, they should include the BSD license. BSD is not mentioned anywhere in their guide...which is a shame. Whether you agree with it or not, it's a valid license, and should be included in the decision tree for choosing a license.

Re:No BSD (1)

Ailure (853833) | more than 3 years ago | (#36260900)

"The second is projects that implement free standards that are competing against proprietary standards, such as Ogg Vorbis (which competes against MP3 audio) and WebM (which competes against MPEG-4 video). For these projects, widespread use of the code is vital for advancing the cause of free software, and does more good than a copyleft on the project's code would do."

They don't spell it out, but they do imply that there is cases where BSD-style licenses is valid.

Re:No BSD (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36260954)

Bullshit. Five FSF licenses and the Apache license does not count for an overview of all the free software licenses out there. They intentionally glossed over the BSD license because it provides more freedom to developers and doesn't require copyright assignment to the FSF, period.

Re:No BSD (1)

Qubit (100461) | more than 3 years ago | (#36260994)

They intentionally glossed over the BSD license because it provides more freedom to developers and doesn't require copyright assignment to the FSF, period.

"more freedom" == the same nebulous debate that /. has every fortnight between a permissive license and the GPL.

And none of the licenses that they mentioned "require copyright assignment" to the FSF or any other entity. I can't think of a single FOSS license that specifies that in the license proper.

C'mon, Anonymous Troll, at least pick a fight that requires me to fire up more than a couple of brain cells.

Re:No BSD (3, Informative)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 3 years ago | (#36261114)

Bullshit. Five FSF licenses and the Apache license does not count for an overview of all the free software licenses out there. They intentionally glossed over the BSD license because it provides more freedom to developers and doesn't require copyright assignment to the FSF, period.

Nonsense. You don't need a copyright assignment to the FSF to license anything under any of the GNU licenses. You only need a copyright assignment if you want your code to become part of an official GNU project, that is, a project maintained by the FSF. Note that this doesn't even include creating a fork of such a project (e.g. making your own modified version of GCC). Only if you want the FSF to distribute your code as part of GNU, you have to assign. Distribute it yourself (or have someone else distribute it who doesn't want the assignment), and there's no need for copyright assignment.

Re:No BSD (1)

Errol backfiring (1280012) | more than 3 years ago | (#36260992)

True, I think that after the GPL, BSD is the most commonly known one.

Re:No BSD (2)

mikael_j (106439) | more than 3 years ago | (#36261012)

Yes, I was just about to make my own post about how this is clearly biased in favor of FSF licenses.

BSD is one of the more popular open source licenses out there yet the FSF consistently either pretends it doesn't exist or tells people the GPL is better.

Re:No BSD (3, Insightful)

JasterBobaMereel (1102861) | more than 3 years ago | (#36261152)

Shock Horror: the FSF is biased on the FSF website in favour of FSF licences ...

In other News: the Pope is Catholic ...

Re:No BSD (5, Insightful)

Qubit (100461) | more than 3 years ago | (#36261066)

if they're going to mention things like the Apache license, they should include the BSD license....Whether you agree with it or not, it's a valid license, and should be included in the decision tree for choosing a license.

I mean look at it this way: This is the FSF's cheat-sheet decision tree for people to choose a Free Software license. You could easily compare this document with that page that Creative Commons has to help people choose a Free Culture license.

Now I don't have (read: I'm too lazy to go look up the url right now) the CC page memorized, but last I remembered they only put a few of their CC licenses on there. There wasn't any CC0 listed, and I don't remember the CC-GPL or the Remix license (not sure if that latter license is even being promoted by them anymore).

If the FSF's target is people who don't geek out on the particular nuances of "distribute" vs "convey" in a FOSS license, then they aren't going to give someone a complete primer on all licenses. Remember that this document is designed as a tool for choosing a license, not working with existing licenses. Sure, if I had to educate a bunch of software developers about FOSS licenses I would probably start with the GPL, then move to BSD (3-clause, natch), MIT, Apache, and maybe sprinkle in some cautionary tales about weak or incompatible licenses. But that ain't the game here.

It's obvious why the FSF chose the Apache 2.0 license as their default permissive license

  1. It's well written by Real Laywers
  2. It offers some patent protection
  3. It's GPLv3-compatible

Sure, the new BSD and MIT licenses are shorter, but they don't offer developers and end-users the same kinds of structured protections that are available in the GPLv3 and Apache 2.0. And that's what the FSF is designed to promote.

Re:No BSD (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36261078)

I already posted this above... but it deserves repeating

FTFA:

In these special situations where copyleft is not appropriate, we recommend the Apache License 2.0. This is a permissive, non-protective software license that has terms to prevent contributors and distributors from suing for patent infringement.

To repeat: Apache 2.0 better than BSD because: patent protection

Wow, that's a broad overview (1)

LizardKing (5245) | more than 3 years ago | (#36260870)

Five FSF/GPL licenses, one that elsewhere they state categorically not to use, and the Apache license.

Re:Wow, that's a broad overview (1)

LizardKing (5245) | more than 3 years ago | (#36260906)

From TFA: "One case where using a different license can be justified is when you make major changes to a work under a non-copyleft license. If the version you've created is considerably more useful than the original, then it's worth copylefting your work" Trouble with this, is that there has been a number of cases where the GPL has been slapped onto a BSD licensed file without making clear that there is only a small portion of that code that requires adherence to Stallmans creed. Just to be clear, using BSD licensed code in a GPL'ed work is fine - re-licensing the whole file under a more restrictive license is not.

Re:Wow, that's a broad overview (1)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 3 years ago | (#36261026)

Also from TFA, in the same section: "To minimize the impact on others, show explicitly which parts of the work are under which license."

Re:Wow, that's a broad overview (1)

Qubit (100461) | more than 3 years ago | (#36261220)

Also from TFA, in the same section: "To minimize the impact on others, show explicitly which parts of the work are under which license."

I'm pretty sure I read the whole length of the SFLC's paper about how to reuse permissive-licensed code under a copyleft license like the GPL, but I can't remember anything in there that showed how to indicate which parts of a file are under one license versus another.

Maybe they're suggesting that people just do it on a file-by-file basis, but that part seems mostly like a no-brainer (no?).

Re:Wow, that's a broad overview (4, Insightful)

no known priors (1948918) | more than 3 years ago | (#36261304)

"Just to be clear, using BSD licensed code in a GPL'ed work is fine - re-licensing the whole file under a more restrictive license is not."
Actually, you're wrong. The BSD license allows anyone to come along and relicense the entire file/program or whatever, under any other license, so long as the conditions of the BSD license are followed. Which mainly come down to attribution.
The same 'freedom" which allows a propitiatory software developer (such as Microsoft) to take BSD licensed stuff and then say that others are not allowed to redistribute without their permission, is the same "freedom" which allows GPL advocates to take the same code and relicense under the GPL. Of course, if the attribution is done correctly there is nothing to stop you from going to the original source of the program and doing what you like.

Oh wait, relicensing BSD stuff is only OK when you can't see the source code for the end result, not when you can see the source code, but can't use it because of that nasty GPL virus! Oh the horror!

well, finally (2)

IZN0GUD (804758) | more than 3 years ago | (#36260888)

Well, finally there is a concise word someone whom we can trust more than we can trust others in the field, and they took their time to clarify information and to teach public. Their contribution is enormous and one can always learn from them, no matter how strong one's own expertise is. I listened to rms last year in Sarajevo, he is certainly authoritative in that field and also promotes very same goals that were my own reasons to get involved with IT in the first place. I, for one, would always back Mr. Stallman's views, opinions and teaching; rather than some Andrea Kempe or D. Brewer who spam my inbox on regular basis. It is very important to spread the word on the copyright and issues behind it; it is crucial for civilization's development and growth.

Yet, FDL is still considered non-free! (3, Interesting)

GPLHost-Thomas (1330431) | more than 3 years ago | (#36260944)

In Debian, if you release some documentation using the FDL, and if don't specify that it has no back-cover or invariant part, we'll consider it non-free (eg: it wont go in Debian main, wont be allowed to be put on the CDs, etc.). Yet, the FSF doesn't recognize how bad this license is, and continues to push for this broken one. This is really pure stupidity. People are going to release documentation under this license, thinking that it will render the documentation free, when in fact, it's going to do the exact opposite thing. Why can't the FSF learn and correct this huge mistake? I don't get it...

Re:Yet, FDL is still considered non-free! (3, Interesting)

MikeyO (99577) | more than 3 years ago | (#36261242)

Why can't the FSF learn and correct this huge mistake?

The people from the FSF who I have talked to about this issue took the (suprising to me) stance that they don't consider documentation to be software, and don't believe that documentation should necessarily be free.

Re:Yet, FDL is still considered non-free! (1)

jopsen (885607) | more than 3 years ago | (#36261422)

Well, you can write a blogpost improving the documentation without creating a derivative work. So maybe documentation doesn't need to be free (as in freedom).
that said, most projects probably want its documentation to be free.

Re:Yet, FDL is still considered non-free! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36261476)

Doesn't that then make them the NFSF (non-free software foundation)? (Rhetorical question. It does.)

Seriously, why do people always think, somebody gives a shit about their (in this case "IP") delusions?

FSF/BSA/MAFIAA/etc: Gnutella, and done. Fuck you! ;)

Re:Yet, FDL is still considered non-free! (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36261568)

Glad we have Debian to keep the FSF honest, then. And I suppose the FSF to keep Debian honest, for that matter.

If your software is GPL or LGPL, its essential documentation better be considered part of the software as well. You DO remove a lot of usefulness of a software when it lacks documentation, and the non-free FDL does not help ANYONE. All it exists for [in FLOSS-related matters] is out of paranoia that people would remove the manifesto from the emacs manual, or remove the GNU name from the software documentation.

LGPL with affero clause? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36260952)

We're a developer group that is now writing a server library. We plan to
use it for commercial projects by putting all the code into the library
and creating a thin proprietary wrapper to keep clients happy.

It's a strategic move to use the LGPL, as if we used GPL then we'd have to
sell proprietary licenses. Proprietary people would choose to either:

- Re-implement their own closed-source version of the software.
- Buy a proprietary license from us and then not make the changes public.

This way (by using LGPL) we get to extract as much free source-code from
them as possible.

The problem now comes with the fact that our library can be used for web
services. People could make changes to our library, use them in their
commercial service and not make changes public.

I was searching the net and found these links:

http://stackoverflow.com/questions/731246/lgpl-for-php-applications
http://mohammed.morsi.org/blog/?q=node/270

The 2nd link claims you can just include an affero clause in the LGPLv3?
What is your word on this?

Many thanks to the FSF. I love your work.

Re:LGPL with affero clause? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36261038)

Nice triple post dumb NIGGER

LGPL with affero clause (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36260962)

We're a developer group that is now writing a server library. We plan to
use it for commercial projects by putting all the code into the library
and creating a thin proprietary wrapper to keep clients happy.

It's a strategic move to use the LGPL, as if we used GPL then we'd have to
sell proprietary licenses. Proprietary people would choose to either:

- Re-implement their own closed-source version of the software.
- Buy a proprietary license from us and then not make the changes public.

This way (by using LGPL) we get to extract as much free source-code from
them as possible.

The problem now comes with the fact that our library can be used for web
services. People could make changes to our library, use them in their
commercial service and not make changes public.

I was searching the net and found these links:

http://stackoverflow.com/questions/731246/lgpl-for-php-applications [stackoverflow.com]
http://mohammed.morsi.org/blog/?q=node/270 [morsi.org]

The 2nd link claims you can just include an affero clause in the LGPLv3?
What is your word on this?

Many thanks to the FSF. I love your work.

More of this is needed (1)

hackertourist (2202674) | more than 3 years ago | (#36260970)

I recently did some editing on Wikipedia, and came to the issue of licensing my contributions (in this case, photos). I could choose between a dozen licenses, and figuring out the differences between them made my head hurt. The license-choosing process was way more involved than the upload itself, so I gave up and chose the recommended license. I understand the importance of making materials available so others can use them, but does it have to be this complex?

LGPL with affero clause (1)

phantomcircuit (938963) | more than 3 years ago | (#36260974)

We're a developer group that is now writing a server library. We plan to use it for commercial projects by putting all the code into the library and creating a thin proprietary wrapper to keep clients happy.

It's a strategic move to use the LGPL, as if we used GPL then we'd have to sell proprietary licenses. Proprietary people would choose to either:

  • Re-implement their own closed-source version of the software.
  • Buy a proprietary license from us and then not make the changes public.

This way (by using LGPL) we get to extract as much free source-code from them as possible.

The problem now comes with the fact that our library can be used for web services. People could make changes to our library, use them in their commercial service and not make changes public.

I was searching the net and found these links:

http://stackoverflow.com/questions/731246/lgpl-for-php-applications http://mohammed.morsi.org/blog/?q=node/270 [morsi.org]

The 2nd link claims you can just include an affero clause in the LGPLv3? What is your word on this?

Many thanks to the FSF. I love your work.

Re:LGPL with affero clause (1)

glwtta (532858) | more than 3 years ago | (#36261072)

The problem now comes with the fact that our library can be used for web services. People could make changes to our library, use them in their commercial service and not make changes public.

How is this a problem? It seems hard to justify calling something Free software if people can't even use in the way that they want.

Re:LGPL with affero clause (1)

walshy007 (906710) | more than 3 years ago | (#36261132)

How is this a problem? It seems hard to justify calling something Free software if people can't even use in the way that they want.

Then put your work in the public domain. After all the clauses in the bsd license still limit your 'freedom' in this sense.

The gpl and lgpl are there to protect the freedom of users. In doing so they restrict the freedom of distributors. You can 'use' gpl software in any which way you want, but you cannot distribute the software which violates the license.

Re:LGPL with affero clause (1)

Renegade88 (874837) | more than 3 years ago | (#36261202)

After all the clauses in the bsd license still limit your 'freedom' in this sense.

"This sense" refers to "People could make changes to our library, use them in their commercial service and not make changes public.". BSD does not restrict freedom in this sense. The only restrictions are those 2,3 or 4 clauses listed on the license. The GPL tells you want you can do, the BSD tells you want you can't do (which isn't much).

You can try to redefine free all you want. If one party loses rights at the expense of the other, calling it "free" is disingenuous at best.

Re:LGPL with affero clause (2)

no known priors (1948918) | more than 3 years ago | (#36261324)

Yeah, but the BSD licenses are not free 'cause they require you to attribute the original author/s and copy that long text all around the place. If you want real freedom you use the Do What the Fuck you Want License [wikipedia.org] .

To quote:

DO WHAT THE FUCK YOU WANT TO PUBLIC LICENSE
                                      Version 2, December 2004

Copyright (C) 2004 Sam Hocevar

Everyone is permitted to copy and distribute verbatim or modified
copies of this license document, and changing it is allowed as long
as the name is changed.

                      DO WHAT THE FUCK YOU WANT TO PUBLIC LICENSE
    TERMS AND CONDITIONS FOR COPYING, DISTRIBUTION AND MODIFICATION

  0. You just DO WHAT THE FUCK YOU WANT TO.

Re:LGPL with affero clause (1)

PhilHibbs (4537) | more than 3 years ago | (#36261326)

You can try to redefine free all you want. If one party loses rights at the expense of the other, calling it "free" is disingenuous at best.

You are defining freedom as anarchy. Anarchy does not ensure freedom.

Re:LGPL with affero clause (1)

PhilHibbs (4537) | more than 3 years ago | (#36261312)

You can use GPL or LGPL software in any way that you want, and the user's rights are protected by the licence. The software is also protected from being made proprietary, so that users will always be free from the danger of a proprietary variant supplanting the original via "embrace, extend, extinguish". Freedom does not mean anarchy, anarchy does not provide freedom.

Excellent! (1)

JonJ (907502) | more than 3 years ago | (#36261030)

I often find myself wondering what license the FSF would approve, it's not as if they've got some kind of bias or anything. How about tomorrow we interview Theo and ask which license he recommends? I'm sure it will all be very surprising.

I pick a different one (0, Troll)

damn_registrars (1103043) | more than 3 years ago | (#36261042)

I release all my code under the WTF license. Do WTF you want with my code. Sometimes I don't even bother putting my name in the code, just let it be completely free.

Re:I pick a different one (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36261100)

if you don't put any licence at all then no one can use the code without your permission.

Re:I pick a different one (0)

damn_registrars (1103043) | more than 3 years ago | (#36261156)

Did someone piss in your loser-bran this morning? The WTF license is (mostly) a joke.

Re:I pick a different one (1)

Bomazi (1875554) | more than 3 years ago | (#36261128)

You should always write a public domain dedication. Code with no licensing information is unusable since by default, it is copyrighted with all rights reserved.

If you want to give your code away, use something like this:

Written in <YEAR> by <AUTHOR NAME> <AUTHOR E-MAIL ADDRESS>

To the extent possible under law, the author(s) have dedicated all
copyright and related and neighboring rights to this software to the
public domain worldwide. This software is distributed without any
warranty.

Flamebait (1)

NoAkai (2036200) | more than 3 years ago | (#36261060)

I almost think the FSF published this only to spark a license-related flamewar on Slashdot... Personally, if I were inclined to do coding and release that code, I would probably go with the GPL; If I am to release my work for free (in both senses), I don't want some asshole taking that code and closing it up later on. But I can definitely see why some people might prefer a slightly less copyleft license, so I'm not going to bother trying to change other peoples viewpoints.

Why I don't like Creative Commons (2)

no known priors (1948918) | more than 3 years ago | (#36261116)

There are a few reasons why I don't like Creative Commons, one of which is that they encourage people not to read the actual license text (just to read the "human readable summary"). But have a look at some of the restrictions one day. A quotes from Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported [creativecommons.org] :

Except as otherwise agreed in writing by the Licensor or as may be otherwise permitted by applicable law, if You Reproduce, Distribute or Publicly Perform the Work either by itself or as part of any Adaptations or Collections, You must not distort, mutilate, modify or take other derogatory action in relation to the Work which would be prejudicial to the Original Author's honor or reputation.

Bet you didn't know that was in there (no actual bet intended).
Moreover, most of the CC licenses hardly the easiest of licenses to read, too full of legalese. And which license? There are umpteen different ones, depending on which jurisdiction you want to cover. Not to mention the various versions (Flickr only let's you use version 2.0 licenses, rather than the latest 3.0 versions). Too much choice, leads to confusion.

Personally, what I want is a simple, short, easy to understand, weak copyleft (like Lesser GPL) for non-software. Does anyone know of a license like that?

Re:Why I don't like Creative Commons (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36261194)

This is just an implementation of article 6bis (1) of the Berne Convention [wipo.int] , using the Berne language almost verbatim. The United States are technically a signatory to the Berne Convention, but have enforced that clause only haphazardly (such as in the Visual Artists Rights Act), mostly because Hollywood hates that clause (see the "Asphalt Jungle" colorization lawsuit).

Re:Why I don't like Creative Commons (1)

JasterBobaMereel (1102861) | more than 3 years ago | (#36261390)

What so you think that a licence that people pick so that anyone can use it but they get credit, should allow people to use it to poke fun at them and be derogatory to them ...?

"... look he wrote this awful stuff, he must have, it has his name on it on a AASA licence"

Re:Why I don't like Creative Commons (1)

ciaran.mchale (1018214) | more than 3 years ago | (#36261404)

I also have concerns about the Creative Commons set of licenses.

First, four of the six Creative Commons licenses are not "open source" since they prohibit modification and/or commercial use. There is nothing wrong with that per se; my gripe is that Creative Commons seem happy to let people assume that their licenses are open source.

Second, Creative Commons do not provide txt/Word/RTF/LaTeX/whatever versions of their licenses that you can download and embed into a book you are writing. Instead, the copyright page of your book is supposed to just tell readers that they can find the text of the license on a website or by writing to a specific postal address. So what happens if: (1) the Creative Commons organisation's postal address changes, and (2) they forget to renew their domain name and a cyber squatter buys it and holds it to ransom for millions of dollars? (More realistically, what happens if in, say, 20 years time, the Creative Commons organisation goes bankrupt and shuts down operations.) Now the license page of your book tells readers that it is licensed under terms that they cannot verify.

Third, the Creative Commons have gone through 5 versions of licenses (1.0, 2.0, 2.1, 2.5 and 3.0) in just over 4 years and (as far as I know) there is no forwards or backwards compatibility between the different versions.

None (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36261168)

Here is my license: None.

I don't give a crap about some ridiculous laws and political nonsense, which some mind numb idiots imagined.

It's all rat shit compared to my creations.

Re:None (1)

Tranzistors (1180307) | more than 3 years ago | (#36261556)

Since your licence is "none", we cannot see or hear your great creation, because you have not given us any licence to do so. So, you can stick your great creation up your closet and enjoy being the great creator you are.

Original works which are fan-fiction friendly? (2)

Sasayaki (1096761) | more than 3 years ago | (#36261232)

No documentation? Huh. Well, what about fiction?

I want to publish both a novel and an iPhone RPG under a fan-fiction friendly license. Essentially what I want is to sell stories and games on the App Store, but allow my readers/players to, legally and safely, create Creative Commons, Share Alike, Non-Commercial original stories using the characters and settings I've created.

Note, original. I would rather not see the whole book reproduced on the web, but I would love to see, say, the whole story retold and rewritten from another character's perspective. Or for a prequel, or a side story, or a 'dark and gritty re-imagining', etc.

The intention here is to allow other writers to create original stories using the characters I've created (AKA fan fiction), and to publish such as they wish, safe from legal threats. Yes, safe even from ME, so if I go mad with wealth/power/poverty and decide to sue everyone, those who have created fan fiction using my stories can tell me to suck it and die.

Ideally, if possible, I would also like a canonization clause. If someone writes fan fiction that I quite like, with their approval, I may integrate elements of their story into a sequel, side story, etc. This requires the author's express, written permission and they are more than entitled to say "no thanks".

Is there any licencing model that covers that?

Re:Original works which are fan-fiction friendly? (1)

no known priors (1948918) | more than 3 years ago | (#36261358)

Talk to your lawyer. Seriously.

You want a custom license that fits your situation, and the quickest way to get one like that is to pay a lawyer to write one for you. Also, it's probably the best way. Don't try writing it yourself unless you are a lawyer, which I guess you aren't.

What it sounds like what you want to do is to offer an explicit "character/universe license". Which allows people to use your characters/universe as they see fit. That's an interesting idea. But yeah, there isn't anything like that that I know of. Probably because most free culture licenses are written for software generally. Other types of work haven't really gained a large following for licensing stuff under a free license.

GPL code in driver (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36261308)

Can I use existing GPL code from other author to code a Windows GPL driver ?
Or does the existing driver code from another author need to be LGPL ?

Length of the license and its sound (1)

IllusionalForce (1830532) | more than 3 years ago | (#36261338)

I'll admit, I've never ever read the entire GPL (or one of its variations), simply because they're so incredibly massive that I just know there's some paragraphs just to screw people over. I refuse to use any license I cannot understand within two minutes, including reading time. Everything else is just plain ridiculous and will never be done by any kind of end-user anyway.

Because of that, I try to avoid using any GPL code, no matter what variation it might be, as much as possible in my code. Just the sound of GPL makes me run in circles, then crying myself to sleep in a lonely corner.

Similar to Bruce Perens article from 2009 (1)

Gribflex (177733) | more than 3 years ago | (#36261340)

There was a similar article from Bruce Perens a few years back: http://news.slashdot.org/story/09/02/16/1633200/How-Many-Open-Source-Licenses-Do-You-Need [slashdot.org]

He describes his reasons differently, but arrives at the same conclusions. For those of you worried about the missing option of the BSD license, he does talk about this a little bit. But only a little bit -- it's quite a short article. Worth a read for an alternate take of the same point of view.

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