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Pushing Back Against Licensing and the Permission Culture

Unknown Lamer posted about a year ago | from the who-has-time-for-caring-these-days dept.

Open Source 320

kthreadd writes "Luis Villa has an interesting discussion on the topic of not licensing at all, what he calls POSS or Post Open Source Software. With a flood of new hackers flocking to places like GitHub which doesn't impose any particular requirements for hosted projects, the future of Open Source may very well be diminishing. Skip licensing, just commit to GitHub. What legal ramifications will this have on the free and open source community going forward?" From the article: "If some 'no license' sharing is a quiet rejection of the permission culture, the lawyer’s solution (make everyone use a license, for their own good!) starts to look bad. This is because once an author has used a standard license, their immediate interests are protected – but the political content of not choosing a license is lost. Or to put it another way: if license authors get their wish, and everyone uses a license for all content, then, to the casual observer, it looks like everyone accepts the permission culture. This could make it harder to change that culture — to change the defaults — in the long run. So how might we preserve the content of the political speech against the permission culture, while also allowing for use in that same, actually-existing permission culture?"

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Uh ... What? (5, Informative)

eldavojohn (898314) | about a year ago | (#42739863)

Am I missing something? From the article via Twitter:

younger devs today are about POSS – Post open source software. fuck the license and governance, just commit to github. - James Governor (@monkchips) September 17, 2012

Ah, yes, eloquently stated. And, you know, it's totally okay to do that but let's assume that you've "fucked" the license and governance and your code is great and popular. Now, what stops a company from taking your code and making massive changes to it and shipping that code for mad moneys? What forces them to give back their changes that might make that code better? What did you and the community gain by contributing to that company's revenue? What if I just took your code and put it on a CD and started selling it with no credit to you and no link or reference to the source code? Wouldn't that rub you the wrong way? Just a little? Well, what if that company then claimed that your code was an unlicensed version of their code and moved to have it remove?

And that's why we have open source licenses. So those are out there and if you're lazy or whatever you can just download this file [gnu.org] (or the corresponding OSS license you like) and put it in the root directory of your source tree. Are you really too lazy to include a simple txt file in your source tree? At the possible expense of your $MOST_HATED_COMPANY turning the screws on you?

This article seems to focus on just the "hey browski, I heard you liked code, here's my code" hippy hacker mentality and grievously ignores the "did Facebook just use an altered version of my library to track its mobile users?" possibilities.

To follow the analogy started by the twitter post: OSS licenses are like a condoms. Stop being lazy and just use one.

Re:Uh ... What? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42740019)

I've committed code to small personal projects on GitHub. I know that they have been used uncited by others. I don't mind that they gained anything from it or that they didn't reference me for "helping". I created the code because I needed it and I'm happy that others were able to find a use for it too.

Re:Uh ... What? (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42740033)

If you didn't include a license then those others had no legal right to use it whatsoever. Even looking at it in the public viewer is questionable.

The problem is that the legal framework defaults to all rights reserved unless you explicitly grant rights.

Re:Uh ... What? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42740149)

But I'm not going to try to assert my rights in this case. I suspect others who release code without a license would do the same. It might not be correct in our legal framework but it happens without consequence at some frequency.

Re:Uh ... What? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42740197)

Yep, but if that code ends up in some other project which ends up in yet another project which ends up at some place like Red Hat then some people along the way may be deep in the shit.

Re:Uh ... What? (5, Informative)

Americano (920576) | about a year ago | (#42740199)

The point that the author is making is that there should be some sort of option to allow you to specify this - "do whatever the hell you want, stop asking me if you can use it, I don't care."

He's making the point because, as he notes, a significant portion of the code on GitHub doesn't specify a license, which means it defaults to "all rights reserved," even though that's clearly not the intent of at least some portion of the "no-license" authors there.

Re:Uh ... What? (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42740299)

That "do what you want with it" license is called Public Domain and it's been around for eons. You still need to explicitly state that your software is public domain, which is a sort of license.

Re:Uh ... What? (1)

postbigbang (761081) | about a year ago | (#42740487)

You can also call it by it's narcissistic name: sloth, don't-give-a-shit, don't bother me with trifles and crap I don't understand, and so forth.

Public domain may not be the default status of a published work, at least in the USA. This means that code is essentially untouchable in its whole form. Without a declaration, the originator owns it, IMHO.

Re:Uh ... What? (2)

AvitarX (172628) | about a year ago | (#42740319)

I think you can put your work in the public domain, also there are licenses such as the WTFPL, also, a license like CC without the riders should work too i think.

And if you want to make a political statement, add a rant before the license, something like damn those capitalist pigs, I shouldn't have to do this.

Re:Uh ... What? (2)

Americano (920576) | about a year ago | (#42740467)

And the WTFPL is one of the first ones he brings up in his "fixing the problem" section of TFA, and CC+modifications is the second.

His point is that people "rejecting the permission culture" should do so explicitly, by licensing their software in such a way that explicitly states their rejection. Omitting a license, as he notes (and other people who haven't RTFA have also pointed out here) defaults copyright to "all rights reserved," and so creates a legal minefield, which limits the ability of people to reuse that code if they're concerned at all about copyright issues.

Since it's clear that at least some of these people WANT to reject licensing altogether, he's arguing that it's better to come up with a license scheme that rejects that licensing / permission culture than it is to skip thinking about any license.

Re:Uh ... What? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42740911)

Fair enough, I fell into the trap of reading the summary where it said not licensing is a political statement. Just seemed like a stupid way to make one.

BSD (1)

Skewray (896393) | about a year ago | (#42740533)

Isn't the basic BSD license essentially the same as completely permissive? Anyone can borrow the code, do whatever they want, and not flow back changes. Yet the code is still licensed.

Re:Uh ... What? (1)

Anonymous Brave Guy (457657) | about a year ago | (#42740271)

The problem is that the legal framework defaults to all rights reserved unless you explicitly grant rights.

Not in most places, it doesn't. By uploading it to a site where the normal result is for uploaded code to be available via a public viewer, you are giving your implicit consent for people to view it that way, just like anyone visiting any other web site. That implicit consent would probably stand up in court just about anywhere.

IMHO, the interesting legal question with regard to uploading specifically to a code-sharing site like GitHub and implicit consents is whether you might also be deemed to be giving some degree of implicit consent for someone else to use the code in their own projects if you upload it and make it public without stating any explicit licensing conditions. I suspect that one wouldn't stand up, in the same way that putting content on a web site doesn't mean someone else can magically take it and put it on their own site too without infringing your copyright. However, I don't know whether it's been argued in court anywhere, and there is at least a somewhat reasonable argument to be made either way on the same principles as above.

(IANAL, but sometimes I play a wannabe on Slashdot for kicks and giggles. If you get your legal education on an Internet chatroom, you're crazy, etc.)

Re:Uh ... What? (1)

Shadow of Eternity (795165) | about a year ago | (#42740359)

A good analogy would be a bookshare table at the local library with each book having a stickynote of rules inside the cover, where putting a book on the table without said note is analogous to putting your code on github without a license.

Imho this situation reminds me of how one of my professors described communication, he said "You can not not communicate". I think the same thing applies here; the very fact you're using a website, one where there is simply no reasonably conceivable way to not know the entire point of the website, is communicating something about your intentions.

Re:Uh ... What? (2)

gstoddart (321705) | about a year ago | (#42740685)

Not in most places, it doesn't. By uploading it to a site where the normal result is for uploaded code to be available via a public viewer, you are giving your implicit consent for people to view it that way, just like anyone visiting any other web site.

Unfortunately, in most legal jurisdictions, things are copyrighted out of the gate, and can only become more open with an explicit act.

If you upload code to a web site, it's publicly available, but that doesn't mean public domain. And many code samples I see say "copyright" on them.

If you don't explicitly grant a license, then that stuff is in a gray area where you may not legally be able to work with it.

And then there's the whole issue of if you can grant rights on someone else's stuff. If you took the code for, say, Windows, and published it -- even though you've made it publicly accessible, it wasn't your code to give away so anybody downloading it has no protections.

I certainly wouldn't use the availability on a web site as any meaningful level of "implied consent", because copyright law doesn't really allow for it. There is no implied consent, there is copyright, and explicit consent. Copyright all rights reserved is the "implied" here, because that's how the laws are written.

And people tend to forget that the open source licenses only really work by leveraging the principles of copyright to grant an explicit exemption.

Re:Uh ... What? (1)

kelemvor4 (1980226) | about a year ago | (#42740277)

If you didn't include a license then those others had no legal right to use it whatsoever. Even looking at it in the public viewer is questionable.

The problem is that the legal framework defaults to all rights reserved unless you explicitly grant rights.

In that case, I'd say the article is about a problem that isn't really a problem at all. If someone wanted to use your code in a business environment it'd be in their best interest to get in touch with you and license it.

Re:Uh ... What? (1)

gstoddart (321705) | about a year ago | (#42740761)

If someone wanted to use your code in a business environment it'd be in their best interest to get in touch with you and license it.

No, it's in their best interest that you never know they're doing it and they use it for free.

Think of all the situations where someone essentially violates the GPL by sneaking code they didn't write into something and not telling anybody.

Companies often assume they can use it freely, or figure nobody is around to enforce it.

Re:Uh ... What? (1)

Anamelech (821849) | about a year ago | (#42740909)

Except you've waived that right by using github. From their ToS:

"We claim no intellectual property rights over the material you provide to the Service. Your profile and materials uploaded remain yours. However, by setting your pages to be viewed publicly, you agree to allow others to view your Content. By setting your repositories to be viewed publicly, you agree to allow others to view and fork your repositories."(emphasis mine)

So technically, even if you do scream bloody murder, by uploading the content to github, you have given blanket permission to users to not only view, but fork your code.

Re:Uh ... What? (1)

Khashishi (775369) | about a year ago | (#42740045)

If a company decides to use my code for mad moneys, good for them.

Re:Uh ... What? (1)

vlm (69642) | about a year ago | (#42740077)

If a company decides to use my code for mad moneys, good for them.

Actually its bad for them, very bad, because they can't prove they are allowed to use it.

Re:Uh ... What? (1)

BitZtream (692029) | about a year ago | (#42740797)

Really? They can't just ... ASK? The only code on github which you can't ask permission to use is code written by dead people, and then its relatively safe as they aren't going to be suing you anytime in the near future.

Re:Uh ... What? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42740221)

BSD, MIT or just FUcKU licences are good for this

Re:Uh ... What? (1)

idontgno (624372) | about a year ago | (#42740809)

And if they decide to sue you for taking their code?

If anyone decides to assert ownership, properly or otherwise, everyone without a valid counterclaim of ownership using the code without the newly-blessed "owner" will have difficulty defending themselves.

Sorry. You can't wish away intellectual property any more than you can abolish handguns or nukes. If you claim not to play the game, that just means you automatically lose when the game comes to play you.

Re:Uh ... What? (1)

serviscope_minor (664417) | about a year ago | (#42740071)

,em>To follow the analogy started by the twitter post: OSS licenses are like a condoms. Stop being lazy and just use one.

I had a similar conversation a while back. Quite a few people use github for things like config files (and SSH keys apparently). It's basically personal use and so noone takes the time to license them.

There's also lazyness (for bigger thing) and ignorance, too.

did Facebook just use an altered version of my library to track its mobile users?"

Well, Facebook would be in trouble for that: it's all rights reserved by default so they have no permission to actually use it.

Re:Uh ... What? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42740083)

Devil's advocate, discussion points:

1) I thought FOSS weren't in it for the money anyway? If they are, why aren't they starting their own companies and making mad moneys off their software?

2) If you wrote the code, chances are the company that's come up with a way of making mad money off your code will be willing to hire you, or you could found your own company to make mad money off the code.

3) I always find it amusing how so many "information wants to be free" people who feel entitled to a free copy of anything they want at any time will scream bloody murder if somebody takes a copy of something of theirs without following the license terms chosen by the creator. "Disagreeing with the license" doesn't give you free rein to do whatever you like with the content so licensed.

4) If you want to be sure that Facebook isn't using your code to track its users, you should probably use a much more restrictive license than the GPL - nothing stops me from using open source software to track users. If you want control over what Facebook chooses to do with it, it should be proprietary, strictly licensed code so you can FORCE Facebook to stop using it that way if you truly object.

Re:Uh ... What? (1)

plover (150551) | about a year ago | (#42740839)

FOSS and "mad moneys" are not mutually exclusive. Look at asterisk, which is open but was made available in large part to sell their PBX hardware. Look at TiVo, who built upon Linux and made money by locking FOSS into a closed cabinet. Look at MySQL, and how it got forked and hijacked and eventually "bought" by Oracle, presumably to reduce the threat to Oracle's database products. And there are thosands of examples of free software that don't include source (see Windows for those).

And many FOSS creators have no interest in the money. They do it for themselves, for their community, for humanity. Some want no money (which might absolve them of some liability), some want donations to a humanitarian organization.

The whole world isn't one-size-fits-all.

Re:Uh ... What? (5, Insightful)

Cid Highwind (9258) | about a year ago | (#42740085)

Now, what stops a company from taking your code and making massive changes to it and shipping that code for mad moneys?

Their legal department. Without a more permissive license, they're stuck with default copyright terms (no copying except for narrow "fair use" exceptions) so they can't distribute it. Ethical companies wont touch it, unethical ones would have no qualms about pirating BSD/MIT/GPL/whatever licensed code anyway, and the hackers and hippies don't care about licenses will use it and carry on not caring about licenses.

Sorry, Was Using Article's Premises (1)

eldavojohn (898314) | about a year ago | (#42740261)

Now, what stops a company from taking your code and making massive changes to it and shipping that code for mad moneys?

Their legal department. Without a more permissive license, they're stuck with default copyright terms (no copying except for narrow "fair use" exceptions) so they can't distribute it. Ethical companies wont touch it, unethical ones would have no qualms about pirating BSD/MIT/GPL/whatever licensed code anyway, and the hackers and hippies don't care about licenses will use it and carry on not caring about licenses.

Sorry I should have been more clear. What you're talking about is the permission culture (you need permission to use our code). I was making the argument under the assumption that by committing unlicensed code not everyone needs permission to use it. From the article:

In other words, those people choose not to use a license because, on some level, they reject the permission culture and want to go back to the pre-1976 defaults. In this case, publishing without a license is in some way a political statement – “not every use should need permission”.

Therefore my discussion was formed using the pre-1976 defaults. Which the article also covered:

In the US, prior to the 1976 Copyright Act, you had to take affirmative steps to get a protectable copyright. In other words, you could publish something and expect others to be able to legally reuse it, without slapping a license on it first.

So yeah you're right the current premise is post 1976 Copyright Act but I was talking about what it would be like without using an OSS license and pre-1976 like the article presupposes.

Re:Uh ... What? (1)

defcon-11 (2181232) | about a year ago | (#42740561)

Yeah, there is no way the legal department in the company I work for would allow us to use a software library with no license. Of course, we may be willing to pay you for a license, but I think it would still slow the adoption of your project significantly.

Re:Uh ... What? (1)

Obfuscant (592200) | about a year ago | (#42740767)

Of course, we may be willing to pay you for a license, but I think it would still slow the adoption of your project significantly.

Well, if the person distributed his code without a license specifically to screw the "permission culture", then he'd be a rather glaring hypocrite if he accepted your offer of payment for a license to use his code. He couldn't ethically accept your money. And you, according to legal ethics, couldn't use it.

So yes, that would slow the adoption of the project considerably. Or expose a hypocrite.

You will never eliminate the "permission culture", simply because too many people make their livings and support their families by creating content. They depend on the "permission culture" to keep people from just using the content without payment. Given that it will never go away, and that the reasonable default is "no permission unless explicitly granted", then anyone who refuses to grant any permissions is, by default, granting none, not granting all.

Re:Uh ... What? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42740125)

Now, what stops a company from taking your code and making massive changes to it and shipping that code for mad moneys? What forces them to give back their changes that might make that code better? What did you and the community gain by contributing to that company's revenue?

Any company can do that, this lowers the bar for competition and leads to lower prices.
So what if they take the code and makes improvements to it without giving anything back? With a GPL style license the same company would just not use the code to begin with and still not give anything back. The first option at least brings a better product to the market which benefits society as a whole even if the company gets the monetary profit.

What if I just took your code and put it on a CD and started selling it with no credit to you and no link or reference to the source code? Wouldn't that rub you the wrong way? Just a little?

Simple, if it rubs you the wrong way you are not for completely free software, you want software that is restricted in some way.
If you don't want you code to be free but still want it open, just use a GPL style-license or some other restriction.

What the article is highlighting is that the free software movement often is forgotten when people talk about the open source movement.
You should also consider phenomenons like Aminet that had large amounts of free software and a strong free software movement without the open source part.

Free and open source are two completely different entities that exists independently of each other. All four alternatives have their place and that is all good and well until you start to use just one of them without questioning what the benefit of that particular license is.

Re:Uh ... What? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42740135)

I agree with you that it's better to slap a license on stuff, but I don't know that the scenario you described would be a huge problem.

Let's assume Gimp were unlicensed. And some company took the project where it's at and "made massive changes" to it so they could bundle it up and sell it, I'm not sure that's a bad thing. If the end result is good enough to buy, and the people that did the original work didn't care if anyone uses the code, then let people buy it.

I don't think making money is bad. I do think disrespecting a software author's license is illegal and wrong. So in the case described, what's the problem?

Re:Uh ... What? (1)

buchner.johannes (1139593) | about a year ago | (#42740165)

Am I missing something? From the article via Twitter:

younger devs today are about POSS – Post open source software. fuck the license and governance, just commit to github. - James Governor (@monkchips) September 17, 2012

Ah, yes, eloquently stated. And, you know, it's totally okay to do that but let's assume that you've "fucked" the license and governance and your code is great and popular. Now, what stops a company from taking your code

Copyright law.

And that's why we have open source licenses. So those are out there and if you're lazy or whatever you can just download this file [gnu.org] (or the corresponding OSS license you like) and put it in the root directory of your source tree. Are you really too lazy to include a simple txt file in your source tree?

Yes some people are too lazy for that. And that's because more people are writing software and putting it up for other people to look at. Which is great!

You are free to copy that software down for your own use if someone uploaded it to github. The only problem you have is redistribution. Just ask the author if he or she would be happy with you re-using the code under a BSD/GPL license. Usually if they don't care about uploading a LICENSE file, they are happy with anyone using it. With their agreement, fork it on github and put a LICENSE file next to it, perhaps with a annotation in the README that the original author gave permission. That is not revocable and you are save now.

If the author says no to all licenses you proposed, you still haven't lost anything. Be happy you can look at someone elses solution. The problem does not come from people not upping their license, it comes from people copy-pasting code from third-parties without worrying whether licenses are compatible or the code you make can ever be shipped. If you are only making software for your own use, that's a non-issue.

Re:Uh ... What? (1)

vlm (69642) | about a year ago | (#42740275)

You are free to copy that software down for your own use if someone uploaded it to github.

That makes no sense at all. Thought experiment, I upload microsoft windows to github/vlm then you magically have a license to download and use it, just because it was on github.

Re:Uh ... What? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42740169)

let's assume that you've "fucked" the license and governance and your code is great and popular. Now, what stops a company from taking your code and making massive changes to it and shipping that code for mad moneys?

Copyright. Which is the actual problem. If you haven't licensed it then nobody has permission to use it. That's what 'license' literally means - permission. And copyright is automatic. So if anybody uses any of this code that's just been uploaded to Github with no licensing then they risk being sued. Its a minefield.

Re:Uh ... What? (0)

logjon (1411219) | about a year ago | (#42740727)

Transformative works are (theoretically) exempt from such a claim under fair use. In practice, YMMV.

Re:Uh ... What? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42740173)

Am I missing something? From the article via Twitter:

younger devs today are about POSS – Post open source software. fuck the license and governance, just commit to github. - James Governor (@monkchips) September 17, 2012

Ah, yes, eloquently stated. And, you know, it's totally okay to do that but let's assume that you've "fucked" the license and governance and your code is great and popular. Now, what stops a company from taking your code and making massive changes to it and shipping that code for mad moneys? What forces them to give back their changes that might make that code better?

If it bothers you sue their ass. In the absence of a license stating otherwise all creative works are copyright by their creator with all right reserved.

Software licenses protect the people using, redistributing, and modifying the software not the creators of the software..

Re:Uh ... What? (1)

gl4ss (559668) | about a year ago | (#42740315)

that's the FUCKING POINT! the company is free to do it for mad moneys - at least they can try!

"do what fucking ever" license is the best. also it's the only license that allows you to give the code away and not have to care sh** about what people do with it. and you know, if you had it on github before the company then that's just what the github release is for.. for acting as proof that you did it already - as publication, working as prior art. I don't see how gpl'ing protects you from a company lying about who actually wrote the code in the first place(why would a company admit that you have the code to their supposedly secret sauce anyhow?).

stopping other people from profiting is just another form of being greedy you know. at one level it's about making things easier for everyone. what good is a wonderful code library you can't use on your gigs? you can't handle other people using your ideas? better shut the fuck up then.

Re:Uh ... What? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42740381)

stopping other people from profiting is just another form of being greedy you know.

Aaaaaaaand that's where I gave up on composing a measured response. But, don't despair! With insane troll logic like that, you could easily land yourself a gig on Fox News, so it's not like your desperate rationalizations for being lazy won't get you a job!

Re:Uh ... What? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42740827)

It's a shame you don't understand the symmetrical nature of greed, and how your personal greed isn't really any more compelling in the abstract than mine or anyone's. not surprising, but a shame.

Re:Uh ... What? (1)

preaction (1526109) | about a year ago | (#42740451)

The "do what-fucking ever" license is abbreviated MIT. If you cannot take the time to add one sentence saying your code is MIT licensed, I figure you don't care about other people using it.

Well Put (1)

Giant Electronic Bra (1229876) | about a year ago | (#42740341)

And just to add, as a commercial ISV why would I ever in a million years either donate code/work to your code base when I have no reason to believe I'm even allowed to use it or that it will continue to be available to me in the future, or that my competitors won't just skeef that code and use it to beat me in the market. Anyone who thinks "POSS" means jack seems full of it to me. If you can't be bothered to find a license you can live with and expect the rest of us to just hope we won't be screwed or walked all over you are going to be sadly disappointed. FOSS is about everyone giving back, those licenses exist for a reason. You're not doing business with me without I get their protection, and for every project out there there are a lot of alternatives. IMHO the OSS licensed ones will prevail.

Re:Uh ... What? (1)

ljw1004 (764174) | about a year ago | (#42740461)

Now, what stops a company from taking your code and making massive changes to it and shipping that code for mad moneys? What forces them to give back their changes that might make that code better?

Nothing stops them, and I'm happy with that.

I've had friends in entirely different companies tell me that they saw a "(c) Lucian Wischik" header in some of their company's codebase, which had used some of my public domain work from 10 years ago. I've seen popular iphone email software with certain email-rendering bugs that I recognize from another one of my old public-domain code snippets.

My past work has helped people, and I'm delighted about that. I also do random acts of kindness. Despite being well paid, I vote democrat for the higher taxes (to help others), and I protested with Occupy (again to help others). Sure, you can try to argue a perverted sort of "by hurting the people who want to use your code now, you're indirectly helping future people who want to use it." But that's indirect, hard to measure, uncertain, and from my experience unlikely.

Re:Uh ... What? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42740531)

To follow the analogy started by the twitter post: OSS licenses are like a condoms. Stop being lazy and just use one.

Doing it with OSS licenses just doesn't feel the same.

Re:Uh ... What? (1)

fustakrakich (1673220) | about a year ago | (#42740549)

Now, what stops a company from taking your code and making massive changes to it and shipping that code for mad moneys?

Nothing.. the same thing that would stop me from putting their fancy new program on a torrent

Re:Uh ... What? (1)

BasilBrush (643681) | about a year ago | (#42740609)

Ah, yes, eloquently stated. And, you know, it's totally okay to do that but let's assume that you've "fucked" the license and governance and your code is great and popular. Now, what stops a company from taking your code and making massive changes to it and shipping that code for mad moneys?

Nothing. The Open Source movement is supposed to be about freedom, remember? Why are you so keen to limit it?

What did you and the community gain by contributing to that company's revenue?

If releasing your source is all about your (and the communities - however you define that) gain, how is that any different from the commercial company that wants to gain from their software?

Re:Uh ... What? (1)

BitZtream (692029) | about a year ago | (#42740743)

What forces them to

You've missed the point.

These younger devs DON'T CARE ABOUT FORCING PEOPLE TO AN AGENDA.

You're what if's are based on something these younger devs don't care about. You care about a political movement and forcing others to behave in a way you see fit. They don't. If you don't want to give back, they don't care.

They also don't tend to have this silly 'using my code without giving me your changes is stealing from me!$!@$!@%' silliness going on either.

Sometimes people are actually just sharing, not pretending to share but meaning 'you can use this if you give me something in return, like using only doing certain things with it'

the point is to keep the leachers in line (0)

alen (225700) | about a year ago | (#42739879)

if there is no license than someone can take the work, use it for their own product, make money and not give anything back

once this happens, what is the point of making a piece of software better?

Re:the point is to keep the leachers in line (1)

astralagos (740055) | about a year ago | (#42739939)

There's a specific (patent) example I recall from the history of Sweet'N'Low. Ben Eisenstadt, the developer of S'nL had originally developed a method for packing sugar in sugar packets, which he tried to sell to Domino Sugar. He didn't have the patent, so the Domino people said something to the effect of "we'll talk to you in a few weeks", at which point they replicated the invention and manufactured it without him.

Re:the point is to keep the leachers in line (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42740177)

There must be a way to punish Domino Sugar for doing this because it's a large corporation, but it would be okay if it was a small home producer. /s ?

Re:the point is to keep the leachers in line (1)

Dr_Barnowl (709838) | about a year ago | (#42740431)

There's no way to punish Domino for it, because he held no patent on his packaging method. He relied on it being a trade secret... then gave it away.

More fool him. Packaging is big business. If you have a genuine patented innovation in the field and manage it right, you're on the gravy train until someone supercedes it. It might be small potatoes, but it's a LOT of small potatoes.

It's legal either way, whether it's a giant corporate bastard or a small independent bastard.

If there's no license for your software, though, you hold the copyright automatically. There is no legal recourse for any company that rips off your code and sells it, even if you paid for it to be marqueed across a billboard in Time Square.

Do you think media companies would accept the proposition that because they put their content on public broadcast networks, that anyone can copy it from there and sell it on as they desire?

Re:the point is to keep the leachers in line (1)

Zordak (123132) | about a year ago | (#42740683)

There must be a way to punish Domino Sugar for doing this because it's a large corporation, but it would be okay if it was a small home producer. /s ?

No. If you don't have a patent, then anybody anywhere is free to practice your art if they are able. You don't get a natural monopoly for being the first to think of something.

Re:the point is to keep the leachers in line (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42739947)

It's not just about software, it's about renting it as well as media. No purchases in the future, just never ending fees to continue to use what you used to be able to but from a shelf. And when you die, it all goes, nothing to pass on to the estate. There'll be no pre-owned market either.

Get used to it, we're already most of the way there. 20 years or so and it'll be all we have for new titles.

Re:the point is to keep the leachers in line (1)

DeKO (671377) | about a year ago | (#42739951)

No, if there is no license, nobody is allowed to make use of the software. Look up what the word "license" means. Copyright laws assume that every creative work is fully protected unless explicitly stated otherwise.

Re:the point is to keep the leachers in line (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42740017)

WTF is DeKO doing here, with this logical thought?

danielosmari@gmail.com

Re:the point is to keep the leachers in line (3, Insightful)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about a year ago | (#42739969)

if there is no license than someone can take the work, use it for their own product, make money and not give anything back

Nope. If there is no license, then the work is presumed to have full copyright protection. Full copyright is the default , and you need to provide an alternative license if you want people to legally use it in any way.

Re:the point is to keep the leachers in line (1)

91degrees (207121) | about a year ago | (#42740065)

once this happens, what is the point of making a piece of software better?

Because then you have a better piece of software. How are you worse off then if someone doesn't take it or use it in their own product?

Wishful thinking does not change the law (5, Insightful)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about a year ago | (#42739893)

From TFA:

the open license ecosystem assumes that sharing can’t (or even shouldn’t) happen without explicit permission in the form of licenses.

This is because our legal system makes this assumption. Wishful thinking does not make laws go away. If you release software with no license, then it is legally presumed to have full copyright protection. You need to explicitly give up your rights.

Re:Wishful thinking does not change the law (1)

phantomfive (622387) | about a year ago | (#42740417)

Exactly. There are effective ways to change the law, but ignoring the law isn't one of them. People who ignore licensing issues mainly give the impression that they are lazy, are kids, or don't really know what they are doing.

Also, don't ignore the wisdom embedded in the saying, "Good fences make good neighbors."

Re:Wishful thinking does not change the law (1)

gl4ss (559668) | about a year ago | (#42740523)

that sentence should have the wording "in the form of complex licenses".
if one sentence is enough to convey "free to use, no attribution needed" in other words "do whatever". this doesn't actually need complex contracts, though lawyers would probably like you to do one(so they could sell it to you) .

though this problem seems to just be that github doesn't have default license.

however.. what about stackoverflow? how many posts have you seen that have a license attached to them. friggin zero. that's how many.

Missing the point (1)

erroneus (253617) | about a year ago | (#42739899)

The point of F/OSS licensing is to use copyright and license terms against the commercial software makers who presently hold a very tight and expensive control over business, government and individuals.

It doesn't make anyone "look bad" and even enables them to take from the unlicensed software pool and take it private.

Re:Missing the point (1)

the eric conspiracy (20178) | about a year ago | (#42740055)

No, it isn't.

The point of F/OSS is to share your code. For some people that means sharing in such a way as to encourage others to share too, for others it means to share in such a way that as many people as possible can make use of it.

The 'unlicensed' idea ignores the legal system. Using something that is unlicensed is a very bad idea because the default status is full copyright.

cool (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42739907)

As long as we get to call it GNU/PFLOSS I'm sure it'll be fine

In world without copyrights (1)

DeKO (671377) | about a year ago | (#42739917)

In a world without copyright laws that would be feasible. But we don't, and it isn't. Commit code with no license and legally nobody is allowed to distribute your software. No company will ever willingly use your code, even if it does something unique and useful.

Grow up you hippie and accept that you have to learn something about laws before you interact with society.

Re:In world without copyrights (1)

DeKO (671377) | about a year ago | (#42739993)

Oh, I just looked up his info, the guys is a lawyer, so he's fully aware of the contradiction. He's either trolling or utterly incompetent in copyright law.

Re:In world without copyrights (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42740091)

I've put up code in GitHub for personal projects without a license and it was used by a company, without even referencing me. I only noticed because they effectively forked my project (pull request from them followed by a new project with identical code) then made a few small changes to the API and released it as their own. I suppose they did something risky, but there is at least an n=1 of a company doing this willingly.

I'm certainly not going to try to assert any rights over the code and I suspect others who release code without a license would do the same. The code did what I wanted for me and it's great that it's helping somebody else, as far as I'm concerned.

Re:In world without copyrights (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42740351)

Why don't you add a license to clarify your code post facto--- that way you don't essentially have a gun to that company's head and can shut them down whenever you feel like. You're just contributing to the problem TFA referenced by leaving it unclear.

Or at least let me know which company it is, so I can avoid investing in a company that you could successfully sue at any time

Better read up on what GitHub does impose... (5, Insightful)

cjjjer (530715) | about a year ago | (#42739927)

By default all code that does not have a license is "all rights reserved" http://www.infoworld.com/d/open-source-software/github-needs-take-open-source-seriously-208046 [infoworld.com]

Re:Better read up on what GitHub does impose... (1)

reebmmm (939463) | about a year ago | (#42740183)

I was about to say, saying "no license" doesn't make it freely available to anyone. It's quite exactly the opposite -- it's not usable by anyone. And it puts a taker in jeopardy since the materials contributed will (or may depending on the contribution) be copyright of the contributor automatically. Github's position for license-less contributions is the default rule.

Of course, someone making code available online may have zero desire to enforce that copyright. However, a subsequent user of that code cannot say that they own or have all rights necessary to distribute the code.

bloody stupid. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42739959)

This sounds like an ugly legal minefield. At best, no-license code is so trivial as to be worthless; at worst, it's a lawsuit and complete economic ruin for some people. It's certainly better in today's legal environment to educate yourself and license your code. Do your due diligence, don't be a lazy bum.

  I am sure some lawyer's career (and his yachts) are just waiting to be made here.

Public domain is a license bitch (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42739963)

I wish I could smoke crack and have other people pay for viewing ads at my place... this is fucked up and unless the code is posted as public domain, there is an implicit license that exists.

Doesn't mean what most of you think it means... (1)

pla (258480) | about a year ago | (#42740061)

Perhaps one of our resident "IAAL"s can clarify this, but in the absence of an explicit license, doesn't copyright still apply to a code snippet by default? So rejecting the use of the GPL or other FOSS doesn't mean just any corporate asshat can come along and steal your work - Quite the opposite, it means no one can legally use your code.

Which works out perfectly for the hobbyist coders - including these so-called "POSS" coders - who really don't give a damn about who "owns" a given code snippet. As the only real down side, such an approach makes it impossible for a company like RedHat to contribute to the community by improving that code, because without some sort of explicit license, no sane company will touch it ("Yeah, that Windows 9 thing you guys wrote? It counts as a derivative work of MyFirstPokerApp, thanks for giving me that private Caribbean island I always wanted, Redmond!"). But the original author still very much enjoys the protection of copyright-by-default, at least in the US.

Re:Doesn't mean what most of you think it means... (1)

cpt kangarooski (3773) | about a year ago | (#42740659)

Perhaps one of our resident "IAAL"s can clarify this, but in the absence of an explicit license, doesn't copyright still apply to a code snippet by default? So rejecting the use of the GPL or other FOSS doesn't mean just any corporate asshat can come along and steal your work - Quite the opposite, it means no one can legally use your code.

No, not quite. Copyright licenses can be express or implied. You can't have an implied exclusive license, but implied non exclusive licenses are a dime a dozen. There are also things that aren't covered by copyright at all. For example, if you legally own a copy of someone's software, the copyright on that software doesn't preclude you from modifying it so that it runs on a computer or backing it up.

Still though, I think the original poster would be better served for now by using at least a basic license, and in the long run by having the copyright act amended to make it easier to do what he wants by default.

Umm, what about your rights as a USER of software (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42740063)

FOSS is as much, or more, about your rights as a user of software.

The "No License" scheme give users no legal rights, just a vague "We probably won't sue you" pseudo-right. Yeah. Good luck with that.

IANAL (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42740097)

Hard to believe Luis Villa is. What no paralegal to do the leg work?

Author doesn't understand copyright at all. (0)

caseih (160668) | about a year ago | (#42740105)

This article shows a lot of ignorance of how copyright law works. Whether or not you agree with copyright law is irrelevant. Code that is simply posted to github is not by default in the public domain. Copyright is granted implicitly.

It's not possible for code that is not licensed to be used in any way by proprietary or open source projects. That's just not how copyright law currently works. Unless you grant a user specific rights to use the code, copyright law currently does not allow someone else to legally use the code in any derivative way.

Having well-defined license such as the GPL keep source code free. They project all of us. A proliferation of unlicensed Git code is ultimately harmful for everyone in the entire industry because it muddies the waters and puts companies and open source projects in legal jeopardy. It also dilutes the ability of open source code to enforce it's openness with those who would abuse it. Saying "screw it just post code, crappy or not" also dilutes the quality of code that people perceive in open source projects.

Maybe this is where things are heading, but it's not good for anyone, and certainly not legal with our current laws. The only way this would work is if github forced a poster to state whether or not the code was in the public domain. If not and no license was declared, github should put up a big warning, say you cannot legally fork and use the code since the author claims exclusive copyrights.

Liability (1)

Chemisor (97276) | about a year ago | (#42740113)

One very good reason to use a license is its liability disclaimer. If you release your software without one, there is always the danger that some idiot will find a way to use it in such a way as to remove all his files, consequently suing you for damages. With the astronomical costs of litigation in the US, a lawsuit, whether you win it or not, is a financial death sentence. It is worthwhile to take every measure you can to defend yourself from this.

Re:Liability (1)

r_a_trip (612314) | about a year ago | (#42740311)

I don't think you can be liable for damages, if those damages arise from using un-licenced software that the plaintiff copied in violation of copyright law. No license is NO RIGHT TO USE whatsoever.

Re:Liability (1)

plover (150551) | about a year ago | (#42740603)

I don't think you can be liable for damages, if those damages arise from using un-licenced software that the plaintiff copied in violation of copyright law.

No license is NO RIGHT TO USE whatsoever.

Then you would be wrong. Many years ago a burglar broke into my father in law's business, and severed two fingers on a table saw that had its guards removed. He sued over the injury, even though he was trespassing at the time.

The lawyers settled it all out of court, so no precedent was established, but it still cost a ton of money to pay the lawyers and deal with the mess.

The point is "you can always be sued for liability", not "you will win the suit because someone was violating a different law."

Re:Liability (1)

vlm (69642) | about a year ago | (#42740401)

One very good reason to use a license is its liability disclaimer.

This is denial of service technique #2 that anyone with a little money can use to bankrupt or destroy or at least profit off anyone with less money who posts unlicensed code to github.

Lets say I am a bored unemployed lawyer or somehow have some "edge" where I can prosecute cheaper than the author can defend. All I need is to file a lawsuit blaming the code for something bad, doesn't matter if its true or even likely, that will cost an absolute minimum of $X to defend against. Then offer a pre-trial settlement to the author where I'll drop charges for $X-delta. As long as my cost to file a lawsuit is less than $X-delta (which is likely) I profit.

With a reasonable liability disclaimer $X is probably "laugh them out of the courtroom range" like 3 digits, maybe less. Without a disclaimer there is a reasonable chance of loss (after all, if you didn't want liability, why didn't you say so?) and its gonna cost a lot.

If I'm a mega corporation merely out to destroy someone, then I don't even need to profit off the transaction, I just need the perceived value of my vitrol to exceed the cost of a lawsuit.

(DOS technique #1 above was basically licensing and stealing the unlicensed code)

copyright is default-deny; no license, no dist. (1)

Rob Bos (3399) | about a year ago | (#42740131)

Legally this is problematic, as without a license, nobody has any permission to distribute the software. Github can, certainly, as the author gave permission explicitly, but copyright is "default-deny" - there's no distribution permitted without explicit permission.

So, an eeebil corporation (or anyone else) can't take your work at all. They'd be in the wrong if they did. Similarly, if you took the work, changed it, and redistributed it, you'd also be in the wrong. Plain copyright applies unless overridden.

Short, short memories. Everyone forgets BSD. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42740141)

You really should throw a licenses on there. Even if it's a no-restrictions/no attribution/creative commons license that says you can do whatever you want with the code. (There are plenty out there. Just find one and slap it on)

Why? Because you never know when someone will take your code, use it, copyright it, then sue you for using the code you wrote yourself in the first place.
It has happened before. Just go look up the old AT&T/BSD lawsuits.

If nothing, just do it to cover your ass in the event some faceless corp wants to ruin your life for creating a free tool or library. Or hey, maybe you don't want your code to end up something you find abhorrent like weapons, censorship systems, or reality TV.

Re:Short, short memories. Everyone forgets BSD. (1)

gl4ss (559668) | about a year ago | (#42740799)

Why? Because you never know when someone will take your code, use it, copyright it, then sue you for using the code you wrote yourself in the first place.
It has happened before. Just go look up the old AT&T/BSD lawsuits.

I'm not sure how slapping a copyright on it helps you with that, they could still claim to own the original code. having it published on somewhere like github on the other hand might protect you from it(as proof of it being in existence on day x).

of course if you want to put restrictions on it... then you should. but if you're afraid people might use information you give to them for something you don't like, maybe you shouldn't be sharing information in the first place.

Solution (1)

firewrought (36952) | about a year ago | (#42740155)

Use a license that pokes fun at the concept of licensing: the WTFPL [wikipedia.org] (the DO WHAT THE FUCK YOU WANT TO PUBLIC LICENSE).

Seriously though, to change this "permission culture" thing, you need to get ahead of the intellectual property movement by starting a "right to think" movement. It won't be long (historically speaking) before computers and networks access is weaved into every tool we use--if not the human brain itself.

Re:Solution (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42740353)

I would propose the ISC license [wikipedia.org] as an alternative. It says basically the same thing, although in a less nasty language. It also contains a more verbose disclaimer, IANAL and don't know how important that is but has heard a few stories that it at least isn't that bad to include. Short and to the point.

Enough "Open Source" Articles Already! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42740161)

Here's what I read....

Blah, blah, blah....blah, blah....Open Source....blah, blah, blah, Blah...(cont)...

Why does Slashdot continue to post daily news about the "Open Source" movement. Most of us don't care about Open Source. At all. Please stop.

Public domain (2)

dalias (1978986) | about a year ago | (#42740215)

If you think your personal making-a-statement against "permission culture" is more important than the practical ability of others (including distributors) to use the code you produce without exposing themselves to legal risk, then you're part of the "permission culture" - you feel entitled to deny others permission to use your work.

If you want to make a responsible statement against "permission culture", release your work into the public domain, and include a one-clause BSD license for use in jurisdictions that don't recognize public domain.

Re:Public domain (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42740511)

But I'm not the one doing the denying -- government is. What makes you think I care enough to work within the system?

unlicensed code (D)DOS (2)

vlm (69642) | about a year ago | (#42740217)

There's an interesting hack you can do against unlicensed / unattributed code. Slap your name on it, now tell github to stop violating your copyright and remove "your" code from their server that someone else stole and uploaded. After all, the original author didn't care enough about his work to put a license on it, so you have a minor moral and ethical permission to take it as yours, after all, its abandonware, and if you no longer want your code distributed on github, well...

I imagine the trial would be hilarious.

"He stole my code and deleted it from my github account"
"its not the plaintiffs code, the only known licensed version of it in the whole world is from the defendant. The plaintiff himself repeatedly stated the code he was publishing was not licensed, our position is the plaintiff stole the defendant's code, deleted the copyright and license from the headers, and uploaded it to his pirating account, which we shut down"
"..."

Consumers protections badly needed (1)

rtkluttz (244325) | about a year ago | (#42740241)

Licensing is all about protecting the creator of the work. It can lay down explicit allowances for the consumer, but make no bones about it, they are not there for you the user. Regardless of how software is licensed there needs to be some protections for the consumer. Things have gotten absolutely ridiculous. How about regulation that enshrines: 1) Separation of hardware and software in all devices. Both from the "bundling" standpoint as well as the right to move software without permission or notification to the author 2) Rights to privacy of the consumer (i.e. once money has changed hands, I have the right to refuse your software from sending/receiving ANYTHING from/to the internet and still have my software function properly) 3) Similar to 2 but deserves distinction... the right to use software anonymously i.e. compulsory registration and named user licensing are gone. 4) Enshrine 1 license 1 (unnamed) user as the defacto law of licensing. In other words, no limiting HOW I use your software and as long as it is only a single use at time, legalities should be met. I may think of a use that no one ever imagined before.

I understand developers want to protect their work. But their right to protection ends at using their software as a reporting tool to my network or computers inner workings.

Upload to GitHub and be at the mercy of the EULA. (1)

Animats (122034) | about a year ago | (#42740307)

Read the GitHub EULA [github.com]. They do not currently claim ownership of uploaded content. However, they claim the right to modify the agreement: " GitHub reserves the right at any time and from time to time to modify or discontinue, temporarily or permanently, the Service (or any part thereof) with or without notice. ... GitHub shall not be liable to you or to any third party for any modification, price change, suspension or discontinuance of the Service.

A classic example of a formerly open database becoming closed is CDDB [wikipedia.org], the track list database for audio CDs. Once open source, the current owner, GraceNote, doesn't even allow clients other than their own, and inserts ads. Another example is Google's takeover of the historical netnews database and closing it to full downloads.

To avoid that, it's important that creators limit the rights that some service gets merely by hosting the content. A service like GitHub could claim that as soon as someone else makes a check-in, the aggregated content becomes theirs. The GPL, which covers derived works, prevents that.

Thank God (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42740333)

The author finally put in print that open source has a political posture. Sadly, in America the right wing has locked on to the false notion that capitalism and freedom are welded at the hip and that anything that resists the spread of rabidly, aggressive capitalism is fishy, perhaps socialist, and perhaps even communist. That is a gimmick designed to crush open source.
                          It does not seem to dawn on many people that some people just do not want to sell out to the system, bow down. and worship money. That does not make them communists. It might make them a follower of people like Christ, Buddha or Lao Tse. All of those gentlemen would not be friends of capitalism at all. Matter of fact capitalism and Islam are in opposition as well.
                         

Pile of Dribble (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42740407)

Humans are free to give away or sell that which they own or create. There is nothing magic about software- when people create software, they are free to distribute it in whatever way seems appropriate.

Where does this idiocy about 'free software' and 'licenses' come from? Tribal thinking. Pseudo religious philosophies.

Some nutcase sets himself up as the 'guru' of the 'open source' movement. Weak minded Humans, in mortal fear of thinking for themselves, keep turning to this self-created 'leader' for guidance. "Is your free software PURE or TAINTED" this guru asks, and all the weak-minded dribblers that follow their master run around in circles saying "it must be pure, it must be pure".

People who create software for free distribution are the only ones who get to have an opinion on the license they choose. They want 'no strings', they say 'no strings'. They want restrictions so horrid that potential users are better off using commercial options, so be it.

In the end, even a little investigation shows that the 'free' software movement splits into two parts.
1) no strings software produced for the satisfaction of coding- gifted to the rest of Humanity
2) vile, political, 'open source' software designed to grow a tribal movement with profoundly religious overtones. People that touch this software, and attempt to make money from it, are frequently "burnt as heretics" even when they try to follow the license. This is by intent. It mirrors Christians hated by other Christians because they do something like use the 'wrong' version of 'The Lord's Prayer'.

Some 'open source' software appears to fall between 1) and 2), with nonsense about 'dynamic' vs 'static' linking, and its ability to require other software that touches it to have to be made 'PURE' as well.

The gurus of open-source are both bad and mad. Their followers are often quite sane and reasonable, and think their 'religion' can be run in a way that is a positive contribution to computer science. Ordinary programmers seeking to benefit from the freely provided code of others simply navigate around the vile looniness of the gurus.

Anyway, large open-source projects, with many individual contributors, produce code of the lowest possible standard. Consider Firefox. Not one of its programmers has the faintest understanding of memory management, appropriate data structures or efficient algorithms. FF only works because it runs on insanely powerful PCs with insanely large RAM pools. My point is that the official 'Church of Open-Source' does nothing of real value when its ambitions run beyond a modest library, or a project in the hands of more than a handful of people.

Dribble about 'permission culture' is the kind of cretinous rubbish written by third rate hacks for those American magazines that Yanks actually consider valuable. The art of spewing words about a subject the author knows nothing about, and certainly doesn't have the brains to understand, with a real chance of winning a Pulitzer Prize, or a Hollywood script-writing gig.

company copying of open source (1)

GodWasAnAlien (206300) | about a year ago | (#42740587)

The author mentions that most people think personal use copying is ok.

I would say the same is true of companies, but only for open source, for some reason.

Companies often download open source, modify the software, copy the modified software among hundreds of people, demonstrate the modified software publicly, then say they will release the software when the product is released.

But, there was no copyright or licence that granted the internal copies of the modified software, as the modifications were not published.

If a company used evaluation copies of Windows, internally, copying to hundreds of developers, then demonstrated something publicly obviously on an evaluation copy of windows, what would happen?

Side rant: Often "viral" is mentioned in FUD concerning Open Source, but one should note that regular copyright is also "viral", in the sense that if you make a derivative copy of commercial software (or writing or music ...), you are still bound my the copyright/license of the original work.

"Copyfree" vs "Public Domain" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42740655)

Recommended reading: Copyfree is not quite the Public Domain [copyfree.org].

In the ideal world there would be no problems with releasing software without any legal notice, or explicitly as "public domain". The present-day legal systems, however, are very far from ideal. Some governments don't recognize the concept of "public domain", and the developers / users of such software can run into all sorts of difficulties with the way their businesses are regulated. Some governments also have certain silly "implicit warranty" laws: if you give away software and that software eats someone's data (or has security holes, or any other issue), they may be able to sue you!

Many businesses (especially small businesses / independent developers) cannot understand all the details of how this would affect them without paying for a legal consultation ahead of time, which results in a significant "chilling effect" [wikipedia.org]. People avoid software that presents legal ambiguities, which applies not just to "public domain" software but to GPL and other long-winded restrictive licenses.

A clear solution to this is to only use copyfree licenses [copyfree.org], like the new BSD license, MIT/X, ISC, CC0, OWL, etc. These licenses essentially say: "do what you want, just don't sue me, and don't pretend you wrote it". That's the very essence of free software! Attaching further restrictions, even when well-intentioned, always does more harm than good. The gradual success of copyfree software [itworld.com] is powerful evidence that copyleft restrictions are not necessary, and there is much evidence of them causing a great deal of harm.

I highly recommend for everyone to listen to this interview with D Richard Hipp [blogspot.com] (bsd-talk podcast #194). He is the author of SQLite, which is one of the most widely-used pieces of software ever developed! In that interview he talks about why he chose to release his latest project [wikipedia.org] under the BSD license. Hipp tells of his attempt to give away SQLite as "public domain", and how some governments make even that seemingly simple prospect very inconvenient. He also mentions how SQLite was originally forced into GPL for dependency issues, and how inconvenient that was - he had to rewrite those components from scratch in order to make his software useful...

--libman

What's wrong with asking for permission? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42740821)

I wrote it, if you don't like my license text, write the code yourself.

To reject the permission culture (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42740851)

License your code under a free software license. Preferably GPL or another copyleft license which is compatible with the GPL.

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