[clug] Open Source Licensing

Daniel Pittman daniel at rimspace.net
Fri May 1 08:55:41 GMT 2009

Mike Carden <mike.carden at gmail.com> writes:

> I think that Daniel is being rightly cautious, but one point that Bob
> made stands out for me.
> The main FOSS licenses are not incredibly complex to understand, and
> most have been formulated by people who understand law far better than
> the average hacker does. It's not hard to pick a license from the GPL
> side of the fence or from the BSD side of the fence.

This is true, but ... there are substantial differences between some of
the licenses.  The Apache and MPL style licenses, for example, differ in
what and who they protect from the GPL and related licenses.

The CC licenses don't work well for software[1], and are very popular
for people to license things like photos under — then complain bitterly
when they discover that the license allows usage they didn't want and
don't like.

If the OP works for a company, using an Apache license (or GPLv3) that
includes a patent grant might be an issue that the company needs to
aware of in their decision making.

It is those distinctions that are difficult, and which can make a huge
difference to getting software released in some cases, that I wanted to
highlight to the OP.

In other words: for almost every case the standard FOSS licenses are
probably sensible and appropriate.  Which applies best ... is a hard
question.  Much harder than it sounds.


[1]  ...maybe no one thinks this is a good idea any longer, but it was
     all the rage for a while to try and put CC licensing on everything.

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