Licenses for Everything

When it comes to software licensing, many seem to have their position all sorted out. Some are convinced that every restriction is wrong and that adding a license is a restriction. Others think that anyone who can stop software being open is in the wrong and that any license which doesn’t stop proprietary use is bad. A third group (particularly associated with 3D printing) is of the opinion that as things made by code are uncopyrightable, the code which makes it ought to be uncopyrightable too. When it comes to understanding open source licensing though, the problem with all these views is their emphasis on ownership.

In open source, the act of putting licenses on everything is never an act of aggression, of meddling or of unwanted control. No ownership is being claimed. Instead the open source license is a pre-emptive giving of permission. When possible problems or questions of ownership arise in the future, the answer is clear already, permission has been given.

Of course there are those who see this “stick a license on everything” approach as unnecessarily bureaucratic, preferring to simply proclaim that everything they produce is in the “public domain”. Unfortunately the concept is not one which is recognised in all parts of the world and continues to lead to legal confusion. By using OSI approved, open source licenses, you can guarantee the freedom to innovate without seeking permission first.

Read more in Simon’s InfoWorld column.