You’re entitled to your opinion but in open source licensing only the consensus of the community really matters.
In a recent conversation on the Apache Legal mailing list, a participant opined that “any license can be Open Source. OSI doesn’t ‘own’ the term.” He went on to explain “I could clone the Apache License and call it ‘Greg’s License’ and it would be an open source license.” Continue reading →
A frequently asked question in the world of free and open source software (as well as the origin of many disputes) is “Which open source license is best?”
Unlike bilateral copyright licenses, which are negotiated between two parties and embody a truce between them for business purposes, multilateral copyright licenses — of which open source licenses are a kind — are “constitutions of communities”, as Eben Moglen and others have observed. They express the consensus of how a community chooses to collaborate. They also embody its ethical assumptions, even if they are not explicitly enumerated.
When that consensus includes giving permission to all to use, study improve and share the code without prejudice, the license is an open source license. The Open Source Definition provides an objective test of evaluating that such a license is indeed an open source license and delivers the software freedom we all expect.
Since licenses are the consensus of communities, it is natural that different communities will have different licenses, that communities with different norms will find fault with the licenses used by others, and that all will regard their way as optimum. The arguments over this will be as deep as the gulf between the philosophical positions of the communities involved.
Ultimately, there is no license that is right for every community. Use the one that best aligns with your community’s objectives and ethos. Meshed Insights can help you select an open source license for your project as this is not primarily a legal matter; please contact us.
[Now adopted as part of OSI’s official FAQ]
Perhaps it seems like open source has stopped being relevant in the GitHub era? People just “do” open source without needing to get involved with all that messing around with licenses? Certainly that’s the view Matt Asay put forward in his recent InfoWorld blog, closing his thoughts with the following summary:
we find ourselves today… in the midst of the post-open source revolution, a revolution in which software matters more than ever, but its licensing matters less and less.
Nothing could be further from the truth; open source’s predominance today shows us that it is in fact enjoying a golden age of success. If it seems like much of the furore and debate around software freedom has gone quiet of late, it’s not because the issue of licensing has become irrelevant, but because the solutions we’ve decided on and used have proven to be effective.
To the extent that GitHub gets used as a storage space for code, its likely that it will continue to have a high number of unlicensed projects kept there. In actual fact, failure to specify a license carries its own legal consequences, open to abuse when entered in to out of ignorance. For effective developer collaboration for commercial purposes however, choosing the right license creates a low-friction environment where permission to innovate is given in advance. Read Simon’s full response to Asay’s post in his latest Infoworld Article.