It’s not enough for you to have the rights you need; your community needs the same rights.
A few people reacted negatively to my article on why Public Domain software is broadly unsuitable for inclusion in a community open source project. Most argued that because public domain gave them the rights they need where they live (mostly the USA), I should not say it was wrong to use it. Continue reading
Choosing between licenses – even copyleft vs non-reciprocal – is less important than ensuring everyone has equal rights & responsibilities.
I’m often asked which open source licence is best for businesses who want to release a project as open source. Usually behind the question the issue is a desire for corporate control somewhere in the organisation. This tends to flow from a conviction the only way a business can succeed is by keeping some sort of copyright (or patent) control that creates an artificial scarcity. Continue reading
Open source ensures developers already have permission to innovate and don’t need to ask first.
If you want your code to be open source, it needs an OSI-approved copyright license. Code with no license to the copyright isn’t open source. But project success needs more than just an OSI-approved license — it needs “permission in advance” for every developer and deployer. Continue reading
Facebook’s BSD+Patent license combo fails not because of the license itself but because it ignores the deeper nature of open source.
In July 2017, the Apache Software Foundation effectively banned the license combination Facebook has been applying to all the projects it has been releasing as open source. They are using the 3-clause BSD license (BSD-3), a widely-used OSI-approved non-reciprocal license, combined with a broad, non-reciprocal patent grant but with equally broad termination rules to frustrate aggressors.
The Apache Software Foundation has moved the “Facebook BSD+Patent grant” license combination (FB+PL) to its “Category X” licensing list, effectively banning inclusion of any software under FB+PL from Apache projects. That included RocksDB, which has consequently just dropped FB+PL and added the Apache License v2 on Github, and React.JS which does not look like it will resolve the issue so fast.
Update, 22 September: Facebook has announced it will switch React to the MIT license.
Here’s what we know so far (subject to updates, last day’s in green, latest marked 🆕): Continue reading
Individual judgement about the presence of software freedom in a license is not the same as community consensus expressed through OSI approval.
Does it really matter if a copyright license is OSI Approved or not? Surely if it looks like it meets the benchmark that’s all that matters? I think that’s the wrong answer, and that OSI license approval is the crucial innovation that’s driven the open source revolution. Continue reading
Is the GNU GPL “dying” or is that just the prejudice of those whose open source exploitation would be hampered by its use? Italian version
At the huge FOSDEM developer meetup in Brussels in early February, I attended a panel where speakers discussed whether the use of “permissive” open source licenses like the Apache License is now outstripping use of “viral” licenses, such as the GPL. The discussion was spirited, with advocates associated with the Free Software Foundation pushing back on the assertion the GPL is “dying”.
Using the term “permissive” as an antonym to “copyleft” – or “restrictive” as its synonym – are unhelpful framing. Describe license reciprocity instead.
Some open source licenses implement a clever hack invented by Richard Stallman where, as a condition of the copyright license, anyone creating derived versions has to agree they will license the new version the same way as the original. In a play on words, this concept is called “copyleft” and many open source licenses implement this hack. Continue reading
Open Source and Public Domain are frequently confused. Here’s why it’s a mistake to treat the two terms as synonyms.
Plenty of people assume that public domain software must be open source. While it may be free software within your specific context, it is incorrect to treat public domain software as open source or indeed as globally free software. That’s not a legal opinion (I’m not a lawyer so only entitled to layman’s opinions) but rather an observation that an open source user or developer cannot safely include public domain source code in a project. Continue reading
When you need to discuss a license, a legal document like a CLA or a governance rule with an open source community, what’s the best approach to take?
Having watched a fair number of people attempting to engage both the Open Source Initiative’s licensing evaluation community and the Apache Software Foundation’s legal affairs committee, here are some hints and tips for succeeding when your turn comes to conduct a discussion over legal terms with an open source community. Continue reading