09 July 2005

Open Source Licenses: Let's talk business

While I am preparing this material, someone has thought ahead of me. But this time I am going para-legal because we need to bust the "GPL and anything else" thinking, it scares off businesses who wish to take advantage of open source. Let's start off with a couple of licenses, GPL and BSD.


If anyone will read a a GPL license, there are salient points that need to be considered. For one is

"...0. This License applies to any program or other work which contains a notice placed by the copyright holder saying it may be distributed under the terms of this General Public License. The "Program", below, refers to any such program or work, and a "work based on the Program" means either the Program or any derivative work under copyright law: that is to say, a work containing the Program or a portion of it, either verbatim or with modifications and/or translated into another language. (Hereinafter, translation is included without limitation in the term "modification".) Each licensee is addressed as "you".

Activities other than copying, distribution and modification are not covered by this License; they are outside its scope. The act of running the Program is not restricted, and the output from the Program is covered only if its contents constitute a work based on the Program (independent of having been made by running the Program). Whether that is true depends on what the Program does..."

Now, these are the questions, is your work "based on the Program"? Does your work "uses the Program"? If your answer is yes to the former question then you have to distribute your work, otherwise you only need to publish appropriate copyrights. And your code is protected. When we say "Program" in this context, it means the GPL'd source code. Basing a work from a "Program" is totally different from a work that "uses" the Program, right? So the use of the "Program" is not covered in this License.

BSD(Berkeley Software Distribution)

This license is the preferred license for software developers who, in the future, will commoditize their programs or the derivative of it. The terms are very simple, in fact, I could copy and paste the whole license here:

Redistribution and use in source and binary forms, with or without modification, are permitted provided that the following conditions are met:

* Redistributions of source code must retain the above copyright notice, this list of conditions and the following disclaimer.
* Redistributions in binary form must reproduce the above copyright notice, this list of conditions and the following disclaimer in the documentation and/or other materials provided with the distribution.
* Neither the name of the nor the names of its contributors may be used to endorse or promote products derived from this software without specific prior written permission.

Here, nothing was mentioned about your work or the derivative of your work, the only thing you need to do is to disclose the copyright of the licensed "Program". That's it. This is a very highly competitive license, it kills software businesses that escrows their sources until its outdated, stale and no longer scalable.

Business should embrace BSD, this is a business-friendly, license. Open Source is not a "one whole thing" it favors those who understands its terms, its rules of the game. Decision makers should not just only listen to the FUDs coming from Forbes, BusinessWeek, Red Herring etc. etc. they are not the authority on this game. It is those who contributed, initiated some work and advocated, and understands its way are the ones who are authorized to tell what is and what will not fit to a particular business.

I also prefer this license in some of our open source projects such as Patriot because in the future the business value of these things might increase and it's there ready to take the spoils. So "GPL and anything else"? It doesn't that work way, you're already dead in the competition before it even started. No such thing as "two kinds of open source licenses".

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Excellent! if Patriot turns out not to suck then IBM can take it, fork it and call it IBM Mobile then FUD you in the press about how you're just a "lite" version of Websphere Mobile and REAL mobile providers will of course want to upgrade to their 8 line patched piece of crap...