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Getting Through the FOSS License Minefield 96

Posted by timothy
from the well-it's-more-like-a-small-blackberry-thicket dept.
dotancohen writes "Here's an exercise: Write a GPLed server for solving Freecell that the graphical game would communicate with using TCP/IP or a different IPC mechanism. Easy, right? Except for that pesky licensing bit. Our own Shlomi Fish gives an overview of the various options in picking up a licence for one's FOSS project, and tries to give some guidelines choosing one."
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Getting Through the FOSS License Minefield

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  • by goombah99 (560566) on Tuesday August 25, 2009 @10:30AM (#29186417)

    Can a lawyer ever give a definitive answer?
    A appeals court yesterday overturned [tgdaily.com] the assignment of UNIX to NOVELL giving SCO clearance to sue IBM for billions. I'd imagine the android handset makers and most linux-based router makers have reasons to be nervous as well. SCO also has a new deep pocket backing it's legal team. it's on again!.
    I doubt even lawyer could really give you a definitive answer on licensing.

  • by TheRaven64 (641858) on Tuesday August 25, 2009 @10:45AM (#29186651) Journal
    Not a minefield, but it's a case that's commonly overlooked by GPL advocates. It's trivial to take a GPL'd program and make it communicate with a proprietary program using a well-defined IPC mechanism, which subverts the intent of the GPL. If you are a big proprietary-software company you can easily use GPL'd code with a (relatively) small investment in building the abstraction layer. If, on the other hand, you're a Free Software developer wanting to use GPL'd code with some other GPL-incompatible Free Software license (e.g. porting ZFS to Linux) then you have problems.
  • by Fourier (60719) on Tuesday August 25, 2009 @12:36PM (#29188487) Journal

    Not sure how serious you are, but you've got it backwards. A future FSF could create a GPL with more liberal terms of distribution. Suppose the license permitted binary-only distribution in exchange for a generous donation to the FSF--probably most developers would have a problem with that.

    It's difficult to imagine such a scenario today, but I'm sufficiently paranoid to expect that the FSF may not always be trustworthy. All it takes is a gradual shift in the voting membership.

    If the FSF continues to release reasonable licenses, a developer can retroactively relicense old software releases under the new versions of the GPL. No risk to the developer, just a little more bookkeeping work.

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