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Open Source Project Licenses Trending Toward Open Rather than Free 369

Posted by timothy
from the for-some-values-of-open-or-free dept.
bonch writes "An analysis of software licenses shows usage of GPL and other copyleft licenses declining at an accelerating rate. In their place, developers are choosing permissive licenses such as BSD, MIT, and ASL. One theory for the decline is that GPL usage was primarily driven by vendor-led projects, and with the shift to community-led projects, permissive licenses are becoming more common."
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Open Source Project Licenses Trending Toward Open Rather than Free

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  • by Chrisq (894406) on Sunday April 22, 2012 @08:30AM (#39761725)
    "Open Rather than Free" implies that there is some charge. Both licenses are "free" in terms of you can use the software without paying. The difference is that any works derived or using GPL type licenses also have to be released on the same license. Whether this is more or less open depends on your point of view.
  • My reason (Score:1, Insightful)

    by arth1 (260657) on Sunday April 22, 2012 @08:41AM (#39761777) Homepage Journal

    I can't speak for anyone else, but my personal reason for not releasing sotware with GPL anymore is because of SFC and other parties that use GPL as a way to feed lawyers at the expense of users.
    I don't want my users to get sued. Ever. Even if they do something I disagree with. Lawsuits is not the way to go. Lawyers and "interest groups" leeching on other peoples work are, IMHO, a far bigger problem than users not giving back. At least users use the sofware, which was kind of why I wrote it.

    And when wearing my manager hat, I don't want to risk getting sued over using or redistributing a piece of software, and I do not want to pay a corps(e) of lawyers to make sure that everyone tip-toe the line, and that letters of intent from busybox, Oracle or whoever else are answered properly. It's easier to avoid the problem altogether by always choosing a non-GPL version when available.
    GPL is what I use when there is no other choice, and writing the software from the bottom up isn't viable.

    Your mileage may vary, and I'm sure for many of you, it does. But please respect my viewpoint that those who seek to protect the GPL the hard way alienate both developers and users in the process. No matter what their motives are, I do not believe that the goal justifies the means any more than pirating justifies DRM.

  • by w.hamra1987 (1193987) on Sunday April 22, 2012 @09:09AM (#39761919) Homepage

    well, technically... GPL cant decline unless a project is taken offline, the license doesn't permit the project to get another non-free license after it gets GPL'ed

  • by shentino (1139071) on Sunday April 22, 2012 @09:24AM (#39762009)

    Does anyone remember the adage "your right to swing your arm stops at your neighbor's nose"?

    BSD is that you can swing your arms however you like and if you wanna punch someone's nose, go for it
    GPL says that you can swing your arms as long as you don't punch anyone in the nose

    Punching someone in the nose, obviously, is taking open source work and making it proprietary.

    So lay off the false dichotomies and admit that freedom is not an all or nothing proposition.

    Another example, btw, is having the freedom to drink beer but not having the freedom to rob a liquor store.

  • This is because (I'm wearing my flame-retardant suit) the GPL isn't necessary to preserve software freedom anymore; and in its own way is restrictive of those freedoms.

    1) It scares off a lot of people and companies who might otherwise use such software. Nobody wants to be caught staring down the barrel of a loaded lawyer because of their choice of software. Whether or not this fear is *realistic* is not relevant - it is a *real* fear.

    2) By using a license to force-propagate specific freedoms, we restrict other freedoms - namely the unfettered freedom to do whatever you want with the source.

    3) Free software is here. We've won. The strict rules of the GPL aren't necessary because people are willing to create, use, and propagate free software without them.

    A lot of newer projects are more concerned with getting their source adopted and in use than with making sure users contribute back. And the best way to get better adoption is to use a license that doesn't scare people (and lawyers).

  • by Skuto (171945) on Sunday April 22, 2012 @09:39AM (#39762099) Homepage

    Free software is here. We've won. The strict rules of the GPL aren't necessary because people are willing to create, use, and propagate free software without them.

    Citation needed.

    GPL3 focuses on anti-tivoization and patents. According to your reasoning, that's not needed because companies are voluntarily allowing their users to hack their devices, and they're not patenting software? You must live on another planet. Without an axe to wield like the GPL, free software is dead in 5 years. It's annoying so many people are just so incredibly naive, or corporate brainwashed, in this regard.

  • In order to have true freedom, then someone must have the freedom to take away any and all freedoms from someone else...

    A truly free system will never last, because a few will always abuse that freedom to subjugate others. That's why we have society, where everyone is provided a certain level of freedom while sacrificing some too.

    It's a compromise, because going too far either way doesn't work... The GPL works the same way as society does.

  • easy tiger (Score:5, Insightful)

    by luis_a_espinal (1810296) on Sunday April 22, 2012 @09:51AM (#39762183) Homepage

    Just who in the fuck is Brian Proffitt? Up until now, I'd never heard of him. I can't think of any open source software project he's worked on, or even helped lead.

    Maybe I'm just ignorant about his accomplishments. If so, please inform me of them. Otherwise, can somebody tell me why I should care what he has to say about this, or anything else?

    He's a tech journalist, which by itself doesn't say if he's technically capable or not. And that, technical capacity is not a function of one's visible/publicized/recognized technical accomplishments in the field in question. There are tons and tons of people out there that have never contributed to, say the Linux kernel or the GCC toolchain, but who, by usage, observation and/or academic expertise (any combination thereof) can tell any random /.er how that shit works.

    Your post smacks of arrogance (as it pairs the possible validity of the argument to YOU knowing the author - I mean who are you?). Secondly, your statement has a pedestrian, juvenile ad-hominem'ey nature. One would think /.ers who think themselves acutely intellectual would recognize it as such.

    You don't attack a position by saying "who is this?". You do so by asking "what is this", by analyzing the merits of the arguments being written.

    If the sole measure of an argument's worthiness of your time is whether the person who makes it is a publicly accomplished figure, then man, you should go tell Muhammad Ali that he was wrong for using Angelo Dundee (who learned the trade of boxing training and being a corner man by being a "bucket boy".) Or you should go tell countless of MMA fighters not to train with Eddie Bravo (who has no MMA record.)

    Strategists and analysts (even in the ethereal fields of software journalism) are not necessarily made from being in the trenches or for having delivered an opus dei recognized by the fanboi masses. To pretend otherwise is just arrogance and an inability to argue a piece's worth without having to rely on ad hominem.

    I mean for all we know, Proffitt's work is shit, or people feeds him stuff that he then publicizes on his name. But you don't get to that conclusion by saying "who the fuck he is", but by saying "let me try to be a little bit intelligent and analyze this thing if it makes sense or not."

    If you don't have the time to do that, why do you bother asking "who the fuck is he". I mean, who the fuck are you to feel the necessity to say that? That's just being embarrassingly childish and sadly spiteful.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 22, 2012 @10:16AM (#39762329)

    GPL is viral so it will always tend to spread unless people duplicate the projects with other license terms

    GPL is not viral. It can't "infect" code that isn't derived from GPL'd code. That makes it heredity, not viral.

  • by Requiem18th (742389) on Sunday April 22, 2012 @10:19AM (#39762365)

    If someone can write code better than you, that's your problem.

    If you don't like it, -- gasp!! -- write your own code in the future.

    Stop being all butt hurt cuz you can't take someone's work, make it better, and release to people who were willing to pay for it. In the end, your creation is obviously making the world a better place if you share it, so put it on your resume/cv and move on with life.

  • by Bill_the_Engineer (772575) on Sunday April 22, 2012 @10:41AM (#39762531)

    The case law with respect to this is highly lacking.

    I am not a lawyer, however:

    So you base your doubt on the lack of court cases involving forked projects? The lack of case law could be attributed to the contract agreement between the original author and the code users of the GPL version. The original developer convincing the court that the contract is null and void seems like a large obstacle to pass. Especially when the defendant is being accused to upholding their end of the written agreement, and I don't see a revocation clause within the GPL agreement.

    The original author is free to make his new code more restrictive, however people who continue to use the code that was originally licensed as GPL has a contractual agreement that they are free to continue to make modifications of said code as long as they make a credible effort to send the changes back to the original developer.

    The irony being that the submitted changes are copyrighted by the submitter and that code can not be added to the now non-GPL code of the original author.

  • by cyber-vandal (148830) on Sunday April 22, 2012 @10:51AM (#39762621) Homepage
    The GPL prevents the user from having to depend on you for fixes to the software since the GPL requires you to supply the source. The MIT license does not require you to supply the source. This is about freedom for the user. The developer already has the freedom to not use the GPL or software licensed under it in anything they create. As I said already the GPL is about the freedom of the customer not the supplier.
  • by Teancum (67324) <robert_horning@n ... ro.net minus bsd> on Sunday April 22, 2012 @11:47AM (#39763001) Homepage Journal

    GPL is viral so it will always tend to spread unless people duplicate the projects with other license terms

    GPL is not viral. It can't "infect" code that isn't derived from GPL'd code. That makes it heredity, not viral.

    The GPL is considered viral because mixing GPL'd code with more permissively licensed software pretty much makes the combined work GPL-only. In other words, once you've introduced GPL'd software into the project, the whole project becomes de facto GPL even if technically you can pull that GPL'd software out. GPL'd plug-ins might not be so bad, but if it is a critical feature covered by the GPL'd software, you might as well re-license the whole project under the GPL.

    Copyright lawyers really have a heartburn over GPL'd software, in part because they are used to other proprietary NDAs and licensing models where they get paranoid about software developers who even look at GPL'd software. In theory and based upon legal precedence for proprietary software, if you have looked at GPL'd software in some detail to understand how it works, it is possible for that software to even be inadvertently introduced into other software produced by that developer. That makes software developers who have contributed to open source projects to be considered as "tainted" by some software studios.

  • Open vs Free (Score:5, Insightful)

    by unixisc (2429386) on Sunday April 22, 2012 @11:53AM (#39763061)

    There is very much a difference. A lot more licenses are considered 'open' [opensource.org] than 'free [gnu.org]', even while containing provisions that make it more palatable for the software creators. Look at the 2 lists that I linked to. The ones mentioned as 'open' are simply listed and categorized by their utility, w/o any judgement calls about their ethics, while GNU is more interested in listing them according to their purity i.e. similarity to the GPL itself. So it's small wonder that projects would pick an 'open' but not 'free' license - there are simply more of the latter than the former, and w/o onerous restrictions on software creators.

    Contrary to myth, the Open Source movement, rather than the FSF, is the reason we have such major open source software such as Open Office, Firefox, Chromium, Apache, Android, and so on - if you notice, most of them are not GPL, and even Linus has decided not to make his kernel GPL3. If anything, companies like Sun went for things like the CDDL because it is not GPL. Oh, and before anyone says 'Android is Linux', Android is released under an Apache license and not GPL 2 nor 3.

    I'd credit the likes of the OSI in helping popularize the Open Source model and bringing it to where it is. Unlike the FSF, it is not hostile to corporate interests and prefers to promote the advantages of this development model, rather than moralizing about the 'ethics' of 'Free Software'. Speaking of which, what is this 'community' that RMS, and you are talking of? People typically buy/download for free/copy software that they want to use, and use it. Most people don't, and won't, tinker w/ source code, nor pay someone else to tinker w/ them - if a software doesn't work the way they need, they either look for alternatives or workarounds.

    ESR mentioned some of that in the 'Cathedral and the Bazaar', where he noted that worse than the confusion over the word 'free' was the perception that the FSF was down and out hostile to business. I'd say that that perception is accurate - name me one company (not non-profit organization like FSF) that Stallman endorses. As I've pointed out several times in the past, Freedom 2 of GNU is the poison pill in the GNU charter that makes it the most business hostile model. If a company, otoh, is fine w/ distributing its source code to its customers, but restricts re-distribution further downstream (for the obvious reason that they want to sell to those downstream potential customers themselves, and not have the value of their work diluted by other people who put no effort into it simply distributing it for free or their own profits), then they are more likely to find a sympathetic solution from OSI than FSF, who probably wouldn't give them the time of day.

    There is only one case that I can think of where 'free' is a better idea than 'open'. It is the case of when a company is releasing support software for a competitor, like the recent story on /. about a TI employee writing FOSS drivers for QCOM in his free time the same way that he was writing FOSS drivers for TI in his work time. In such a case, it would be a good idea to use something like GPL3, just so that QCOM cannot make use of a non-employee's unpaid work and then include enhancements after making that proprietary. While it would have been perfectly ethical for them to do it w/ their own paid employees, it is somewhat unethical for them to do it w/ work done by employees of their competitors off the clock.

  • by jedidiah (1196) on Sunday April 22, 2012 @12:00PM (#39763131) Homepage

    If you don't mix things at the source level, there's no reason to ever have heartburn. If you do, then you should be getting heartburn regardless of what licenses are involved because it's just an inherently messy situation period.

    Beyond that, there really is no problem. Atlhough some people like to lie about the situation to suit their particular agenda.

    Some fanboy trying to distract from the fact that Apple is openly hostile to Free Software being a good example.

    Unless you're not interested in treating other people's stuff as your own private personal property, there's really no problem.

  • by Just Some Guy (3352) <kirk+slashdot@strauser.com> on Sunday April 22, 2012 @12:11PM (#39763219) Homepage Journal

    It's not ad hominem to point out an entity's likely biases when they release a report conveniently supporting those biases. For instance, you can safely ignore anything ever written by Florian Mueller, Dan Lyons, or Maureen O'Gara about Linux and "intellectual property", because each of them have clearly demonstrated anti-Linux sentiments.

    "Ad hominem" is "don't listen to him because he looks and smells funny". It's not "don't listen to him because he has a history of saying exactly this and being wrong about it".

  • by Shompol (1690084) on Sunday April 22, 2012 @12:15PM (#39763243)
    I would say that GPL guarantees freedom of code, not user's or developer's.

    Example: look at BSD. It was developed at Berkeley, then Steve Jobs took it and closed-sourced it for free. The developers of Berkeley are the one's who developed it, received no compensation from Steve, but the code got closed from THEM, not just the users.

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