Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
GNU is Not Unix Open Source Programming Software

Most Projects On GitHub Aren't Open Source Licensed 630

Posted by timothy
from the na-und-was-meinst-du? dept.
PCM2 writes "Kids these days just don't care about open source. That's the conclusion of the Software Freedom Law Center's Aaron Williamson, who analyzed some 1.7 million projects on GitHub and found that only about 15% of them had a clearly identifiable license in their top-level directories. And of the projects that did have licenses, the vast majority preferred permissive licenses such as the MIT, BSD, or Apache licenses, rather than the GPL. Has the younger generation given up on ideas like copyleft and Free Software? And if so, what can be done about it?" Not having an identifiable license is one thing, but it seems quite a stretch to say that choosing a permissive open source license is "not caring"; horses for courses.
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Most Projects On GitHub Aren't Open Source Licensed

Comments Filter:
  • by bestgjs (2901263) on Thursday April 18, 2013 @01:32PM (#43484469)

    The vast majority preferred permissive licenses such as the MIT, BSD, or Apache licenses, rather than the GPL. Has the younger generation given up on ideas like copyleft and Free Software?

    No, they haven't. They've just noticed that licenses like BSD is better open source license than GPL. There's a simple reason for it too - BSD license is truly in the spirit of freedom. Anyone, either open or closed source projects, can use BSD licensed code.

    This means younger generation haven't forgotten about open source licenses (BSD is one), they've just chosen the better one of them.

  • by SuperKendall (25149) on Thursday April 18, 2013 @01:35PM (#43484513)

    I really like the GPL, I like what it is trying to do.

    But over time I've gravitated to BSD like licenses, because I really do want as many people as possible using something.

    It's a matter of trust - I trust that generally others will do the right thing, and good changes will come back. It's re-enforced by the fact that contributing code back makes it was easier to absorb updates to the main codebase, selfishly keeping your updates private makes lots of extra work for you over time.

    The GPL tries to enforce something that will happen naturally, which I feel is overkill.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 18, 2013 @01:37PM (#43484553)

    In other words: this generation doesn't care for limiting other developers' choices in development in the way Stallman wanted. They prefer to just give away the code instead of forcing everyone who uses it to open their own work. Good for this generation, I'd say. They've seen the outcome of a "GPL-only" world, and they didn't like it.

  • by h4rr4r (612664) on Thursday April 18, 2013 @01:37PM (#43484555)

    Nice troll.

    You will get many bites.

  • Missing the point. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Microlith (54737) on Thursday April 18, 2013 @01:38PM (#43484567)

    I see the two comments up top completely missing the point, as does the original submitter.

    only about 15% of them had a clearly identifiable license in their top-level directories.

    This is why. And this is because they don't understand copyright law and don't realize that unless they explicitly put the code into the public domain or apply a license, no one can touch it without violating copyright law.

    It's probably a mixture of that and outright laziness.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 18, 2013 @01:39PM (#43484583)

    BSD Licenses aren't "better" just different.

    For the little bits of Perl and C that share with the world BSD licenses are just fine. I'll lose no sleep if they end up in Microsoft's or Apple's O/S.

    But if I take the time to write a difficult Kernel driver I'm contributing arduous, "real," "could have been paid for it," work to a specific ecosystem that I want to protect. That's a different level of effort and a different license needed.

    Just different.

  • by jedidiah (1196) on Thursday April 18, 2013 @01:46PM (#43484669) Homepage

    The GPL doesn't exclude closed source projects.

    Otherwise stuff like Word Perfect, Oracle, SimCity 3000, and Steam wouldn't exist for Linux. Free Software can co-exist quite peaceably with coders that want you to pay for their work.

    Problems only arise when you want to treat someone else's work like your own exclusive property. That's usually not necessary.

    Although it's ultimately about keeping contributors happy. It's not about your personal crusade. Nor is it about Stallman's really.

    If you are a project of one with no one else to keep happy, of course you can be much more flexible with your licensing. I suspect this is the case for most of the stuff on GitHub.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 18, 2013 @01:50PM (#43484739)

    Many people prefer the BSD or MIT licenses, until they get involved in a lawsuit. After that, they suddenly become suspiciously fanatically pro-GPL ;-)

  • False Dichotomy (Score:5, Insightful)

    by slackergod (37906) on Thursday April 18, 2013 @01:53PM (#43484787) Homepage Journal

    I'm sorry, but the entire premise that there is one "best" open source license is completely wrong. Where did this obsession arise to see one license crowned victor over all others, in all situations?

    BSD (and MIT and variants) -- I've found they work best for providing backend and reference libraries, which by their nature are trying to provide a standard implementation of something, or at least a standard API. Open and closed sourced projects alike can use and modify it to suit their needs. This means such a library gets the widest adoption over the alternatives (all other factors being equal). This is especially great for server-side programs which want to promote multiple third-party clients - just release a BSD reference client.

    LGPL -- A step down, for when you want the adoption level of a BSD license, but your project is complex and high maintenance enough that it needs to keep all the developers focused on a single api and codebase in order to thrive. Graphics libraries like GTK, audio processing libraries like LAME, are a great example of this.

    GPL -- Finally, for the same reasons as LGPL, your want everyone contributing back to a single codebase, whether it's because you don't want to give the codebase away to closed source products that then profit from it, prevent brand confusion, or just maximize developer contributions. Mind you, closed source projects *will* choose an LGPL/BSD alternative over this or closed source, so it doesn't make much sense for libraries, etc. Primarily, this is useful for applications, which are vying for user (not developer) eyeballs.

    So given they all have different uses that fit better for different project types and target markets, who in their right minds thinks only one of these licenses is correct?

  • by Trepidity (597) <delirium-slashdot@hacki s h . o rg> on Thursday April 18, 2013 @01:56PM (#43484829)

    That's in fact the key difference, and interestingly each side more or less agrees. The "free software" side's key interest is the freedom of users to modify their hardware and software, and distribute those modifications: the freedom-to-hack. The "open source" side's key interest is the freedom of developers to reuse software in a distributed, "bazaar" manner. Sometimes the goals overlap, and sometimes not.

  • by Trepidity (597) <delirium-slashdot@hacki s h . o rg> on Thursday April 18, 2013 @01:59PM (#43484849)

    It depends on the kind of code for me. With machine-learning or statistics code, I generally prefer GPL, because I don't really think Mathematica, Matlab, or Excel should be able to use my work for free without giving something back. If they don't want to GPL their own software, they can purchase a proprietary license from me, just like I have to purchase one from them to use their products. But I ain't giving them a free one.

  • Re:BSD license (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Hatta (162192) on Thursday April 18, 2013 @02:00PM (#43484855) Journal

    To me freedom means "do whatever you want with it,"

    That's exactly the freedom the GPL guarantees. The GPL guarantees that every user of the software will have the freedom to do whatever they want with it. The only things prohibited by the GPL are actions that remove the freedom of others.

  • by ArsonSmith (13997) on Thursday April 18, 2013 @02:01PM (#43484885) Journal

    Forget who said it:

    I learn politics and war now, so my children can learn math and engineering, and my grandchildren art and poetry.

    RMS fought for the GPL, so the next generation could have the BSD/Apache likes, and the next generation could not have to worry about licenses at all.

  • by SirGarlon (845873) on Thursday April 18, 2013 @02:03PM (#43484905)

    Actually, even RMS refers to the BSD and Apache licenses as "GPL-compatible free software [gnu.org]". So the GPL and other two popular licenses, BSD and Apache, are all free software by the Free Software Definition [gnu.org]. The difference is that GPL is a copyleft [gnu.org] license and the Apache and BSD licenses aren't.

    Why are the Apache and BSD licenses becoming more popular than the GPL? Because free software has grown up. Where I work, we would not dream of implementing the whole software stack from scratch. We use lots of open-source libraries. My company's legal department is allergic to the full GPL because they want to keep open the option to do exactly what the GPL is designed to forbid -- make a proprietary product using open-source code. Usually our code is custom developed for a specific client but we might want to re-use that and/or make a general purpose product some day.

    So, for us, using Apache/BSD licenses is easy. It's almost frictionless. Legal is comfortable with them, and pretty much all we have to do is include the license file and do a quick audit to make sure we've complied with it. GPL is much harder for us to work with because we have to justify to legal why we're signing away the rights before the product is even developed.

    The whole point of the Open Source Initiative [opensource.org], as I understand it, is to promote adoption and use of free software. It turns out that copyleft is {sometimes, often} a barrier to that in the business world. So I would say that "open source" (aka non-copyleft) has simply beaten "copyleft" in the marketplace.

    Copyleft was a brilliant idea but non-copyleft free libraries are what I use in day-to-day development work. And I say that as a dyed-in-the-wool, sandals-wearing, free-as-in-freedom, latte-sipping, corporation-hating hippie wannabe.

  • by nametaken (610866) on Thursday April 18, 2013 @02:04PM (#43484923)

    this generation doesn't care to preserve the freedom of others in using their computers, the way Stallman wanted

    You can complain all you like, but it doesn't change the fact that a lot of people want their code to be more open and available than gpl allows, when they think it's appropriate. That their decision.

    What exactly would be the outcome of a "GPL-only" world?

    A world with less freedom than a world where we can choose the license we want? Why are you so upset by people doing what they want with their own work?

  • by Microlith (54737) on Thursday April 18, 2013 @02:11PM (#43485019)

    a lot of people want their code to be more open and available than gpl allows

    That's on them, then. They do give up leverage in many respects, such as the ability to re-license it.

    A world with less freedom than a world where we can choose the license we want?

    Of course, the unrealistic explanation would be the first.

    Why are you so upset by people doing what they want with their own work?

    I'm not. I'm just annoyed by posts like the one I responded to where people deliberately misinterpret and bash the GPL for no good reason.

  • by AuMatar (183847) on Thursday April 18, 2013 @02:13PM (#43485033)

    Welcome to the point. If you aren't willing to open source your code as well, then I don't want you to use mine. You can pay someone to write your own version. Pay in cash or pay in code, but no free ride to businesses.

  • by elfprince13 (1521333) on Thursday April 18, 2013 @02:15PM (#43485059) Homepage
    This is why I LGPL most everything I release. You're welcome to do whatever you want with my software, but if you make changes to my code, I want to see them.
  • by LordLimecat (1103839) on Thursday April 18, 2013 @02:16PM (#43485069)

    Most will be serious, and most will be AWARE that their posts are making strawmen of the license they disapprove of, but that wont stop the posts.

    Seriously, who among GPL proponents is not aware of the BSD arguments / goals? Who among BSD proponents doesnt get what Stallman et al are going for? Do you REALLY think they hate freedom, do you REALLY not understand that they are concerned with different "freedom" than you are?

  • by Bob9113 (14996) on Thursday April 18, 2013 @02:45PM (#43485439) Homepage

    BSD license is truly in the spirit of freedom.

    The BSD license says, "I will not use copyright to impose regulatory monopoly restrictions on you, but you can incorporate my work in a derivative work which imposes regulatory monopoly restrictions on others."

    The GPL says, "I will use the regulatory monopoly restriction of copyright in the narrowest way that prohibits the use of my work in any greater exercise of monopoly restrictions on others."

    The BSD license uses your copyright to maximize the freedom of primary recipients of your work. The GPL uses your copyright to maximize the freedom of secondary recipients of your work. Claiming that one is objectively more free betrays a lack of comprehension.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 18, 2013 @02:59PM (#43485593)

    You can complain all you like, but it doesn't change the fact that a lot of people want their code to be more open and available than gpl allows, when they think it's appropriate. That their decision.

    Yes, and a lot of other people prefer to take advantage of the protections given by the GPL. That is also their decision, and no less valid than the one you mention.

    What exactly would be the outcome of a "GPL-only" world?

    A world with less freedom than a world where we can choose the license we want?

    Strawman, no-one has EVER suggested that people should be forbidden from choosing permissive licences (and I don't think many people want to outright forbid proprietary licences either, just discourage them).

    Why are you so upset by people doing what they want with their own work?

    And yet you seem awfully aggressive towards the idea that people might want to put their own work under the GPL.

  • by Bob9113 (14996) on Thursday April 18, 2013 @03:07PM (#43485725) Homepage

    So you're saying the GPL giving up liberty to purchase safety? :p

    More like using a gun to shoot a guy on a killing spree.

  • by PhamNguyen (2695929) on Thursday April 18, 2013 @03:24PM (#43485945)

    In GPL only world, the entry costs to producing and selling software become a lot higher. I cannot use an GPL code, so I must replicate all that functionality. You might think this is great since people will produce free software instead, but most people are motivated by money so what it really means is that people are more likely to work for a big company (which can overcome these entry costs) than start their own company.

    To give a concrete example, I was working on some software (that I planned to sell) that would use matrix operations. I first considered Gnu Scientific Library, but if I used this I would have to GPL my own code. Not very conducive to selling it! Then I found out about Eigen which is BSD licensed.

    Economically BSD is usually optimal (in the sense of maximizing societal welfare) because it creates a competitive market in the use of your software. You forgo your profits (usually when creating a library or framework) in order that the market can make use of the in the most efficient way. For example, your BSD software with a CLI and someone writes a GUI for it. That person can only charge more to the extent that people prefer a GUI. And furthermore, they can't charge too much more cause someone else might come along and write a GUI and sell it for cheaper.

    GPL *might* have some advantages in preventing commercial forks, and therefore be a better license for things that require economies of scale, and are under threat of forking, like Operating Systems.

If it smells it's chemistry, if it crawls it's biology, if it doesn't work it's physics.

Working...