[svlug] SW Licensing

Andrew Wilcox andrew.r.wilcox at gmail.com
Mon Jan 18 18:56:51 PST 2010

On 18 Jan 2010, at 21:40, Chris Miller wrote:

> Now for a moment consider Scott.  He's just a programmer, not a lawyer.  Imagine for a moment that he knows that licensing is somehow important, but doesn't want to be bothered with it because he'd rather go work on spring-physics in the next version.  So, knowing that the GPL is "popular," he puts the preamble to the GPL in all the source files and thereby makes it a GPL project.
> Whoa, that's my biggest fear!

Mine too.  This is why I advocate learning about licenses and what they mean.

> Overall I think it's Really Important that there are ways to commercialize software.  Personally, I'd love to code all day long for open source, but there's this pesky thing called money that I have to earn.  I think there's a kind of symbiosis that goes on between open and closed source software ecosystems.  Just like me: I write closed-source software for my employer.  When I'm off the clock, I like to write FOSS stuff.

I work at a company that embraces open-source and we have indeed contributed patches back to FreeBSD and nss_ldap.  But do you think we could've used it in our proprietary systems if it was GPL?  I doubt it.  This is just one case where a BSD-style license enables corporate contribution that would otherwise be non-existant.  It's healthy for the entire software ecosystem.

> I like writing software.  I don't want to have to change careers.

I know network engineering, but I would much rather be a software programmer for a living.  I love all aspects of dev from helping with requirements elicitation to maintenance programming and I have for a great many years.

> Are there alternate models?  To me licensing and software business models are almost inextricably intertwined, as one serves the other.

Not necessarily; your business model is tied to your licensing, but licensing isn't tied to any particular business model.  You can "try" to make money selling, for example, support for GPL software.  In the Real World(TM) though, it just doesn't work well.

> I honestly question that all the many GPL bits of software were made GPL by actual understanding of the license, and not because "RMS and LT use it, so it must be cool!"

My sentiments exactly.  Too many young developers are growing up looking up to Linus Torvalds like some kind of god or something.  I bet those whipper snappers haven't even heard of the real _programmers_ like ken, dmr, Knuth, or Kernighan.  The state of software development bothers me to be fully honest.  User requirements and unit testing are falling by the wayside in the name "rapid application development".

But that's just my old-fart rant on the subject.

Andrew Wilcox (Sent from my Mac)
I kneel before her, beneath this frozen sky...

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