Choosing a free software license
Posted May 23, 2007 18:54 UTC (Wed) by mheily
In reply to: A day at the Open Source Business Conference
Parent article: A day at the Open Source Business Conference
Even though I prefer the BSD license for my own code, I think Eben Moglen is right to say that the GPL is a better choice for commercial software companies looking to reap the benefits of the open-source development model without taking the risk of having a competitor take the code and incorporate it into a competing product.
However, the fact that the GPL is a more corporate-friendly license does not mean that it is the best license in all circumstances. Many valuable contributions to the free software universe have come from academic, governmental, non-profit, and hobbyist developers. The BSD license, and similar licenses such as the Apache, Mozilla, CDDL, ISC, and MIT licenses, etc., should be considered whenever the profit motive is not the direct motivation for a project's development activity.
These more liberal licenses allow the code to be used in ways that provide the greatest amount of good for the greatest number of people. For example, imagine if Microsoft had been unable to import the TCP/IP stack from the BSD operating system into Windows due to licensing restrictions. They would have written their own buggy, incompatible implementation that only worked properly when two Windows hosts were communicating. Or imagine if Apple were unable to use the FreeBSD operating system as a basis for their proprietary UNIX system. They would have used the NeXT kernel and userland instead, spent a lot more time and resources maintaining the codebase, and the resulting Mac OS X would have been of lower quality and more incompatible with the rest of the UNIX family.
Hopefully my comments will not spark another round of the GPL/BSD license wars. Both licenses have their strengths and weaknesses, and developers should consider all their options and choose a license that meets their personal, political, and professional needs.
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