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Re: license questions.



Ali,

although there is always some discussion about terminology [1], it is
actually fairly straightforward.  Open Source is about four basic
freedoms: *Access* to source code and the freedom to *use*, *modify*,
and *redistribute* it. Anything less does not qualify as Open Source
and, consequently, you will not find any OSI approved license [2]
without them.

Obviously, these freedoms allow for forking.  Without that freedom, it
would boil down to asking people to work for you but on your terms only.
Ofcourse that will not attract many people.  The freedoms listed above
are essential to motivate developers to contribute to create such a
thriving community.

An increasing number of companies thoroughly understand the concept of
Open Source and behave quite well, for instance IBM (investing hundreds
of man years each year in the development of the Linux kernel) and HP
(releasing printer drivers in Open Source).  Reason for this is that it
suits them: For instance, IBM invests significantly in Linux because
their strategy is to make money with their applications such as
Websphere and Linux helps them to become independent of Microsoft.

However, companies have some serious issues with the GPL:
- First, the boundaries of the GPL are unclear.  Exactly what does the
  term "derived work" mean, does the license propagate across static
  linking, dynamic linking, IPC, or even socket communication?  This
  unclarity is a risk for companies and, consequently, they take a
  cautious approach, staying on the safe side by not linking their
  proprietary software (that contains their business value) to GPL
  software.  In other words, the unclarity in the GPL license causes
  that software to be used a bit less than had it been clear about its
  boundaries.
- Second, the GPL and LGPL do not allow asserting patents. I won't go on
  a rant about all the problems with the patent system as it currently
  exists but I guess it's safe to say a lot of companies are very
  focussed on their so-called Intellectual Property.

Summarising my opinion: 
1. Yes, you are quite right to take the time to think about how you want
   to license your software, 
2. it is completely up to you whether or not you want to allow people to
   fork your software (but if you don't, it is not Open Source),
3. there are issues with GPL and if you like to avoid those, you can
   pick a different Open Source license, e.g. the license they used at
   the time for releasing Netscape into Open Source.

Kind regards. Hope this helped,


Auke

 1. Free Software is geared towards idealism whereas Open Source aims
    for pragmatism. In my opinion, both are essential to making this the
    succes it is. (Personally, I tend a bit more towards Open Source so
    I use that term but you can replace the term with Free Software if
    you like.)
 2. http://www.opensource.org/licenses/

-- 
PGP: 0x4A34DD6D, http://bunny.sourceforge.net/

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