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FSF On How To Choose a License 210

Posted by timothy
from the have-it-suit-your-endeavor dept.
ciaran_o_riordan writes "FSF have put together their license recommendations, beyond just their own licenses, for software, documentation, and other works: 'People often ask us what license we recommend they use for their project. We've written about this publicly before, but the information has been scattered around between different essays, FAQ entries, and license commentaries. This article collects all that information into a single source, to make it easier for people to follow and refer back to. The recommendations below are focused on licensing a work that you create — whether that's a modification of an existing work, or a new original work.'"
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FSF On How To Choose a License

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  • Re:Article summary (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 27, 2011 @06:43AM (#36260998)

    One of the first paragraphs:

    "When you contribute to an existing project, you should usually release your modified versions under the same license as the original work. It's good to cooperate with the project's maintainers, and using a different license for your modifications often makes that cooperation very difficult. You should only do that when there is a strong reason to justify it."

    That's a key part of what they advocate and very different from the attitude that you attribute to them.

    When they're talking about using a license for a new software project though, of course they recommend their own. It's specifically made to be the way they want it to be.

  • Re:No BSD (Score:3, Informative)

    by maxwell demon (590494) on Friday May 27, 2011 @07:08AM (#36261114) Journal

    Bullshit. Five FSF licenses and the Apache license does not count for an overview of all the free software licenses out there. They intentionally glossed over the BSD license because it provides more freedom to developers and doesn't require copyright assignment to the FSF, period.

    Nonsense. You don't need a copyright assignment to the FSF to license anything under any of the GNU licenses. You only need a copyright assignment if you want your code to become part of an official GNU project, that is, a project maintained by the FSF. Note that this doesn't even include creating a fork of such a project (e.g. making your own modified version of GCC). Only if you want the FSF to distribute your code as part of GNU, you have to assign. Distribute it yourself (or have someone else distribute it who doesn't want the assignment), and there's no need for copyright assignment.

  • by TheRaven64 (641858) on Friday May 27, 2011 @07:11AM (#36261136) Journal

    What is the advantage of the BSD license over the Apache license (which they did mention)?

    Simplicity. OpenBSD rejects Apache 2.0 licensed code from the base system, because the license is so complex that you can't expect developers without legal training to understand it. I've read the Apache 2.0 license a few times, and I'm still not sure I could answer with 100% certainty what I can and can't do with the code.

    Perhaps more importantly, the Apache 2.0 license is incompatible with GPLv2 code. This means that you can not mix code under these two licenses in the same codebase. To give a concrete example of when this has been a problem for me, I wanted to index PDFs using code derived from Poppler (derived from xpdf, GPLv2) and Apache Lucene (Apache 2) - this was not possible without jumping through hoops, such as separating the code into two independent programs that could be used together. If either piece of code had been BSDL, then this would have been much easier.

    The interaction between the GPL and APSL code here made it harder for me to write Free Software. In the end, I just bumped that project down my to-do list and hacked on BSDL stuff instead.

    It would be ridiculous if the advice obviously did not further their(!) goals. But it is totally irrelevant if they further your goals (except if your goals coincide with theirs). If you don't share their goals, then this article is not for you.

    TFA purports to be advice. Advice should be telling people how to reach their goals, not yours. If someone's goals don't agree with yours, then the polite thing to do is refuse to give them advice, not give them bad advice.

  • by Qubit (100461) on Friday May 27, 2011 @07:29AM (#36261200) Homepage Journal

    "Please don't use it for software ..., since it is incompatible with the GNU GPL and with the GNU FDL."

    A little birdie dumped a codebase on my head recently and one of the many bugfixes I had to do before I could even legally distribute the thing was to rip out some CC-BY-SA code and replace it with something GPL-compatible.

    I have no doubt in my mind that whoever chose the CC license for that code wasn't thinking. Or at least not that much. They wanted to open the code? Great. They wanted to copyleft it? Marvelous as well. A copyleft license like the GPL probably would have been fine for them. That's why we need more simplistic documents like the one that the FSF created.

    I do have some concerns about the GFDL and the CC licenses for documentation. On the one hand I feel that CC-BY-SA doesn't have some of the legacy non-free baggage mechanisms that you can find in the GFDL. On the other hand I have personally run into problems where documentation for projects includes non-trivial code examples, and the Benton Fraser in me has dutifully tried to get specific permission or dual-licensing on the code examples so that I can use them in a program.

    I hope that, just as there has been work to make the GPLv3 and Apache 2.0 licenses compatible, we'll see future work to make some of the CC licenses more compatible with permissive and/or copyleft code licenses. Remember that the FSF endorsed that relicensing escape-clause for Wikipedia and some other sites a little while ago, so it seems plausible that there might be some hope for reconciliation and cooperation in the future. At least we can all hope.

  • by ais523 (1172701) <ais523(524\)(525)x)@bham.ac.uk> on Friday May 27, 2011 @08:10AM (#36261384)
    Even Creative Commons suggest that their licenses aren't used for code [creativecommons.org]; they simply aren't designed to apply to it well, and Creative Commons don't suggest that you use licenses for situations they'd be inappropriate for. (On the other hand, you can meaningfully GPL an image, but only if the image has some sort of equivalent to source code, which would rather depend on how the image was created; this may be a bad idea for other reasons, though.)

Somebody ought to cross ball point pens with coat hangers so that the pens will multiply instead of disappear.

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