Today I'm pondering if the current open source model is still valid or if it's outdated. Do we need licensing for open source software? Do we need the GPL, LGPL, APL and all the other licenses that plague...er, grace us? If your software is free and open source, why bother with a license at all? The software writer owns the copyright so why put users or potential users through the paces of licensing? What exactly is to be gained by creating and enforcing a license for this kind of software?
Currently, there are 64 active licenses listed on the Open Source Initiative's (OSI) website and more are pending approval. 64 licenses is more than just a little ridiculous.
Seriously, you're telling me that the people who keep coming up with license ideas can't use one of the existing ones? The ones who read through the 63 other licenses looked at each other and said, "Nope, these just won't do--we need to come up with our own license."
Take a look at the OSI's Open Source Definition and then ask yourself if you find licensing a necessity or a frivolous exercise:
Open source doesn't just mean access to the source code. The distribution terms of open-source software must comply with the following criteria:
1. Free Redistribution
The license shall not restrict any party from selling or giving away the software as a component of an aggregate software distribution containing programs from several different sources. The license shall not require a royalty or other fee for such sale.
2. Source Code
The program must include source code, and must allow distribution in source code as well as compiled form. Where some form of a product is not distributed with source code, there must be a well-publicized means of obtaining the source code for no more than a reasonable reproduction cost preferably, downloading via the Internet without charge. The source code must be the preferred form in which a programmer would modify the program. Deliberately obfuscated source code is not allowed. Intermediate forms such as the output of a preprocessor or translator are not allowed.
3. Derived Works
The license must allow modifications and derived works, and must allow them to be distributed under the same terms as the license of the original software.
4. Integrity of The Author's Source Code
The license may restrict source-code from being distributed in modified form only if the license allows the distribution of "patch files" with the source code for the purpose of modifying the program at build time. The license must explicitly permit distribution of software built from modified source code. The license may require derived works to carry a different name or version number from the original software.
5. No Discrimination Against Persons or Groups
The license must not discriminate against any person or group of persons.
6. No Discrimination Against Fields of Endeavor
The license must not restrict anyone from making use of the program in a specific field of endeavor. For example, it may not restrict the program from being used in a business, or from being used for genetic research.
7. Distribution of License
The rights attached to the program must apply to all to whom the program is redistributed without the need for execution of an additional license by those parties.
8. License Must Not Be Specific to a Product
The rights attached to the program must not depend on the program's being part of a particular software distribution. If the program is extracted from that distribution and used or distributed within the terms of the program's license, all parties to whom the program is redistributed should have the same rights as those that are granted in conjunction with the original software distribution.
9. License Must Not Restrict Other Software
The license must not place restrictions on other software that is distributed along with the licensed software. For example, the license must not insist that all other programs distributed on the same medium must be open-source software.
10. License Must Be Technology-Neutral
No provision of the license may be predicated on any individual technology or style of interface.
As you read through those ten criteria, would you think that a license is even useful? I personally do not.
If you're going to create something that is free and open source, don't restrict it with some bogus licensing scheme; just give it away and retain the copyright so that no one can reproduce your hard work without at least an acknowledgement of that work as yours.
In my opinion, as soon as you slap a license on something, you can no longer call it open. Putting a restriction on something that you're allowing unrestricted access and use to is just silly.
And, if I buy a piece of software, I don't have to accept the license before I shell out the money for it. I have to accept the End User License Agreement (EULA) prior to installation but do I get my money back if I don't agree with the license?
What purpose do any of these 64 licenses serve? What do they afford me as an end user of the software? What do they do for the software owner?
I think licensing, in general, is stupid and pointless. It serves no real purpose for the software writer(s) nor does it help the software user. I've heard all the wailing and gnashing of teeth against software patents but none against licenses.
What are your thoughts on the subject? Write back and let me know.