Licenses and the political aspects of softwares
Harsh Gupta (~hargup) |
Software is becoming increasingly important in modern life. The software we write has the potential to reach out to millions and some cases even billions of people and influence their lives. As software developers we control a part of that influence. One way we control that influence is the license we choose, the licenses in the free software/open source communities are often characterised on their scale of permissiveness.
On the one end of the spectrum there is GNU GPL (General Public License) championed by the Free Software Foundation (FSF). FSF argues that software area ideas and they should be free, free as in free speech. FSF defines four basic freedoms a software should have, freedom to use the software the way you want, freedom to study the source code and modify it according to your needs and freedom to share your modifications, the freedom to redistribute the copies of the software and freedom to improve the program and share the improvements. But with freedom comes responsibility and here the responsibility is to protect these freedoms for the improvements made on free softwares, hence GPL has a clause that any modification or improvement of a software with GPL should also be under GPL.
On the other end of the spectrum is the BSD license and the Open Source movement pushed by Tim O'Rielly and the Open Source Initiative. Open Source Initiative presents open source as a better development model as opposed to a political movement trying to protect freedom of softwares. BSD is a all practically allows the users to do practically anything with the software including not making the derivatives BSD. BSD used to stand for Berkeley Software Distribution developed in Academia it bases on the idea that software developed by public money should belong to the public. Open Source movement tends not to focus on the political consequences of software but that doesn't mean there is no political consequence of their software. For example OS X, the closed source operating system by Apple is build upon BSD operating system. If BSD operating systems had a GPL like license we all would have been enjoying the fruits of innovations done by Apple.
Then there comes a lot of different licenses which comes in between like LGPL, Mozilla Public License, Apache License and MIT. There are both practical and ideological reasons to use one license over other. In this open space we'll talk about different aspects of software licenses, software freedom and other political aspects of softwares.