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Most Projects On GitHub Aren't Open Source Licensed

timothy posted about a year and a half ago | from the na-und-was-meinst-du? dept.

GNU is Not Unix 630

PCM2 writes "Kids these days just don't care about open source. That's the conclusion of the Software Freedom Law Center's Aaron Williamson, who analyzed some 1.7 million projects on GitHub and found that only about 15% of them had a clearly identifiable license in their top-level directories. And of the projects that did have licenses, the vast majority preferred permissive licenses such as the MIT, BSD, or Apache licenses, rather than the GPL. Has the younger generation given up on ideas like copyleft and Free Software? And if so, what can be done about it?" Not having an identifiable license is one thing, but it seems quite a stretch to say that choosing a permissive open source license is "not caring"; horses for courses.

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Open Source License (5, Insightful)

bestgjs (2901263) | about a year and a half ago | (#43484469)

The vast majority preferred permissive licenses such as the MIT, BSD, or Apache licenses, rather than the GPL. Has the younger generation given up on ideas like copyleft and Free Software?

No, they haven't. They've just noticed that licenses like BSD is better open source license than GPL. There's a simple reason for it too - BSD license is truly in the spirit of freedom. Anyone, either open or closed source projects, can use BSD licensed code.

This means younger generation haven't forgotten about open source licenses (BSD is one), they've just chosen the better one of them.

Re:Open Source License (-1, Troll)

Nightshade (37114) | about a year and a half ago | (#43484505)

+1

Re:Open Source License (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43484553)

In other words: this generation doesn't care for limiting other developers' choices in development in the way Stallman wanted. They prefer to just give away the code instead of forcing everyone who uses it to open their own work. Good for this generation, I'd say. They've seen the outcome of a "GPL-only" world, and they didn't like it.

Re:Open Source License (5, Interesting)

Microlith (54737) | about a year and a half ago | (#43484691)

this generation doesn't care for limiting other developers' choices in development in the way Stallman wanted.

Ooh, I can twist this one around:

this generation doesn't care to preserve the freedom of others in using their computers, the way Stallman wanted

That's a good one!

They've seen the outcome of a "GPL-only" world, and they didn't like it.

What exactly would be the outcome of a "GPL-only" world?

Re:Open Source License (5, Insightful)

Trepidity (597) | about a year and a half ago | (#43484829)

That's in fact the key difference, and interestingly each side more or less agrees. The "free software" side's key interest is the freedom of users to modify their hardware and software, and distribute those modifications: the freedom-to-hack. The "open source" side's key interest is the freedom of developers to reuse software in a distributed, "bazaar" manner. Sometimes the goals overlap, and sometimes not.

Re:Open Source License (4, Insightful)

nametaken (610866) | about a year and a half ago | (#43484923)

this generation doesn't care to preserve the freedom of others in using their computers, the way Stallman wanted

You can complain all you like, but it doesn't change the fact that a lot of people want their code to be more open and available than gpl allows, when they think it's appropriate. That their decision.

What exactly would be the outcome of a "GPL-only" world?

A world with less freedom than a world where we can choose the license we want? Why are you so upset by people doing what they want with their own work?

Re:Open Source License (2, Insightful)

Microlith (54737) | about a year and a half ago | (#43485019)

a lot of people want their code to be more open and available than gpl allows

That's on them, then. They do give up leverage in many respects, such as the ability to re-license it.

A world with less freedom than a world where we can choose the license we want?

Of course, the unrealistic explanation would be the first.

Why are you so upset by people doing what they want with their own work?

I'm not. I'm just annoyed by posts like the one I responded to where people deliberately misinterpret and bash the GPL for no good reason.

Re:Open Source License (1)

fredprado (2569351) | about a year and a half ago | (#43485035)

Certainly more freedom to the developer, but your ability to choose the license you want is also in a way the ability to limit the freedom of others if you so wish, or in this case the ability to grant another the ability to limit user choices.

More freedom to the developers always comes at the cost of less freedom to the user. Not that it is necessarily a bad thing, but it just debunks the theory that more license options implies in more freedom in the general sense.

Here's what would happen. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43484955)

What exactly would be the outcome of a "GPL-only" world?

Incredible amounts of confusion about what and what is not permitted.

For a past example: the whole "derivative work" issue was a fiasco and frankly, I am not so sure it is completely settled.

The GPL has become a business law assignment - let's put it this way, if I were to start a commercial enterprise that used ANY GNU licensed software, I would have to hire an IP lawyer for advice.

This isn't really a slam of the GNU license - Stallman had very good reasons for the license considering the IP laws in the US - I'm suggesting that the other licenses are much more conducive to new startupts that may want to use open and free software.

Re:Open Source License (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43485025)

Yeah. They've forgotten what it's like to not live in a police-state where you're not expected to perform slave labor for the corporations. They've forgotten (if they ever knew) what it's like to get credit for your work, and what it's like to get fair value for granting an alternative license. They've forgotten what it's like to have rights.

Ironic CAPTCHA: bettered

Re:Open Source License (3, Insightful)

h4rr4r (612664) | about a year and a half ago | (#43484555)

Nice troll.

You will get many bites.

Re:Open Source License (4, Informative)

Microlith (54737) | about a year and a half ago | (#43484621)

Unfortunately, commentary on licenses, particularly BSD vs. GPL, falls into the purview of Poe's law. They could be trolling, or they could be totally serious and there's no way to tell.

Re:Open Source License (2)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | about a year and a half ago | (#43484809)

True, with a brand new account and a highly up-modded comment there's a chance he's a shill too...all I know is he's full of shit and forgets (or willfully ignores/hand-waves away) the conditions that led to the creation of the GPL. I could draw a very nice political comparison here but I'd rather stay on topic.

Re:Open Source License (2)

rmstar (114746) | about a year and a half ago | (#43484897)

Here [thebaffler.com] is a nice article that includes a historical writeup by Evgeny Morozov on how the concepts of Open Source and Free Software ended up meaning something different (and fas less interesting and progressive) than initially. Warning: It is a long read.

Re:Open Source License (5, Funny)

verbatim (18390) | about a year and a half ago | (#43484875)

I much prefer Godwin's law. After all, Hitler supported the GPL.

Re:Open Source License (4, Insightful)

LordLimecat (1103839) | about a year and a half ago | (#43485069)

Most will be serious, and most will be AWARE that their posts are making strawmen of the license they disapprove of, but that wont stop the posts.

Seriously, who among GPL proponents is not aware of the BSD arguments / goals? Who among BSD proponents doesnt get what Stallman et al are going for? Do you REALLY think they hate freedom, do you REALLY not understand that they are concerned with different "freedom" than you are?

Re:Open Source License (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43484751)

Quite true. Bestgjs' commentis trolltastic. It is also detached from reality.

Currently I have 4 projects released as opensource. One is LGPL, two are BSD and one is GPLv3. The reason I chose those licenses for each project was that the first one is a library which I hope people can freely share, the BSD ones are smaller libraries which are completely unimportant, and the GPLv3 one is a desktop application that does sciency stuff. From bestgjs' comment, the BSD libraries would be as important as the non-trivial projects which I do give a damn, which is stupid.

So, no. The younger generation haven't forgotten about open source licenses, but what they actually did was read them and understand where each one is more appropriate, and the BSD type licenses is often only appropriate for code which the author doesn't mind if its thrown away.

Re:Open Source License (1)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | about a year and a half ago | (#43484873)

Exactly. I "public domain" my small and unimportant stuff, basically because it's worthless and if anyone wants to try to close it and profit from it or plagiarize it, good luck and have fun. If I were to release something large and valuable it would be GPLv3 (possibly a data overlay generator, soon.)

I agree with all but the flame bait.... (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43484583)

BSD Licenses aren't "better" just different.

For the little bits of Perl and C that share with the world BSD licenses are just fine. I'll lose no sleep if they end up in Microsoft's or Apple's O/S.

But if I take the time to write a difficult Kernel driver I'm contributing arduous, "real," "could have been paid for it," work to a specific ecosystem that I want to protect. That's a different level of effort and a different license needed.

Just different.

Re:I agree with all but the flame bait.... (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43484813)

Meh, there's plenty of substantial work (coulda-been-paid-for-it) on GitHub.

However, it's is nearly all web-related. And the GPL doesn't offer much for web code, because the resulting application is rarely "distributed" beyond the company who built it. BSDish licenses are just a better fit for what they're trying to accomplish.

Re:Open Source License (5, Informative)

Microlith (54737) | about a year and a half ago | (#43484589)

They've just noticed that licenses like BSD is better open source license than GPL.

I love it when people take subjective opinion and present it as if it were fact. Going BSD does mean you give up on copyleft.

BSD license is truly in the spirit of freedom. Anyone, either open or closed source projects, can use BSD licensed code.

It depends on your goals. GPL is very clear in its intent to keep the sources of the software it covers open, and that necessarily excludes closed source projects.

Re:Open Source License (3, Insightful)

jedidiah (1196) | about a year and a half ago | (#43484669)

The GPL doesn't exclude closed source projects.

Otherwise stuff like Word Perfect, Oracle, SimCity 3000, and Steam wouldn't exist for Linux. Free Software can co-exist quite peaceably with coders that want you to pay for their work.

Problems only arise when you want to treat someone else's work like your own exclusive property. That's usually not necessary.

Although it's ultimately about keeping contributors happy. It's not about your personal crusade. Nor is it about Stallman's really.

If you are a project of one with no one else to keep happy, of course you can be much more flexible with your licensing. I suspect this is the case for most of the stuff on GitHub.

Re:Open Source License (4, Informative)

drakaan (688386) | about a year and a half ago | (#43484791)

Closed-source projects can't be distributed under the GPL (that would be in direct conflict with the terms of the license...you have to make source code available, including any modifications you have made...at least for code that you distribute)...I think that's the degree of exclusion the OP was talking about.

That doesn't mean you can't run a closed-source program on a GPL-licensed OS stack.

Re:Open Source License (4, Informative)

Microlith (54737) | about a year and a half ago | (#43484801)

The GPL doesn't exclude closed source projects.

It does. You can't take GPL sources and integrate them into a closed source product.

Otherwise stuff like Word Perfect, Oracle, SimCity 3000, and Steam wouldn't exist for Linux. Free Software can co-exist quite peaceably with coders that want you to pay for their work.

This suggests that you don't understand the point you're trying to make. The GPL does not cover the products you listed.

Re:Open Source License (2)

Millennium (2451) | about a year and a half ago | (#43484899)

Actually, going BSD pretty much does mean you give up on copyleft. It doesn't mean you give up on open-source, of course, but copyleft -the idea of using copyright to enforce the openness of your code- is not a part of BSD, and is in fact the Big Sticking Point of the GPL for many people.

Re:Open Source License (1)

alexgieg (948359) | about a year and a half ago | (#43485063)

GPL is very clear in its intent to (...)

The problem is that GPL isn't clear. I personally prefer BSD, but I understand both licenses well enough to know why I prefer BSD. Now, try showing the GPL, particularly v3, to a developer. Not a FAQ, the license itself. He'll fall asleep after 2 minutes. Contrast this with the BSD license: a small text that in a few short sentences explains, in as much clarity as is legally possible, what it means.

Here's a suggestion for GPL folk then: try writing a GPLv4 that is concise, clear, fits into at most a single page, and is as much non-lawyered-up as possible. That might not solve the issue of lack of adoption, but it'll certainly help.

Re:Open Source License (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43484605)

As someone who develops both open-source and commercial software, I strongly prefer permissive licenses.

Sometimes you want to contribute to the community and share information for the good of all.

Sometimes you want to sell a product.

Likewise, I would expect most people who are not copyleft "all information must be free" purists to favor the permissive licenses.

Re:Open Source License (4, Informative)

HiThere (15173) | about a year and a half ago | (#43484835)

If you write the code, the GPL doesn't prevent you from including it in commercial products. You're the copyright holder, so you can relicense it to suit yourself.

Re:Open Source License (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43484653)

You're right, but you're wrong. You're right that the BSD license is more permissive than the GPL. That's great, but this is slashdot, and we already knew that. You're wrong to say that either one is "better". Why? Because that's a decision that can only be made by each individual author. And you're most definitely wrong -- and rather immature -- to proclaim a blanket conclusion such as "this one is always better".

Re:Open Source License (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43484703)

Very true, why would people limit themselves by the GPL? We like things like paying our bills, not telling Stallman how great he is.

Re:Open Source License (2)

Registered Coward v2 (447531) | about a year and a half ago | (#43484763)

The vast majority preferred permissive licenses such as the MIT, BSD, or Apache licenses, rather than the GPL. Has the younger generation given up on ideas like copyleft and Free Software?

No, they haven't. They've just noticed that licenses like BSD is better open source license than GPL. There's a simple reason for it too - BSD license is truly in the spirit of freedom. Anyone, either open or closed source projects, can use BSD licensed code. I also think they have seen how valuable an idea and the supporting code can be and want to be able to cash in on that while still sharing what they're doing. The BSD license is very amenable to that; unlike the GPL. It's not less free tahn teh GPL and an argument can be made, and is being made on /., taht it is less restrictive and thus freer than the GPL. This means younger generation haven't forgotten about open source licenses (BSD is one), they've just chosen the better one of them.

Re:Open Source License (1, Informative)

Minter92 (148860) | about a year and a half ago | (#43484907)

I have never liked the GPL and I've been involved in open source since the early 90s. I've never liked the GPL or really considered it a free license. It's a controlling license. Freedom is not "you are free because you have to do what we tell you." There are 3 types of licenses:

closed/controlling
open/controlling ie GPL
free/open ie permissive license

Re:Open Source License (1)

TheCarp (96830) | about a year and a half ago | (#43484945)

Its wasn't a question of Open Source it was specifically about all of that "Free Software" ideology that Open Source, by its very nature, ignores.

So essentially you are saying YES, they have forgotten about copyleft, and have moved to less restrictive models.

Though, I tend to think the answer is more No, they never knew about it in the first place and likely don't even bother to think about licensing....and are just doing what programers have been doing since before licensing became an issue.... just sharing code.

Re:Open Source License (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43484989)

The vast majority preferred permissive licenses such as the MIT, BSD, or Apache licenses, rather than the GPL. Has the younger generation given up on ideas like copyleft and Free Software?

No, they haven't. They've just noticed that licenses like BSD is better open source license than GPL. There's a simple reason for it too - BSD license is truly in the spirit of freedom. Anyone, either open or closed source projects, can use BSD licensed code.

This means younger generation haven't forgotten about open source licenses (BSD is one), they've just chosen the better one of them.

Yes, just like Apple. Who, now that nobody's looking anymore, are perfectly happy with taking the BSD code they used to make OS X and not releasing it, since they can. The younger generation haven't forgotten about open source licenses. They just know how to exploit goodwill for profit and not give anything back, just like their heroes in Cupertino.

It's a matter of trust (5, Insightful)

SuperKendall (25149) | about a year and a half ago | (#43484513)

I really like the GPL, I like what it is trying to do.

But over time I've gravitated to BSD like licenses, because I really do want as many people as possible using something.

It's a matter of trust - I trust that generally others will do the right thing, and good changes will come back. It's re-enforced by the fact that contributing code back makes it was easier to absorb updates to the main codebase, selfishly keeping your updates private makes lots of extra work for you over time.

The GPL tries to enforce something that will happen naturally, which I feel is overkill.

Re:It's a matter of trust (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43484739)

Many people prefer the BSD or MIT licenses, until they get involved in a lawsuit. After that, they suddenly become suspiciously fanatically pro-GPL ;-)

Re:It's a matter of trust (2)

phantomfive (622387) | about a year and a half ago | (#43484773)

But over time I've gravitated to BSD like licenses, because I really do want as many people as possible using something.

This is basically the distinction that determines whether you should use BSD or GPL. If you want as many people as possible using it, then go with BSD.

If you're self-centered like me and don't want anyone using your work without giving back, then use the GPL.

Re:It's a matter of trust (4, Interesting)

Microlith (54737) | about a year and a half ago | (#43484851)

In the case of commercial applications, I like to think of the GPL as the asking price for my software. You're always free to re-negotiate if it's too high.

Re:It's a matter of trust (3, Insightful)

elfprince13 (1521333) | about a year and a half ago | (#43485059)

This is why I LGPL most everything I release. You're welcome to do whatever you want with my software, but if you make changes to my code, I want to see them.

Re:It's a matter of trust (5, Insightful)

Trepidity (597) | about a year and a half ago | (#43484849)

It depends on the kind of code for me. With machine-learning or statistics code, I generally prefer GPL, because I don't really think Mathematica, Matlab, or Excel should be able to use my work for free without giving something back. If they don't want to GPL their own software, they can purchase a proprietary license from me, just like I have to purchase one from them to use their products. But I ain't giving them a free one.

Re:It's a matter of trust (5, Insightful)

ArsonSmith (13997) | about a year and a half ago | (#43484885)

Forget who said it:

I learn politics and war now, so my children can learn math and engineering, and my grandchildren art and poetry.

RMS fought for the GPL, so the next generation could have the BSD/Apache likes, and the next generation could not have to worry about licenses at all.

Re:It's a matter of trust (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43484919)

You should disclose that you are a massive Apple fanboy. It's relevant.

Re:It's a matter of trust (5, Informative)

phantomfive (622387) | about a year and a half ago | (#43484943)

It's a matter of trust - I trust that generally others will do the right thing, and good changes will come back.

This is optimistic, like the tragedy of the commons. It's also worth mentioning that there are several times in history when companies used open source code, and wouldn't have given back if it weren't for the GPL requiring it. For example, that is why GCC includes Objective-C support. NeXT wouldn't have given that back at all if they weren't required.

Microsoft released it's Hyper-V code [osnews.com] due to the GPL. They wouldn't have if the kernel had been BSD licensed. Many mobile companies only release the modifications to Android that are required under the GPL. If it weren't for the GPL, they likely wouldn't release the drivers either, and projects like CyanogenMod would be a lot harder. There's a long list of source code that we have because of the GPL.

Re:It's a matter of trust (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43484971)

I remember the bad old days, before GPL projects were common. You unfortunately overestimate the generosity of corporations and institutions -- they can, and will, go to extreme lengths to re-invent the wheel if they can keep it proprietary.

Most companies don't -care- about being able to 'absorb updates to the main codebase'. They aren't even looking for contributors outside of their team to improve the code. And companies don't think about the long term, so the fact that failing to share makes 'lots of extra work for you over time' isn't even considered. It's all about short term, 'it works, ship it!'

Re:It's a matter of trust (3, Interesting)

h4rr4r (612664) | about a year and a half ago | (#43484995)

Go compare Linux and BSD then think about it for a while.

Some folks will not contribute back if they can avoid it.

I like BSD for somethings, boring stuff that gets shared and used everywhere. SSH, SSL that sort of thing, but if you want your new whiz-bang thing to get code back GPL is better for that.

The GPL isn't free (2)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43484535)

It is, in fact, very restrictive. If one wants truly free software, one uses a more free license or makes one's code public domain.

Don't anger the RMS fanbois (0)

Virtucon (127420) | about a year and a half ago | (#43484539)

You'll incur the wrath of the RMS fanbois if you don't take the GPL. While I support Free Software, there are lots of alternatives such as the BSD and MIT licenses which offer choice. It shouldn't worry folks if they are used vs. the GPL so this really is a non-issue.. Wait for it..

RMS will now go on a tirade in 4...3...2...1

Re:Don't anger the RMS fanbois (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43484681)

The only things the GPL promotes is hacks that disfavour decent software design/architecture/yeah that spark, versus the patchy patch variety that just muddles along.

Re:Don't anger the RMS fanbois (1)

serviscope_minor (664417) | about a year and a half ago | (#43485061)

Ah, it's "make random shit up about RMS day" again. Didn't we have one last week.

Most of the opinions people ascribe to RMS are, in fact false.

BSD license (1)

geek (5680) | about a year and a half ago | (#43484551)

I personally prefer the BSD license. To me freedom means "do whatever you want with it," as soon as you start attaching strings and restrictions it's no longer free. Yes other people could make money off what I write but if I was worried about that I wouldn't have released it in the first place.

I really wish FreeBSD would keep up with Linux. I keep trying to go back to my FreeBSD roots but the hardware support isn't there, the software choices are narrowing (thanks to gnome3 and systemd) and the FreeBSD team has an "I don't care" attitude when it comes to the desktop.

Re:BSD license (1)

Rob Riggs (6418) | about a year and a half ago | (#43484643)

I personally prefer the BSD license. To me freedom means "do whatever you want with it," as soon as you start attaching strings and restrictions it's no longer free.

Then why not make it public domain? Why attach a license at all?

Re:BSD license (4, Informative)

geek (5680) | about a year and a half ago | (#43484709)

I personally prefer the BSD license. To me freedom means "do whatever you want with it," as soon as you start attaching strings and restrictions it's no longer free.

Then why not make it public domain? Why attach a license at all?

Good question. Because without a specific license attached companies and individuals alike wont touch it. The default is "all rights reserved" meaning its not open unless specifically stated. You retain rights until you explicitly give them up. Hope that makes sense, I'm not a lawyer and may not have explained it in the best of terms.

Re:BSD license (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43484817)

Because he's a hypocrite. And he hasn't written any line of open source code worth a damn anyway.

Re:BSD license (2)

Half-pint HAL (718102) | about a year and a half ago | (#43484853)

I think there's two very different justifications for one or the other.

By contributing to "truly free" software (BSD) you're raising the floor, because it's work that no-one ever needs to repeat again. As such, I consider the LGPL something of a hack: it starts with Stallman's notion of free meaning "never closed", then realises that no-one would use a compiler that doesn't let you make proprietary code (on the grounds that the libraries are GPL code) and hacks it so that it's GPL "but not really".

GPL is useful for "pushing the boundaries". If you've done something new and different, sure, keep control, because something that can just be picked up, rebranded and sold by a marketing company is worth protecting from exploitation.

But most software doesn't push the boundaries. Most software is just the same all stuff in a different suit. The difficulty of modifying existing software is a cost. Restrictions are a cost too. Most GPL software is in effect more expensive than just rewriting from the ground up -- only very high utility-value software isn't (think Linux, OpenOffice). And yet, these too contain many elements that could "raise the floor" -- task schedulers, text renders etc -- that if released under a BSD license could be used everywhere. Someone, some day, will now have to repeat that work.

Re:BSD license (4, Insightful)

Hatta (162192) | about a year and a half ago | (#43484855)

To me freedom means "do whatever you want with it,"

That's exactly the freedom the GPL guarantees. The GPL guarantees that every user of the software will have the freedom to do whatever they want with it. The only things prohibited by the GPL are actions that remove the freedom of others.

Re:BSD license (0)

The End Of Days (1243248) | about a year and a half ago | (#43484967)

That's only true for the subset of freedoms endorsed by Mr Stallman. The BSD license enables additional freedoms that fit into things people may want to do with software that is specifically prohibited by the various GPLs.

In other words, please save your religions arguments for a forum that isn't likely to be populated with people who can see straight through your bullshit.

Re:BSD license (1)

adri (173121) | about a year and a half ago | (#43484869)

Have you tried PC-BSD?

Re:BSD license (1)

geek (5680) | about a year and a half ago | (#43485037)

Yes. It's got promise but right now it's just not there and the new rolling release version coming out doesn't inspire much confidence in me.

Re:BSD license (1)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | about a year and a half ago | (#43484947)

You do know that the GPL's "strings and restrictions" are to prevent others from closed-sourcing the software and profiting from it, right? If you want that, that's up to you, as long as you know...

Re:BSD license (1)

geek (5680) | about a year and a half ago | (#43485051)

You do know that the GPL's "strings and restrictions" are to prevent others from closed-sourcing the software and profiting from it, right? If you want that, that's up to you, as long as you know...

Yes, which is why I addressed that in my post. Not sure why you chose to skip over that.

Re:BSD license (1)

HiThere (15173) | about a year and a half ago | (#43484993)

The distinction is that with GPL it's the code that's free, and with BSD it's the receiving developer. Both are legitimate models of freedom.

As to FreeBSD not keeping up with Linux, it's largely because when people make a contribution, they don't want someone else to hide it away, make changes, and then keep them from access to those changes. The GPL ensures that the code stays free. The BSD gives the freedom to the receiving developer ... which isn't to the benefit of the donating developer. So a greater proportion of people are willing to develop GPL code. (Please note that in either case the proportion of developers using that specified license if very small. But closed source code tends to die faster than open source code, so over time open source code accumulates....though even open source code experiences bit-rot, which is why I didn't keep Gnome2 installed on my computer, even though I despise Gnome3 AND KDE4. Currently I'm using KDE4 as slightly less bad, and distros that tried to stick with Gnome2 are closing shop. Maybe Mate will eventually be an answer. But open source code also experiences bit rot...just not as rapidly as closed source code.
This is relevant because BSD licensed code tends to become closed source as different groups apply changes to it and then relicense it. GPL code is less affected by this problem (though "less" certainly doesn't mean "not affected").

Missing the point. (5, Insightful)

Microlith (54737) | about a year and a half ago | (#43484567)

I see the two comments up top completely missing the point, as does the original submitter.

only about 15% of them had a clearly identifiable license in their top-level directories.

This is why. And this is because they don't understand copyright law and don't realize that unless they explicitly put the code into the public domain or apply a license, no one can touch it without violating copyright law.

It's probably a mixture of that and outright laziness.

Re:Missing the point. (1)

Bill_the_Engineer (772575) | about a year and a half ago | (#43484627)

I believe they are commenting on how the vast majority of the developers who declared a software license picked something other than GPL.

Re:Missing the point. (-1, Flamebait)

geek (5680) | about a year and a half ago | (#43484641)

I believe they are commenting on how the vast majority of the developers who declared a software license picked something other than GPL.

Specifically GPLv3 which is, in my not so humble opinion, not a free software license.

Re:Missing the point. (1)

Microlith (54737) | about a year and a half ago | (#43484777)

How is it not a Free Software license?

Really if you're going to make these kinds of statements, it'd help to answer the obvious question in your post...

Re:Missing the point. (1)

Microlith (54737) | about a year and a half ago | (#43484661)

Which comprises a whole 15% of all projects. I would like to see what the numbers would be if that percentage was greater. Who knows, it may shift.

Re:Missing the point. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43484639)

Wikipedia... "GitHub offers both paid plans for private repositories, and free accounts for open source projects."

If the title were actually true, then it basically is saying "Github is good money".

Re:Missing the point. (2)

larry bagina (561269) | about a year and a half ago | (#43485015)

Wikipedia is poorly worded. They have paid accounts (with private repositories) and free accounts (with public repositories). You can have an open source project in a private repository. You can have a closed source project in a public repository.

Re:Missing the point. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43484663)

I wonder if by "clearly identifiable" do they mean is it a 1:1 text match for a recognized set of licenses? What about taking one and slightly modifying it? What about something like "Use this code however you want for whatever you want"... what about "I am releasing this code into the public domain"? or anything like that?

I think people are recognizing the hypocrisy (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43484579)

inherent in the free-as-I-say-so GPL. True software freedom doesn't come with strings attached.

Re:I think people are recognizing the hypocrisy (2)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | about a year and a half ago | (#43485003)

And no true Scotsman would murder his wife. The GPL's strings will never get in anyone's way unless they're trying to take a piece of free software, closed source it and redistribute it - typically with the intention of profiting on others' work while contributing nothing in return.

Internet noise may be to blame (0)

G3ckoG33k (647276) | about a year and a half ago | (#43484603)

With all that loud screaming allover, the GPL and common sense can't be heard.

Ignorance is bliss and many of these young project leaders probably are just that, plain ignorant.

Re:Internet noise may be to blame (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43484997)

Or perhaps they simply don't care about *your* ideals. That hardly implies that they are ignorant. I don't include licenses in my github projects because I simply don't give a fuck. Yes, that means that by default technically nobody can use it. In practice nobody gives a fuck, and everyone lived happily ever after.

Screw permission culture.

real software projects? (5, Informative)

ssam (2723487) | about a year and a half ago | (#43484613)

I am sure most of those 1.7 million projects have no aspiration to become a real software project. do they have a website, mailing list/forum, releases, users? or are they just random little scripts, snippits and exercises, just put on line for the education of others?

For a large piece of coding i might care about getting bug fixes back. for the script i use to sort my digital photos in to folders based on the date in their exif, and is 50% lines pasted from documentation or stack exchange, i don't care. if you want to know which licences are used for serious projects then grab the top hundred or thousand from ohloh and check them.

Not just GitHub (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43484615)

Speaking of kids: If you want an example of the latest tempest-in-a-teacup over open source licensing, look no further than Minecraft, which has sold upwards of 12 million copies on the PC alone. As the license for the game gives sole ownership rights of modifications to the game to their authors, the number of mods for the game have exploded. However, few, if any, of the mods for Minecraft are open source, which leads to complete incompatibility between most of them even while using open source APIs like Forge. When enterprising users attempt to gather together collections of these nominally independent mods to distribute in one package, they run headfirst into licensing and "permissions" issues, with many authors refusing to allow redistribution or modification of their work. How ironic.

No license (4, Interesting)

Ceriel Nosforit (682174) | about a year and a half ago | (#43484619)

I have uploaded the meagre, puny code that I've written in a small number of projects without bothering with a license. I expect people to steal it and be quiet about it, because I am the noise floor of github.

Frankly for most projects on github (1.7 million is not a small number of computer software projects), legalese is a bother. It is simply uncouth and considered harmful.

Re:No license (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43484713)

While I agree with you in essence, as an absolute minimum there should at least be a liability/warranty disclaimer for obvious reasons.

Re:No license (1)

Microlith (54737) | about a year and a half ago | (#43484729)

It is simply uncouth and considered harmful.

Lack of legalese is considered harmful, particularly in our litigious society. Code with no license is completely unusable and a liability, particularly if someone can claim to show a trail of ownership, which Github does establish.

GPL is poison to many business models. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43484647)

I work in firmware, and there are significant problems with leveraging GPL code. In general, we can't do it and fulfill security obligations within the critical sector I work in.

I have some hobby projects going on, and I always license BSD, because I want them to actually be useful to someone. In my line or work, we don't even consider GPL code as something that's possible to leverage, and it's not just legal paranoia - it really can't be done in my business and many others.

Re:GPL is poison to many business models. (1)

jedidiah (1196) | about a year and a half ago | (#43484727)

> it really can't be done in my business and many others.

No. It just can't be done in your business.

You are the extreme fringe. Don't try to kid yourself.

Re:GPL is poison to many business models. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43484881)

We need to use third party software and meet tight deadlines. There are very few options for products which satisfy the requirements. Vendors sell their products with proprietary licenses, and sometimes we can modify for our use. We cannot link this stuff with GPL code without violating the vendor's license.

The problem is imposed by deadlines, vendor licensing agreements, customer requirements, and laws. It's not simply a one-company ideological problem to overcome.

I truly don't think this situation is all that unusual. Mind you, I have little experience in the software/desktop/app sector. I only speak from the hardware/firmware sector. We can use embedded Linux, but generally can't use very much GPL application code in user space.

As far as being "locked down", this is not a consumer product, and our customers actually want something that is as locked down as possible, and there are good reasons for this.

Re:GPL is poison to many business models. (1)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | about a year and a half ago | (#43485053)

True, GPL'd code is used in drone control stations so this guy must be working in Area 51's tinfoil hat department. How could GPL'd code possibly be bad for security just by the license alone?

Re:GPL is poison to many business models. (1)

ssam (2723487) | about a year and a half ago | (#43484815)

so you can't take GPL code and use it to build a locked down product. that is the point of GPL.

Re:GPL is poison to many business models. (1)

Microlith (54737) | about a year and a half ago | (#43484929)

Note that this is only true for GPLv3 or later. GPLv2 software can still be used in that manner.

Re:GPL is poison to many business models. (5, Insightful)

AuMatar (183847) | about a year and a half ago | (#43485033)

Welcome to the point. If you aren't willing to open source your code as well, then I don't want you to use mine. You can pay someone to write your own version. Pay in cash or pay in code, but no free ride to businesses.

The Public Domain (2)

Rob Riggs (6418) | about a year and a half ago | (#43484697)

Personally, this is why I feel that the recent invention of the "automatic copyright" grant is an epic fail. By default all published works should be in the public domain. Only those that are explicitly marked by the author with a copyright and a license should be protected.

Re:The Public Domain (2)

Great Big Bird (1751616) | about a year and a half ago | (#43484759)

The previous to 'automatic copyright' was registered copyright. The amount of paperwork required for that would be amazing overall.

it goes back and forth (1)

phantomfive (622387) | about a year and a half ago | (#43484719)

It goes back and forth, developers follow trends.

Right now the trend is to focus on the viral, strict portions of the GPL, which prevent people from using code if they don't want to share back. This trend probably started around the time of GPL3.0

In a few years, people will realize that corporations are taking their code and not giving back, and they'll get upset, and a lot of them will start using the GPL. Then some other life event will happen and they'll switch back.

It's worth mentioning that the vast majority of code on github isn't worth sticking a license on, because it's so short, my code included. I did add a license to my project though, and it doubled the size of the repository. It was embarrassing.

Single data point... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43484737)

Q:How can you draw trend conclusions from it? A:You can't!

And for all you permissive license supporters, get your facts straight http://upsilon.cc/~zack/blog/posts/2012/02/gpl_d_debian_software_skew/ [upsilon.cc]

Programmers don't want to be lawyers. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43484741)

I suspect that part of the reason many open-source developers don't formally license their work is that they haven't taken the time to understand the differences between all the different licenses. It's hard enough to pick one when you're publishing something that is entirely your own work. It becomes much harder to determine which license the work should be under when it depends on libraries using different licenses.

Personally, I license all my own work under the BSD license to maximize its potential for inclusion into works using other licenses. If I were to use the GPL, I would be restricting the use of my code to projects under GPL-compatible licenses. And that would be a dick move.

I blame Apple. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43484769)

I'm going to bet that the majority of github users are on Macs.

10 years ago a *nix nerd would have a completely free desktop. Their 2013 equivalent has had the taste of sweet, juicy, proprietary GUI. They scoff at an X workstation as something nobody would want to use. They like taking from open source because it's free goodies, but they don't want to go "the full Stallman".

I think it's fine to embrace a proprietary software while still using open source, but I do think it's sad that these people don't have more respect for the Stallmanesque idealists. They've had good ideas over the years and they've created a body of great work. It's a shame to see so many consider it "unacceptable" to use a free desktop.

GPL is too Restrictive (1)

Nethemas the Great (909900) | about a year and a half ago | (#43484781)

The GPL was created with the notion that every strata of software must be free and open. That's fine and lovely for Stallman but it provides unrealistic restrictions for commercial use. Businesses and individual developers alike donate resources to these communal properties for the benefit of all in a share and share alike manner so that we can focus resources on our real goal--the software we actually want to write and sell. In Stallman's idealistic world perhaps everyone would be communist and no one would care about money and possessions because we'd just step up to a replicator and say "earl grey, hot." But, this idealism does not match the reality on the ground. We depend upon commerce to provide for ourselves and our families.

If you don't like it and want to do something about it then you will have to solve the ultimate problem that has plagued mankind from the beginning, the scarcity of resources, and contention for the same.

Re:GPL is too Restrictive (1)

Microlith (54737) | about a year and a half ago | (#43484837)

it provides unrealistic restrictions for commercial use.

Not really. Unless your "commercial use" involves controlling the end user in some fashion.

We depend upon commerce to provide for ourselves and our families.

You've presented nothing to indicate how the GPL directly inhibits this, particularly with how much GPL software is used in commercial products today.

Re:GPL is too Restrictive (2)

Hatta (162192) | about a year and a half ago | (#43485017)

The GPL was created with the notion that every strata of software must be free and open. That's fine and lovely for Stallman but it provides unrealistic restrictions for commercial use.

You could say the same about all of our rights. The fact that a right is inconvenient for businesses to respect is not reason to abandon that right. You might as well say "That's fine and lovely for Lincoln, but it provides unrealistic restrictions for plantations".

Businesses and individual developers alike donate resources to these communal properties for the benefit of all in a share and share alike manner so that we can focus resources on our real goal--the software we actually want to write and sell.

So, go ahead and write and sell your software. Nothing in the GPL prevents that, and there are people who make a living today writing and selling GPL software. If businesses were restricted by law from infringing on the four software freedoms, it would be even easier to make a living writing and selling free software.

In Stallman's idealistic world perhaps everyone would be communist and no one would care about money and possessions because we'd just step up to a replicator and say "earl grey, hot."

What a ridiculous strawman. Protecting the rights of consumers is not communism. There's nothing more communistic about the four software freedoms than any of the other consumer rights [wikipedia.org] we protect by law.

False Dichotomy (5, Insightful)

slackergod (37906) | about a year and a half ago | (#43484787)

I'm sorry, but the entire premise that there is one "best" open source license is completely wrong. Where did this obsession arise to see one license crowned victor over all others, in all situations?

BSD (and MIT and variants) -- I've found they work best for providing backend and reference libraries, which by their nature are trying to provide a standard implementation of something, or at least a standard API. Open and closed sourced projects alike can use and modify it to suit their needs. This means such a library gets the widest adoption over the alternatives (all other factors being equal). This is especially great for server-side programs which want to promote multiple third-party clients - just release a BSD reference client.

LGPL -- A step down, for when you want the adoption level of a BSD license, but your project is complex and high maintenance enough that it needs to keep all the developers focused on a single api and codebase in order to thrive. Graphics libraries like GTK, audio processing libraries like LAME, are a great example of this.

GPL -- Finally, for the same reasons as LGPL, your want everyone contributing back to a single codebase, whether it's because you don't want to give the codebase away to closed source products that then profit from it, prevent brand confusion, or just maximize developer contributions. Mind you, closed source projects *will* choose an LGPL/BSD alternative over this or closed source, so it doesn't make much sense for libraries, etc. Primarily, this is useful for applications, which are vying for user (not developer) eyeballs.

So given they all have different uses that fit better for different project types and target markets, who in their right minds thinks only one of these licenses is correct?

Re:False Dichotomy (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43485021)

So given they all have different uses that fit better for different project types and target markets, who in their right minds thinks only one of these licenses is correct?

Many, many, many Stallman diehard fans and diehard haters. Really really loud and whiny ones, too. Ones that'll make you think there's a lot more of them out there by sheer volume of their whines.

Less complex (1)

denbesten (63853) | about a year and a half ago | (#43484891)

BSD is about 200-250 words, depending on version, with the newer versions being shorter.

GPL is 2000-5000 words, with the newer being substantially longer.

Is one of them really 10 to 20 times better than the other?

Re:Less complex (1)

ssam (2723487) | about a year and a half ago | (#43484933)

it takes a lot of words to keep the code free (which for some developers is a priority). GPL2 is fairly short, GPL3 works a bit harder to avoid loop holes that nobody though of in the 1980s.

Free Software in its working clothes (5, Insightful)

SirGarlon (845873) | about a year and a half ago | (#43484905)

Actually, even RMS refers to the BSD and Apache licenses as "GPL-compatible free software [gnu.org] ". So the GPL and other two popular licenses, BSD and Apache, are all free software by the Free Software Definition [gnu.org] . The difference is that GPL is a copyleft [gnu.org] license and the Apache and BSD licenses aren't.

Why are the Apache and BSD licenses becoming more popular than the GPL? Because free software has grown up. Where I work, we would not dream of implementing the whole software stack from scratch. We use lots of open-source libraries. My company's legal department is allergic to the full GPL because they want to keep open the option to do exactly what the GPL is designed to forbid -- make a proprietary product using open-source code. Usually our code is custom developed for a specific client but we might want to re-use that and/or make a general purpose product some day.

So, for us, using Apache/BSD licenses is easy. It's almost frictionless. Legal is comfortable with them, and pretty much all we have to do is include the license file and do a quick audit to make sure we've complied with it. GPL is much harder for us to work with because we have to justify to legal why we're signing away the rights before the product is even developed.

The whole point of the Open Source Initiative [opensource.org] , as I understand it, is to promote adoption and use of free software. It turns out that copyleft is {sometimes, often} a barrier to that in the business world. So I would say that "open source" (aka non-copyleft) has simply beaten "copyleft" in the marketplace.

Copyleft was a brilliant idea but non-copyleft free libraries are what I use in day-to-day development work. And I say that as a dyed-in-the-wool, sandals-wearing, free-as-in-freedom, latte-sipping, corporation-hating hippie wannabe.

There's a name to be made. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43484915)

Actually, I think this reflects the success of GPL to a certain degree. GPL kind of put the idea of writing software for software's sake in the public mind. I think what scares people is the legalese that if you use GPL software in any manner you have to open source your code. In other words, they don't understand well enough to make an informed decision.

But I think that it's accomplished what RMS wanted by getting programmers to recognize that they can be successful outside of a product. They're talent is what marketable, not the software. That programmers can make money supporting their product and that if many people use that product you can create a company that supports the product.

When I started programming, lo those many years ago, programmers didn't consider writing open source software because someone would steal it. It's kind of exciting that you can write software that other people can get excited about thereby creating a reputation for themselves.

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