[OSGeo-Discuss] An interesting article about software licensing in the non-open source geospatial world

Frank Warmerdam warmerdam at pobox.com
Sun Dec 20 15:23:33 PST 2009

Venkatesh Raghavan wrote:
> Frank
> Frank Warmerdam wrote:
> ...
>> Building on software distributed under well understood and relatively
>> unrestrictive open source licenses can help a great deal.
> Could you let me know what would the
> "relatively unrestrictive open source licenses"
> be.


It depends on your requirements as to what sorts of restrictions would
be problematic.  From this perspective I consider permissive licenses
like the MIT/X or nocredit-BSD licenses to be the least restrictive.

Some open source licenses have restrictions requiring credit (like
the old BSD license which required credit be made visible in end-software).
This may or may not be an issue depending on your requirements.

Some open source licenses have requirements for reciprocal rights with
regard to improvements to the software.  The GPL and LGPL come to mind but
there are a number of other licenses in this vein.  Likewise this is only
a problem for some use cases.

The GPL itself also requires making available the rest of a linked
application under similar terms to the GPL.

There are also requirements with regard to patents in some licenses,
GPLv3 comes to mind.

What is OK depends a lot on circumstances.  But I do have a preference
for the very permissive licenses like MIT/X and BSD that don't attempt
to bind the user/distributor to additional requirements.  Their simplicity
comes out in the text which is very short.  This makes it pretty easy to
understand from a legal point of view, and it is easy to ensure you are in
full compliance.

I would note that the GPL and LGPL are also great licenses, and one big
benefit of them is that they are so widely used. So if an organization
does a bit of research and understands the terms of them, it is easy to
pick up new pieces of software under the same license without having to
spend a bunch more money and time in legal reviews since the terms are
well known.

Best regards,

I set the clouds in motion - turn up   | Frank Warmerdam, warmerdam at pobox.com
light and sound - activate the windows | http://pobox.com/~warmerdam
and watch the world go round - Rush    | Geospatial Programmer for Rent

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