Software Licensing

My last post about my transaction management advice for ColdSpring spawned a little debate about licensing between Sean and I, and I'm curious for feedback from the community at large.

The crux of the debate is that I released the component under the GPL, which is very restrictive license that nearly disallows use in commercial products.  Certainly not a good way to get wide adoption in a commercial setting.

With the license, however, was an offer of a commercial-friendly license (ASL, MIT, etc.) for the cost of an email describing the intended use.  I don't think that's a steep price to pay, even for something as trivial the advice component.

Reasonable?  Unreasonable?  Alternate tactics for the same end result?   I'm all ears…

5 responses to “Software Licensing”

  1. Sean Corfield

    As you probably realize, I think GPL is simply unreasonable, period. I would never release anything under GPL because I don't agree with the philosophy of GPL (or LGPL).

    GPL is a viral license that infects any code that tries to use GPL. It's a political ideal that has no bearing on the real (commercial) world. I don't like 'viruses'…

  2. Emmanuel Okyere

    i believe you ;)

  3. rob

    I think that's a valid route.

    There was a trend a while ago where open source projects offered code as GPL, and if you wanted to use the code to make money you could pay to get the code under an MIT or commercial freindly license. I think it's a good way to help out the community, while not getting shafted for all your hard work. Your suggestion is even less of a hassle.

    I think that is a good idea personally.

  4. Kurt

    But what happens when you create the project under GPL / LGPL and other people start contributing?

    Do you have the RIGHTS to change the license on a project that consists of other people's work? And furthermore, is it really ethical (or even legal) to charge for a commercial license (ASL, MIT,…) if the project contains contributions from others? Probably not.

    I personally don't know the answers to any of the above questions (except the ethics stance), but I think the above considerations make it very clear that you should just select ASL or another KNOWN commercially friendly license.

  5. rob

    "Do you have the RIGHTS to change the license on a project that consists of other people's work?"

    If the other people who work on the project are in on it, there is no problem. If you got paid for a product, everyone who contributed should get paid. The model is not one guy stiffing contributors. If you are upfront with the dual license, there shouldn't be a problem.

    There is a great quote from a band called NOFX that goes "Give him something free, and he'll resell it to the poor". Companies, in general, are not nice. In general, they wont help you out after they sell the code you gave away free – and no one uses "donate" buttons. GPL stops people from making a mint off you free – bottom line if you want to profit off other's sweat, I think you should have to work for it.

    …and sending an email isn't that big of a chore.