Sharing Source Code

1. May, 2012

One would think that “open source” is all about sharing. But that’s a misconception.¬†Example: Try to use some GPL‘d code in your non-GPL OSS project. Oh, the humanity.

So called “proprietary” software at least believes in “buying love”. They won’t show you the source but for a price, you can at least use their work without many questions asked.

OSS is different. If you use the wrong license, you must be a moron (proof: You’re using a different license than me. QED) Nobody wants to share their hard work with morons!

Especially not since the process to select the “perfect” OSS license is so painful. You need to read legalese, try to understand it, reason with the nice smiling person on the other side of the padded wall (a.k.a “outside”) that you’re not insane – the rest of the world is and you can prove it.

Ever tried to get some OSS project to share their code under second license? It’s a lot of fun – unless you’re serious. Then … it’s not so much fun.

Why I’m ranting?

I spend a lot of time on stackoverflow. It’s cool. It’s full of source.

But can you use any piece of that source code in your OSS project?

Are you sure?

You are. Splendid. Do you really think a lawyer would see this the same way?


GPL vs EPL

23. November, 2010

A lot has been said about GPL and EPL and various other OSS licenses and how much they do harm.

Miles Parker summarizes it very well in his blog post “Is GPL damaging to your ecosystem’s health?

My stance: It’s not really the GPL as such. The big problem is that we have incompatible licenses. The goal is the same: Software wants to be free. But we can’t agree on how to make sure it is.

Single developers don’t want companies to steal their work (read: get rich) while companies want to make sure they and their customers can’t be sued.

But the root cause of the problem is that we have a legal system which just doesn’t allow for “in good faith.” Or at least so we believe.

We simply can’t say: “Oh, I don’t bother as long as you don’t steal the code — and a judge will have to decide what I mean by ‘steal’ on a case-by-case basis.”

A few days ago, a member of the Tycho team asked me to sign some legal contract so they could use my patches. That took a huge bite out of my motivation to submit something. Why do I have to sign a legal contract to do something that is legal? Why are the good guys treated worse than the bad guys?

You say that there is no other option?

I’m not with you. Carl Sagan put it best in his movie Contact:

David Drumlin: I know you must think this is all very unfair. Maybe that’s an understatement. What you don’t know is I agree. I wish the world was a place where fair was the bottom line, where the kind of idealism you showed at the hearing was rewarded, not taken advantage of. Unfortunately, we don’t live in that world.

Ellie Arroway: Funny, I’ve always believed that the world is what we make of it.