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Joe Honton
Joe Honton

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Has Open Source Licensing Reached Its End of Life?

Recently, I finished working on a software project that I’m especially proud of. It took months of effort to complete, and the final result was something that perfectly fit my needs. It was a labor of love.

It’s not important to reveal the purpose of the software here, or the technical details of its inner workings. Simply allow me to say that it’s something that I will use right away, and that other programmers may find useful as well.

When the project was complete, there were a few important decisions that I needed to make. How do I share what I’ve created? How can I get fair compensation for my efforts? And how do I protect what I’ve created from unscrupulous profiteers?

Getting fair compensation for our individual efforts is part of the equation here. Yes, I’m aware that GPL licensing makes a distinction between “Free as in Speech” and “Free as in Beer”. Yes, I know that I can charge a fee for my efforts.

I’m curious to know what other software developers are doing about this. What considerations go into the decision-making process? What works and what doesn’t?

Lately I’ve begun to wonder if open-source licensing has failed to keep up with technology. The first version of GPL debuted in 1989, and was updated soon after in 1991. The most recent revision of GPL was in 2007. That was 14 years ago!

I've explored this topic more fully in this JavaScript Fanboi article.

I haven’t figured out where to go from here, but it feels like something needs to change.

Discussion (1)

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Ricardo Sueiras

There is a distinction between the license to attribute to your code/project and any commercialization of efforts around building software. Open source is NOT a business model, so I guess I would ask a different question - how could you make money from the problems you are trying to solve, and how does open source help enable that?

Open source licensing has been working great for the past 20+ years and I do not believe it needs changing. That said, the OSI welcomes dialog and discussion on this topic, so if you feel strongly that is where perhaps you can engage.