Licenses and the reality about open (source) today



  • I want to start this discussion after my previous post:
    http://qt-project.org/forums/viewthread/39153/
    Am I complaining? YES. And please, understand my point of view before you tell me that there's nothing wrong and my complaining is meaningless.

    The "open" concept
    When the "open" concept was born it was meant as "available from anyone, to anyone else, with no limitations". It means that if I create any content (not related to programming [soucre code] only, but any kind of content) and release it as "open", anyone will be able and will be allowed to use it entirely, without any limitation; and anyone can contribute by releasing a better version of my work, anyone can make modifications to my work anyone is allowed to tear this work apart and find out how it's made up to the root of it, and anyone is allowed to use it they way they want. This definition also allows people to use my work in both free and commercial works without limitation - because it's "open": available to anyone without any limitation.

    GPL-ed software, FREE software and Open software controversy
    Most of the people saying "FREE software" actually meant "at no cost". Most of the people saying "Open-Source" actually means "GPL licensed content". During the years the GPL license has become a synonym of "at no cost with source code available". Many people thinks GPL it's really going to be the future of "open" software. Is it really so?
    By reading the license details it describes how anyone is allowed to use/redistribute/modify content released under this license at no cost. But then it pinpoints that you may NOT use that content for any retributive work (donations not included). That's not "Open" at all! It can't be used by "anyone" since it takes out all the people who want to use the content for commercial (retributive) work, even though it's not that sole piece of work that it's going to be commercial but a whole bigger project.

    "Open" today
    It's amazing how something people thought to be open is not open at all, and that's what many people (like me) have to fight in every step they make in this commercial world.
    From the complaining of others many GPL derived licenses have born that will allow the usage of the content for commercial projects. LGPL (Lesser GPL) and BSD are the most known around, even though there are others non GPL derived like Creative Commons that grant (almost) the same permissions. When you look around for content though, you'll find out that, no matter which license is chosen, people will take care of not allowing the work to be used for commercial purposes. You may say that I'm wrong, but really, look for any open content that you might need and make a list of works which are truly open. You'll find a pretty short list, and in most cases the work is not really suitable for your intentions.

    The reality is that open software today is much more of an exception rather than a rarity. In earlier years it might have been common to find open software, but then it all got extinguished by the "no cost" concept. The amount of "no cost" software is huge while the truly open software is so little it can even be considered a myth. The impact of this change for people unable to buy works is huge as well. I know of people who got stuck at half-completed project because they were not allowed to do something; I myself have come into many of those situations and it's the hell on earth when you know you could make something great for a living, but you're not allowed to.

    So, what's your opinion about "open" today? If you had a chance, what would you change?


  • Moderators

    [quote author="T3STY" date="1393905878"]Most of the people saying "FREE software" actually meant "at no cost". Most of the people saying "Open-Source" actually means "GPL licensed content". During the years the GPL license has become a synonym of "at no cost with source code available". Many people thinks GPL it's really going to be the future of "open" software. Is it really so?[/quote]

    No, GPL v3 is - by many, including myself - considered too restrictive, and people are in general moving away from it. Research data suggests that most new projects are using licenses other than GPL (LGPL, BSD, MIT, Apache). I myself use WTFPL for all my new projects: because it's short and really easy to grasp.

    [quote]By reading the license details it describes how anyone is allowed to use/redistribute/modify content released under this license at no cost. But then it pinpoints that you may NOT use that content for any retributive work (donations not included). That's not "Open" at all![/quote]

    Which is why GPLv3 is so unpopular. But you are missing one point about commercial use: you can use GPL and sell your product. GPL is concerned only about the freedom of the source code. You can sell your product, and you don't need to give the source code to everybody: just to your clients.

    [quote]It's amazing how something people thought to be open is not open at all, and that's what many people (like me) have to fight in every step they make in this commercial world.[/quote]

    Hey, that is how the world works. Don't expect you'll take lots of free stuff and get a huge profit out of it: a lot of people are contributing code to open project for the benefit of all. "something people thought to be open" - well, they have misunderstood the concept, then.

    [quote]When you look around for content though, you'll find out that, no matter which license is chosen, people will take care of not allowing the work to be used for commercial purposes. You may say that I'm wrong[/quote]

    Yes, you are wrong. I don't know your use cases, but I don't see licenses blocking my productivity in general, even for commercial products. Linux kernel, Qt, various other libs are available for commercial use. See practically any Google app for android: in settings, there is a list of Free software that the app uses; usually close to a dozen different projects are involved: yet the app itself is closed and commercial.

    [quote]In earlier years it might have been common to find open software, but then it all got extinguished by the "no cost" concept.[/quote]

    You do in fact sound like you would like to use other's work for no cost and complain that you are not allowed to ;) There is no "no cost" concept in FOSS. A lot of people think there is one, but there is none and has never been: RMS talks about this for 3 decades now ;)

    What I keep doing on this forum (well, apart from many other things) is to simply educate people about what Free Software and Open Source mean. What else do you expect? The copyright and patent laws around the world are a farce. In the coding community: some are extremists, thinking that all software should be open and free, some others like commercial coding more, other people are somewhat in the middle ("FOSS is great, but we need to eat something, right?").

    [quote]I myself have come into many of those situations and it's the hell on earth when you know you could make something great for a living, but you're not allowed to.[/quote]

    Again: your position seems strongly asymmetric: you expect to get free stuff, but want to sell it without releasing the source code. That is not how most Free Software works, ok? The very idea behind this, and the copyleft concepts is that you can have access to the code. The product can cost money, but the user needs to have access to the code: in case something does not work, or they want to check if the code is not malicious. And, for closed-source commercial use, there are options, too: LGPL and other licenses.



  • That's a neat explaining of what's wrong with my point of view so thank you very much.
    So as I understand, the so loved GPL lciense is not that loved anymore. Although, wherever I move around the web I always get to something using GPL license.
    [quote] you expect to get free stuff, but want to sell it without releasing the source code [/quote]
    Not really, I just don't want to release the source code of my application. If I use someone else's work I have no problems redistributing the source code of that piece work. But if that work uses GPL I'm forced to release my whole application under GPL license too, as per therms and conditions.

    Anyway, this wasn't about GPL only, it's about true open software. As far as my programmer life went, I've been unable to find much of open software. I understand that, the people who made those works are in a similar position of my zero-budget, and they would like to gain something from their works for a living. The fact is though that most works are claimed to be totally free while in fact they're free of charge for free projects. Not that there's something wrong with that, just people are now loosing behind the idea of free (open) software. ((OT: could "open" mean totally unlicensed software?)) People seem to have adhered to the licensing mechanism nowadays. Maybe, the real issue here are not the licenses only, but the whole licensing and patenting system which probably forces people to behave in that manner...


  • Moderators

    Yeah, I agree with you in general ;)


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