Software licensing; GPL, BSD or public domain?

The discussion on GPL vs BSD  licensing will probably never end, unless one or both licenses cease to exist.

There’s an interesting post about the GPL license and BSD license, and the writer’s suggests that the public domain license is the license to be chosen for real freedom, as the other two lay restrictions on the user.

About the GPL license he notes:

That’s what the GPL really is. A binding contract : That is a set of restrictions on those who use, develop or modify content licensed under it. It is not now or has ever been a formula on “freedom”. The GPL is not the definition of “generocity” that is giving without expecting any return. I hope all you GPL advocates would stop treating it as such and call it what it is. A license and a binding contract. Nothing more.

I.e. GPL restrictions are there to keep the freedom to change, modify, and share the code.

With regards to the BSD license he remarks:

Unlike the GPL, the BSD license doesn’t pretend to be something it isn’t and users of BSD license are well aware that, like all licenses, it is a binding contract between developers, distributors, and users. They have no delusions about how much “freedom” both licenses afford however the BSD still being a license it still has usage restrictions. Namely the copyright and disclaimer.

Developers using the BSD license don’t care nor want to police the actions of users once the source is copied. They’re not interested in “freedom” through coersion, which is actually slavery. They just want to make sure their products and sources are available from them regardless of need or future availability. If the users want to share their own modifications, then more power to them. But they’ll be damned if it’s by force.

I.e. the BSD license lets users do whatsoever they want with the software, even using it commercially (in closed source).

If real freedom is to be chosen, the author suggests going down the public domain route. This license places basically no restrictions whatsoever on your software. Anybody can use the software, may sell it or do with it what (s)he wants.

Read the post in its entirity.

Talking about blog posts discussing GPL vs BSD, here’s another recent one: BSD vs GPL (nevali.net – 30/12/2008)

One thought on “Software licensing; GPL, BSD or public domain?

  1. Rjack says:

    “That’s what the GPL really is. A binding contract” is perhaps a small overstatement
    of the law of contracts.

    The GPL purports to bind all third parties
    to its terms:

    “b) You must cause any work that you distribute or publish, that in whole or in part contains or is derived from the Program or any part thereof, to be licensed as a whole at no charge to all third parties under the terms of this License.”

    This utterly defies prevailing contract law:

    “It goes without saying that a contract cannot bind a nonparty.”; EEOC v. Waffle House, Inc., 534 U.S. 279, 294 (2002)

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