The Boston Diaries

The ongoing saga of a programmer who doesn't live in Boston, nor does he even like Boston, but yet named his weblog/journal “The Boston Diaries.”

Go figure.

Friday, Debtember 10, 1999

A License to License

Guess what? That's bunk. They haven't infected me. I'm merely using a library function in the way that library functions are meant to be used: they're an API, and you link to them. It is of no consequence whether it's statically linked at link/load-time, dynamically linked at start-up, or accessed at run-time during execution via any one of myriad forms of RPC. It's API only, not material inclusion. APIs aren't viral.

–Tom Christiansen, from an Ask Slashdot forum.

Another big old discussion on Slashdot about Open Source Licenses.

I'm not sure how I come down on this issue. The basic one seems to be that some people feel the GNU GPL is too viral, too restrictive of an Open Source license. Others feel that the Artistic License is too liberal, allowing one to appropriate code and resell it in a proprietary product. And who knows how these things interact.

I had a similar problem when I released my first Open Source package, mod_litbook, which is an Apache module, with its own license. I wrote to the FSF asking about this, but never did hear back from them, because I did want to release it under the GPL, but didn't know how it would work with the Apache License. I went ahead anyway.

Basically, I would like for a license to read (my own comments [appear as such]):

I, Sean Conner, own the copyright to this program [assuming I wrote the program of course] but you are free to fold, spindle or mutilate this program for your own use.

You are free to redistribute your changes as long as your changes also fall under this license. [I don't want to restrict anyone from using the code, improving upon it, and giving back. Or even using for their own uses]

If you wish to incorporate this program or parts thereof into a commercial software package, let's talk. I want a piece of the action. [but let's face it—if you are going to make money off my code, I want my fair share. I gotta eat too you know]

I suppose you could say I want my cake and eat it too, but at heart, the idea that someone can come along, use what I created to make obscene amounts of money of which I don't get anything, does make me pause.

And the restrictions, advertising and linking issues of all the libraries are enough to make your head swim. And it's not like you can't make money with the GPL.

Since I seem to be quoting quite a bit from the Slashdot discussion, just read it.

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