Orbifx's logarion 🌙

commons > open source, software
licence, open source

Copyleft licencing benefits society

Years ago, I was troubled by the conundrum of licencing my personal software. It was for programs I wanted to share openly, but I couldn't decide whether to use a copy-left licence or not.

I opted for GPL at the time, with plenty of hesitation. Wouldn't allowing anyone to do anything with my work, maximise the benefit derived from my work?

But in time I realised that if I wanted to benefit society, just allowing the use of my work wasn't enough. Cultivating behaviour around work is as important as the material itself. Permissive licences like BSD allow companies & individuals to take the code and selfishly benefit from it without returning anything but credit. This is fine for some types of work and mind-sets.

But if one is developing not just to pass time and but wishes their work to have an impact, then permissive licences are generally not the way to go.

A recent case for my point and instigator for this entry, discussed on NuttX's mailing list, was TizenRT forking NuttX. NuttX has been lingering on since 2007, but doesn't seem to reach any critical mass despite its merit. If teams can take the code and keep splintering off in hope of their respective successes, or because of lack of consideration for the originating community, the NuttX code won't benefit nor will the NuttX team grow. TizenRT is allegedly already incompatible with NuttX. There are other issues which have keeps NuttX's team from growing, but I believe licence is one of them.

There are plenty of other cases out there. One has but to consider how many large projects are using permissive licences. This decision comes down to the economical views and situation of the developer. It takes special clout and circumstances for permissive licenced work to both benefit society and thrive.

The default licence for my work is EUPL.