Comparing Open-Source Software Licenses | Summary and Q&A

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February 14, 2018
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Stanford eCorner
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Comparing Open-Source Software Licenses

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Summary

This video discusses the importance of structuring open-source projects in terms of governance and licenses that enable commercialization. The GPL v3 license is considered radical and viral, requiring developers to give back when using it. However, it is seen as toxic for business because it forces the exposure of intellectual property and discourages companies from using it. The BSD license, on the other hand, is permissive and allows modifications without the requirement to distribute them. This difference in licenses led to the creation of a new competing stack based on the BSD license, which is more suitable for commercialization.

Questions & Answers

Q: What is the role of governance structure and licenses in open-source projects?

Governance structure and licenses are important aspects of open-source projects, particularly when it comes to commercialization. They help define how the project is managed and how its intellectual property is protected.

Q: What is the continuum of open innovation?

The continuum of open innovation begins with things like app stores, APIs, and SDKs, and progresses towards actual open-source software.

Q: Why is the GPL v3 license considered radical?

The GPL v3 license is considered radical because it is viral in nature. It requires anyone who uses the software to give back to the open-source community by publishing any modifications made to the software.

Q: What was the reaction to the GPL v3 license within the open-source community?

The GPL v3 license sparked controversy within the open-source community. While some developers saw it as a way to increase developer engagement, it was deemed toxic for business by major companies. It essentially required them to expose their intellectual property.

Q: What is the difference between the GPL v2 and GPL v3 licenses?

The GPL v2 license, used by Linux, is less radical compared to the GPL v3 license. The GPL v3 was considered a more extreme deviation and has been criticized by big companies. The choice of license can significantly impact the commercial viability of a project.

Q: What are the advantages of the BSD license?

The BSD license is a permissive license that allows developers to make modifications without the requirement to distribute them. This flexibility makes it more favorable to companies who want to embrace open-source software while maintaining control over their own intellectual property.

Q: Why did the speaker have to separate from the community he started?

The speaker made the mistake of choosing the GPL v3 license for the community he started. This license hindered commercialization and discouraged companies from using the software. As a result, the speaker had to create a new competing stack based on the BSD license, leading to the separation of the community.

Q: What is the current trend in the industry regarding license choice?

Most companies, including air taxi companies like Udacity, now prefer to use the BSD license for their open-source projects. The permissive nature of this license allows for easier commercialization and more widespread adoption by businesses.

Q: How did the speaker feel about having to separate from the community he started?

The speaker acknowledges that separating from the community he started due to licensing issues was a painful experience. While he does not feel good about it, he believes it was necessary in order to pursue commercialization objectives.

Q: What has been learned from the experience with different licenses?

The experience highlighted the significant differences between licenses in terms of their impact on commercialization. Choosing the right license is crucial for the success of an open-source project, as it can determine whether companies are willing to adopt and invest in the software.

Takeaways

Choosing the appropriate governance structure and license for an open-source project is essential for successful commercialization. The GPL v3 license, while beneficial for developer engagement, can be toxic for business due to its viral nature and requirements for exposure of intellectual property. In contrast, permissive licenses like BSD are more widely embraced by companies, allowing them to adopt open-source software without sacrificing control over their own intellectual property. The speaker's experience highlights the importance of considering the long-term implications of license choices.

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