[Discuss] free/open licenses could discourage participation just because they're unusual

J. Simmons jrs at mach30.org
Fri May 2 16:00:15 UTC 2014


I don't have any hard data, but I do have some thoughts on this topic.  My
experience as an observer of (and occasional contributor to) open source
software is that licenses very much matter (both well known ones and
one-off licenses).  Just look at the flame wars about licenses and the
corporate level decisions that happen (at places like Redhat or Apache) to
be a "insert license here" shop.  I think people can feel so strongly about
licenses because they are a manifestation of values (if you are a proponent
of "share alike" then "attribution only" would be a mere shadow of "true
licenses").  And nothing gets people worked up faster than a disagreement
over values.

It would not surprise me at all if reactions are magnified for less well
known licenses (after all they either require potential contributors to
read and understand a new license, take it on faith that the license
matches their values, or just skip the project entirely).  Note, I have
seen other commentary from OpenBSD that points to technical concerns in
OpenSSL's default error handling, so in this case, the real story behind
the event is probably very complicated and has many layers of causation.

One final thought, this business about licenses manifesting personal and
corporate values is one of the reasons why I think it is important to
develop a range of OSHW licenses that are sanctioned as being compatible
with the OSHW definition and cover the range of values we see in software
licenses (GPL-like, LGPL-like, Apache/BSD-like, etc).  And it is why I
think it is essential for projects to declare their license choice(s) in
plain site on their project pages so new users and contributors can see the
project's values when they first visit the project.

Thanks for posting the link,


On Fri, May 2, 2014 at 11:19 AM, Matt Maier <blueback09 at gmail.com> wrote:

> http://www.infoworld.com/d/open-source-software/heartbleed-postmortem-openssls-license-discouraged-scrutiny-241781
> An interesting theory about why OpenSSL got so little development help is
> that it has a custom license which is incompatible with standard FLOSS
> licenses.
> "*Developers would rather not deal with these issues; as such, they use
> the code as-is and do the least necessary to comply with the license*"
> Does anybody know if there is data to support this theory? Do a
> significant number of developers shy away from projects just because
> they're unfamiliar with, or annoyed by, a slightly off-of-center license?
> -Matt
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J. Simmons, President
Mach 30: Foundation for Space Development
<https://www.facebook.com/Mach30>  <http://twitter.com/mach_30>

*~ ad astra per civitatem ~*to the stars through community
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