Licensing software

stallman-free-software

First of all, i do not pretend that this blog is unbiased. With that out of the way i want to talk about licensing.

As developers we have a wide array of licenses to choose from, including but not limited to : MIT, GNU AGPL v3, CC and of course a wide array of closed software licenses.

In my opinion the only license that should be used is the GNU AGPL written by the free software foundation (http://www.fsf.org/) which was founded by Richard Stallman (RMS), who makes great effort and a strong case as to why software should be “free or libre”. I agree with him and you can listen to Anny of his lectures on the subject. But in short using the GNU AGPL License ensures that users will have the 4 foundational rights that they diserve

  • The freedom to run the program as you wish, for any purpose (freedom 0).
  • The freedom to study how the program works, and change it so it does your computing as you wish (freedom 1). Access to the source code is a precondition for this.
  • The freedom to redistribute copies so you can help your neighbor (freedom 2).
  • The freedom to distribute copies of your modified versions to others (freedom 3). By doing this you can give the whole community a chance to benefit from your changes. Access to the source code is a precondition for this.

No other license ensure this. And this is what i and the people of the FSF (Free software foundation ) consider free software, to quote RMS : free as in libre not like free beer.

The MIT license comes close in that it proides users the right to edit the code and use it as they wish, the biggest difference is that it does not enforce the next person to distribute his/her work under the same license. So it could very well be that a closed source program contains code or a program that wa published under the MIT license. So this clearly shows that software under the MIT license can be used for restrictive programs.

In this case, its not just (still mostly) up to developers, its also up to managers  and executives.

We as developers need to see the worth in using the GNU AGPL license and we need to learn to translate our points so that managers can allow us or fight for us to use it. They need to see the practical worth, and convince executives. And some times we might feel the need to strong arm them.

Then and only then can we make the world of software a place of freedom.

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