Explore Software Licensing and Stance of FSF on patents

on Harshil Jani

#open-source #foss

If you are a developer enough then you might have already seen License in open source projects or even in proprietary. Some of them might be like GNU GPL, MIT License, Apache, Creative Commons etc. There are already plenty of articles explaining all of them in more detail and what I do believe is that the best way to know about any License is to directly read the License itself as it self describes the terms.

Here I will focus more on the usage part of it and the stance of Free Software foundation (FSF) on licensing the softwares.

Software licensing is about Protecting rights, promoting collaboration, and defining the terms of software use, distribution and modification.

It is essential to regulate the software industry and maintain a balance between protecting developers interests and promoting good coding practices.

Proprietary licensing is out of scope of this article because there is not much to talk about them. They are simply licenses which protect the softwares and its redistribution or modification which requires a charge to be paid back to the creator. And even the source code is not publicly available (offcourse). The use of such softwares and the public interest with them is restricted. Examples are Apple DOS, Photoshop 1.0.1, Java etc.

Coming towards the open source softwares, imagine a scenario where you have no license and thus no restrictions. You put in years of effort to build a piece that helps millions and all of a sudden, someone shows up and copies all of your hardwork and makes it proprietary and charges for the same services with minor improvements on top and earns profit from it. Thus license is important for open source softwares.

There are two kinds of licenses

The core difference between both is that with the copyright license any copy of the software can be redistributed only with the permission from the original author. In other sense, You are bound to give the credits to the original author. But the copyleft licenses ensure that you can freely do whatever you want to do with the software with primary condition being that keep it public and free and the source code should be available. Copyleft licenses encourages about giving back to the community and sharing improvements.

If you are wondering which license to use for your next project or product as an open source software then you may find the overview below as helpful.

and the list is quite long and best advice would be to visit the License clauses itself to understand them better.

# Free Software Foundation (FSF) Stance on Software Patents

FSF is a well known organization founded by our beloved FOSS activist Richard Stallman. The organization has many initiatives towards the free softwares and one of such initiative is “END SOFTWARE PATENTS”.

Software Licensing and Software Patents are quite different from each other. What the organization is asking out here is to avoid any patents and distribute the softwares freely without any restrictions. Using GNU GPL alike licenses and with no patents on any part of your tech helps building a sustainable software community worldwide.

You should consider doing this in first place for your softwares because

If you have watched Silicon Valley HBO series, There was an instance where the algorithm was patented under Gavin Belson and the innovator Richard Hendricks who was willing to build a concept for decentralized internet has to suffer days and night for it. The entire plot clearly depicted about how this patents ruins life of people who are willing to change other’s lives. Although, This was just a scene from the series but in real it affects too.

Towards the end , I urge everyone of you to license your work as GNU GPL without any included patents. I am in no way involved with FSF but this is my way of giving back. I am using GNU GPL for all of my projects and I totally agree with the freedom since after a century you won’t exist but maybe your work would and can possibly help others. Consider this as an awareness post. There might be times when people may try to copy and move forward the project but think about the sole purpose of the project. When you started for example “Python” then main purpose was to make the high level programming easier irrespective of “Python by Guido Van Rossum”. Even if someone is making the project more useful until and unless it is free it somehow works. This may sound unfair as human rights to claim the creation but how long would it stay ?

Again there is always an option to opt for something good. But, Let’s not be a philanthropist who was rich enough to buy something for 70k USD and resell and hit the bars of Forbes. At the end, He too lost his life partner. And from the one whom he bought the product he too.

I would leave a conclusion and decision upto you whether you want to keep a software piece closed or open , patented or patent-free, GNU GPL or MIT, Regional or International, Yin or Yang whatever…