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Introduction to the idea of opensource as a community

Items to expand in this submodule:

  • licenses
  • interaction between different projects
  • why many can work on the same project

See, the basic assumption about the target reader is that he is a translator or a project manager who has never really had much contact with the opensource world and the opensource community, but who for some reason are now asked to participate (possibly as part of a paid job). Such translators are in for a culture shock (if they do it right).


I'll wikify this later…


what consstitutes an open license?


What is an opensource license?

Different groups within the opensource community have different definitions of what an opensource license is. In essense, an opensource license is one that permits redistribution of derivative works without paying royalties to the original authors.

* Programmers' licenses: also allows access to the source code
* Media authors' licenses: may or may not allow access to the originating media

Some licenses require that the same license is applied to all derivative works, whereas other licenses allow a more restrictive license to be applied to the derivative works if required.


?? The ideology of opensource licenses

Why people use an opensource license…

why license stuff at all
- protection and ensuring freedom to change and redistribute


The three most active groups defining what opensource licenses are:

* Open Source Initiative

* Free Software Foundation

* Debian Software


Most common opensource licenses

The GNU licenses

Created and maintained by the Free Software Foundation. The GNU licenses are United States licenses but are used all over the world. Products using the license must include the entire license wording.

* GPL (General Public License) (version 2)
- Most common opensource licence
- Intended for software
- Permits derivative works for any purpose
- Must give credit to all previous authors
- Derivative works must be licensed GPL 2 or 3
- May not distribute code mixed with non-GPL code


* GPL (version 3)
- Essentially the same as GPL 2, reworded
- Derivative works must be licensed GPL 3

* LGPL (Lesser General Public License)
- Intended for software
- Essentiall the same as GPL 2, except:
- May distribute code mixed with non-GPL code

* FDL (Free Document License)
- Intended for software documentation
- Must give credit to all previous authors
- Must retain a log of changes to the document
- Derivative works must be licensed FDL
- May not distribute mixed with non-FDL content


Creative Commons (CC) licenses

Created and maintained by the Creative Commons Consortium. A version of the CC licenses are drawn up for each country, in accordance with local laws. Product using one of the CC licenses need only display a short abbreviation.

CC licenses are combinations of four rights, namely:
* Whether previous authors need to be credited
* Whether commercial use is permitted
* Whether derivative works may be created
* Whether distributed works should have the same license

Debian Software, which applies a very strict definition of opensource licensing, does not accept any CC license as a valid opensource license. The Free Software Foundation accepts BY and BY-SA as valid opensource licenses.


* BY (attribution alone)
- the work may be used, altered and redistributed, for commercial and non-commercial purposes, as long as the original authors are given credit, and redistributed under any license

* BY-NC (attribution + noncommercial)
- the same as BY, but only for non-commercial purposes

* BY-ND (attribution + no derivatives)
- the same as BY, but the work may not be altered

* BY-SA (attribution + share-alike)
- the same as BY, but the same license as the original must be applied to both altered or unaltered redistributed works

* BY-NC-ND (attribution + noncommercial + no derivatives)
- the same as BY, but only for non-commercial purposes, and the work may not be altered

* BY-NC-SA (attribution + noncommercial + share-alike)
- same as BY-SA, but only for non-commercial purposes

Works can also be licensed without the BY clause, in other words, the original authors need not be credited, but this rarely happens.



It is possible to license a work under more than one license, and then users can choose which (or all) of the license they wish to apply to derivative works. Criticism of dual licensing is that once a derivative work uses only one license, all future code from it may never be used in the originating product again.

* Mozilla products such as Firefox and Thunderbird are tri-licensed as Mozilla Public License (MPL), GNU GPL and GNU LGPL. This permits these products to be used by organisations that require a GPL license (such as Debian) but gives users the freedom to create derivative works that do no carry the GPL license.


Opensource and freeware

Opensource is not simply a means of distributing software for no cost to the user. There are licenses that permit such distribution, called freeware, shareware, postcardware, etc, but these licenses are all non-free in the sense that it does not permit the products to be altered and redistributed in altered form.

Opensource software may be sold. It is not a requirement that opensource software is always supplied at no cost. The source code itself must be free, but there is no compulsion on developers to compile their code for users. It is permitted to sell opensource software as long as the source code is available without cost.

Opensource software is often mistakenly compared to commercial software, as if opensource software can only be non-commercial. Commercial use and exploitation of opensource software is permitted, as long as the source code remains free of charge.


non-free licenses similar to opensource:


the license of the GUI is the same as the license of the program

the culture of the opensource community

attitudes in the oss community
- we don't care, just do it yourself
- be helpful when reporting something

developers who get paid for what they do
devs who do stuff on the side, as a hobby
tinkerers versus real developers

the value of l10n and document writing
- often not appreciated

how different projects use each others' work (libraries etc)
(get someone more knowledgeable to write it)

forking (formal and informal)

how a commercial entitity can hijack a program legally
- novell?

various funding models for floss
- mozilla model
- pay for windows version
- provide paid online service
- ??