Saturday, February 26, 2011

History of open source licensing

The open source software movement traces its history to the formation of the Free
Software Foundation ("FSF") in 1985 by Richard Stallman. Free Software is more of an ideology that emphasizes the freedom users have with the source code  and  not  with  the price one pays for the software. In essence, free software is an attempt to guarantee certain rights for both, users and developers. These freedoms include:

  • Freedom to execute the program for any reason
  • Freedom to examine the source code, see how it works and change it to do what you would like it to do
  • Freedom to redistribute the source and keep the money generated from it
  • Freedom to modify and redistribute the modified source code

In order to guarantee these freedoms the GNU General Public License (GPL) was created. In short any software licensed under GPL must include the source code. Any modifications made to a GPL source code  will also be  licensed under GPL. This was to ensure that software once "opened" to the community could not be "closed" at a later time.

In 1998 a non-profit institution called Open Source Initiative (OSI) defined the term "open source software" to emphasize a break with the anti-business past associated with GNU to place a new emphasis in the community on the possibilities of extending the free software model to the commercial world. The OSI does not define a specific license as GPL but lays down the pre-requisites of the distribution terms of open source software. It thereby accepts various licenses whose distribution terms comply with the Open Source Definition (OSD). There are ten criteria mentioned at the OSI Web site
( The main intentions for the OSD are described in the article "Open source licensing, Part 1: The intent" [1] by Martin Streicher and are summarized in Table below


Read more at Getting started with Open source development

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