Feature Articles: Are We Living In A Post GPL World? Not Yet.
For a while now, I have realized that many developers have not been too kind of the GPLv3 license, in comparison to it’s predecessor, GPLv2. GPL is still the clear leader in this respect, but numbers lately are discouraging for the long-standing GNU license model. Looking further into license use under FOSS/OSS, led me to some other nice discoveries.
Both OpenStack and CloudStack are permissive license based. Some projects are even moving from “copy left” licenses to “permissive.” Some even have seen commits increase as a result. Now, is this necessarily bad? No, but it goes against the “Free” ideals of GNU and countless other individuals. Does this mean that a GPL or “Free” license hinders developer? Not at all. We have to however consider, that other licenses are not inherently “bad” and “evil.”
When I came across data sets like the one you see above this line, I have to wonder where my beloved GPL license is headed. One would hope that path is not into eventual obscurity. It is entirely possible the licenses’ popularity just may decline, unless revised, and that is fine. GNU\Linux has shown us that freedom drives new opportunities, and we see that in the many licenses available. However, educating yourself on these licenses is key, and sometimes that is difficult to surmise from the “lawyer speak” many of these employ. Simply relying on Wikipedia for your “facts” does not always prove to be the ticket.
The problem nowadays also is evident in a interesting little statistic. Of all the github projects, only 14 percent had top level files that indicated any type of license, and 28 percent of those announced that in a easy to find README file, which is pretty standard. It doesn’t seem github developers favor copy left licenses at all.
I then felt as if my world was being turned upside down. Will this sort of behavior eventually be the ruin of a “free” Linux system? We all know that as long as Linus is in control, the kernel will remain FOSS under the GPLv2. But, it is nonetheless, a scary idea of Linux software becoming less free. This does not mean that open source code will be shut in, and we will all panic. It does however indicate that development funds and activity are thriving off other licenses, some of which do not promote full “freedoms” that originated with GNU.
The other point to this, is newer developers are seemingly just letting people do what they want with their code. That in and of itself seems to scream “free” software, but leads to issues regarding others not respecting the license they employ at all. This sort of “rebellion” trend seems to be rising, at least on github, where the majority of projects are just out there, with no apparent licensing attached at all. Harder to keep up with, is the ever changing nomenclature of these licenses, and the terms they write in and take out. I would almost propose a “change notifier” program request on a forum, but that is laughable of course.
A lot of this data shows the community is going through a change in the last few years, and it has yet to be seen how this will really play out in the next 10 years. The last ten years have been exciting to say the least, as far as kernel development and software support is concerned. I confidently nixed all of my Windows partitions, and have nothing but Unix/Linux at home now. This shifting trend is evident of many changes happening around the Web as well, with individuals developing programs coming from a Web upbringin vs. old-hat Unixmen of old.
Still, people such as Richard Fontana, open source licensing and patent counsel for Red Hat, call into question whether or not this is even a new trend. Remember when most things were stemming form sourceforge before github was all the rage? In the end the communication and nature of the Open Source and Free Software community prevail, with most developers gladly interfacing with each other and users, in disclosing some, if not all, details of their code and licensing. Often times, a developer will even give you exactly what you want, with no questions asked. And that folks, is why Linux excels.
Source Credit for some material: OSCON 2013 , The Register