License too ILL

16 October 2007 | Brett | Licensing | 1 Comment

It appears we have to choose a license in order to make our work on LISInfo useful. Without one, contributors won’t know what rights they have. Nor will end-users of our code, data, or documentation.

What we want is a license that:

  1. We understand.
  2. Makes everything we produce as free as possible.
  3. Has been vetted by an organization we trust like OSI or FSF.
  4. Is in common use, ideally by several of the software packages we’re using for LISInfo.
  5. Is recognized by as much of the world as possible.
  6. Covers everything we produce, including code, documentation, and databases. Though we would be fine with a set of licenses that cover everything, just so long as we understand which licenses to use for each aspect of the project and we’re able to explain those licenses to everyone who contributes to the project or who wants access to our code, text, data, etc.

We thought we would just place everything we did into the public domain. That seemed simple enough, until we learned that public domain is an American/Commonwealth concept. So much for that idea.

Looking over our key building blocks, Django and PostgreSQL are BSD-licensed. Our blog software, WordPress, uses GPL, as does advisory board member Joshua Ferraro’s Koha. Another board member, DeWitt Clinton, uses Creative Commons licenses for his projects, such as OpenSearch and Delancey. Solr, which looks like it will be a key component in our software, uses Apache. One of the freest major open source licenses is X11 (popularly known as the MIT license), while there’s a good case to be made for the crass but clear WTFPL.

And all that’s just for the code. For the documentation and the data itself, we have to consider Creative Commons, GPL, and the documentation licenses supported by GNU, which is Wikipedia‘s choice, and FreeBSD. And kudos to Talis for supporting the Open Database License, so we’re going to take a look at that as well.

We haven’t decided anything, but we will soon. Suggestions on this one would really be appreciated.

1 Comment

  1. WordPress SEO said on 9 Dec 2007 at 5:22 pm:

    What is your goal with this license?

    To let everyone use your technology freely and forever? To allow a private company to use your development to create proprietary tools? To restrict commercial use of your code to those who license it from you?

    I am facing a lot of the same license issues now. I’d like to allow free non-commercial use but make all commercial use paid.

    In any case, your project sounds very cool.

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