Open Source Licensing

Published: 2017-08-26 19:49:49
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           An open source license is a license or accreditation that allows software to be freely shared, modified, distributed, and used. The Open Source Initiative (OSI) approves such licenses (St. Laurent, 2004). All licenses must go through the license review process of the OSI. Open source licenses allow end users to share, modify, or use the blueprint, design, or source code under special terms and conditions. Hence, commercial companies and users can review and even alter the source code for their troubleshooting or customization needs. In most cases, open source software is available for free. On the other hand, licenses that contain numerous restrictions and permits only non-commercial modification or redistribution of the source code do not qualify as open source licenses. Virtually all open source software licenses are considered free software licenses. Some of the examples of licenses approved by OSI include Apache License 2.0, GNU General Public License, MIT license, Eclipse Public License, and Mozilla Public License (St. Laurent, 2004). These licenses are not only popular but also widely used and have strong communities. Other licenses include Adaptive Public License, Artistic License, Free Public License, Q Public License, and Open Software License. The open source license community is vibrant due to attempts by designers and developers to build upon their open source projects.           

           One of the primary motives of open source licenses organizations is to make it easy for other individuals or organizations to contribute to crucial projects, without necessarily seeking special permission. In this case, people or organizations can utilize the work of original creators freely and without feeling obliged to seek the creators approval. Such licensing organizations also seek to protect original creators of the work and making sure that they get credit for their contributions (Atal & Shankar, 2015 pp 1381). Original creators play an integral part in undertaking various projects thanks to their innovative ideas. So they must be recognized for their exemplary contributions for the realization of a variety of projects. For this reason, the open source licensing organizations provide remedy to the original creators, some of whom have not benefited much from their effort.

           In addition, the open source licensing organizations help to prevent other people or organizations from claiming an original creators work as their own. The entire world has been awash with individuals who purport to be creators of works they have no slightest idea about. Some of them have gone as far as seeking copyright for original works of other people (Atal & Shankar, 2015 pp. 1381). The few who have successfully registered other peoples work as their own have benefitted immensely from unsuspecting organizations that have paid them hefty amounts in order to use their innovation to accomplish certain projects. Therefore, the licensing firms have stepped up their effort to curb businesses malpractices which have seen wrong individuals seeking copyright and/or benefitting from works that are not their own.           

           Many designers and developers have always seen the need to embark on different open-source projects. They want other people to build upon their work as well as share their code. There are different kinds of open source license software available for nearly all applications. Designers use these open source software and codes, such as Drupal and WordPress. Licensing is one of the great alternatives to granting permission or releasing certain work into the public domain (Anthes, 2016 pp. 15). Once the work has been released into the public domain, original owner relinquishes any copyright. Also, designers have set up a range of innovative open source projects to meet the changing needs of users around the world. For instance, certain open source projects are geared toward meeting the short-term needs of users. Other projects are intended to meet long-term needs of users and other developers. In general, designers have a responsibility to initiate projects that recognize the diversity of users. Such works should be released into the public domain with minimal restrictions or no restrictions at all.   

           Different licenses and licensing organizations have sought to address to array of challenges facing users in their attempt to use other peoples software. Each license is specifically designed to meet certain purposes. For example, General Public License is a common license largely used to accomplish open source projects. The General Public License grants different rights to designers and developers working on open-source projects. The license also allows users of original creators work to legally copy, modify, or distribute software. On the issue of copying the software, the GPL allows users to the creators software onto their own servers, their clients servers, and their own computers (Anthes, 2016 pp. 15). The license does not put a limit to the number of copies that users can make. Also, the license permits users to distribute the software. In essence, users can provide a link for downloading the software on their website. Users may also charge a fee for distributing the software. They may set up the charges on their website if they intend to impose charges before providing the software. However, users must issue potential clients with a copy of GPL license. Finally, the license allows users to make modifications or adjustments to the software. For instance, they can add or even remove functionality if they see a necessity in doing that. They can also use part of the code in another project.

           MIT License is another critical license for users who intend to copy, modify, distribute, or impose a fee on the software. It is one of the broadest open source licenses. MIT License is more permissive and loose compared to other licenses. The provisions of MIT License dictate that a user can copy, distribute, and modify the software as they would wish. Users are under no obligation to state how they are going to copy or modify the software. In the same way, users can change the format or design of the format without seeking permission from the creator or the open source licensing company (Corbly, 2014 pp. 65). Also, users can sell the software or give it out for free. In this case, the users do not have any limits or restrictions on the price at which they sell the software or even the manner in which they intend to distribute it. They enjoy full discretion on virtually all aspects of distribution and selling of the software because such actions are protected by MIT License. So they would not fear any potential litigation from supposed creators or licensing organizations.

           The Apache License grants numerous rights to users. These rights apply to both patents and copyrights. With this kind of flexibility, it would be easier for patent developers to make a choice of the license to espouse. According to Apache License, rights are universal, perpetual, non-exclusive, and irrevocable. Users can continue using the rights for the rest of his lives once they have been granted. Also, the rights are granted in all countries if they have already been granted in one country (Corbly, 2014 pp. 65). No one is restricted from using the licensed work and nobody has the permission to take the users rights away once granted. However, users have to adhere to special requirements of the redistribution code. They should particularly take into account the special requirements regarding giving credit to people or organizations that have worked toward coming up with the code. Users should also consider requirements that pertain to the need to maintain the same license.

           Creative Commons license are also commonly applied in design projects. The various Creative Common licenses grant certain rights to users. These licenses have four basic components: attribution, share alike, non-commercial, and no derivative works. Users can enact these components individually or in combination. According to attribution, users must acknowledge the author as the original creator of the work. Share alike, on the other hand, concerns the authority of users to modify and distribute the work under the same license. Yet the non-commercial component dictates that the work can be modified or distributed, provided that they do not do so for commercial purposes. Finally, no derivative works implies that a user can copy or distribute the work so long as they do not modify or create it based on the original.

           BSD License represents a family of lenient free software licenses. These licenses have fewer restrictions especially on distribution. The two common versions of the BSD license are the Modified BSD License and the FreeBSD License. The Modified BSD License allows unrestricted redistribution for any purpose provided the disclaimers of warranty and copyright notices of the license are maintained (Atal & Shankar, 2015 pp 1381). Additionally, the license contains a clause that often restricts use of identities of key contributors for approval/endorsement without specific consent. The FreeBSD License, on the other hand, omits the clause that focuses on endorsement. Overall, both versions of the BSD License are verified as compatible software licenses hence, the Open Source Initiative has accepted these versions as open source licenses.             

           Meanwhile, open source licensing is vital for both small-scale and large-scale organizations. This form of licensing offers many organizations the opportunity to focus in various projects without the fear of potential litigation. The individual or organization that generated or contributed to the work would lose any copyright. In the same way, the original creator of the work will spend less of their time dealing with cases of individual permissions or breach of copyright. In essence, the creator or author of the work will have an ample time designing and developing other software. Open source licenses help to address a range of challenges facing users in their attempt to utilize software (St. Laurent, 2004). Similarly, they help users to steer clear of legal actions particularly in scenarios where an original creator feels that certain individuals have been using their without consent. Open Source Initiative has played a remarkable role in approving the software licenses. The initiative recognizes the need to preserve the copyright statement and names of authors as per the open source licensing procedures. Finally, the criteria for an open source license mainly focus on the source code availability as well as the ability to share or modify it.      

Types of software licenses

           Freeware- this is an OS that is mostly used by corporate and small companies. The users can have the access of the tool but may not have the right to adjust it to meet their needs. In other words, it has no cost or price attached to it for usage but the liberty to use is controlled and may not be bent.

           The ownership of this license is retained by the developer and it may be available for unlimited period of time. This means that the dev eloper can change the product features from the freeware that it is to the paid product in the future since they have full right attached to them (Misra, Graziadio & Spies, 2001). In addition, it is normally distributed without source code.

Shareware this is an operating system that a firm or an individual can download from the internet for trial purposes and upon developing interest, can be bought for use. The trial duration is usually a short duration predetermined by the company.

           Open source-open source is a software system that can be used generally for free by anyone at any time. The user can use the program or the browser in any manner without preconditions of usage set therein. This means that one has the obligation to download and use without any form of conditioning that may exist. A good example of this kind of OS license is the GNU general public license.

           Free software GNU license unlike open source, free software GNU license can be run and copied or distributed from one party to the next and can also be changed or modified to suit user need without any form of hindrance (Fitzgerald, 2006). This means that there is no price or cost attached to it since it is as free as liberty.

Similarities and Differences

           Multiprocessing- most of these software licensing are able to multiprocessing since they can support various CPUs in various machines running at the same time. This means that these licenses if are to be used, can manage the memory while at the same time is being run. The licenses can work with the virtual memory and optimize the use of the ram in various machines simultaneously.

           The operating system licenses are also able to do performance monitoring, a process that can be able to provide information about various system resources in a machine. This means that it can support information and functionality of various corporate bodies and systems while at the same time improving the efficiency. Most of the OS licensing software users have full access to the license and can code to the kernel that serves the operating systems. This means that the users have the right to try various versions of the software before finally buying those that have the price attached to them.

           In terms of the licensing freedom, the highlighted OS software licenses have freedom that is attached to usage but may be limited to the modification to a particular licenser. For instance, open source software license can be used and the user has no restrictions whatsoever to usage or modification. However, shareware is another kind of the licensing software that can only be modified upon purchase of the same. Most of them can also be downloaded and used for various actions and in various computers as the user may prefer. The differences that results from usage in this case relates to shareware where the user can only use the license in particular machines that have been identified with the purchase. This means that its usage is under control and cannot be modified by the purchaser. Freeware license products can be downloaded and used in virtually as many machines as possible without any hindrance.

Flexibility

           In terms of flexibility, the operating system license software that are commercialized have limited flexibility in terms of the number of computers that can be used or in which they can run. The user has to specify depending on the price that is paid for the service and the size of the company. If it is a freeware license, the user has full flexibility because they can download and install the same license in various machines that are used in a firm. This gives flexibility and the firm may be able to choose from variety that exists in the market to suit their need.

How to do Mixed Use of Open Source License

Open source can be used in free distribution and can be given away to users for various purposes. Free distribution means that the software license can be given away to the users without charges attached to the product. The source code can be included in the distribution or not which can be used for modification of versions that can suit the needs of the software. It is through this system that such offer can be controlled and managed easily. Distributing it without the code can make it difficult and hard to comprehend and the user may not be fit to the purpose of the same that may cause another challenge.

           The creation of the derived works is also another important factor that has to be considered here. Using mixed use license has the possibility of allowing the product to be developed and sent in the form of versions and patches that can be user friendly and solution to needs. Otherwise, the versions sent would need differentiations that may take the forms of version numbers. This may pose another challenge to using the license.

Mixed use license can also be done by enabling the version of the software to have its full features prescribed in the content of the information that follows its issuance. This can allow it to have limitations that may arise to be reduced thus enable its function ability. The user should also be given the time to create the derived works while maintaining the distribution under the same licensing terms (Quigley, et al. 2009). The risks that are attached to third party usage should be outlined and the user privacy and accessibility of the code should be highly monitored. The usage should also encourage the users to demand authorization for usage by entering into a contractual obligation with the developers by seeking the same source code for accessibility. Ambiguity that may arise from drafting the version should be reduced as far as possible so that its functionality can be enabled. Users should be able to use and find means of providing feedback to the developers so that modifications and improvements can be reviewed and shared. This is also mostly acceptable by usage of this mixed open license source.

List of References

Atal, V, & Shankar, K 2015, 'Developers' Incentives and Open-Source Software Licensing: GPL         vs BSD', B.E. Journal Of Economic Analysis & Policy, 15, 3, pp. 1381-1416

Anthes, G 2016, 'Open Source Software No Longer Optional', Communications Of The ACM, 59,       8, pp. 15-17.

Corbly, J E 2014, 'The Free Software Alternative: Freeware, Open-source software, and           Libraries', Information Technology & Libraries, 33, 3, pp. 65-75,

Fitzgerald, B., 2006. The transformation of open source software. Mis Quarterly, pp.587-598.

Misra, P.K., Graziadio, B.J. and Spies, T.R., Microsoft Corporation, 2001. System and method for software licensing. U.S. Patent 6,189,146.

Quigley, M., Conley, K., Gerkey, B., Faust, J., Foote, T., Leibs, J., Wheeler, R. and Ng, A.Y.,  2009, May. ROS: an open-source Robot Operating System. In ICRA workshop on open           source software (Vol. 3, No. 3.2, p. 5).

St. Laurent, A. M. (2004). Understanding open source & free software licensing. Sebastopol,    CA, O'Reilly Media, Inc.

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