Not a GPL Time-Bomb

Ben Boyter’s approach to open source licensing with this “Eventually Open” license is an interesting variation on open source and proprietary licensing themes.  Boyter is initially releasing his searchcode server code under the Fair Source License for five users, but has committed to licensing his code under GPLv3, automatically, after three years from the date of publication.

For a business, committing in advance to grant a free license to all on a fixed date in the future is a bold move.  Presumably this is a self-imposed incentive for bringing out new versions, to the keep the flow of licensing revenue alive — or perhaps merely an acknowledgment that it’s impractical to charge for software that is three years old (which is about the practical lifespan of a royalty-bearing product).

This approach is reminiscent of the 2015 Transitive Grace Period Public License, which applies GPL with a grace period to comply, but works in the opposite direction.


White House (Almost) Goes Open Source

TechCrunch reports today that the White House released a policy that favors open source software development for U.S. government agencies. “Federal agencies will be required to release at least 20 percent of new custom developed code as open source software. While this is only a pilot, the hope is that it will encourage cost savings and increased efficiency within the federal government.” The full policy statement is here.


He Who Must Not Be Named, is Named

The Netfilter project posted this week that it “regrets to have to suspend its core team member Patrick McHardy” due to allegations regarding “the style of his license enforcement activities on parts of the netfilter software he wrote.” The project did not disclose the allegations or their targets. The project pointed out that it “does not have first-hand evidence” but cited “various trusted sources.”

The SFC then made a stronger statement connecting the dots between its promulgation of community enforcement guidelines, the adoption of those guidelines by the Netfilter project, and the subsequent suspension of McHardy.

The issue of “copyright trolling” to enforce open source licenses has long been a source of concern by technology vendors, but also by organizations like SFC that want to preserve the credibility and mission of enforcement actions. However, licenses like GPL are designed to give authors the power to bring copyright claims for non-compliance, and copyright law is a sharp sword. So those who seek to enforce for pecuniary gain will always have the legal right to do so, and community norms may not convince them to forego those rights.

Preserving Software Heritage

The newly launched Software Heritage initiative is on a mission to collect and preserve software programs and libraries that are provided under open source licenses.

Most people don’t spend much time thinking about preserving technology heritage, but technology is no less part of our social fabric than paintings, sculptures, and handcrafts.  Kudos to those who create museums — virtual or physical — to preserve these parts of human culture.  People tend to think software repositories are forever, but then they turn around to find that Google Code and FreshMeat  are gone.

The project plans to implement features to help the curious to search and explore software in its archive, which contains over 2 billion source files — and counting.