A good day for finding helpful resources on the Open Source licenses.
First, my article, “Open Source Families and Facts,” has appeared on UnixReview.com. It’s a useful little article that sorts the Open Source licenses into four families and then illustrates some of the key features and differences among the various families. I also include a section on “Ten Practical Tips for Choosing, Using, and Living with an Open Source License.” It’s exciting for me to be published in a techie publication rather than a legal publication for a change.
Also, Pamela Jones’s post called “The GPL is a License, Not a Contract, Which is Why the Sky Isn’t Falling,” a helpful analysis of the “viral effect” question that arises with the General Public License. I’m not sure I buy the license vs. contract argument in its entirety, but I think that the discussion helps people understand the “viral” issue and shows how derivative works under the GPL should be handled.
A third greaat find is Joel Spolsky’s “Biculturalism,” a fascinating discussion of the differences between UNIX and Windows programmers that occurs in the context of Spolsky’s review of Open Source guru Eric Raymond’s new book, The Art of UNIX Programming. Spolsky’s essay can be read as a fascinating response and follow-up to Raymond’s seminal The Cathedral and the Bazaar.
I keep a page of Open Source license resources, including the law review article I wrote on the Open Source licenses in 2001 (watch for an updated, less-academic version of the article to appear soon in the Journal of Internet Law), on my web site.
The Open Source license are very important and, as Pamela Jones points out, it is also important that lawyers understand these licenses because there is some FUD out there. I hope that my articles and these resources help clarify some of the issues.