Source files for
git clone
Log | Files | Refs | Submodules | README | LICENSE

commit 56eeaa9a754ae4bb45ed977ea6fdd8b6cb01d00a
parent 29695ddfb30121890fcead450cba92c9f4a029be
Author: Chris Bracken <>
Date:   Fri, 22 May 2020 16:29:44 -0700

Add thoughts on licences

Acontent/post/ | 103+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
1 file changed, 103 insertions(+), 0 deletions(-)

diff --git a/content/post/ b/content/post/ @@ -0,0 +1,103 @@ ++++ +title = "Thoughts on Licences" +date = "2020-05-22T14:55:23-07:00" +slug = "thoughts-on-licences" +tags = ["Meta", "Software"] ++++ + +I don't pretend to think that the things I create have a whole ton of +value, but I do think it's important to carefully consider the terms +under which they're shared to ensure they're consistent with my values. +Despite my general dislike for all things legalistic, the most +unambiguous way to state those terms is through a licence. So a couple +days ago, I tossed LICENSE files into any of my public [repos](/code) +that didn't already have one. + +So how did I settle on which licences to apply? Jump on into the +DeLorean and let's set the dial back to the late 1980s. + +It's 1986 and I've got a 1200 baud modem wired up to a beat-up 286 with +a steel case that would easily allow it to double as a boat anchor if +needed. Armed with a dot-matrix printout of local BBSes with names like +Camelot, Tommy's Holiday Camp, and Forbidden Night Castle, I fire up +PC-Talk. A series of [high-pitched squeals and tones][modem_handshake] +fill the air, then text flashes across the screen. I'm online. + +BBSes were a treasure trove of information, filled to the brim with zip +archives full of downloadable programs, source code, patches for +existing programs, and all manner of text files with names like +[Smashing The Stack For Fun And Profit][smash_stack]. You could find +everything from how to crack copy-protected software, to details on +phone phreaking, to how to make nitroglycerine from commonly-available +household items. It was through BBSes that I first downloaded an I'm +sure _totally legitimate_ copy of Borland Turbo C++ and took my first +baby steps writing _real_ programs. No more BASIC for me. + +This culture of open sharing in the online world has had a huge impact +on me. From those early experiences with BBSes to my first forays onto +the Internet a few years later, seeing people openly sharing code and +patches and helping each other solve problems over Usenet seemed almost +revolutionary to me at the time. In some ways, it still does. I feel +lucky to have been a part of it from such an early age. + +The end result is that I try to publicly share all the work I do. So +when it came time to chuck licences on stuff, I sat down to work out a +personals ad for my ideal licence. Aside from enjoying long walks on the +beach, it should: + + 1. Allow free use, modification, and distribution both of the original + work and any derived works. + 2. Require that people distributing the work or any derived work to + give appropriate credit. + 3. Disallow suggesting that I in any way endorse any derived products + or whoever produces them. + 4. Gently encourage a culture of open exchange and sharing of + information and techniques. + 5. Be short, clear, and easy to understand. + +On the software side, there were lots of options, but the best matches +in my mind are the [MIT][mit_licence] or [BSD][bsd_licence] licences. +The 3-clause 'new' BSD licence has an advantage in that it required +written permission from the author to use their name in any +endorsement/promotion of a derived work. That happens to be what we +already use for [work][flutter]. + +On the content side, I've always posted my web site's content under a +[Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike][cc_by_sa] licence. But I don't +believe that's actually the ideal match based on my priorities. Why is +it that I've elected to use a licence that requires that derived works +also be licensed under the same terms rather than under whatever terms +someone feels like, so long as credit is given? In the end I settled on +the more permissive [Creative Commons Attribution][cc_by] licence. + +This feels to me a bit like the difference between [BSD][bsd_licence] +and [GPL][gpl_licence] terms, where the latter requires that derived +works also be GPL-licensed. This "viral" nature has always rubbed me the +wrong way: rather than gently promoting a culture of sharing by example, +it legally _requires_ sharing under the same terms whether or not you +want to. + +Personally, I'd like for people to do the right thing and share their +work for everyone's benefit not because they _have_ to, but because they +_want_ to. If they don't want to, why should my reaction be to disallow +their use of my work? Isn't that contrary to my stated goals of sharing +as much and as broadly as possible? + +While I _hope_ that more people share more of their work, it doesn't +bother me if you don't. If anything I've written is somehow useful to +you, I'm glad. Use your knowledge to help others and make the world a +better place, and if you can find time to do so, share a bit with the +rest of us. + +Got thoughts and opinions on licences? Fire an email my way at +[][email]. + +[modem_handshake]: +[smash_stack]: +[flutter]: +[mit_licence]: +[bsd_licence]: +[gpl_licence]: +[cc_by_sa]: +[cc_by]: +[email]: