Author: Chris Bracken <email@example.com>
Date: Fri, 22 May 2020 16:29:44 -0700
Add thoughts on licences
1 file changed, 103 insertions(+), 0 deletions(-)
diff --git a/content/post/2020-05-22-thoughts-on-licences.md b/content/post/2020-05-22-thoughts-on-licences.md
@@ -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
+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