Mark Stone mstone at
Wed Sep 6 22:09:30 PDT 2000

On Wed, 6 Sep 2000, Jeffery McLean wrote:

> What dose the BSD liccens restrict?
> This is the whole point of a liccens...
> Not how free it is... if you want free.. public domain...
Public domain is a _very_bad_ option. It offers no control or protection
whatsoever to the creator. If I put program foo in the public domain,
someone else can come along and attempt to claim foo as their own,
copyright foo in their name, etc. This can be fought legally, but not
easily. Furthermore, someone could come along, make a small modification
to foo, and claim that the derived work legitimately is their intellectual
property, and indeed even use/license it under the name foo, which, after
all you have put in the public domain.

So the BSD license may seem quite minimalistic, but it accomplishes a lot.
It means the creator retains, rather than relinquishes copyright, and is
therefore entitled to all the protections against infringement that
copyright law provides. It means that no one can use the creator's work or
a derivation of it without giving proper attribution. Those are the most
important protections a license can provide.

Do you need a more substantive license than that? Well, it depends. What
are you trying to accomplish, and what are you trying to protect? Just
being a chest-thumping free software ideolog is not a good enough reason
to inflict the GPL on your users. The GPL is a fine license that can and
has been put to good use. But that's what it is: a tool. The question
should not be is the GPL ideologically correct, but rather, is it the
right tool for the job.

Selecting licenses is a lot like selecting scientific theories: you want
to follow Occam's Razor and go with the least rules that will get the job
done. The BSD license is an excellent starting point. If there are reasons
to go beyond that, those reasons should be stated and discussed, and they
should be practical reasons, not ideological reasons.


 Mark Stone                                            O | S | D | N
 mstone at                  Open Source Development Network
 (408)542-5745                        Director of Developer Services

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