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Write free software

I don’t think it is a surprise that a big part of the community around Hacker News is against the idea of copyleft (e.g. licenses like the GPL, AGPL and LGPL to some extent). They are a clear example of what is the result of the corporations getting involved in open source: the more permissive is the licensing, the better. So they can take, and don’t be forced to give back.

Is not an easy topic. When I was at University there was a whole course to learn about laws around software, and that included licenses. It is very easy to get confused, and people often argue about free software vs open source, perhaps because the Free Software Foundation has often been divisive in their way of promoting the philosophical side of open source.

What is copyleft? From Write Free Software (licensed CC-BY 4.0):

Copyleft is a licensing tool unique to free software. It is designed to encourage the proliferation of free software and protect free software from being incorporated into non-free works. This works by giving you not only the right to share your improvements, but the obligation to share your improvements under some conditions. It is very important to understand these obligations when re-using copyleft software in your own work.

And that obligation is what is referred as virical, and what the corporations don’t like. Specially in today’s take of computing, with cloud computing and software as a service making them all that money.

I used to be an open source / free software advocate 20 years ago, but I stopped because, at some point, it looked to me like we had accomplished some of our objectives (and I guess I got tired). But the truth is that things aren’t as good as they could be.

What was always front and centre was user freedom, something that open source ideas don’t really care about. Not because the licenses are different –because most open source is free software–, but because what it was always important was the copyleft.

So we need more free software, and Write Free Software is a very good resource that explains all you need to know –not really, you don’t need to know all that; but if you make software, it should help you–. It isn’t as confrontational as the Free Software Foundation resources, and definitely easier to read!

Would you like to discuss the post? You can send me an email!