I have spent a ridiculous amount of time this summer reading software licenses. Ultimately, a lawyer would have to be the final judge about what I can and cannot use, but it’s helpful for me to know when it is worth taking to the lawyer at all. Depressingly, a little knowledge can often tell you that it’s not.
For instance, there was a library that looked useful, but the license said: “this code must not be used for evil”. And so I abandoned it. Not because I have any evil intentions or because IBM is, in any way, an evil company – and, as a friend pointed out, how on earth would you argue what is and isn’t evil anyway. However it makes the license non-free by breaking freedom 0: The freedom to run the program, for any purpose.
There’s not enough on OSS in university. I learned almost nothing about it during my undergrad, but took a grad course on OSS – the most helpful thing? The ability to read licenses, know what they mean, and what I can combine with what. This has been so useful to me this summer – it shouldn’t be the company lawyer’s job to educate me, or my manager’s job. I think the university should do it, and if they fail then students need to take care of it ourselves.
This gap in the curricula is one of the reasons why I think Andrew Ross’s work with FOSSLC (Free and Open Source Software Learning Center) is so important. It’s about educating people in OSS, highlights of what I’ve learned at the events I’ve attended has been: OSS licenses, OSS as a business model and also the cool projects that I could potentially contribute to.
August 14th will be this years Open Source Technology showcase. If you haven’t already and you’re in Ottawa and at all interested in Software Development I suggest you sign up here (list of speakers). Hope to see you there!!
For referrals, my email id is catehuston and I use gmail.