In free software circles, a disturbing number of conversations treat it as given that fewer new projects are choosing copyleft licenses, and more are going the route of lax permissive. Though this has been repeated in news articles and blog posts, when we look deeper for evidence of the claim, we find either anecdotes (often from the field of corporate-backed project license choices), or highly questionable and unscientific data sets.
Sometimes the claim is repeated by people just trying to set the table for other discussions about trends in free software or open source; sometimes it is promoted by people specifically arguing against copyleft (especially in business); sometimes it is raised as a concern by people defending copyleft. All three situations are worrisome in their own ways.
1) recent “data” and articles published, including my own analysis;
2) whether the contexts in which permissive license use does appear to be increasing mean what they are purported to mean, and whether those contexts are actually relying purely on permissive licenses or on other sorts of supplementary legal structures;
3) prominent instances of copyleft usage, especially the AGPL and GPL; and
4) different ways to study and understand the trends people are trying to get at when they talk about licensing choices in quantitative terms.
In a community with so many computer scientists, lawyers, and talented researchers, it’s important that we habitually put popular assumptions up for critique. Assumptions and bits of conventional wisdom need to be audited just like code, to ensure that the business plans and movement-organizing decisions which flow from them aren’t based on rotten foundations.
Debian and the Free Software Foundation, along with its GNU Project, share many goals and ideals. They are two of the most mature and dedicated organizations working in the free software movement. This is a great opportunity to talk in person about how they can better work together and learn from each other.
FSF members (and potential members) will meet to talk about the FSF’s work, and relationship with Debian:
- A very brief update by the FSF’s executive director on highlights of the FSF’s work since the last DebConf
- Feedback (positive and negative) from members, and a little brainstorming about what the FSF should and shouldn’t be doing
- A review of the current relationship between the FSF and Debian
- A discussion of areas for collaboration, focused on projects that could be completed or significantly advanced before the next DebConf
Past sessions at DebConf have led to concrete positive results like collaboration on the hardware database at https://h-node.org/. Let’s have another productive one!