Open Source Licensing and Community

Posted by on January 16, 2010

Open source licensing, community and contribution are important topics. This week there were a number of interesting blog posts and tweets on the subject which might be summarized by a tweet from Matt Asay (#mjasay)

@maslett moral of story? platforms flourish on permissive licensing. GPL is a capitalist’s best friend. Apache/EPL are a community’s

Related blogs (along with several others):

I agree, license and copyright are factors in creating and fostering communities but I don’t think it’s the most important set of factors. License and community, while related are very much separate issues. Open source tends to fetish license and thus it’s over-emphasized in conversations where it at best a contributing factor.

Apple, Google, Drupal, Linux, Microsoft and many, many other examples demonstrate just how little restrictive license and copyright of the core software matters to the size and contribution of the community. Permissive licenses can increase adoption as well as forks and closed derivative works, all of which cannot so simply be considered community.

Relevancy, utility, inclusion, opportunity, transparency, recognition and common vision / interests are what drive the size and output of community. It’s leadership in a project that sets the tone for the priority of these aspects. A small or under-performing community (proportionate to its potential) is more likely related to its leadership than its license.

Related:

An incomplete identification and factoring of some areas around open source that support the ideas in this post:

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