While news reports are projecting a new General Public License from the Free Software Foundation in 2007 – I believe they are missing the key point in the exercise. This is largely being debated in the open source community rather than written quietly in the board room.
More importantly, open source users can have an impact by sounding off on concerns and requests about open source licensing. This again is a reminder of how open source is done today. We would not be where we are without community input including developers, testers, documentation warriors and evangelizers (my own word!).
The GPL, by far the most popular, has not been updated in nearly 14 years. It has a decade of corporate and small business evolution to adapt to as well as a wealth of intellectual property (IP) philosophy. Perhaps more importantly is the fact that Linux is now being considered an enterprise solution alongside commercial platforms drives the need for a license that provides flexibility. This capability will need to address the minions of developers goals as well as those of recently converted senior technology managers from Wall Street to Main Street who seek to integrate open source into legacy architectures.
Having operated in both worlds – I can assure readers that big corporate dollars are willing to be spent on open source – however – the hesitation arises from licensing. Like them or not – commercial licenses may tie down some users but they are also crystal clear and in most cases unambiguous. Many have difficulty adjusting their mindset to the idea of code floating about being modified that in some views appears as technical risk.
Convincing those fence sitters is our job – and a new GPL that addresses IP in some form or fashion (as we know this is a debate in and of itself), permanence in the event of license revocation by a developer and re-distribution in mixed open source/commercial products will go a long way to reduce concern.
It is in our best interests to follow the evolution of the GPL in 2006, put in our two cents and continue to encourage our clients to consider open source where relevant. After all – it truly has emerged that it is about the service, support and continued customization over a long relationship moreso than selling an initial piece of software or license. I know the Free Software Foundation wants software to be free – yet – we can market our expertise in modifying, deploying and operating those applications and platforms.
However, that is very likely yet another discussion.