Are there any examples of people abusing the BSD licenses?

bigtoque

Member

Reaction score: 6
Messages: 75

I suppose "abusing" might not be the best word to use, but I've been reading about the differences between the BSD licenses and GPL and I'm curious about something...

Say I came up with [killer app] and I decided I wanted it to be free and chose a BSD license. Now say someone else (maybe even a large tech company) realized it was great, re-branded it, closed the source, marketed it as there own (left the copyright notice in a little "about" screen) and provided a level of support that I could never match.

My ability to participate in the creation of my own software has essentially been taken from me. If my product had been "bigtoque Office", then MS came along and turned it into MS Office, I could still make my own software, but is anyone gonna use it when they could get something from some other well known big company?

Has this ever happened to anyone? I suppose this could happen with GPL software as well (with the exception of closing the source).

I guess I really am thinking about how to protect myself and my software. Is my line of thinking just wrong here? It seems like it doesn't really fit with the idea of FOSS. Should I be thinking that when I create open and free software, that I should just accept that someone will likely take it, improve it, and possibly profit from it in ways that I couldn't?
 

jrm@

Daemon
Developer

Reaction score: 473
Messages: 1,205

Here is a page I saved off the apple site a few years ago: http://gly.ath.cx/misc/osx_is_freebsd.html.

How has apple given back to the FreeBSD community? That's not sarcastic, I really don't know. They contribute to webkit and developed cups I think, but I can't think of any FreeBSD specific contributions. I can remember a few strong FreeBSD developers heading off to work for Apple. Perhaps Apple provides them with time to contribute to FreeBSD?
 

joekiser

New Member

Reaction score: 2
Messages: 2

Getting your code out there and getting recognition for are two completely different issues. Every version of Windows since 95 has had the BSD notice on the copyright screen, because many years ago they took BSD code (TCP/IP stack and command line tools like ping, echo, whois, etc) and replaced whatever garbage they had developed. One can make the argument that the Internet is a better place because of that decision, as now users don't have to worry about a malformed packet bringing down the entire system. What did Microsoft give in return? An empty promise a few years later that we would have native .NET applications for FreeBSD that never materialized. In other words, nothing.

On the other hand, the intended purpose of creating that code in the first place was to allow users to connect to the internet. Did it serve that purpose? Billions of people use that code every day. However, if the purpose was for the developers to become famous and make lots of money, it did not meet that purpose. But then again, if the developers were more interested in personal recognition than code that works, its likely that their work would have never been adopted.

There is a faulty idea, probably based around the cult of genius, that people can just write code and become instantly famous and never have to work again. It's not that simple. People will always steal your ideas. For every Facebook, Ubuntu, or Digg there is a ConnectU, Debian, or Slashdot that came first. It doesn't matter WHAT license you choose, but how you deal with the competition WHEN someone copies your work. Marketing, distribution, and support are HUGE in this regard. People who blame the license when this happens, or who sue for copyright are the ones who find themselves left in the dust years later when the court issues a settlement.
 

graudeejs

Son of Beastie

Reaction score: 692
Messages: 4,615

AFAIK some networking code from BSD (and with BSD license) in Linux kernel was relicensed to GPL (they removed old license notification and replaced it with GPL).
But I don't have the source.
 

phoenix

Administrator
Staff member
Administrator
Moderator

Reaction score: 1,224
Messages: 4,074

You can't "abuse" the 3-clause BSD license. The license specifically says you can do whatever you want with the code, which includes bundling it up inside a commercial project and releasing only binaries. That's one of the reasons for using the BSD license: get as many people as possible using the code!

How they use it doesn't matter.

If it does matter to you, then why are you using the BSD license?

You need to ask yourself which is more important:
  • getting the code out there, getting people using it, getting it inside everything possible
  • protecting the code so that no one can improve it but you
Those who prefer the former should look at the BSD license.
Those who prefer the latter should look into other licenses (perhaps GPL?).

Simple as that, really.


IMO, the BSD license is perfect for infrastructure code. Things like network protocols, OS frameworks, toolkits, conversion programs, filters, etc. Stuff that end-users don't care about, that runs behind the scenes. The more people using the same / similar code, the better interoperability you have. This stuff can run on PCs, routers, appliances, FPGAs, laptops, servers, etc.

GPL and similar licenses are better for application code. Things like word processors, office suites, web browsers, etc. The stuff the end-user sees and interacts with directly, the actual products that people use.

Most people don't want their "apps" "stolen" from them by big companies. But infrastructure code that helps with interoperability? Spread it out there far and wide !!!
 

phoenix

Administrator
Staff member
Administrator
Moderator

Reaction score: 1,224
Messages: 4,074

killasmurf86 said:
AFAIK some networking code from BSD (and with BSD license) in Linux kernel was relicensed to GPL (they removed old license notification and replaced it with GPL).
But I don't have the source.
You're thinking of the ath(4) driver from OpenBSD that was copied into Linux, with all the references to OpenBSD and the BSD license removed. There was a big hullabaloo around it at the time. Eventually, things got straightened out, and the ath9k driver was born and OpenBSD and Linux guys work on it together.

Or, something like that. :)
 

roddierod

Aspiring Daemon

Reaction score: 145
Messages: 833

mingrone said:
How has apple given back to the FreeBSD community? That's not sarcastic, I really don't know. They contribute to webkit and developed cups I think, but I can't think of any FreeBSD specific contributions. I can remember a few strong FreeBSD developers heading off to work for Apple. Perhaps Apple provides them with time to contribute to FreeBSD?
The only thing I can think of off hand is net/mDNSResponder.

It funny you should mention developers heading off to Apple, a few days ago I was searching on the internet to see if Jordan Hubbard is still at Apple and what he's working on. The last thing I can find with what he is doing at Apple was from 2008. If any one has any info or links on that I'd be curious to know.
 

ian-nai

Member

Reaction score: 4
Messages: 48

mingrone said:
How has apple given back to the FreeBSD community? That's not sarcastic, I really don't know. They contribute to webkit and developed cups I think, but I can't think of any FreeBSD specific contributions. I can remember a few strong FreeBSD developers heading off to work for Apple. Perhaps Apple provides them with time to contribute to FreeBSD?
I can't speak scientifically because I have no data to corroborate this. But, I'm certainly using FreeBSD in part because of my Mac hardware. I was inspired to check out and set up a local FreeBSD server after poking around in the *nix underbelly of Mac OS X. It's possible some *BSD user-ship comes from power Mac OS X users.
 

gkontos

Daemon

Reaction score: 475
Messages: 2,147

A very good example besides Apple is Nokia with the IPSO OS for their Checkpoint appliances. I have worked a lot with Checkpoint products both on SPLAT, Redhat based, and IPSO. Although the Firewall is the same, the underlying OS makes the big difference in stability and performance. But unfortunately after Checkpoint acquired the Nokia firewalls they decided to "kill" IPSO and merge it somehow with their own Redhat based OS, SPLAT.

Does this abuse the license ?

It certainly doesn't violate it because the license allows you to do anything with the code. You can modify it, copyright it and then sell it.
But to some extend there are ethical limits on how you use it. You can't keep using other peoples code without contributing the minimum to their efforts. So, yes some companies do abuse the BSD license. However, when they do it, they always end up shooting their selves in the foot.
 

fwaggle

Member

Reaction score: 6
Messages: 62

mingrone said:
How has apple given back to the FreeBSD community?
It's not FreeBSD-specific, but I believe Apple paid for the development of OpenBSM, which is BSD-licensed and used in FreeBSD. I'm sure there's other stuff too.
 

ckester

Well-Known Member

Reaction score: 38
Messages: 288

ian-nai said:
I can't speak scientifically because I have no data to corroborate this. But, I'm certainly using FreeBSD in part because of my Mac hardware. I was inspired to check out and set up a local FreeBSD server after poking around in the *nix underbelly of Mac OS X. It's possible some *BSD user-ship comes from power Mac OS X users.
Yep, that was my path to FreeBSD too.
 

Alt

Aspiring Daemon

Reaction score: 82
Messages: 726

bigtoque said:
Say I came up with [killer app] and I decided I wanted it to be free and chose a BSD license. Now say someone else (maybe even a large tech company) realized it was great, re-branded it, closed the source, marketed it as there own (left the copyright notice in a little "about" screen) and provided a level of support that I could never match.
o_O Are you talking about Apple ?

bigtoque said:
I guess I really am thinking about how to protect myself and my software.
As an option you can use CDDL license, so this will give freedom of BSD license, but forbidding any copyleft
 

xibo

Well-Known Member

Reaction score: 78
Messages: 390

Apple's the main sponsor of llvm and clang, which FreeBSD has already imported into -CURRENT. Also, there's nothing to gain by abusing the BSD license since it's just too easy to conform to it, and most people - especially in the "FOS" world - don't read the small printed text that contains references to the original authors anyway.

AT&T once took (back) things from the CSRG without paying credit ;)

These days however it's the GPL folks replacing our license statements with theirs, while dropping the original authors from the copyrights.
 
Top