Permissive License like Apache seems Best Choice For Maximum/Inclusive Use/Re-Use of Software Products

Last Updated On December 18th 2011

GPLv3 may be the most inclusive license currently for allowing incorporation of existing FOSS code as well as allowing FOSS contributors of various FOSS license philosophies to contribute (For an analysis see the post: Is GPLv3 the Best Choice License for Most Inclusive Incorporation of Existing Social Code/Coders?: https://ravisiyer.wordpress.com/2011/11/26/is-gplv3-the-best-choice-license-for-most-inclusive-social-coding/).

But from maximum/inclusive use & re-use of software released under a particular license point of view GPLv3 seems to have disadvantages as compared to Apache 2.0 (ASL 2.0). Some of them:
1) Proprietary/Closed software cannot re-use GPLv3 software.
2) Apple AppStore cannot host any GPLv2/GPLv3 software or its derivatives. (See the post: GPL Software Cannot Be Used On Apple AppStore!: https://ravisiyer.wordpress.com/2011/11/28/gpl-software-cannot-be-used-on-apple-appstore/)

In the past few days as I was considering using GPLv3 for raviiyer.org I did not pay much attention to maximum/inclusive use & re-use aspect of software produced by raviiyer.org. But now I feel that it is quite an important aspect to be considered. If more people are in a position to use & re-use raviiyer.org‘s software then more people are served which is very important. In fact, I now feel it is far more important than maximum/inclusive permission to incorporate existing FOSS code & more number of potential contributors. From a “Service to Society” point of view, more people being served is better “Service to Society”.

Note that these “disadvantages” of GPL may be viewed as its “strong advantages” by some FOSS license ideologues who want to ensure open source freedom. I respect their view and their choice. But I am of a more permissive bent of mind. I am willing to trade some “open source freedom” for more people using raviiyer.org‘s software.

Apache 2.0 therefore seems to be a better choice than GPLv3 for raviiyer.org. Yes, the disadvantage will be that GPLv2 and GPLv3 software which seems to account for almost 50 % of FOSS today according to http://osrc.blackducksoftware.com/data/licenses/, cannot be incorporated into raviiyer.org software products. But MIT/BSD-licensed, Apache-licensed and LGPL-licensed software can be incorporated.

Another disadvantage is that some “open source freedom” enthusiasts will not want to contribute to Apache License (permissive license) FOSS products. I guess I can’t win them all. I have to respect their view & choice and make do without their potential contributions.

One particular scenario illustrates the matter quite well. God willing, we will have a “Spoken English” App. done sometime in the not too distant future. As this app. will have English & Telugu sentences the same app. can also be viewed as a “Spoken Telugu” app. which can be used by English speaking persons to learn Telugu. Somebody may be interested in porting the “Spoken Telugu” app. to iOS so that it can be used by iPhone, iPad & iPod Touch users. She may even be willing to offer the ported iOS app. free & open source. Quite a few iDevice users may benefit & enjoy using such an app. to learn Spoken Telugu.

This scenario breaks down if GPLv3 is used for the “Spoken English” App. as GPL software cannot be used/re-used on iOS/Apple AppStore. I will be quite uncomfortable if such a thing happens. And so I cannot go with GPL for raviiyer.org. With ASL 2.0 (Apache License 2.0) the above scenario is possible.

The above scenario may be possible with new-BSD & MIT etc. licenses too. But Android uses Apache License 2.0 (http://source.android.com/source/licenses.html). Also in a five year old ZDNet article but perhaps still relevant, Greg Stein, Google Lead Open Source Engineer and Apache Foundation Chairman, is quoted saying, “That is one of the reasons that Google chooses the Apache License (2.0) as the default for the software it open-sources. It is permissive like BSD, but (unlike BSD) actually happens to mention the rights under copyright law and gives you a license under those rights. In other words, it actually knows what it is doing unlike some of the other permissive licenses.” From http://www.zdnet.com/blog/burnette/google-says-no-to-license-proliferation/192.

So I feel Apache License 2.0 is a safer bet for raviiyer.org than BSD or MIT.

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