Open-source licensing: BSD is a better model

In contrast to the GPL, the BSD's goal is to pass on control to those who adopt it, thus making the terms of the BSD license more pragmatic, generous, flexible and an overall better choice for today's enterprise customers.

Mark Brewer

As open source licensing models, both the Berkeley Software Distribution license and the General Public License have advantages and disadvantages. But in the end, the BSD offers more benefits to enterprise customers.

The GPL was created by developers, for developers, to grow the open source code base and ensure that it remains open source. The license works nicely for software companies that want to reduce software development costs without having to give up control of intellectual property.

This statement might seem contradictory, but if you really think about it, it is true. There are a number of software vendors licensing their technology under the GPL and thereby benefiting from the GPL's reciprocity provision. To make certain that source code is available to anyone, this provision dictates that changes to the code must be given back to the community. Therefore, a software company choosing to adopt the GPL benefits from all changes and enhancements made to its code, regardless of who authored them. This can make the GPL too risky for enterprise customers.

Furthermore, software containing embedded GPL-based code must be licensed under the GPL. Often referred to as the "viral" nature of the GPL, this makes the license a poor choice for most applications and impossible for an independent software vendor to license product under a proprietary license or even another open source license.

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Is BSD a better open source licensing model than the GPL?Read what they have to say, then add your own thoughts.

Executives from Novell and Covalent debate both sides of the issue.

Developers who want their code to be freely available and comply with the tenets of Free Open Source also created the BSD license. However, in contrast to the GPL the BSD's goal is to pass on control to those who adopt it, thus making the terms of the BSD license more pragmatic, generous, flexible and an overall better choice for today's enterprise customers. Corporate IT developers can download and modify open source code under the BSD license without having to contribute back enhancements that might be of unique competitive advantage. A developer or corporation also can offer an application created from the open source software to their partners and customers, then license that product under terms best suited to meet their business requirements.

The generous terms of the BSD license have allowed open source communities to flourish under BSD-based projects, often more so than those licensed under the more restrictive GPL.

Brewer is CEO of Covalent Technologies. He can be reached at mbrewer@covalent.com.

The opposing view by Matt Asay of Novell

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