In an attempt to put my various projects into the Public Domain, it seems that I’ve caused some confusion.
All I want to do is the following: label my code as being in the Public Domain, but require that people at least acknowledge the fact that they’re using something I wrote. I’d prefer it if people didn’t take anything I wrote and make a quick buck out of it, but I’m not adverse to my code being bundled in a payware application. But that’s a nice to have, I basically just want to give stuff away.
This lead me to start adding Creative Commons licences to my work. The Attribution-ShareALike licence seemed to exactly cover my requirements. Previously I’d either not included a licence, or labelled it as “Public Domain”. But I’d seen some code I wrote used verbatim with someone else’s name on it and that naturally upset me. I won’t go into details about who or where, but how hard is it to add an @author tag to Java source (or better yet, leave the one that’s already in there)?
So anyway, the CC licence seemed to fit. However when the Jaikoz developers contacted me a few months ago about reusing my MusicBrainz API they weren’t sure whether they could, as their application is payware. I said they could.
This week Henning Koch emailed me under similar confusion: would his application have to be similarly licensed. I didn’t think so, and that certainly wasn’t my intention. Koch pointed me at the CC FAQ entry that I’d stupidly overlooked:
CC licenses are not written for software. They should not be used for software…
But which one of the many licences should I use? Why does it have to be so difficult to give stuff away? I know creating new open source licences is discouraged but to be frank, its not that easy to pick and choose, and I’m not sure I want to wade through endless legal documents: I want to give stuff away, but be acknowledged. That’s it.
Why does open sourcing software have to be so difficult? It seems to me that the Creative Commons folk could help clean up this mess. They’re wading into scientific research, so why not software?
A nice example of how broken software licencing is, is this summary of the creative commons licences from a Debian perspective. Conclusion: they’re not free. Debian has a reputation for being particularly prescriptive, but this seems a little barking.
I guess the answer is either RTFL (Read the F’ing Licence), or just switch back to a plain “This work is in the Public Domain” statement.