Open Source

Hao Wang (China) - Two Sides of Open Source Licensing

Every coin has two sides. This is certainly true for the case of open source licensing restrictions...

One side is that they prevent the use of open source software codes from abuse by big fortunes. This is proved by many legal cases and is particularly true in regards to copyright law - the core value and cornerstone of propitiatory software - often thought of as intellectual property. In the open source community this is also called Copyleft.

The other side however, is to maximize the rights of the individuals. Open source software should be paid for simply because of the sheer amount of energy, effort and expense put in by the owner. If the user really thinks that the software is what he is looking for, and will satisfy all of his needs, the owner does deserve to be paid.

Stopping the user from making money is not an easy thing. If the user is a proprietorial software vendor, it will be judged by law. If the user is trying the software not in a business way, but say, in private, he has the right to try, distribute, modify, and redistribute without the need to pay. The only nominal restriction for this kind of user is ethics. However, whether or not the user redistributes the modified codes, no one can tell and it is hard to monitor the whole process.

Personally, I think this design of open source license is a kind of "best practice" to the spirit of not only open source, but information technology. I think the open source license is a good system to ensure success in the battle with big companies. But the truth is battle and cooperation often co-exists at the same time in a same area!

Wang Hao, is an advocator of open source. Please reach him at or on twitter at




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