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Open source licenses suck

Posted on 26/01/2023 02:56:54 AM GMT

Open source licenses are terrible at actually keeping your software safeguard against the usage of it on proprietary softwares, which is the whole point of its existence.

The concept

Open source licenses are licenses that comply with the Open Source Definition — in brief, they allow software to be freely used, modified, and shared. These licenses have set of "rules" that ranges from being truly free to use (aka permissive licenses) like MIT license or having copyleft ideologies, i.e., having safeguards to avoid the software being used in a proprietary fashion like GPLv3, the two most common types of open source licenses.

The issue

An open source license may be an actual license through the (F)OSS respecting developer's eyes, however other see it as a paperweight instead. Hence, there would be a regular case of the open source projects on proprietary softwares being sold commercially by tech corpos, while the developers of those projects are getting barely any benefit to no benefit from it at all. And as for it being used in proprietary softwares, if it is from a country where the concept of holding an indigenous company accountable is non-existent (cough cough China) then forget about seeking any sort of justice you want or worse, if these are guarded by DMCA laws, it would be impossible to actually see if the software does violate the licenses without inviting a class action lawsuit against the devs instead, which can be an immediate death sentence (not literally) to the devs. And as you can guess, these licenses requires some kind of authority for making it relevant at the first place otherwise it is just a digital paperweight. So in essence, they are just like intellectual "properties" but worse in terms of actually safeguarding your software.

Permissive licenses are the absolute worst

Permissive licenses may sound nice as a concept, (as these licenses give absolute freedom in its usage) in practise this could mean that your project could immediately get copied by the others on whatever they want, whether to use it on a proprietary soywares or not, while giving you very little to no credit at all, as there are 0 safeguards being promised against so. Hence, you can't even give a lawsuit to someone even if you wanted as they still didn't violate the license of your software.

The meme below perfectly explains the absolute state of these licenses:


Copyleft licenses are barely any better

At least copyleft licenses do have safeguards written on it which in theory, protects you against your software being used without your credit or even being used on a proprietary software. Going to the court for resolving the license violations however, is a different story. Though there are examples of copyleft licenses being successfully enforced, these law cases aren't easy to win as majority of countries don't really take these licenses seriously and combining the fact that usually it is some giant tech corporation who violates these licenses, creates a very steep uphill battle to fight, due to the cost, effort and time required for these law cases, especially for a small (F)OSS community. Not to mention that that corp can enforce DMCA laws onto them instead for whatever the reason it maybe, again complicating things further.

There are still cases of companies regularly violating the licenses for a very long time even after a lot of complaints.

There is not a real soultion to this

Looking through an idealistic manner, one way to fix the copyleft licenses would be to simply make politicians to take these licenses more seriously and to get rid of DMCA all together. However since we are talking about politicians, that's very unlikely.

So what's my solutions to this? Well, I would recommend to at least stick to copyleft licenses if you still want to use an open source license and avoiding permissive licenses all together if you don't want to get immediately screwed over by the tech corporations or release your software as a freeware instead.

Ultimately, I would prefer that neither intellectual properties nor copyleft licenses to exist in this world but that's also highly unlikely to ever happen as well.