User Licenses vs. Contributor Licenses


I’m starting to think that the dynamics of Open Source production are such that user licenses are crap. Yes, I’m saying that everything that we’ve put into licenses, all the thought, all the drama, all the durm-und-strang, is wasted. You might wonder why.

Why, indeed. Consider that all Open Source licenses are a unilateral grant of privilege. That doesn’t reflect the reality of the situation. Yes, somebody can take a code drop, but the advantage of Open Source doesn’t exist without community. The value is not in the static code, the value is in the relationships between people. Free Software has never been about freedom (pace RMS). It’s been about the community formed around software that is open for community contributions and use.

So, it turns out that the part of licensing to which we have paid short shrift, contributor licensing, is the most important. It doesn’t really matter what rights the users of the software gets. It matters, instead, what the contributor grants to the project. The relationship between the user and the project is a matter of necessity. If a user gives up that relationship, they lose, so there’s no need to control that relationship.

Anybody else with me on this? Or am I talkin smack?