The meaning of license is also open to interpretation

Summary:Jason Matusow admits to some trouble with the word "open." We can play the same game with "license.

Jason Matusow admits to some trouble with the word "open."

We can play the same game with "license."

Like open, license has many meanings. In software, these involve permission to do or own something, or a document proving permission. In open source, rights and obligations are defined by licenses, descended from the Medieval Latin word licentia, meaning authorization.

If you can do whatever you want with what you've gotten, we're into other meanings of the word license, such as a lack of due restraint, heedlessness toward proper behavior, as in licentiousness.

The GPL does place restraints in its license. If you create something new with what you were given, you have to give it away.

Seeing all this free, albeit licensed software, Andrew Hughes of LSU on BlogCritics pushes the phrase anti-capitalist, implying that the Mozilla Foundation, which makes Firefox, may be Communist in intent.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Licenses that restrict your freedom are, simply, laws. A lack of restriction isn't anti-capitalism. It's anarchy.

So here's my problem. Teasing out the meaning of words to make a point is politics. Does that make me a politician? Does it make Matusow one? Or is this whole game of shrinkwrap lawyer a waste of time? Let us know in TalkBack.

Topics: Open Source


Dana Blankenhorn has been a business journalist since 1978, and has covered technology since 1982. He launched the Interactive Age Daily, the first daily coverage of the Internet to launch with a magazine, in September 1994.

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