Three Licensing Strategies

Summary:Last week I described the concept of open source licensing as strategy, mainly from a theoretical viewpoint.Let's see how it works in the real world, "ripped from the headlines" as they say.

Last week I described the concept of open source licensing as strategy, mainly from a theoretical viewpoint.

Let's see how it works in the real world, "ripped from the headlines" as they say.

In Europe Microsoft is trying to give open source minimal openings. They seem to have settled their anti-trust dispute with the European Commission, and the last piece to the puzzle involved open source.

The headline was Microsoft agreed to share interoperability information with makers of rival products. But the devil's in the details. The software written with these opened protocols can't itself be open. The Free Software Foundation Europe is not amused, but the minimal concession fits Microsoft's strategy.

Now let's move on to Apple. They're proprietary but they need the loyalty of programmers for applications. So Apple expanded its open source efforts with WebKit, an open source framework for Mac OS X used in its Safari browser and other applications, and based on KDE's KHTML engine. Our Paul Festa notes the concessions mollified the open source community at KDE.

Finally we come to Red Hat, whose strategy doesn't involve selling software at all, just services. They have created the Fedora Foundation, which will hold the Fedora code, and expanded their efforts against software patents, which are both expensive to get and expensive for open source programmers in particular to fight.

It's the old story. Where you stand depends on where you sit. If you see money in your code you want to protect it. If you don't then you want it (and everyone else's code) liberated. There is a middle ground, too.

If you really want to know a company's strategy, read its licenses.

Topics: Open Source

About

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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