I recently read an article by Jake Bauer that changed my mind about Free Software and the GNU General Public Licenses.
First, I’d like to point out that, as Jake, I used to be a firm believer of the benefits of Free Software, although I’ve always found Richard Stallman too extreme. All my software projects were licensed under either the GPL-3.0-or-later or the MIT licenses.
While the latter is straight and easy to read, I never took the time to read the former in its entirety. I also know that I will never take the time to enforce any of these licenses because I don’t want to spend time or money in legal matters.
After much thinking, I realized that what I cared about the most were the public commons. That’s what I want to contribute to. If my work is shared without my name being kept, well that’s OK! Maybe it will help somebody and that’s all I want. And maybe someone will reuse parts of some code I wrote in a proprietary commercial platform. That’s part of the game.
Public domain & freedoms
That’s why, as of January 1st 2022, all my software projects and the articles in this blog have been released into the public domain. The code was released under The Unlicense1 and the articles under the CC0 1.0.
This gives me the peace of mind that my works will always be free and easy to use by anyone, from the solo developer to a big tech company. I don’t want to care or be stressed about any of my publications being reused incompatibly with their license.
I still believe that users should be treated as first-party when building software. I still believe in the four essential freedoms listed by the GNU project:
- The freedom to run the program as you wish, for any purpose.
- The freedom to study how the program works, and change it so it does your computing as you wish. Access to the source code is a precondition for this.
- The freedom to redistribute copies so you can help others.
- The freedom to distribute copies of your modified versions to others. By doing this you can give the whole community a chance to benefit from your changes. Access to the source code is a precondition for this.
- The Free Software Foundation
And to me, releasing my works in the public domain is the easiest and most comprehensible way of giving these freedoms to my users. Of course this doesn’t ensure that all derivatives will be released under the same terms, but frankly I think I don’t care.
Reusing my work
If you ever want to reuse my work, I kindly ask you to link back to the original and mention my name. However, I gave up the right of enforcing this with the licenses I chose, so you’re free to completely ignore this.
Finally, I don’t restrict myself on using different licenses in the future if I think there’s a better option for some project.
More info about The Unlicense on the dedicated website. ↩︎