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Open Source Licenses
Open Source Licenses PDF Print E-mail
Written by Administrator   
Wednesday, 29 April 2009 08:37
Open Source Licenses PDF Print

Yes, even Open Source software is licensed. Although the licenses are a little unusual in that they are used to protect your freedoms rather than to inhibit your usage.

What are the common Open Source licenses?

There are actually quite a few, but there are a fairly small set which truly comply with the definition of Open Source. The main ones are:
  • The GPL (GNU Public License)
  • The Apache Licence
  • The BSD License
  • The Mozilla License

These are all fairly similar in spirit, especially if you are only planning on using the software and not distributing a modified version. The GPL is quite interesting and surprisingly readable, if you have a few minutes to spare take a look at the text of the GPL.

A full list of the Open Source licenses which meet the approval of the Open Source Initiative can be found here.

What do these licenses give me?

Most software licenses restrict what you can do with the software, they tell you how many machines you can install it on and what you can't do with it. The Open Source or Free Software licenses do the opposite, they give you extra rights or freedoms:
  • The freedom to run the program, for any purpose
  • The freedom to study how the program works, and adapt it to your needs
  • The freedom to redistribute copies so you can help your neighbour
  • The freedom to improve the program, and release your improvements to the public, so that the whole community benefits

So you are free to install and use the software on your computer and on every computer in the company (no matter how many computers you have) for free.

You can learn from the program (which is one reason we are called "The Open Learning Centre") by studying how it works, there are no secrets.

If you want to make changes to the program then you can. You can also ask someone to change it for you. You can make the software work exactly the way you want it to.

If you make some changes that are specific to your business then you don't have to tell anyone or give anyone a copy of your changes, however if you make a change which improves the software you can give this back.

What can't I do with software licensed like this?

If you pass on a copy of the software to someone else you have to give it to them under the same license conditions that you benefited from when you received it.

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