Are licenses to open source software like steroids to sports?

In that we all know that all professional top tier athletes are taking something they’re not allowed to. In fact, we as consumers want our athletes to be on the best shit, even if we later bemoan the cheating.

Yet, if you ask any pro athlete, they’ll all deny doing it and say it’s a terrible thing etc…

The copyright is generated automatically (at least in Germany, and it has a slightly different name). That means, any code you find, you have to assume, someone has a copyright, that he/she can claim at any time. To make code usable for anybody else, you must clarify the terms, how they can use it, and you do this by adding a license, and by choosing which model, you grant different rights and add certain restrictions.

The options are often between:

  • I don’t care vs. ask my permission
  • Name me in your disclaimer vs. do not mention my name (for advertisement reasons, like BSD-3 clause)
  • allow / disallow static linking
  • disallow certain phrases in your EULA (FFmpeg wants you not to disallow reverse engineering, because that’s partially how they work)
  • and many more

Code without a license is legally unusable.

Or did you mean dual licenses like JUCE does?

Open source has a big benefit for code quality, I think that is undisputed. At the same time you are feeding your competition.

I think it is a fair model, to have the original writer or inventor participate in the revenue.

The problem I see is, while you get free code reviews, you are very unlikely to get actual new features contributed, because it is tricky to share the ownership of the whole project amongst the contributers.

I chose the dual licensing for my video engine, and my solution is to offer perpetual, not re-sellable licenses for free for significant contributions (at my discretion).

This is all my opinion, I am not a lawyer…


Great write up, but what I meant was, you see some opensource feature you want to use.

i.e. let’s say you have some software that does X, and uses freeverb. But freeverb sucks, you find some really good opensourced but restrictively licensed alternative reverb, and add it in. Now your product sounds amazing, and you know no one is going to notice which reverb algorithm you stole. - How often do companies do this? - It’s okay, you don’t have to answer. it’s a dirty question, and for the record, don’t worry anyone, I’m not even close to building software that’s worth selling :wink:

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I see. Any company I worked with was very concerned about that topic. None was tempted to use code, that doesn’t have the appropriate license attached. Even GPL, anyone creating closed source software wouldn’t touch that with a 10 foot pole (isn’t it feet?)

More likely would be to have a look at the ideas, i.e. if they are not patented, and write their own version of it…

No one noticing is not a given. The original developer who did the algorithm might have left in “traps” that an unsuspecting thief of the algorithm might not have noticed and leaves in the final product. For example there could be a certain order of option strings etc…Obviously trivial to counteract if noticed in time, but can still be effective.