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Why you should use a BSD style license for your Open Source Project
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$FreeBSD: head/en_US.ISO8859-1/articles/bsdl-gpl/article.xml 53942 2020-03-01 12:23:40Z carlavilla $
Introduction
This document makes a case for using a BSD style license for software and data; specifically it recommends using a BSD style license in place of the GPL. It can also be read as a BSD versus GPL Open Source License introduction and summary.
Very Brief Open Source History
Long before the term <quote>Open Source</quote> was used, software was developed by loose associations of programmers and freely exchanged. Starting in the early 1950's, organizations such as <link xlink:href="http://www.share.org">SHARE</link> and <link xlink:href="http://www.decus.org">DECUS</link> developed much of the software that computer hardware companies bundled with their hardware offerings. At that time computer companies were in the hardware business; anything that reduced software cost and made more programs available made the hardware companies more competitive.
This model changed in the 1960's. In 1965 ADR developed the first licensed software product independent of a hardware company. ADR was competing against a free IBM package originally developed by IBM customers. ADR patented their software in 1968. To stop sharing of their program, they provided it under an equipment lease in which payment was spread over the lifetime of the product. ADR thus retained ownership and could control resale and reuse.
In 1969 the US Department of Justice charged IBM with destroying businesses by bundling free software with IBM hardware. As a result of this suit, IBM unbundled its software; that is, software became independent products separate from hardware.
In 1968 Informatics introduced the first commercial killer-app and rapidly established the concept of the software product, the software company, and very high rates of return. Informatics developed the perpetual license which is now standard throughout the computer industry, wherein ownership is never transferred to the customer.
Unix from a BSD Licensing Perspective
AT&amp;T, who owned the original Unix implementation, was a publicly regulated monopoly tied up in anti-trust court; it was legally unable to sell a product into the software market. It was, however, able to provide it to academic institutions for the price of media.
Universities rapidly adopted Unix after an OS conference publicized its availability. It was extremely helpful that Unix ran on the PDP-11, a very affordable 16-bit computer, and was coded in a high-level language that was demonstrably good for systems programming. The DEC PDP-11 had, in effect, an open hardware interface designed to make it easy for customers to write their own OS, which was common. As DEC founder Ken Olsen famously proclaimed, <quote>software comes from heaven when you have good hardware</quote>.
Unix author Ken Thompson returned to his alma mater, University of California Berkeley (UCB), in 1975 and taught the kernel line-by-line. This ultimately resulted in an evolving system known as BSD (Berkeley Standard Distribution). UCB converted Unix to 32-bits, added virtual memory, and implemented the version of the TCP/IP stack upon which the Internet was essentially built. UCB made BSD available for the cost of media, under what became known as <quote>the BSD license</quote>. A customer purchased Unix from AT&amp;T and then ordered a BSD tape from UCB.
In the mid-1980s a government anti-trust case against AT&amp;T ended with the break-up of AT&amp;T. AT&amp;T still owned Unix and was now able to sell it. AT&amp;T embarked on an aggressive licensing effort and most commercial Unixes of the day became AT&amp;T-derived.
In the early 1990's AT&amp;T sued UCB over license violations related to BSD. UCB discovered that AT&amp;T had incorporated, without acknowledgment or payment, many improvements due to BSD into AT&amp;T's products, and a lengthy court case, primarily between AT&amp;T and UCB, ensued. During this period some UCB programmers embarked on a project to rewrite any AT&amp;T code associated with BSD. This project resulted in a system called BSD 4.4-lite (lite because it was not a complete system; it lacked 6 key AT&amp;T files).
A lengthy series of articles published slightly later in Dr. Dobbs magazine described a BSD-derived 386 PC version of Unix, with BSD-licensed replacement files for the 6 missing 4.4 lite files. This system, named 386BSD, was due to ex-UCB programmer William Jolitz. It became the original basis of all the PC BSDs in use today.
In the mid 1990s, Novell purchased AT&amp;T's Unix rights and a (then secret) agreement was reached to terminate the lawsuit. UCB soon terminated its support for BSD.
The Current State of FreeBSD and BSD Licenses
The so-called <link xlink:href="http://www.opensource.org/licenses/bsd-license.php"> new BSD license</link> applied to FreeBSD within the last few years is effectively a statement that you can do anything with the program or its source, but you do not have any warranty and none of the authors has any liability (basically, you cannot sue anybody). This new BSD license is intended to encourage product commercialization. Any BSD code can be sold or included in proprietary products without any restrictions on the availability of your code or your future behavior.
Do not confuse the new BSD license with <quote>public domain</quote>. While an item in the public domain is also free for all to use, it has no owner.

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