[SciPy-user] Re-releasing Python Equations under a new license?

Fernando Perez fperez.net at gmail.com
Fri Jan 19 12:03:56 CST 2007


On 1/19/07, Matthew Vernon <matthew at sel.cam.ac.uk> wrote:

> There's a side-point about whether it's good to encourage non-free
> software to be used in science. I would always advocate doing science
> with free software wherever possible [that discussion really is for
> somewhere else. Maybe I should blog about it ;) ].

Just to make sure we don't muddy the waters here: BSD-licensed
software /is free software/, period.  Someone may take the BSD sources
and turn them into a propietary product later down the road, but the
original BSD code /is free/.  Nobody is charging you for, nor
preventing you to modify, any of numpy, scipy, matplotlib, ipython or
python itself.

Now, to summarize my /personal/ perspective on this.  I think there's
certainly a place for the GPL, and I'm glad it exists and is used.  If
I were writing for free, in an academic setting, code whose commercial
potential was obvious and direct (something to put in an embedded
gizmo, for example), I'd most likely GPL it.

But for ipython (the one I had a say over) I went with BSD simply
because I think that the risk of losing potential contributors
outweighs the risk of someone 'stealing' (that's a poor term, I know)
it.

I think in the end it comes down to a risk balance:

- GPL prevents anyone from closing down your code, at the risk of
keeping some parties away from using and/or contributing to your
project.

- BSD may encourage more such contributions, though the door remains
open for someone to take that code and set up a closed shop with it
[1].


This risk balance will probably lead to a different decision for each
person/project.  For me and ipython I decided that BSD was the right
choice.  Others are free to think differently.

I'll try to quiet on this issue now; it can easily spin into an
endless discussion.

Cheers,

f

Footnotes:

[1] It is possible that some people may shy away from contributing to
BSD projects altogether out of fear that their contribution may be
'stolen' one day, but that seems to happen less often in practice than
people avoiding GPL code.


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