A Question of Licenses

As a software developer and sole-trader, the GNU General Public License (GPL) has enabled me to do things with software that I could not otherwise have afforded. Free software has huge benefits for sole trader or small software business. But what about developing and releasing free software?

If I were to develop a programme under the GPL, I could distribute it to someone and charge for it; GPL does allow for money to be made. However, once I have handed the software over, there is nothing stopping the recipient from posting it on the Web, and letting the rest of the world have it – for free. This is all very well, if I charged a reasonable amount for the software in the first place. I cannot, however, stop anyone else from making a lot of money out of my work, or just giving it away so nobody else will buy it.

Issuing software under GPL is all very well for corporations and academic institutions where developers already have an income, but not as good for the small business where software revenue is needed to pay staff, clean the floors and put food on the table. Making the product close-source and proprietary might be one solution, but there are those of us who are philosophically opposed to any form of closed-source software.

What is the answer? In a word (two words, actually), Creative Commons. Creative commons allows one to select and create a license by filling in a simple, online questionnaire; the license is clear and simple, and does not require hiring a legal team to understand. Software, music, graphics, Web content – just about all media can be licensed under Creative Commons.

GPL has its place, that cannot be denied; I respect the GPL and adhere to it where applicable, such as my Drupal work. However, all material which is not constrained by GPL will be released under a simpler, Creative Commons license, no headaches or lawyers required.