freebsd should be rewritten based on microkernel architecture

Dale Scott dalescott at
Sat Apr 18 00:06:18 UTC 2020

----- Original Message -----
> From: "Polytropon" <freebsd at>
> To: "Aryeh Friedman" <aryeh.friedman at>
> Cc: "Paul Pathiakis" <pathiaki2 at>, "freebsd-questions" <freebsd-questions at>
> Sent: Friday, April 17, 2020 1:30:25 PM
> Subject: Re: freebsd should be rewritten based on microkernel architecture
> The _choice_ of licensing terms is very important to a programmer.

IANAL but...   ;-)

I think of "open-source" as a legal framework for a community to share software development by pooling their resources. The license protect the investment the participants make (e.g. the time spent coding, testing, writing bug reports, writing user manuals, supporting other members of the community, etc.), and also gives protection from an actor acting in bad faith. When a company (a single legal entity) develops software, regardless of whether the programmer is a full-time employee or a contractor, the code generally belongs to the company. There simply is no "my code", it is "their code" and I relinquished my rights to it in return for compensation. The developer does not have the right to re-use a single character for any reason (which is different from it not being worth the effort to penalize an infraction). Of course, developers own the knowledge in their heads that enabled them to write the code, and can use that knowledge to write new code (although other contractual restrictions may be in force, such as a non-competition or non-disclosure agreement).

A single developer providing software under an open source license is for the most part simply being altruistic and helping their fellow developers by providing tutorials, examples and proof-of-concepts for projects consistent with a single developer. The developer's personal beliefs will determine what license is appropriate - but generally either "permissive" (e.g. BSD) or "copyleft" (e.g. GPL). A permissive license might be appropriate if the goal is to provide benefit to as many people as possible with minimum constraints (a permissive license typically only imposes keeping the original license and copyright notice, and prevents being sued for errors or not being fit for use).

However, if you believe someone who modifies your code has an obligation to share in kind, then imposing this through a copyleft license will likely be appropriate. Note though that the GPL only requires source to be shared with those who receive the software in non-source form, which may not include the original developer! Also note that payment is irrelevant so far as the license is concerned. For example, the GPL does not prevent me from "selling" a customized version of ERPNext (an enterprise ERP application licensed using the GPL), so long as I distribute the source for my changes to those who I have provided my modified version to. (I mean "selling" in concept as I would not own the code, but would be able to charge for customization services).

The license becomes more significant for projects with multiple developers, projects that incorporate open-source software to expedite development, and companies who use the software. Vague ownership of the code or vague allowed use creates risks for the entire community. What if two developers work together for a year to create a software application but then part ways. Who owns the rights to the codebase? Do the developers share ownership jointly or individually? Can one developer continue development of the software on their own if the other developer doesn't want them to? Does each developer have rights only to the characters they typed? What are the risks to a company if the project cannot show they have a legal right to offer the software (which could be the result of including GPL code in a BSD project, or re-using code created under contract to an employer)? What are the risks if the company uses the software to create their own product? What if the software is an enterprise ERP, CRM or FRACAS system and the company uses it to run their business! A company that proactively protects shareholders from risky legal situations would have to just walk away.....

Licensing itself isn't complicated, it's all the other details....  ;-)

Dale Scott 
Engineering and NPI Leader 
Email: dale at 

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