Distribution license agreement

It’s been for a few months now that I am working on a community for Uniface developers. It turned out to be a journey. Well, I expected it to be a journey, but it’s definitely longer. It’s like a holiday trip to an unknown destination. You might visit nice small villages and get pretty sceneries to admire. But since you don’t know the destination, you’re never sure when you have arrived on the destination. One of the challenges I didn’t expect to conquer is the world of the legal aspects of a community.

As you might know by now we go open source. But the world we live in is very closed. Uniface is extremely suitable for data intensive applications. Most of these are built by big enterprises. Software for internal use, so open source doesn’t sound very useful. Count to that Uniface is already 30 years young. A lot of applications built in Uniface have a matured age. Back then there was never any need to use for open source software.

But times have changed. Uniface is still young enough to be used in new applications. And now we might want to reuse the ideas and structures of others. Software development is more and more the reuse of existing components. Developers in 2017 are composers.

It sounded very easy to me. Just find some good guys, organise them in a community, build or collect software and deploy this. But there is one big issue: intellectual property. In the relationship between the developers and the community a Contributors License Agreement is used.

Most important however is, from the end user perspective, the agreement between the (end)users (the composer) and the community. This agreement is the open source license.

To go short, there are two main flavours: copyleft and permissive. Both allow you to use the licensed software for your own purpose. But there is a major difference.

Copyleft

Copyleft is the purest form of opensource. The most popular copyleft license is the GPL license. This is an abbreviation of General Public License.  This license has a viral aspect. This means when you use software with a GPL license in your own software, you MUST use the GPL too.

To be honest I would love to use GPL. Just because it will bring us to a world of more open source software. These days we are depending on systems. Only open source can give a modern society the trust that is needed. Being realistic thought makes me realize that it’s a bridge too far.

Uniface users might not be ready for open source. We are used to build software that is used within the largest enterprises and governments. Forcing them to open their own software and using the GPL license is not the way to archive more openness.

Permissive

It’s not our goal to change but to add. That’s where the permissive license is helpful. This only says that you, as an user, are free to use as long as you respect the original author and license.

Since the license itself is licensed with itself, permissive open source licenses can be freely used. If every license was a tree, the internet was a big forest. In this forest a few very big tries can be found. One of them is the Apache License. This license is used by organisations like Google and communities like OpenSSL. And the Open Source Uniface Community…

What does it mean for you?

You can just take anything you want from the community. You can use it. You can modify it. You can use it in your own software. You can even sell it. And you can choose any license or distribution model you like.  As long as you respect the original author and license:

  • In the download you will find a LICENSE file and maybe a NOTICE file. You MUST redistribute them with your application.
  • In the source code you might find references to the original author. You MUST keep this information unchanged in your software.

Now I write those words, I realise how simple it is to use. Actually you must do nothing. Just take, use and relax. You can save energy to build amazing Uniface applications.