Indian professor proposes alternate open-source license

A professor at the Indian Institute of Technology is working on a license that will permit commercial benefit from work derived from an open-source program.

Finding the GNU General Public License (GPL) too restrictive with regard to derived works, a professor at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) in Mumbai is working on an alternative license that will allow people to take commercial benefit from work derived from an open-source program.

The GPL of the Free Software Foundation in Boston requires a derived work to be given to the open-source community, which in many cases deters creativity, Deepak Phatak, professor of IT at the IIT told IDG News Service Thursday.

Version 2 of the GPL requires that "you must cause any work that you distribute or publish, that in whole or in part contains or is derived from the Program or any part thereof, to be licensed as a whole at no charge to all third parties under the terms of this License."

Developers and users also face the problem of changing open-source license terms, Phatak said.

Phatak favors a license modeled on the University of California, Berkeley's BSD (Berkeley Software Distribution). He hopes to modify the BSD license and make it a perpetual license. "This way even the original writer of the license will not be able to modify it," said Phatak. "So developers and users are not threatened by license revisions."

The BSD license allows software redistribution and use in source and binary forms, with or without modification in both closed-source and open-source situations. Source code released under the BSD license essentially allows the user free reign over the code, with very few restrictions, Phatak said.

Phatak is uncertain how many developers and academics in India will support his plan. "For now it is just my idea," he said.

By not requiring developers of derived works to give their work to the community, the new license will not stifle the open-source movement, Phatak said. "This license will better reflect the ground reality," he said. " For 20 people who make use of this provision, there will be 200 and more who will contribute and return to the community for no monetary benefit."

To give an analogy, there have been a number of derived works for profit based around holy books like the Bible and the Bhagvad Gita, but this has actually enriched understanding of these holy books, Phatak added.

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John Ribeiro

IDG News Service
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