Licensing and standards

Idle thought of the day:

How does licensing interact with standards – how does the presence of a standard affect which license you should choose for an open source project?

We know how the GPL and BSD licenses work, and how the differ… how each can work in different situations with different community and business goals.

But… let’s throw another factor in – an open specification/standard that is well defined and doesn’t have a lot of “wiggle room” for real innovation. Should you choose the maximum amount of openness (BSD) because a proprietary implementation doesn’t have that much room between you and the “ceiling” (100% spec compliance), so there is no real reason to make a proprietary fork? Or is the whole thing a moot point because most specs are usually big things that leave a lot of room underneath for innovation. It would be ridiculous to reduce Linux or FreeBSD to “just an implementation of POSIX and a few other Unixy specs”, for example.

The uptake of the standard probably weighs on the equation too. If it’s something you just want to see as widely used as possible (say, TCP and IP), the BSD license is a good one to get the code into a lot of people’s hands.

An already adopted standard in wide use with no free implementation might have other implications, depending on what your goals are – if you did a nice implementation, perhaps you could corner some licensing fees by dual-licensing the code as GPL/proprietary.

Perhaps it’s not that important a factor in the mix… what are your thoughts?

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