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The Best Way to Master a Technology Is to Teach It to Others

Donald Smith

Eclipse Foundation

Open Source Licensing for Developers

Have you ever had a manager or legal department slow down your project why they try to figure out software licensing issues? Or have you ever witnessed a flame war between two open source groups claiming each others licenses are horrible, yet not really understood what the big deal was? Would you like to be able to confidently defend why a particular license is OK for your development project? Have you ever, or do you plan to, write code for an open source project? If you answered yes to any of these questions, this session is for you.

Software licensing is an issue that has impeded developers for decades. There is nothing worse than quickly finding the right tool or framework for the job, only to have managers and “legal” spend weeks, months and years trying to ensure that the software is used legally. Unfortunately, this issue does not go away even with the prevalence of free open source software (F/OSS). There are many kinds of F/OSS licenses and each brings with it a set of requirements and issues that impact anything that use it. In fact, raising concerns over open source licensing is often used as a competitive point in commercial software.

This session will start off with an overview of intellectual property, trademark, copyright and patent terminology. We will then review the most important grants and sections in any software license, commercial or F/OSS. Finally, we will compare and contrast many popular F/OSS licenses including Apache, Eclipse and GPL. The point is not that any F/OSS license is “better” than another; the point is being able to choose and defend which one is best for your project depending on your situation.

Join the Conversation — Being a Good Open Source Software Citizen and Fostering Communities

Open Source software is one of the few resources in the world where the more people use it, the better it gets. This is the antithesis of the "tragedy of the commons," whereby most shared and open resources suffer with overuse, such as fish in the ocean and trees on state property. If the environment were more like open source software, it would improve every time you drove a car or cut down a tree. However, experiencing this "ecstasy of the commons" requires stewardship and an architecture of participation.

Some may think giving back to an open source ecosystem refers exclusively to coding new features and writing bug fixes. This is not true! There are many important ways people can and should give back to the community. This includes not only programmers using F/OSS, but QA teams, managers and even (gasp) marketing departments! The reasons "why you should give back" include not only the obvious "karma" concept, but many surprisingly selfish reasons as well.

This session will be of benefit to anyone who makes a living with any product or service that uses F/OSS software. We will provide analysis of why some F/OSS communities experience the "ecstasy of the commons" and how you can participate in their growth. We will briefly cover things like newsgroups, blogging, mail lists and social networking, but will focus on the number one way developers build community — sharing code. We will expand into how developers can find unmet needs in the community and boost their own (and their organization's) profile by doing so.

Developers are sometimes trying to choose between dozens of F/OSS solutions to the same problem. For example, there are literally hundreds of F/OSS persistence implementations, yet most developers only know of one or two. We will explore many reasons why so many different implementations exist, and how your participation can make or break one of those projects. Moreover, if you ever choose to kick start your own project, we’ll offer advice for how to make it a long term success.

Photo of Donald Smith

Donald Smith, MBA, MSc, is Director of Ecosystem Development for the Eclipse Foundation, an independent not-for-profit foundation supporting the Eclipse open source community. Prior to joining Eclipse, Donald was Director of Technology Evangelism at Oracle and has also worked for startups WebGain and The Object People. He brings over a decade of worldwide industry experience, from small "dot-com" through Fortune 50 companies. Donald speaks regularly about community development, persistence, business integration and politics at conferences and events world wide, including Java One, Oracle World, Sun Tech Days, Evans Developer Relations Conference, OOPSLA, JAOO, Server Side Symposium, Colorado Software Summit and others.

Email: donald.smith@eclipse.org