2017-05-07 15:00 to 2017-05-07 16:00

Experience level


Session Track


Increasingly permissive or increasingly dismissive: Is GPL use declining?

In free software circles, a disturbing number of conversations treat
it as given that fewer new projects are choosing copyleft licenses,
and more are going the route of lax permissive. Though this has been
repeated in news articles and blog posts, when we look deeper for
evidence of the claim, we find either anecdotes (often from the field
of corporate-backed project license choices), or highly questionable
and unscientific data sets.
Sometimes the claim is repeated by people just trying to set the table
for other discussions about trends in free software or open source;
sometimes it is promoted by people specifically arguing against
copyleft (especially in business); sometimes it is raised as a concern
by people defending copyleft. All three situations are worrisome in
their own ways.
I'll discuss:
1) recent "data" and articles published, including my own analysis;
2) whether the contexts in which permissive license use does appear to
be increasing mean what they are purported to mean, and whether those
contexts are actually relying purely on permissive licenses or on
other sorts of supplementary legal structures;
3) prominent instances of copyleft usage, especially the AGPL and GPL;
4) different ways to study and understand the trends people are trying
to get at when they talk about licensing choices in quantitative
In a community with so many computer scientists, lawyers, and talented
researchers, it's important that we habitually put popular assumptions
up for critique. Assumptions and bits of conventional wisdom need to
be audited just like code, to ensure that the business plans and
movement-organizing decisions which flow from them aren't based on
rotten foundations.