In the January/February 2015 issue, Hadley Wickham wrote a column called “Impact the world by being useful”. In it, he suggested that “the best way to impact the world as a data scientist or statistician is to be useful,”which, he said, we can do by (among other things) writing code and “working in the open.” He proposed that you should release your code with an open source license.
This guide (see below) shares the most popular open-source licenses currently available, with further reading (guides, tutorials and infographics).
About Open-Source Software Licenses
Open-source software is licensed so that anyone can use, alter, and share it. An open-source license (OSS) is a legal contract that determines the copyright of software. Open-source licenses have many practical uses for business and development. The open-source movement has solved many problems that plagued software developers in the past, particularly through crowdsourcing. Rapid development is much easier when millions of users can help developers test and improve the software. One of the most well-known open-source projects is Linux, a free operating system kernel built on top of the GNU operating system. Linux uses the GPL version 2 license. All open-source licenses are intended to govern how the software will be used. This includes:
Private Use: the freedom to use and change software for non-commercial purposes
Distribution: sharing for commercial or non-commercial use
Linking: linking to free and proprietary sources
Patent Grants: rights to intellectual property granted by the government
Sublicensing: an agreement in which the owner of something allows people to use their software to create new things so long as whatever they create is also distributed under GPL
Trademarks: a symbol or word that represents an organization or product
Open-Source Software vs Free Software
Just because software has an open-source license, does not mean it is free. It may be easy to interpret the term “open-source” to mean “free”. Both of these terms have complex definitions that are constantly changing. While all free software licenses are technically open-source, not all open-source licenses are free. Legal interpretations and enforcement of the terms and conditions contained in any given open-source license will depend on the legal jurisdiction protecting the copyright. It also depends on the country connected to that jurisdiction. The seeds of open-source licensing can be traced to free, copyleft licenses created in the United States during the 1980s. The creation of the Open Source Initiative (OSI) in 1998 has helped shape the landscape of the open-source software licensing today. The resource page lists lots of sources, with helpful definitions of key terms, organizational bodies, and historical landmarks related to open-source licensing.
If you have any questions about OSS, email Evan Eubanks: email@example.com