June 22, 2023
We’re celebrating FreeBSD Day all week long by focusing on a different aspect of FreeBSD each day!
Today’s Theme: Licensing
Many choices are available when it comes to deciding on what license to use for your latest project. Today, we are going to focus on the 2 clause variant of the Berkeley Software Distribution (BSD) license, also known as the FreeBSD license. For many folks, the business-friendly FreeBSD license offers the flexibility they are looking for. Why? Well first let’s take a look at the license itself.
Copyright <YEAR> <COPYRIGHT HOLDER>
Redistribution and use in source and binary forms, with or without modification, are permitted provided that the following conditions are met:
1. Redistributions of source code must retain the above copyright notice, this list of conditions and the following disclaimer.
2. Redistributions in binary form must reproduce the above copyright notice, this list of conditions and the following disclaimer in the documentation and/or other materials provided with the distribution.
THIS SOFTWARE IS PROVIDED BY THE COPYRIGHT HOLDERS AND CONTRIBUTORS “AS IS” AND ANY EXPRESS OR IMPLIED WARRANTIES, INCLUDING, BUT NOT LIMITED TO, THE IMPLIED WARRANTIES OF MERCHANTABILITY AND FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE ARE DISCLAIMED. IN NO EVENT SHALL THE COPYRIGHT HOLDER OR CONTRIBUTORS BE LIABLE FOR ANY DIRECT, INDIRECT, INCIDENTAL, SPECIAL, EXEMPLARY, OR CONSEQUENTIAL DAMAGES (INCLUDING, BUT NOT LIMITED TO, PROCUREMENT OF SUBSTITUTE GOODS OR SERVICES; LOSS OF USE, DATA, OR PROFITS; OR BUSINESS INTERRUPTION) HOWEVER CAUSED AND ON ANY THEORY OF LIABILITY, WHETHER IN CONTRACT, STRICT LIABILITY, OR TORT (INCLUDING NEGLIGENCE OR OTHERWISE) ARISING IN ANY WAY OUT OF THE USE OF THIS SOFTWARE, EVEN IF ADVISED OF THE POSSIBILITY OF SUCH DAMAGE.”
In other words, the FreeBSD License does not require derivative source code to be licensed under the same license terms as the original code. This means FreeBSD can be used as components in other projects and proprietary software without having to share the derivative code. In contrast, Linux is licensed under the GNU General Public License (GPL). Also known as a “share-alike” license, GPL is reciprocal, meaning the derivative code of a GPL project must also be made available under the same license terms.
FreeBSD and its parts can be used to build proprietary software with no strings attached. This is also attractive for developers from a legal perspective. You can do what you want with the code.
In addition, the FreeBSD License has been verified as GPL-compatible by the Free Software Foundation, as well as vetted as open source license by the Open Source Initiative1. This means FreeBSD remains an excellent choice as a reference platform for developing products. FreeBSD code has the broadest applicability. You can start with FreeBSD and then ship it anywhere.
For companies such a Nextflix and their Open Connect Appliances, the permissive license is what initially drew the Open Connect engineers to FreeBSD2.
Other companies, such as Beckhoff chose the FreeBSD and the permissive license in part because of the lack of GPL3.
In short, BSD licenses and in particular, the FreeBSD License provide flexibility and piece of mind when building your products and services.
- BSD license wikipedia entry – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BSD_licenses
- FreeBSD Case Study: Netflix – https://freebsdfoundation.org/blog/freebsd-case-study-netflix/
- 2020 FreeBSD Vendor Summit: Beckhoff – https://youtu.be/8LUdZseNrpE