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Licensing open source software

Software takes the form of source code. Most software has been issued under a closed-source license, meaning that you get the right to use software, but cannot see the source code. The open source philosophy is that you have a right to use software, to see the source code and modify it. Linux adopted this philosophy. People took the source code, made changes, and shared them back with the group.

The Free Software Foundation (FSF) and the Open Source Initiative (OSI) can be considered the most influential organizations in the world of open source. The FSF have developed their own set of licenses, such as the GPLv2 & GPLv3 (GNU General Public License 2 and 3). Linus Torvalds has placed the Linux software under GPLv2. This license guarantee end users the freedom to run, study, share and modify the software. If you make changes and distribute them, you must put your work under the same license terms. This specific philosophy is called copyleft. The GPL is a copyleft license. Unlike the FSF, the OSI does not have its own set of licenses. Instead, they are OSI-approved licenses that comply with the Open Source Definition. BSD licences are very popular OSI-approved licences, which are much simpler than GPL. This licenses are permissive licenses, with minimal requirements about how the software can be redistributed. In contrast to copyleft licenses, the BSD license is a simple license that merely requires that all code retain the BSD license notice and does not require that source code be distributed at all. Software under a permissive license can later be made proprietary. FSF and OSI-approved licenses are mostly related to software. The Creative Commons (CC) organization has created the Creative Commons licenses which try to address non software entities.

The Free Software Foundation was founded in 1985 by Richard Stallman (RMS). The goal of the FSF is to promote Free Software. Roughly, it means that the users have the freedom to run, copy, distribute, study, change and improve the software. Thus, free software is a matter of liberty, not price. The Open Source Initiative was founded in 1998 by Bruce Perens and Eric Raymond. Software that conforms to an OSI-approved license is therefore Open Source Software. OSI believes that open source doesn't just mean access to the source code, but also the license must not place restrictions on software. The terms "free software" and "open source" stand for almost the same range of programs. However, the free software movement is a campaign for computer users freedom. The open source idea values mainly on practical benefits only. To emphasize that "free software" refers to freedom and not to price, we sometimes write or say "free" with the French or Spanish word "libre" that means free in the sense of freedom. Users with independent political views use the term FLOSS, meaning "Free/Libre and Open Source Software," to avoid a preference between the FSF and the OSI. Others use the term FOSS, which stands for "Free and Open Source Software." This is misleading. It suggests a single point of view, rather than mentioning two different ones.

How to make money if you are giving software away for free? The simplest way to make money is to sell services, such as training, technical support, or consulting, rather than the software itself. Some organizations sell branded merchandise articles like t-shirts and coffee mugs. Selling subscriptions for online accounts and server access to customers is one way. Providing cloud computing services or software as a service (SaaS) without the release of the open-source software. Larger donation campaigns also exist. Offering bounties as funding has existed for some time. For instance, company has been paying and funding freelance developers for security bug hunting and fixing. Apple Inc. offers software for free, while selling hardware. The Mozilla Foundation have a partnership with Google for inclusion of search engine in Mozilla Firefox. MySQL is free, but enterprise version includes support and additional features. SUSE offers openSUSE for free, while selling SUSE Linux Enterprise. Red Hat sells support subscriptions for Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) which is an enterprise distribution.