Brussels / 1 & 2 February 2014



If you love it, set it free

On the Free Software implications of JavaScript.

JavaScript served to you by a site is still software. It runs on your local computer. Typical computer use for just about everyone involves executing copious amounts of JavaScript on a daily basis, no matter what operating system they are using. The vast majority of it carries no license or copyright notice at all, often because of concerns about optimizing bandwidth and speed. This makes it proprietary for the users who receive and execute it in their browsers, even if the source code is available elsewhere on the Internet in some repository under a free license. The Free Software Foundation has proposed and implemented a couple of licensing metadata methods by which JavaScript which is intended to be free software can clearly say so, and therefore actually respect the freedom of its users. This is the first step in compliant and realistic distribution of copyleft-licensed JavaScript, as well as a step toward allowing free software users to run only free software inside the browser as they do outside the browser. Other approaches have been proposed as well. What are the advantages and disadvantages to each? Why has JavaScript licensing been such a problem in general? What are the concrete impacts of this phenomenon? We will discuss these questions and seek input on the FSF approach so far.


John Sullivan