Brussels / 3 & 4 February 2018


People can't care when they don't know

Improving how major sites communicate licensing information

We go through a lot of work and angst as a community over licensing -- what is free, what is not, what is open source, what is compatible with what, which software is to use which license. Then, after all the work put into these decisions, the result is hidden away, only to be seen or become relevant in the event of some legal challenge or insider decision. Licensing information is by and large not sufficiently communicated to end users, even though we are trying to build a movement of users who prefer freely licensed software.

Two years ago in this Devroom, I talked about license choosers like Github's, and how they might influence license selection for new projects. In response to that talk, Github made some important improvements. How are they doing now, and what about other sites and systems where users frequently obtain software, like Google Play, the Chrome Web Store, and the Firefox Add-ons library? Too often we find that such sites do not display license information at all in key places, or if they do, it's in a way that is not as clear or as strong as many of us in the free software movement would like to see. How can users prefer free software when they aren't given the info they need to choose it? I'll survey the scene, highlight some examples, and talk about how they can be addressed while considering the objections/concerns of the site operators.


Photo of John Sullivan John Sullivan