Recently I've stumbled over this graph (here's the original article on GitHub):
– by Martin Sústrik, May 16th, 2016
The number of projects with a #license
is steadily decreasing. At the moment we are below 20%.
The projects without license can in theory be considered #opensource
(the source is published after all) but legally, the #copyright
is still owned by the #authors
and using it means #infringing
The interesting question is why would anyone make such a #contradictory
? Why would they make the #code
physically available to everyone and yet make it legally unavailable?
One possibility is that people are just #lazy
. Adding a license to a project is work and they don't care enough to do it.
There's a different possibility though. It's going to be weird, but bear with me, I have a point to make…
So, the other possibility is that authors deliberately reject the #legal
per se. The reasoning can go as follows: I do care about my peers using my #software
. I don't give a damn about whether the #lawyers
they work for use it. So, if you are like me and you don't care about all the #intellectual
antics, here's my project, feel free to use it. If you are the kind of #moron
who wants to have their legal ass covered, go screw yourself.
Put this way, publishing without license is a much more #radical
statement than #GPL
is. Where #RMS
says: "You can use my stuff if you buy into the idea of free software," people publishing without license say: "You can use my stuff if you are willing to ignore the law." It's a bit like when you want to join #mafia
and they ask you to beat an innocent bystander to prove your #contempt
for the rule of law.
Which brings us to the concept of a #failedstate
. Failed state is a state that exists on paper only. People living in the area don't care about the state and don't abide by its #laws
. Sure, there are some guys in Mogadishu who call themselves #government
, but they are as relevant as the nut next door who believes that he's the king of France. In the meantime you have to cope with all the gangs operating in the neighbourhood and get at least something to eat.
The important observation here is that most of the citizens of a failed state aren't radical #anarchists
who actively fight against the #state
. In fact, almost all of them would prefer a semi-decent state to the grim #conditions
they have to live in. It's just that everyone ignores the rule of law and to observe it yourself would be foolish, bordering on suicidal.
Let's get back to #software
. What I am trying to say is that you don't have to be a devoted #anarchist
to not add a license to your project. You can as well be too lazy to do so. But in both cases, the effect is the same: The #law
becomes less #relevant
. It's a step towards the failed state.
But law is pretty efficient with dealing with few #renegades
who don't want to #respect
it, right? The #radicals
get incarcerated and everything is back to normal. It's only when people start to defect from the rule of law en masse that we have to worry about failing state…
Now looks at the graph above. 80% of people have already #defected
. That may be comparable to #Somalia
The state have already failed in the #opensource
And it's not hard to figure out why. It is often said that law is a kind of #trade-off
. You give up some of your personal #freedom
and what you get in return is a civilised way of #resolving
. But in the world of open source it's hard to think about it as a trade-off. You get #obstacles
and all kinds of legal #threats
, even #criminalisation
of what is, in many ways, a #philanthropic
. You get #crypto
and you get software #patents
and you get #copyrightable
. And you get nothing in return. Can you think of a single case where law have helped you solve a #problem
you had in open source land?
So far, the semblance of rule of law is maintained by big projects that still do have licenses. But look at the #graph
again! The respect for law is dropping. At some point even the important projects will have no license which will make them unusable by anyone who has any respect for law. In short, licensing #Armageddon
So, what should we do?
I believe that at the point when the situation get unbearable, the legislators will be badly pressed to solve the problem in some way. What would they do? Would they #abolish
to make unlicensed projects available to everyone? Who knows. However, state being an exercise in #opportunism
, they will most likely try to incorporate the informal mechanisms and policies of open source world into the body of law and the body of state.
Therefore, we should take care what #mechanisms
we are using. One day, they may become a #law