Why haven't you licensed your project?

Presented by Richard Fontana
Wednesday 1:20 p.m.–2:05 p.m.
Target audience: Community


During the past few years, some have argued that we are living in a "post-open source software" ("POSS") era, characterized by a new generation of developers who work on public software projects without any effort to indicate licensing or any regard to project governance. One view is that this represents an increase in carelessness or legal misunderstanding among developers. However, others have suggested that this behavior may be a deliberate reaction against the "permission culture" inherent in traditional approaches to open source. GitHub has been blamed for this phenomenon and it has taken some measures to address it.

This talk will explore some legal and policy issues surrounding the tendency (real or supposed) for developers to fail to explicitly license their code. We'll address the following questions:

  • Is there really more "unlicensed" code now than there was in the past?
  • Is it possible to view such code as implicitly licensed under very permissive terms?
  • Are those who complain about unlicensed GitHub repositories merely defending a dying legal and political order?
  • How can we reform open source legal culture to improve the situation? What about GitHub's efforts, like choosealicense.com?

Presented by

Richard Fontana

Richard Fontana is a lawyer who has specialized in free software and open source legal issues for over a decade. He is Red Hat's lead counsel for open source and software development issues and much of his work focuses on supporting Red Hat's software engineers. He is a frequent public speaker on topics at the intersection of law, open source and policy. Richard is also a board director of the Open Source Initiative.

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