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Friday, January 19, 2007

Software licensing and SaaS

'DayDream Believer' by Becka Spence

I hate software licenses. Well, I kind of like the WTFPL. But most of them I don't like; they're simply too complicated. And there are too many of them. I was painfully reminded of this, like I need the reminding, by looking at the Ruby license which leads to the even scarier LEGAL file.


In contrast, the Python license is a thing of beauty.

I suppose a lot of folks don't care too much about software licenses. But as a software developer that would like to consume, reuse, and redistribute as much open/free software as I can get away with, and working at a big software development house that has a tendency to attract legal attacks, I can tell you, I care. Because my company cares. More complicated licensing scenarios mean more time spent with lawyers, and less time in my text editor.

However, while day-dreaming of our eventual future, SaaS, I happened to think that all the licensing nonsense just goes away. Because in the future, we won't be delivering software to customers, we'll be delivering the results of service requests. The output of some program. And at least for the GPL, it seems clear to me that I don't have any downstream licensing issues. As long as I never redistribute my programs.

But of course, that really goes against the spirit of certain licenses, and I'm thinking of the GPL in particular. The GPL was designed to allow tinkerers to tinker, but SaaS doesn't really lend itself to that model. Maybe that's a big downside of SaaS; the loss of freedom to tinker. But more importantly, will software licenses be extended so the concept of 'combining source/programs' applies to using a client program using a service over the network? Or is this already a concern?

Blue sky dreaming? Yeah, probably. But ya gotta dream!

BTW, we will clearly have to deal with software patents in the SaaS world.

Photo 'DayDream Believer' with a nice CC license, by Becka Spence. Found using the Flickr's Create Commons Search.

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