Open Source Software philosophy and licenses

November 29, 2023
44 mins read
Open Source Software philosophy and licenses

Broadly the term ‘open source software refers to those categories of software/programs whose licenses do not impose such conditions. Such software, generally, gives users the freedom to run/use the software for any purpose, to study and modify the program, and redistribute copies of either the original or modified program (without keeping to pay royalties to previous creators). There are multiple categories of software that may be directed to as open source software. The following subsection is going to talk about the same.

3.1 Terminology :

Before we talk about various terms and definitions pertaining to the ‘Open’ world, you must be clear about two terms that are often misunderstood or misinterpreted.

These terms are :

  • Free software and
  • Open-source software

Free Software

Free Software means the software is freely accessible and can be freely used, changed, improved, copied, and distributed by all who wish to do so. And no payments are required for free software.

The definition of Free Software is published by Richard Stallman’s Free Software Foundation. Here is the key text of that definition :

Open Source Software

Open Source Software, on the other hand, can be freely used (in terms of creating changes, making business models about the software, and so on) but it does not have to be free of cost. Here the business constructing the business representatives around open source software may receive payments concerning support and additional development. What is necessary to know here is that in open source software, the source code is freely unrestricted to the customer.

3.2 Philosophy of Open Source:

Open-source software is officially represented by the open-source meaning at

It states that :

Open source doesn’t just mean the entrance to the source code. The distribution terms
of open-source software must concede with the following measures:

Free RedistributionNo limitation on the re-distribution of the software whether as a complete or in part.
Source CodeThe program must contain source code and must permit distribution in source code as well as collected form.
Derived WorksThe license must not discriminate against anyone or a group of individuals.
Integrity of the
Author’s Source Code
The integrity of the author’s source code must be maintained. Any additions/modifications should hold a different name or version digit from the original software.
No Discrimination
Against Persons or Companies
The license must not restrict anyone from creating or use of the program in a specific specialization of endeavor. For example, it may not restrict the program from being used in a company or from being used for genetic analysis.
No Discrimination
Against Fields of Endeavor
The license must not restrict anyone from creating or use of the program in a specific specialization of endeavor. For example, it may not restrict the program from being used in a company, or from being used for genetic analysis.
Distribution of LicenseThe ownership attached to the program must use by all to whom the program is redistributed.
The license must not be Specific to a ProductThere must not be any restriction on the rights attached to them i.e., program, there should not be a requirement on the program’s being part of a particular software allotment.
The License must not Restrict other SoftwareThe license must not set restrictions on other software that is distributed along with the licensed software. For example, the license must not require that all other programs distributed on the actual medium must be open-source software.
License must be
Technology Neutral
No condition of the license may be predicated on any person
technology or technique of interface.

Software that is free, as well as open, belongs to the category FOSS (Free and Open Source Software).


The terms Free and Open represent a differing emphasis on the importance of freedom (free software) or technical progress (open source software).

3.3 Definitions:

After understanding the difference between the terms free and open, let us now proceed to our discussion on terminology and definitions pertaining to open-source software.

OSS and FLOSSOSS refers to open source software, which refers to software whose source code is limited. available to customers and it can be modified and redistributed without any An OSS may come free of cost or with payment of little charges that its developers may set in the title of development, support of software FLOSS guides to Free Libre and Open Source Software or to Free Livre and Open Source Software. The term FLOSS is used to refer to software that is both free software as well as open-source software. Here the words libre (a Spanish phrase) and livre (a Portuguese phrase) indicate freedom
GNUGNU4 refers to GNU’s Not Unix. GNU Project emphasizes freedom. The GNU assignment was created by Richard M. Stallman with the purpose to create an operating system. With time, the GNU project expanded and now it is not limited to only an operating system. Now, it shows a wide range of software, including an application apart from operating systems.
FSFFSF is Free Software Foundation. FSF is a non-profit institution built for the purpose of helping free software activity. Richard Stallman founded FSF in 1985 to help the GNU assignment and GNU licenses. Nowadays, it also performs on legal and structural problems for the free software community.
OSIOSI is Open Source Initiative. It is an organization dedicated to causing of promoting open-source software. Bruce Perens and Erics Raymond were the founders of OSI, which was founded in February 1998. OSI defines the criteria for open-source software and correctly describes the terms and specifications of open-source software. Open source doesn’t just suggest access to the app’s source code. The distribution terms of open-source software must capitulate with the Open Source Definition by OSI.
FreewareThe term freeware is normally operated for software, which is available free of cost and which permits copying and also distribution, but not modification and whose source code is not open. Freeware should not be misconstrued for open software or for free software. Freeware is distributed in binary form (ready to run) without any licensing cost. In some examples, the right to use the software is restricted to certain types of users, for instance, for personal and non-commercial purposes. One example is Microsoft Internet Explorer, which is created and available as freeware.
W3CW3C is an acronym for World Wide Web Consortium. W3C is reliable for making the software ideals for the world wide web. The W3C was developed in October 1994, to guide the world wide web to its full potential by designing common protocols that boost its evolution and ensure its interoperability. The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) defines itself as follows: The World Wide Web Consortium lives to realize the full possibility of the Web. The W3C is an industry consortium that seeks to promote standards for the evolution of the Web and interoperability between WWW products by producing specifications and reference software. Although industrial members fund W3C, it is vendor-neutral, and its products are freely available to all.
Proprietary software is software that is neither open nor freely available. Its use is regulated and further distribution and modification are either forbidden or need special permission by the supplier or vendor. Source code of proprietary software is usually not available.
SharewareShareware is software, which is created and available with the right to redistribute copies, but it is specified that if one plans to use the software, often after a specific period of time, then a license price should be paid. Shareware is not the same item as free and open-source software (FOSS) for two major reasons: (i) the source code is not unrestricted and, (ii) changes to the software are not permitted. The goal of shareware is to create the software available to try for as multiple users as possible. This is done in order to increase prospective users’ will to pay for the software. The software is allocated in binary form and often contains a built-in timed mechanism, which usually restricts functionality after a trial time of usually one to three months.
Copylefted software is free software whose distribution terms provide that all copies of all versions have more or less the same distribution terms. This means, for sample, that copyleft licenses normally disallow others to add extra requirements to the software) and demand creating source code available. This safeguards the program, and its modified versions, from some of the ordinary ways of creating a program proprietary.

3.4 Licenses and Domains of Open Source Technology

As per Open Source Initiative, “Open source licenses are licenses that comply with the Open Source Definition, in brief, they allow the software to be freely used, modified, and shared.” Open-source licenses create it easy for others to contribute to an assignment without having to seek special approval. It also shields you as the original creator, making sure you at least get some credit for your contributions. It also helps to prevent others from claiming your assignment as their own. Much used open-source licenses are shown below for your consideration:

Creative Commons Licenses (CC licenses)

CC licenses, allocated by Creative Commons organization [a non-profit organization], permit the creator of the work to select how they want others to use the work. When a creator releases their assignment under a CC license, people only need to seek the creator’s permission when they want to use the work in a way not permitted by the license.

CC licenses, given by Creative Commons organization (non-profit organization), permit the creator of the work to select how they like others to use the work. When a creator releases their work under a CC license, people only need to seek the creator’s authorization when they want to use the work in a way not permitted by the license.


The CC licenses give permission to copy, modify, and distribute the original works by attributing the creator of the work.

User RightsUser Obligations
Copy the work (e.g., download, upload, photocopy and scan the work);Always attribute the creator of the work;
Distribute the work (e.g., share copies of the work);Get permission from the creator to do anything that goes beyond the terms of the license (e.g., making commercial use of the work);
Display or perform the work (e.g., play a sound recording or film in class, or stage a play to parents);Keep any copyright notice attached to the work intact on all copies of the work;
Communicate the work (e.g., make the work available online on the school intranet, learning management system, or on a class blog); andIndicate and link to the license from any copies of the work; and
Format shift verbatim copies of the work (e.g., copy an MP3 version of music onto a CD or an MP4 version of a film onto a DVD to play in class).Whenever you make changes to the work, acknowledge the original work and indicate that changes have been made (e.g., by stating ‘This is a Hindi translation of the original work, X’).

GNU General Public License (GPL)

The GNU General Public Licence (GPL) is likely one of the most commonly used licenses for open-source assignments. The GPL grants and guarantees a wide range of rights to makers who work on open-source assignments. Basically, it permits users to copy, distribute and change the software lawfully. This means, with GPL, users can :

Copy the softwareCopy the software as many times as needed. There’s no limitation to the number of duplicates one can make.
Distribute the software however you wantThere is no restriction on distribution methods and styles – can be in the copied form or printed form or web-link form.
Charge a fee to distribute the softwareAfter modifying the software, you can even charge for your software, explaining why you are charging them but the software should still be under GNU GPL.
Make whatever modifications to the software you wantYou are free to make any kind of modifications to the GNU GPL software. The only catch is that the other scheme must also be freed under the GPL.

Apache License

The Apache License gives a number of rights to users. These privileges can be involved in both copyrights and patents. The Apache License suggests:

Rights are perpetualOnce granted, you can continue to use them forever.
Rights are worldwideIf the rights are granted in one country, then they’re granted in all countries.
Rights are granted for no fee or royalty.There is an up-front usage fee, no per-usage fee, or any other basis either.
Rights are non-exclusive.You are not the sole licensee; others can also use the licensed work.
Rights are irrevocableNo one can take these rights away once they’re granted.

Redistributing code requires giving proper credit to contributors to the code, and the same license (Apache) would remain with the software extension. Public-domain software is free and can be used without restrictions. The term public-domain software is often misused to include freeware, free software that is nevertheless copyrighted. Public domain software is, by its very nature, outside the scope of copyright and licensing.

On the contrary, there is Proprietary software, which is neither free nor available to the public. There is a proper license attached to it. The user has to buy the license in order to use it. Consider the diagram (Fig. 17.1) originally made by Chao-Kuei5 that describes the categories of software

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