Friday, April 16, 2010

Is BSD Open for Public Use?

In the early 1990s, the CSRG's funding started to run out. The University of California had to decide what to do with all this wonderful source code it owned. The simplest thing would have been to drop the original tapes down a well and pretend that the CSRG had never happened. In keeping with the spirit of academic freedom, however, it released the entire BSD collection to the public under an extremely liberal license. The license can be summarized like this:

Don't claim you wrote this.

Don't sue us if it breaks.

Don't use our name to promote your product.

Compare this with the software license found on almost any commercial operating system. The BSD license is much easier to understand and unobjectionable to almost anyone. Anyone in the world can take the BSD code and use it for any purpose they like, from desktop computers to self-guided lawnmowers. Not surprisingly, many computer manufacturers jumped right on BSD. Not only was the code free, but also every computer science graduate for the last 15 years was familiar with it.

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