When It’s Better to Receive Than Give:
I think that along the way, open source has forgotten what it really means
(i.e. in real life) to give.
If I were to hand you a present, (let’s say a nice quality leather-bound journal) I would not do so with a long
list of terms and conditions attached to it that you had to agree to before you could use the gift; it’s yours
dammit - you own it! You know who the gift came from, I was there when I gave it to you, so you don’t need to
agree on a contract that legally asserts that I gave the journal to you, and it can be revoked if you use it for
things that I didn’t agree upon (world domination plans, for example).
By viewing this website, its code is now yours. That’s my gift to you. It might be something that goes into a
drawer somewhere and doesn’t ever come out, except for those embarrassing times when I happen to mention it. Or,
it could be a great gift, something that really empowers you to do new stuff!
Just click on the CSS / HTML and
PHP links at the bottom of the page and you can look at the source code that makes this website
come alive on your screen.
Is this code compatible with GPL v2, 3?
I don’t think you quite understood the word
yours, when I handed you the journal. All the code that makes
up this site is yours: I don’t want calls at 3 AM in the morning, asking if you’re allowed to write certain
things in your journal or not. You can put restrictions on it if you decide to give it to others, sure, but you
don’t need to ask my permission for that.
If you’ve found new ways to totally pimp-out your journal, and want to show
me, that’s rad, I’d enjoy that! But if you want it to be a secret diary that nobody is allowed to look at
or touch, then that’s fine too - whatever makes you happy.
And if you want to sell my gift, no hard feelings, that’s alright. Maybe it’s worth something, who knows. Maybe
it was just a poor choice of gift for you, and you’d rather it went to somebody who would get more enjoyment out
of it than yourself.
Some of the content on your site is marked with a copyright, or a creative-commons or other licence; I
thought you just said there was no strings attached?
Okay, let’s say that along with the journal, I gave you a book (The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe,
for argument’s sake), or the latest Enya album:
Those things are still yours, because I gave them to you as a present (I hope they were what you wanted). But that
doesn’t mean that you now own the copyright to C.S.Lewis’ writing and characters, or the song-rights to Enya’s
music. No, you own the physical media, and can do anything you want with the physical properties of those things.
You can read the book, quote it in an essay, rebind the book in leather (to match the journal), and even draw all
over the pages! You can rip the CD to your iPod, or even remix the music for your own personal use.
But you cannot change the wording and go print a thousand copies of the book and sell it, or go on tour singing
interpretations of Enya’s songs – I would seriously have to question your sanity; and what presents I chose to
give you in the future. Regular people just don’t do that kind of thing in real life, with physical things.
Therefore, my writings, thoughts and photos still remain my own. You can’t edit the source code or content on this
domain name, because this is my website, just as this is the original author’s copy of a book or the gold
master of a CD. But your copy of the website you just downloaded to your browser cache, well that’s
My photos, you can print and frame on your desk (if that kind of thing takes your fancy), but you can’t claim that
you took the photo, and go selling prints of it; that would upset me and I think we’d have to stop being friends.
You can read my writings, and quote about them on your own website, but you can’t take my writings to a publisher
and claim they were your own. So please respect that the content I create on this website is my own work, all I ask
is that if you re-use my content, that you include my name so that people know that I helped contribute to your