Looking for Balance in the Open Source World


I'm still communicating with several intelligent and informed people about open source, freeware, and FOSS and COSS licensing. There has been a good deal of confusion and complex nuance because, it seems to me, my situation doesn't fit cleanly into the common scenario.

On the one hand, I totally agree with the people who say (a) doing good for the world is a top priority and (b) there's something wrong with focusing solely on maximizing one's profits when it means withholding an important innovation from those who need it badly, but can't afford it.

On the other hand, it's self-destructive and harmful to one's family, investors, and other stakeholders to "give it all away for nothing." If that were to happen, the people who put their money and trust in you, those who committed their time and effort, and loved ones who depend on you would suffer unnecessary loss and pain.
What's needed, imo, is a balanced approach … one that would likely be a win-win for the world, for my company's stakeholders, and for my family.

As I now understand things, the typical FOSS open source (OS) or freeware license gives software developers and users the right to use a software program's code in any way they want at no cost. In the more liberal licenses, they can build the code into another program and use if for their own business, or sell it to others for a profit. Or they can even take the original program and use it or sell it just the way it is, without having to make their own contribution to the OS or freeware communities.

In contrast, a typicall COSS license requires a fee be paid to the developers of the original software if that program is used in one's own business or if it is sold to others.

When a patented process is used in a software program (e.g., see http://www.nhds.com/products.html), things can get more complicated; and when that patented process is used in multiple programs of different types, it can be even more complicated. Why? As far as I can tell, it's because FOSS/freeware models were designed for the free use the code of a single type of program; code which is copyrighted, but rarely (if ever?) tied to a unique patentable process.

So, being the CEO of a company with a patented process applicable to a wide variety of software programs across many different industries, and I don't know how broadly releasing rights to that patent will affect my company, I cannot in all good conscience just "give it away and hope for the best" … even though I'm deeply committed to helping make this a better world.

I am, therefore, leaning toward a "limited release" of my patent process in which only one software program is licensed as freeware (GPL/AGPL) or another type of FOSS open source (yet to be determined). I'm also considering a suitable COSS license for other programs, or for the general use of the patented process. Some combination of these licenses would bring balance, it seems to me.

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