the corner office

a blog, by Colin Pretorius

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Licenses and pedantry

The weekend wasn't as studious as it should have been, and the coming week will be hectic and guilt-ridden as I cram for my next exam. On the upside, the blog app's TODO list emptied out, and there's very little left to do.

Something I've been giving some thought to, is a license for my little project. I'm very conscious of how pretentious it might sound... 'oh, I'm licensing my blog app, y'know...' - it suggests that I have greater ambitions for my piss-willy web app than the piss-willy web app merits.

That's not what it's about though... it's just that I do believe that it's prudent and helpful for shared code to come with some indication of how it may be used. Given that the blog app is a fair-sized chunk of code, I think that's even more important. I could just make it all public domain, but I like the idea, even if it's a purely symbolic gesture, of associating the code with some form of open-source license.

I decided that if I'm going to do that, it's got to be the GPL. So I figured all I'd need to do is what this GNU document advises: put a blurb at the top of each source file, and a copy of the license in the project's root directory.

I thought that would be easy enough, but it's easy to get bogged down in pedantry, and I am painfully prone to getting bogged down by pedantry. For example, the page I linked to gives two sample blurbs. The first says 'This program is free software' and is meant for single-source-file programs (not that common, anymore) and the second form, which says 'This file is part of MyProject...' is recommended for multi-file programs.

I've noticed after looking around sourceforge.net and koders.com, that most people just use the single-file version, which says 'this program'. It's not what the FSF says you should do, dammit, but I can understand why it's done. But what about a web app? That's hardly a program? Also, what about a re-usable utility library that doesn't really have a name of its own? Isn't it just lazy to bang a 'this program' notice into something that's not even part of a program? It seems wrong. OTOH, isn't re-wording the recommended GPL blurb to suit one's requirements just a bit fucking OTT? It also feels wrong (and sad) to actually be worrying about this stuff, but still.

I think perhaps it's time to set the blog project aside until exams are over...

{2007.02.11 - 22:47}

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