Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Implications of License Approaches for Giving Economy and New Social Good

Well, one thing is certain if you are analyzing licensing options when developing anything that is intended to foster a "giving economy" and a new social good:  Your head is going to hurt.

"It seems to me this is the culmination of three prior digital disruptions... One of which is commerce going digital, the second is peer-to-peer exchange going mainstream... The third is the digitization of social. (...) (This) has started to bring online some of the real-world assets, like reputation, like histories, like social capital, that will be the trust infrastructure for the sharing economy."
(...) "(R)egulation perhaps can be supplanted or supplemented by these digital institutions."
- Arun Sundararajan, professor and NEC Faculty Fellow at New York University's Stern School of Business, speaks about a "sharing economy" and "digital disruption" at Techonomy 2012. 

Based on the record of software development in particular, there is strong evidence that the license approach that you choose, apart from the merits of your proposal, can (in many situations) make or break your project in terms of its potential to be used widely.

For example, Microsoft's NetBSD for eMIPS (which refers to a "dynamically extensible processor" - a mechanism for building and developing a processor or providing machine instructions) has a license which is known as a 2-clause BSD license (see more information on BSD licenses here).  In 2011, the NetBSD project adopted Microsoft's eMIPS port. Such licenses are highly permissive, which enables use of code in almost any way so long as copyright notices are conveyed with it.

Bitcoin, which has the highest market capitalization of any decentralized protocol utilized as a cryptocurrency, is released under what is known as the MIT License. That license is considered to be compatible with the GNU General Public License described below, but what developers want to do with the software they are developing will influence what sort of licenses they choose (in terms of MIT versus GNU General Public License) as well as influencing the circumstances in which the license(s) will be applied.

The GNU General Public license scheme, and some others that are similar, are detailed here.  This license also relies upon the copyright concept, although it utilizes the "copyleft" concepts to help ensure free use of the software regardless of whoever uses it.  This approach is not as permissive as the BSD license, and was successfully used for many software projects, including Linux (GNU/Linux).  In 2008 alone, GNU/Linux was thought to have resulted in revenue that was approximately equivalent to nearly $36 billion USD.  The Linux kernel was used to build Android, which is now used for over 80% of the mobile phone market (by any measure, the market is currently dominated by Android).

Copyright-dependent licensing schemes are not the only options out there.  There are, for example, systems which exist that are intended to coexist with copyright law, while generally rejecting modern notions of intellectual property.  One such example is the Unlicense, which has been used for many projects.

These are just a few examples of licenses used in software development, but further complicating the issue is that multi-licensing or dual-license concepts can also be employed.

The licensing approach has significant implications for modern developers of the giving economy and any new social good.  The terms you use and the licensing approach you choose are significant considerations that must be given serious thought in any endeavor intended to promote a 'sharing' or 'giving' culture.

Recommended reads:

ABIS Protocol on github - a protocol concept to enable decentralization and expansion of a giving economy and a new social good.  (Initially presented using the GPLv3 license.)
Airbnb case (sharing economy related) to be decided by January 18, 2014.
BitMonet, which has just added support for TypePad.
North American Bitcoin Conference to be held at Miami Beach on Jan. 25-26, 2014.
South America: Crowdfunding with Bitcoin.
(Idea.me to receive $2.4 million USD Series A Funding in March 2014)
Sharing Visionaries Unite:
Andreas Antonopoulos, Katie Chin, Chelsea RustrumStanislav Shalunov (of Open Garden), and others speak at Sharers' Talks on Dec. 17, 2013.

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