This month Creative Commons marks it's tenth year as an alternative to traditional copyright. You've probably seen this license marked by the phrase "some rights reserved" on photos, music and other works on the Internet. The logo I created for the Real World Open Source group is available for you to use under the cc-by license, which means you can use it for whatever you wish, just give me credit.
Why have a license like this? The digital information age has created a new paradigm for works. Before, works were physical. They were not easily duplicated. Today a digital item can be duplicated and shared almost effortlessly. The understandable reaction by the creators of these works is to clamp down significantly on usage of their work. Service providers are being required to help enforce access and usage of these works. That makes some sense, except that there are people who create things that they really do want to be shared and used.
The Creative Commons license was created to be a legally sound license which would allow a creator to grant limited usage rights which were clearly stated. The basic license are quoted here from their original site descriptions.
This license lets others distribute, remix, tweak, and build upon your work, even commercially, as long as they credit you for the original creation. This is the most accommodating of licenses offered. Recommended for maximum dissemination and use of licensed materials.
This license lets others remix, tweak, and build upon your work even for commercial purposes, as long as they credit you and license their new creations under the identical terms. This license is often compared to “copyleft” free and open source software licenses. All new works based on yours will carry the same license, so any derivatives will also allow commercial use. This is the license used by Wikipedia, and is recommended for materials that would benefit from incorporating content from Wikipedia and similarly licensed projects.
This license allows for redistribution, commercial and non-commercial, as long as it is passed along unchanged and in whole, with credit to you.
This license lets others remix, tweak, and build upon your work non-commercially, and although their new works must also acknowledge you and be non-commercial, they don’t have to license their derivative works on the same terms.
This license lets others remix, tweak, and build upon your work non-commercially, as long as they credit you and license their new creations under the identical terms.
This license is the most restrictive of our six main licenses, only allowing others to download your works and share them with others as long as they credit you, but they can’t change them in any way or use them commercially.
With these licenses a creator can allow work to be distributed freely whily maintaining ownership and some level of creative control of the work. It is also applied to software code. If you haven't looked into Creative Commons it's a great time to learn about it. It is one possible answer to the question posed by Will Grace in the Real World Open Source group about "stealing code". You can't steal something that is freely given.
Supporting LimeSurvey, or your favorite projects
I get a lot from people who talk about "free software isn't free". It's true. Everything created is based on the toil of someone. Many who create these things do it pretty altruistically. They want something that works well and they see no reason why others shouldn't have it. They don't expect reward... though they would do more and give more if they could afford it.
I remember in the earlier days of the PC, there was a good deal of "shareware" floating around. The idea was that you would get the software for free. You would use it and see if it really fit your needs. If you decided to continue using it past your own test-drive period (which was sometimes defined, sometimes open-ended) then you would pay the creator for his work. I don't see as much shareware floating around anymore.
Many who contribute to open-source projects aren't looking for reward, but often a successful project has expenses. There are storage, computing devices, etc. Now that there are so many ways to get donations from people many of these projects are putting out a "give if you want to" sort of donation. bucket. It makes sense. If people donate then it relieves some of the burdens. In some cases it may allow features to be added that could not be done otherwise.
I just made a donation for LimeSurvey, a nifty piece of software that I've used for a variety of things. I'll probably also drop a few dollars with other programs I use regularly. I'm not compelled to do it, but I admire what these people are doing and I appreciate what they make available. I benefit, sometimes financially, from what they provide, so it's only right to share a little back. However, it's my choice. Some people can't afford to do it, but they need the technology. I like the idea of a world in which people choose to pay when they can because it's the right thing to do.
Of course, as I've mentioned before, there are other ways to contribute. Many projects need assistance with things besides writing code. Perhaps there is something you can do to help.