FOSSMeet 2017

FOSSMeet is an annual event at NIT Calicut that brings together the Free and Open Source Community from around the country.

Sarah Masud


The Alice and Bob Problem of Open Source Licenses

Submitted Dec 3, 2016

When a developer(Alice) releases her code, she is automatically granted copyright over it(even if not mentioned explicitly). But simply releasing the code on the internet or Github DOES NOT guarantee that other developers(like Bob) have a right to modify or redistribute it. In the absence of any accompanying license, copyright alone can be messy. It throttles collaboration, and enhancement. Both of which are second nature to the ‘open source way.’ But, license work can be legally taxing and complex. This talk aims to demystify some of the complexity associated with open source licenses.


The aim of this talk is to cover the basic nitty gritties associated with the open source licenses.

1. Explaining the concept of copyright and licensing using characters of Alice and Bob.
2. A brief introduction and history about open source licenses: How GNU came about, and how the GNU/Linux followed.
3. Current state of open source licenses: Which organizations maintain open source licenses, list of common licenses used today, license proliferation ‘Spoiled for choice is no choice at all’.
4. The various attributes that make up an open source license: Using characters of Alice and Bob to question various permissions and conditions that can be associated with an open source license.(Eg. Commercial usage- Can Bob use Alice’s software for commercial use?)
5. Introducing the concepts of copyleft, permissive and license compatibility based on the attributes that shall be discussed above.
6. Concluding with a screenshot on how to add license to Github projects.

Key Take Aways:
Gain basic insights about open source licenses, their attributes,and usage. Help taking better responsibility of how you share your work.



Speaker bio

As an associate software engineer at Red Hat, I am currently working on an analytics project. My work under Dr. Tanvir Ahamd on Framework to Extract Context Vectors from Unstructured Data using Big Data Analytics was presented at Ninth International Conference on Contemporary Computing(Aug 2016). Currently I am envolved with IEEE WIE Stand project as mentor for the Data Science and Machine Learning track, and volunteer with Women Who Code, Lean In and Grace Hopper India. I am ever enthusiastic about Data Science, Women in STEM, and Open Source.



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