The concept is meant to be Free as in speech, not free as in beer - although most projects account for both. This means that you have the right to modify and redistribute packages with certain license obligations(such as keeping the open source license when redistributing).
Most times when you get software, you only get binary files - which do not reveal much of their engineering or design. In Open source projects, the whole of the design is open, so you can learn a lot from them.
The idea is that everyone benefits - and your modifications benefit the community who originally created the software. People may stand on the shoulders of giants when engineers need not reinvent the wheel.
Surprisingly, the idea is also relatively profitable, generally to be gained in customising solutions, something which is a great deal easier in this realm, as well as by offering support and even just accepting liability, a function relatively valuable in the business world.
The concept has extended past software, and into hardware, music, creative writing, video and in fact just about anything one can imagine. It is seen by some as the arch-nemesis of intellectual property.
- Creative Commons - The creative commons licenses (a group) work on the basis of “Some rights reserved”. This means that someone creating content may choose exactly what kind of rights somebody may have. The licenses are designed to have a plain english version, a legalese version and even a computer readable version, so there is little room for ambiguity.
- GPL - The GNU Public License or GPL is probably the best known Open Source license. It specifies that derivation is allowed, that the source code of the software is available, that derivations or redistributions of the software must retain such rights. Most of the software used to run OrionRobots is covered under this license. Its lesser relative is the LGPL.
- BSD - The Berkeley Software Distribution is a Unix style operating system, and uses its own BSD license. Many other Open Source licenses decided to adopt a similar set of rights and restrictions. It is a great deal more open than the GPL, and is considered more amenable for commercialisation, though possibly less rewarding for voluntary or community effort.
This is only a small, but representative selection of the licenses. Many projects also have their own licenses which are variants of the above or have some common terms, examples are the Mozilla License and the PSL - Python Software License.
Open source content
- GitHub - Github is one of the large centres of open source development.
- OpenCores.org is a group who have open source processor and chip designs.
- Sourceforge.org is the largest collection of open source projects on the internet - and is the place to find and/or contribute to software like this.
OrionRobots and Open Source
As stated above, much of the software used to run this site is open source. We also contribute back and release robot code projects as open source. Contributions include bug fixing, bug reporting and community support.
This article was not written by a lawyer. OrionRobots is not able to provide legal advice, and this page is designed as encyclopaedic information only. Please contact a lawyer if you seek legal advice on Open Source.