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It appears that many startups are using both licenses to create commercial FOSS products (note I am here more interested in complete products not libraries). Is the 3-clause BSD more protective for the startup rights than AGPL without creating the stigma that's around GPL? Does it make other for-profit companies and competitors think twice before repackaging, rebranding and selling the FOSS software as is for profit and simply making easy profits off the back of the original FOSS author?

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    what are in your defintion "startup rights" that need protection? You use the term as if it were clear, yet it means something completely different depending on whom you ask. May 2 '20 at 10:33
  • the rights of having no for-profit companies selling your work while providing the usual freedom for users to do whatever they want with it.
    – Kri Noe
    May 2 '20 at 10:58
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    With that definition you left the scope of 'open source'. Commercial usage is one of the usual freedoms users have May 2 '20 at 14:53
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Is the 3-clause BSD more protective for the startup rights than AGPL without creating the stigma that's around GPL?

Hard question to answer, because I don't accept that there's a "stigma" around the GPL, and variants. Some organisations definitely don't like copyleft-licensed code; for them, see below. Many other organisations are just fine with it. Enough people are suspicious about the pervasiveness of the idea that there's something wrong with copyleft that experts give talks like Who wants you to think nobody uses the AGPL, and why.

But be clear: if by "startup rights" you mean "preventing repackaging, rebranding, and selling the FOSS software as-is for profit", then 3-clause BSD, and all the other weak free licences, do next to nothing to protect those "rights".

Does it make other for-profit companies and competitors think twice before repackaging, rebranding and selling the FOSS software as is for profit and simply making easy profits off the back of the original FOSS author?

I'm not aware of any academic work on this, though I'd like to be enlightened. But in my experience, the organisations that are most worried about the GPL and other copyleft licences, who won't let code covered by it anywhere near their development processes, and who often won't let it through the door at all, are exactly the ones that want the right to resell someone else's work under their own brand, and with no more acknowledgement than the couple of paragraphs the weak free licences require, often buried at the back of a manual or deep-down in some menu.

The way I see it is that the weak free licences are primarily about making software free. People who choose them don't really care if their code stays free, as long as it gets used. That is a perfectly legitimate choice for them to make, but if you decide to make it, don't be surprised when your work is commoditised. You told the world you were happy with that in your choice of licence.

The copyleft licences are about keeping software free. People who choose them would like their code to be used, but aren't willing for that to happen if the users aren't going to keep it free.

Work out what's more important to you, and pick your licence accordingly. Do not indulge any faint hope that, by picking a weak free licence, the world will keep free what it builds on your work, out of some sort of perceived debt of honour.

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  • Thank you for the great answer, I find AGPL more comfortable if that's the case but then why MongoDB for example migrated from it to its SSPL if this is how it works? I think MongoDB the company is concerned about cloud vendors just hosting and selling their DB as SaaS while they are, who are the ones doing the actual work, getting nothing.
    – Kri Noe
    May 2 '20 at 10:57
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    @KriNoe the question "Why did MongoDB create the SSPL" is a very different one to the one you asked. Selling free software is not seen as a problem: it's been a defended practice in free software since the early days (selling it without end-user freedom, however, is a different matter). If you're worried about people taking your code and closing it up, a copyleft licence is the way to go. If you're worried about people taking your code and making money out of it, you probably shouldn't be releasing it as free software.
    – MadHatter
    May 2 '20 at 11:02
  • what if I want to release a free and open source software for all uses except that it cannot be rebranded and sold by any for-profit entity? Is there a license for that?
    – Kri Noe
    May 2 '20 at 11:08
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    Such a question is known to be off-topic for this site.
    – MadHatter
    May 2 '20 at 11:17
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    As the linked question says, commercial use restrictions are neither free nor open-source compatible.
    – MadHatter
    May 2 '20 at 11:19
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There is a world of difference between GPL and AGPL.

My experience with AGPL is that any corporate lawyer who looks at it first faints, and then demands company-wide banning of touching any AGPL software with a 10 meter pole.

GPL will get you users, and lawyers rarely care.

AGPL will get your software banned under penalty of getting fired.

For example you won't get any users or contributors who are Google employees.

References

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    This isn't a universally-held point of view. For a counterpoint, try the linked FOSDEM talk from the top of my answer.
    – MadHatter
    May 5 '20 at 12:02
  • It is a fact that AGPL will be a hard blocker for all Google employees contributing, even on their own time. (mostly true. They have the IARC process which can grant you access, but 99% won't bother going through that). I think the FOSDEM talk is not providing a counterpoint. He starts his talk saying he's not a lawyer, then just dismisses all legal arguments as if they weren't there. AGPL software is effectively uncustomizable for practical purposes, personal and commercial. Uncustomizable software has a use, but most people and companies, if they think about it, would not accept it.
    – Thomas
    May 6 '20 at 14:30
  • The argument is either "I'm not a lawyer, but all these lawyers are wrong", or "all companies should opensource all their software anyway, so what's the problem?".
    – Thomas
    May 6 '20 at 14:31
  • Are you saying my argument is one of those two, or your argument is one of those two, or John Sullivan's argument is one of those two, or someone else's is one of those two?
    – MadHatter
    May 6 '20 at 14:40
  • That appears to be John Sullivan's arguments.
    – Thomas
    May 7 '20 at 15:10

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