Friday, October 03, 2008

Open Source for Children

Explaining the GNU Public License (GPL) to young children, in anything approaching full-fledged legalese, would normally be a daunting prospect, unless the mom and/or dad were a judge maybe, so getting such talk around the dinner table. Easier is to use a currency more children already recognize: stuffed animals, like teddy bears.

A teddy bear with GPL protection is like having a tag that says "you can have me if you'll share me" and furthermore "do not remove this tag." Even if the bear morphs into a wolf, through a series of patches lets say, the tag doesn't detach, because the changes were applied to the bear to begin with, and the license applies after each patch along the way (because of the non-removal clause).

Of course there are other open source licenses besides the GPL, but GNU has been such a cornucopia of goodies precisely because it pioneered such important legal boilerplate. Selfishness is not OK. As a result, we have Ubuntu.