[thelist] Open source licensing and web development

Kasimir K evolt at kasimir-k.fi
Tue Oct 26 18:18:06 CDT 2004

Chris Johnston wrote on 2004-10-26 22:49:
> On Tue, 26 Oct 2004 21:47:49 +0200, Kasimir K <evolt at kasimir-k.fi> wrote:
>>Recently I have had to think a lot of how I license the sites I make for
>>my clients. This has led me to think the possibility to use an open
>>source license, e.g. GPL.

> There was a HUGE thread on licensing and the GPL on the list not that
> long ago - sometime in June I think. You may want to do a search for
> it.

I went through that thread again, but it didn't really have the answers 
(nor questions) I'm after.

> The real question that must be asked is what permissions do you want
> to impart to those that might use or have access to your site and the
> content therein? Do you plan on releasing the source code?

This indeed is real question! What would be licensed and what not? 
Usually when I make a web site I write three kinds of files: php, js and 
css. I may create some images too, but often I use somebody else's 
graphics. Usually there are no html documents.

I create a php script, obviously own the copyright for it, license it 
under GPL, my client uses the script, and a visitor to the site gets the 
output of the script, a html document, to their browser. While the html 
document definitely is part of the site, it's not part of the software I 
wrote, but rather the software's output.

So any of the html documents the visitors access would be beyond my 
licences, as I did not create them, but my client did. Is this correct?

How about the css files? Can I claim copyright to a file that contains only
p {font-family:Verdana;}
and if not, at what point do the css files become copyrightable? And 
what if a designer gives me a Photoshop lay-out and I convert it to a 
css file?

> Do you want to make money off the source code?

This is one of the things I've been pondering. Basically, what I want to 
make my money off is providing my clients with websites that work right 
for them, and the source code is only small part of the process.

Of course there is the concern, that if I make a web site for a pet 
store, and it is one hell of a good site for a pet store's needs, then 
my client starts selling the site to other pet stores, instead of me 
selling it. But somehow I've got a feeling that this wouldn't become too 
big problem.

> Are you planning on changing,
> extending, modifying GPL software and then including it in your site
> that you then distribute?

That is one possibility, and one of the reasons I've started to think 
about this all. Not only just including a larger system like a forum, 
but including smaller pieces of bigger ones.

> The GPL is an excellent license as long as you agree with what it
> says. If you do not, then pick another license that better suites your
> needs and desires.

Exactly - but GPL says many things, and I'm not yet fully clear with 
those... or my needs and desires... that's what I'm after here.


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