Which universities have their own software license?
This work is a translation from English.
Release free software when working at a university
In the free software movement we believe that computer users should have the freedom to change and distribute the software they use. The word Free in Free software refers to freedom: it means that users have the freedom to run, modify and redistribute the software. Free software contributes to human knowledge, but non-free software does not. That is why universities should free Promote software in the interests of advancing human knowledge, just as you should encourage scientists and other students to publish their work.
Unfortunately, many university administrations are greedy for software (and science); they see programs as sources of income, not as contributions to human knowledge. Free software developers have been grappling with this trend for almost 20 years.
When I began developing the GNU operating system in 1984, my first step was to leave the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). I did this especially so that the licensing office at MIT would not have been able to approve the GNU as free software to prevent. I had an approach to licensing the programs in GNU planned, which would guarantee that all modified versions had to be Free Software as well - an approach that evolved into the GNU General Public License (GPL) - and I didn't want to have to ask the MIT administration for permission to use it.
Over the years university affiliates have often approached the Free Software Foundation (FSF) for advice on how to cope with administrations that view software only as something for sale. A good method - applicable even for specially funded projects - is to base your own work on an existing program that has been released under the GNU GPL. Then you can tell the case workers, "We are not allowed to release the modified version except under the GNU GPL - any other way would be a copyright infringement." After the dollar signs in their eyes have faded, they usually agree to release it as Free Software.
You can also ask your sponsor for help. When a group from New York University developed the GNU Ada Compiler (GNAT) with financial support from the US Air Force, the contract specifically required that the resulting source code be donated to the FSF. You should therefore first work out the agreement with the sponsor, and then politely explain to the university administration that it cannot be renegotiated. They would rather want a contract to develop Free Software than no contract at all, so they will most likely go along with it.
Whatever you do, you should address the topic early - before the program is halfway through. At this point in time, the university still needs you and you can struggle with tough conditions: You should inform the administration that you will complete the program and make it usable, provided that they agree in writing to release it as free software (and the choice of the free software license agree). Otherwise, it would work just enough to write a treatise on it, but never a version good enough for release. When administrations know that their choice is a free software package - which sheds a good light on the university - or nothing, they will usually choose the former.
Sometimes the FSF can convince a university to accept the GNU GPL or GPLv3. If this cannot be achieved alone, please give us the opportunity to help. Please send us a message to
Not all universities have greedy guidelines. The University of Texas at Austin, Texas, USA, has a policy that makes it easy to release software developed there as Free Software under the GNU GPL. Univates in Brasília, Brazil, and the International Institute of Information Technology in Hyderabad, India both have guidelines in favor of releasing software under the GNU GPL. With the next development of faculty support, it may be possible to introduce such a guideline at your university. One should fundamentally ask the question: does the university have the task of promoting human knowledge, or is its sole purpose to perpetuate itself?
Convincing the university of this can help to approach the matter with determination and an ethical view, as we do in the free software movement. In order to treat the public ethically, software should be free for the entire public - free as in freedom.
Many free software developers are committed to this for purely practical reasons: they advocate allowing someone else to exchange and change software together in order to make software powerful and reliable. When these values motivate you to do so free Developing software well and good, and thank you for your contribution. But these values are not a good foundation on which to stand firm when university administrations apply pressure or try to make the program unfree.
For example, they can claim that "We could do it even more efficiently and reliably with all the money we can get". This claim may ultimately prove right or wrong, but it is difficult to refute beforehand. You can propose a license, copies "Free of charge, only for academic use" to offer what would make the general public understand that they do not deserve freedom, and claim that this would preserve university collaboration, which is all (they say) what is needed.
If one starts with values of expediency alone, it is difficult to find a good rationale for rejecting these hopeless proposals, but it can be done easily if one's attitudes are based on ethical and political values. What's good about making a program more powerful and reliable at the expense of user freedom? Shouldn't freedom find application both outside and inside the academic world? The answers are obvious when freedom and community are among your goals. Free software respects the freedom of the user, while it denies non-free software.
Nothing strengthens one's resolve like knowing that freedom of community in a case of them depends.
The English-language article was published in Free Software, Free Society: The Selected Essays of Richard M. Stallman released.
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