Navigating Licensing to Build Linux Apps

Jack Erskine 133 | Wed 23 Jan | 3:50 p.m.–5:30 p.m.

Presented by

  • Bradley M. Kuhn

    Bradley M. Kuhn is the Distinguished Technologist at Software Freedom Conservancy and editor-in-chief of Kuhn began his work in the software freedom movement as a volunteer in 1992, when he became an early adopter of GNU/Linux, and began contributing to various Free Software projects. He worked during the 1990s as a system administrator and software developer for various companies, and taught AP Computer Science at Walnut Hills High School in Cincinnati. Kuhn's non-profit career began in 2000, when he was hired by the FSF. As FSF's Executive Director from 2001–2005, Kuhn led FSF's GPL enforcement, launched its Associate Member program, and invented the Affero GPL. Kuhn was appointed President of Software Freedom Conservancy in April 2006, was Conservancy's primary volunteer from 2006–2010, and has been a full-time staffer since early 2011. Kuhn holds a summa cum laude B.S. in Computer Science from Loyola University in Maryland, and an M.S. in Computer Science from the University of Cincinnati. Kuhn's Master's thesis discussed methods for dynamic interoperability of Free Software programming languages. Kuhn received the O'Reilly Open Source Award in 2012, in recognition for his lifelong policy work on copyleft licensing. Kuhn has a blog and co-hosts the audcast, Free as in Freedom.


Whether you're writing something low-level or an application, and whether it's embedded or in the Cloud, if you use a Linux-based system to do your work, you *will* interact with FOSS (Free and Open Source) licensing. The great news is that FOSS licenses all give you a broad set of permissions to operate both as a hobbyist and commercially. You can sell products with Linux in it; you freely share your work with others online. However, nearly all FOSS licenses have requirements -- usually focused on policy goals of software freedom. Learn to navigate these licenses: be able to figure out what's a strong copyleft, a weak copyleft, and non-copyleft license. Learn what's required by the GPL, the LGPL, and other licenses you'll encounter in your work. Be educated enough to ask intelligent questions of your company's legal counsel to figure out why the company FOSS policies work the way they do, and even learn a bit to help inform them, too. After completing this tutorial, students will leave with a foundation of understanding that will help them navigate future questions and issues about FOSS licensing they will encounter on Linux.