Monday, August 10, 2009

An example of why a license matters



Why is OpenTTD now in Fedora 10/11 but Simutrans is not? The former has been only playable with Free media since some time this year - and the media is still incomplete - whereas the latter has been Free for years now? Is it because somebody requested it?

Digging (and by digging I mean Googling) to some it seems that Simutrans media is unclearly licensed. Download the official (currently r102) version of Simutrans and it comes with two licenses - one copy of the 'artistic license' and a 'copyright notice' that states:

"Simutrans may not be sold or modified in any way without
written permission by the author.

Which license applies to which part of the game? I guess you can make assumptions but it really should be clearer. The artistic license applies to the source, the custom NC / no modification license to the media. OpenTTD is about to get many 1000s more players by being in big distributions. Simutrans is going to continue in its role of shadowing OpenTTD by being the transport tycoon game that hardly anybody knows about and it is somewhat self inflicted.

Do you want your Free game to be played by as many people as possible? License it clearly and explicitly, and push for inclusion in mainstream distributions. And don't use a custom, restrictive license. Go with something that is compatible with mainstream distributions like a creative commons license.