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.


F. Almada said...

Hey Charlie, just a good thought... do you know people working with Simutrans? (i guess you do, you rule our free and open sources games world! ;)), if so... contact them and let them know, as these things may be not known by them, and they are losing a potencial base of "players".


P.S: I love and play both games

Bart said...

I think this is a point that needs to be made. A lot of people don't get how much of a difference licensing makes... When you tack a noncommercial condition onto your work, you're effectively shooting yourself in the foot in terms of distribution. Share-alike (GPL, CC-BY-SA) is the way to go, if not a more free option. :)

Anonymous said...

Hi there. OpenTTD is in Fedora because I packaged it. The review request you have linked to is part of the necessary process of getting packages into Fedora and is also by me. It is however not (as your article suggests) a request by someone to please include OpenTTD in Fedora. Just to clarify that point ;)

reprocessed said...

Hi, there is a new OpenGfx release for OpenTTD: 0.1.0alpha 6, without black box!

vilvoh said...

There's already a Debian package of Simutrans, so I guess the problem is not specifically the license, but nobody has made and upload the package yet. Anyway, I'm agree with you about clarifying the license issue.

Anonymous said...


I discussed the problem of the missing license for the data files around Feb 2008 with the simutrans developers and the PAK64 graphics set was released under the Artistic license later, so the linked message on the unclear license status is a bit too old ;)

The developers also believe that the written permission is given (see the beginning of simutrans/license.txt).

See for the license of the graphics set.

Also note that the Artistic 1.0 license is regarded as non-free by Fedora [1], but is ok for Debian.



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