Everyone should go read Brooks Moses on Free-software licenses: requirements vs. requests. His post has made me re-think the license we use for our group simulation code. I’ve never like GPL because it essentially guarantees that friends in the corporate world won’t be able to use our code in their products; the simplicity of the BSD-style license has always appealed to me. As many people who adopt the BSD-style license have done, I threw in this attribution clause:
Acknowledgement of the program authors must be made in any publication of scientific results based in part on use of the program. An acceptable form of acknowledgement is citation of the article in which the program was described (Matthew A. Meineke, Charles F. Vardeman II, Teng Lin, Christopher J. Fennell and J. Daniel Gezelter, “OOPSE: An Object-Oriented Parallel Simulation Engine for Molecular Dynamics,” J. Comput. Chem. 26, pp. 252-271 (2005))
I know how often people forget to attribute code to the original author. Brooks points out that this places a big barrier in the way of adopting small bits of code (subroutines, individual fortran modules, etc.) into other packages. Pretty soon, users of big packages are citing hundreds of papers in fields that are very distant to the use of the code.
His suggestion is a “Requests” section of a license that would make the request for citation, and remove the forcefulness of the attribution clause. I like the idea. A lot.