If you’re not an open source developer, please stop reading here. This is a story from the trenches and you may not like what you hear. This content is meant for open source developers only.
I started my first open source project in 1998. It was a PDF library called rugPdf and I released it under the LGPL in 1999. The library wasn’t documented and it wasn’t developer-friendly. I rewrote it from scratch and released a brand new PDF library in February of the year 2000. This library was called iText, and unlike rugPdf, it’s still around today.
iText was available under the MPL/LGPL and it wasn’t only free as in free speech, I also promoted it as free as in free beer. My motto was “No money, no worries.” I thought: if I don’t ask any money, I won’t have any troubles. When people asked me for the price of iText, I told them they had two options: either use iText for free, obeying the obligations described in the MPL or LGPL, or refrain from using iText. That was a very naïve approach. Experience taught me that, once your open source project gains popularity, you need to release new versions on a regular basis:
Users will expect you to answer technical questions and provide documentation. You’ll also get plenty of legal questions from companies using your software, some of which you won’t be able to answer without hiring a lawyer.