A BSD style license is a good choice for long duration research or other projects that need a development environment that:
has near zero cost
will evolve over a long period of time
permits anyone to retain the option of commercializing final results with minimal legal issues.
This final consideration may often be the dominant one, as it was when the Apache project decided upon its license:
“This type of license is ideal for promoting the use of a reference body of code that implements a protocol for common service. This is another reason why we choose it for the Apache group – many of us wanted to see HTTP survive and become a true multiparty standard, and would not have minded in the slightest if Microsoft or Netscape choose to incorporate our HTTP engine or any other component of our code into their products, if it helped further the goal of keeping HTTP common… All this means that, strategically speaking, the project needs to maintain sufficient momentum, and that participants realize greater value by contributing their code to the project, even code that would have had value if kept proprietary.”
Developers tend to find the BSD license attractive as it keeps legal issues out of the way and lets them do whatever they want with the code. In contrast, those who expect primarily to use a system rather than program it, or expect others to evolve the code, or who do not expect to make a living from their work associated with the system (such as government employees), find the GPL attractive, because it forces code developed by others to be given to them and keeps their employer from retaining copyright and thus potentially “burying” or orphaning the software. If you want to force your competitors to help you, the GPL is attractive.
A BSD license is not simply a gift. The question “why should we help our competitors or let them steal our work?” comes up often in relation to a BSD license. Under a BSD license, if one company came to dominate a product niche that others considered strategic, the other companies can, with minimal effort, form a mini-consortium aimed at reestablishing parity by contributing to a competitive BSD variant that increases market competition and fairness. This permits each company to believe that it will be able to profit from some advantage it can provide, while also contributing to economic flexibility and efficiency. The more rapidly and easily the cooperating members can do this, the more successful they will be. A BSD license is essentially a minimally complicated license that enables such behavior.
A key effect of the GPL, making a complete and competitive Open Source system widely available at cost of media, is a reasonable goal. A BSD style license, in conjunction with ad-hoc-consortiums of individuals, can achieve this goal without destroying the economic assumptions built around the deployment-end of the technology transfer pipeline.