A few weeks ago, I was using LAStools for a test on a small data set. LAStools are free to use on small lidar datasets; if you exceed the point limits a small amount of noise is injected into your output. This has always made me a little uncomfortable so I sent out the following tweet:
@rapidlasso is vital to lidar ecosystem but I disagree w/ injection of noise into data from unlicensed copies of lastools. point limits r ok— Stephen Medeiros (@scmphdpe) June 3, 2015
First, I noticed that Martin favorited the tweet. I anticipated that this was because he was preparing to respond. I was right.
However, his response was not what I expected (a tweet). He resent me an email exchange that we had in 2013 regarding this same issue. In that email, he concisely made the case for licensing his software for commercial use and supporting its development.
I sincerely appreciated his response in both cases, however I am still wary of the "injecting noise" method of license control, even if the amount of noise is very small. My fear is that those corrupt data could propagate from one to many naive users.
That being said, Rapid Lasso and LAStools have made numerous contributions to the lidar community, including an app to release data from the proprietary zlas format. The company also provides many avenues for academic and non-profit users to use LAStools at low to no cost. For details, go to the company's main website. Martin personally responds to comments posted in the forum so feel free to do that as well.
Anti-Disclaimer: As of this writing, I have no business relationship with Martin Isenburg or Rapid Lasso. I am simply reporting on an interaction I had with a person who I consider to be the worldwide ambassador for lidar. In the future, I do hope to become a licensed user of LAStools when my meager academic budgets allow.