OpenLDAP license

Ryan S. Dancey ryand at
Tue Apr 10 07:25:11 UTC 2001

From: "Ian Lance Taylor" <ian at>

>> My opinion is that the OSD reflects the ethical position put forward
>> by the champions of Free Software, and that it represents their
>> intent as to what should and should not be considered "Open Source".

> You probably didn't mean it as such, but that is actually a somewhat
> politicized statement in the insular politics of the free software and
> open source communities.

You are correct, and I apologize.  I did not mean to make a political (or
impolitic) statement.

Quoting from the OSD page itself, this is what I meant to say:

"We think the Open Source Definition captures what the great majority of the
software community originally meant, and still mean, by the term "Open

To me, this is the credo of the OSD.  If we are to support the OSD, then the
OSD should capture what the great majority of the software community means
by the term "Open Source", and I suggest that for the great majority of the
software community (in addition to many other things) "Open Source" means
"binary-only distributions are unacceptable."

> The two relevant statements are ``The
> program must include source code'' and ``binary-only redistribution is
> acceptable.''

Here is what I see.  I see a requirement in the OSD that source code >MUST<
be provided with binaries.  Then I see a specific exception provided that
requires the distributor of the code, if a binary-only distribution is made,
to make the source available in a "well publicized manner".

If the OSI wants to keep to this concept that licenses which allow
binary-only distributions meet the OSD, then I think the OSD should be

First, the first sentence of #2 has got to go.  Either you must include
source, or its optional.  If its optional, say so.  If it's not optional and
the OSI really means you must include the source, then take out the verbiage
about not including source and don't certify licenses which permit
binary-only distribution.

Worst case, change the word "must" to "should".

Second, I think that the OSD should require specific language in a certified
license that explains what "well publicized means of obtaining the source
code" is.  I note that many of the current OSI certified licenses
(especially the BSD varients) are completely moot on this topic.  How can a
license that does not discuss how to get the source comply with a
requirement that the license ensure that the source be available in a "well
publicized" manner?

Specifically, I call your attention to the italicized comment in #4:

"Accordingly, an open-source license >MUST< guarantee that the source is
readily available..."

Care to explain what part of the BSD license guarantees that the source will
be readily available?

> As such, the OSD was written to define what was and was not open
> source software.  I'm not comfortable describing the OSD as an
> ethical position.

I have tremendous respect for you sir, and have found your postings on this
list to be uniformly excellent in logic and content.

However, I cannot read the italicized comments between the sections of the
OSD, which contain phrases like "users have a right to know who is
responsible for the software they use", and "Distributors of open-source
software have the right to make their own choices about their own software."
without drawing the conclusion that the OSD codifies a set of ethical
principles.  Discussions of rights are inextricably linked to discussions of

I must therefore disagree with your interpretation of the content of the
OSD.  It is as much an ethical framework as the Declaration of Independence
is.  And like the Declaration which heavily influenced the contents of the
Constitution which resulted from it, the OSD has to acknowledge that the
ethical framework it espouses will be encapsulated in the licenses it


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