OSI compliance requiring software to be "free beer"?

Carter Bullard carter at qosient.com
Thu Jan 18 18:27:38 UTC 2001

In the U.S. all speech is free speech, and all
speech is licensable. Music industry comes to mind.


> -----Original Message-----
> From: William Abernathy [mailto:william at olliance.com]
> Sent: Thursday, January 18, 2001 12:56 PM
> To: Manfred Schmid; license-discuss at opensource.org
> Subject: Re: OSI compliance requiring software to be "free beer"?
> > We know, that up to now Open Source Software has been free 
> both in the
> > meaning of "free speech" and "free beer". We want to 
> introduce a model
> > that guarantees free speech but takes the free beer aspect away.
> >
> > Under certain conditions, IPL requires you to pay the 
> prices according
> > to our price list, if you want to use IPLed software.
> >
> > Within the discussion it turned out, that most participants 
> argued, Open
> > Source Software has to be free in the sense of "free beer", i.e.
> > requiring the user to pay license fees will be a no-go for 
> OSI approval.
> >
> > We have not found any such restriction being officially published.
> There is no such published restriction, because A) there's no 
> sentiment out
> there that you shouldn't be able to make money; B) there's a 
> general enmity
> to making money by shutting people out of your code.
> The reason you can't have "free speech" without "free beer" 
> is simple: you
> can't license free speech. Licensing is an assertion of a 
> superior grantor's
> right, which is in the main inimical to the free software 
> movement. If the
> state gives you a driver's license, it asserts its ownership 
> of the road,
> and permits you a revocable privilege (not a right) to drive 
> on its roads.
> If you can only speak at the pleasure of the state, or if you 
> can only code
> at the pleasure of the copyright holder, neither your speech 
> nor your coding
> is free.
> Putting aside the loaded question of "freedom" for a moment 
> and getting into
> open source territory, you again run into the same 
> difficulty. The Open
> Source Definition is designed on pragmatic, rather than 
> idealistic grounds.
> Your licensing model, as has been pointed out here, fails 
> numeorus pragmatic
> tests, not least among them the requirement that developers 
> work at your
> pleasure, and on your financial terms. Because of this, your code's
> open-source life cycle is intimately and inseparably linked to the
> well-being of your company. Open source coders will not pay 
> for a key to
> program, only to watch their investment evaporate when your company is
> bought by some megacorporation or goes out of business. 
> Failure to comply
> with your terms means denial of access to the source code. 
> This is not open
> source.
> Any license that empowers the grantor to deny a developer further code
> access based on financial consideration carries with it a freight of
> impracticality and moral repugnance that makes it untenable 
> as open source
> and unpalatable as free software. It is clear that someone in 
> your company
> has cooked up the notion that it can get something for 
> nothing (i.e., free
> development, free publicity, free goodwill) by calling its 
> products "open
> source." This is not going to happen. Adjust your license or 
> adjust your
> expectations.
> --William Abernathy
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