fileset without makefiles Open Source?!

Karsten M. Self kmself at
Thu Oct 18 19:35:12 UTC 2001

on Thu, Oct 18, 2001 at 08:10:11PM +0200, Harald Albrecht (harald at wrote:
> Lately I had a discussion with someone who wants to provide source code 
> for his project, but without makefile(s). He intends to call it "Open 
> Source". He also intends that people can look at the implementation and 
> tweak it if they like but have to write the makefiles themselves if they 
> want to use his work.
> My simple question: can something like a set of source files complete 
> but the makefile be called "Open Source"? Does "Open Source" cover this 
> area, or am I on the wrong party here?

No.  Speaking as a non-member of OSI.

This is not the preferred form for making changes, which would include
support for making changes -- build support.

Microsoft has apparently tried this with their academic source licensing
program.  Details are sketchy, but my understanding is that it includes
sources but not any build support.  For a sufficiently complex program,
this is absolutely worthless.

The GNU GPL is specific on this point.  If the OSD isn't amended to
require this, I'd adamantly insist that gloss be that build support is
assumed in the concept of "preferred form" for making modifications.

My read is that the current definition supports this interpretation:

    The source code must be the preferred form in which a programmer
    would modify the program.  Deliberately obfuscated source code is
    not allowed.  

Withholding of build support is obfuscation by omission.


Karsten M. Self <kmself at>
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