For Approval: Open Source Software Alliance License

ihab at ihab at
Mon Sep 29 22:13:26 UTC 2003

On Mon, 29 Sep 2003, Sean Chittenden wrote:
> > The problem here, Sean, which you seem to be ignoring, is that
> > you're treating the GPL as if it were somehow *worse* than a
> > proprietary license.  It isn't.
> Ah, but it is though.  Hear me out:
> A proprietary license doesn't foster a community to stand behind it to
> work on software that is unavailable to widget makers.

Well, it seems the OSSAL fosters a community to stand behind it to work on
software that may be later *usurped* by widget makers. See below.

> The GPL was, with I believe malintent, crafted specifically toward
> preventing widget makers from basing products on existing code.
> Further, the GPL encourages primary copyright holders to release code
> that is unusable to anyone but the primary copyright holders.

Speaking of malintent, it may be argued that the OSSAL encourages a
corporation with a large amount of financial backing to issue a large
"upgrade" to their or someone else's open source product and issuing it as
closed source software for sale, thereby essentially doing a "bait and
switch" tactic. But this is already allowable under BSD. No, the OSSAL
tries to *prohibit* someone else from exercising the same freedoms over
the code to create a GPL fork.

That said, I'm not arguing malintent in *either* case -- I'm merely
stating that your implicit claim of the moral high ground does not, imho,
withstand strutiny.

   *  *  *  *  *

I am neither a lawyer nor a software licensing expert. However, I have
written, and continue to write, open source software, and I am privileged
to listen in on the very educational discussions on this list.

In that spirit, I would like to suggest that the issue at hand cannot be
resolved by the Dialectic -- arguments to zero in on the truth. Sean is,
as far as I can tell, coming from a politically "rightist" perspective,
whereas folks like RMS are coming from a "leftist" perspective. Perhaps,
unless the OSSAL can be clearly shown to conflict with an OSD clause, it
should be ratified, and this issue put to rest.

I for one cannot imagine myself ever using the OSSAL -- and this is to put
it mildly. If the majority of my colleagues feel the same way, the OSSAL
will die on the vine. If not, then perhaps there is some groundswell of
support for a "pro business" open source consortium, however ill-conceived
I and some members of this list may think its founding canon may be. To
the extent that I see this as a political issue, and if indeed there is
such a groundswell, I'm not sure if this is an avoidable outcome.

My regards and peace,


Ihab A.B. Awad <ihab at>
Department of Genetics
Stanford University

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