License question: Open Software License 2.1

Evan Prodromou evan at
Fri Nov 5 20:21:59 UTC 2004

On Fri, 2004-05-11 at 11:47 -0800, Lawrence Rosen wrote:
> > Customer B downloads this software and has added a custom feature or
> > module to the software.  They do not include anyway for an end-user to
> > download or interact with that module except through their server (no
> > binary download).  Would they have to include a mechanism for
> > end-users to download the source code for that modification?
> Case 1: Suppose Linux were licensed under the OSL and Google took it,
> modified it, and ran their entire search engine on it. People everywhere,
> third parties all, use Google. What might Google have to disclose of its
> modified source code to Linux? My answer is: Nothing, because Google is
> merely delivering information, not delivering software.

I think there's a fine line here that should be teased out.

If Google was using search engine software licensed under the OSL 2.1,
and they had made modifications to it, I'd say that the modified search
engine was "made available as an application intended for use over a
computer network." In which case, according to section 5, I think they
need to comply with the distribution rules in the OSL.

But if Google is using a modified OSL-licensed kernel, standard C
library, RDBMS-server, or other low-level software, I don't think they'd
need to provide source. This is based on my fuzzy intuitive
understanding of providing an application or service over a computer
network. When I use Google, I use their search engine directly, and the
kernel very indirectly. I don't think it's clear where the dividing line
is -- what about the Web server? Dynamic-content engine? -- but I think
that's the case with most issues surrounding software and the law.

Anyways, for your correspondent's question: I believe both Customer A
and Customer B are providing an application over a computer network.

I think Customer A (running unmodified version) can just provide a link
to the developers' Web site. If the developers' Web site goes down, I
think Customer A has to provide a local (or other) link to the source,
or stop providing the service.

For Customer B, I believe they're providing an application over a
computer network, and, yes, they need to provide source to the modified


Evan Prodromou                  .O.       ..O
evan at                OOO

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