Definition of open source

James Harrell jharrell at
Sat Nov 6 14:59:06 UTC 2004

Greetings Alan,

Hope all is well in the land of CentraView, good to hear from
you again. This is well said and well thought out- I have been
struggling with the same concept for quite some time and we
have yet to officially adopt any Open Source license due to
the limitations created by the "redistribution" and "non-
discrimination" clauses built into the OS definition. We do
distribute code to some of our products, but under our standard
proprietary license. It's a difficult problem to solve for
the small developer shop.

Dan Bricklin (Trellix founder) wrote an essey on this some
time ago that I believe captures the essence of the issue.
He also suggests a license that may be compatible with your
venture. I've bcc'd him in hopes that he will join the

Unfortunately I doubt that the OS Definition is up for debate
or revision. OS is like religion and politics <grin>. Every
side is "right" because it is a belief and point of view, not
a science. So perhaps the time has come to for a collaborative
new organization for Commercial Open Source?

I'll be happy to sponsor and/or participate. I can easily 
donate software (ie: Celestia) for building of a website,
host an email list, etc. Maybe we can get Dan on board, and
any others who have voiced similar opinions.

To the Open Source community- my intent here is not to
trivialize or denegrate. I am a believer too. After all,
where would we be without projects like Linux, PHP, Apache,
etc.? There is a time and place for Open Source, but I also
believe that the time has come for Commercial Open Source
where small or under-funded development shops can capitalize
on their time investment in software, while still sharing the
source with limitations on redistributions, etc.

James Harrell
Copernicus Business Systems

-----Original Message-----
From: Alan Rihm [mailto:alan at]
Sent: Saturday, November 06, 2004 8:08 AM
To: license-discuss at
Subject: Definition of open source


I realize this is a topic that has been discussed many times in the
community, and I have taken my time to do research before sending this
email. From what I can tell, it seems that many new entrants struggle
with the current definition and available or "approved" licenses.
Hopefully the community agrees that it is worth continuing the

Here are my thoughts.

Currently the number one requirement from the OSI to be considered "open
source" is "Free Redistribution". It seems to me that this requirement
is not by itself the key point to determining if a project is open
source or not. What it does do, however, is cause a great divide. My
perception is that this requirement means that the only new projects
that can be justified are those originated by developers who wish to
further their resume, or companies with deep pockets who feel they can
out-code the competition. Of course the exception to the rule are those
who were early entrants, and have time and wide-scale adoption on their

The other problem that I see, is that the "dual license" strategy causes
people to launch a project, and then essentially end-of-life the project
to encourage people to buy the paid/closed version. This seems like a
clear sign that the current definition needs to be updated, so why not
fix the problem instead of "working around" the problem.

Could we consider changing the definition to focus on the following (in
layman terms)?

 1) Your source code is open and available to anyone to see and
download. The term "open source" seems to imply that this would be
requirement #1

 2) End-Users and Developers can use the code/software for free

 3) Derivative works allowed/encouraged

 4) And all the other basics that most in the community seem to accept

As for distribution, let each project owner carve out what can and can't
be done. This would foster so many more projects, and it would
ultimately help end users and developers. After all, aren't we really
trying to foster options to closed source solutions, and give the
end-users and developers freedom to make software work the way they want
it to work? It doesn't seem like the goal of open source was to reduce a
companies ability to make money by going open.

The bottom line reason for my thinking is this: 

Why should someone be able to make money on someone else's code, without
any financial responsibility to the originator of that code? If the
originator charges too much, shame on them. Their project will not gain
much support. If they are reasonable, then "for profit" businesses will
consider partnering with the originator.

Thanks in advance for your constructive responses.

Ps. We are launching our project based on the Mozilla 1.1 license, but
with changes to the distribution rights.

Alan Rihm
CentraView, LLC
alan at
(610)410-7457 Office
(610)450-6771 Fax 

More information about the License-discuss mailing list