Definition of open source

Rick Moen rick at
Sun Nov 7 03:23:57 UTC 2004

Quoting Arnoud Engelfriet (galactus at

> You are of course legally correct. But to many businesspeople
> the notion of "owner" is more than just "has title". It also
> means "has full control, including over derivatives and forks".
> So that's why I try to avoid the term, in favor of contributors,
> maintainers and distributors.

I can see the logic of that.  But the point that the copyright holder
retains by law all the rights of copyright ownership, even if he chooses
to grant some of those to others attached to particular codebase instances, 
is an important one, I think.

Probably everyone on this mailing list (and not just esteemed members of
the bar) spends way too much time on fine legal distinctions.  The
notion of ownership being inherently a _bundle_ of legal rights, some of
which a person might have and some of which he might not, isn't new to
me, having spent time studying real estate law (think easements, mineral
rights, restrictive covenants, etc.) -- but that isn't true for most people.

I personally like to explain, to coders new to this subject, that rights
grants get attached by the owner to particular instances of codebases,
the way inherited methods and properties are to instantiated objects.
Thus, the owner isn't subject to the licence -- he issued the copies
rather than receiving them -- and different codebase "objects" can carry
with them different rights-grant "properties".

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