compatibility and the OSD

Ernest Prabhakar prabhaka at
Thu Sep 23 19:40:47 UTC 2004

Hi Bob,

On Sep 23, 2004, at 11:44 AM, Bob Scheifler wrote:
>> Care to share *why* you're concerned about incompatibility?
> Because others are. :-) I want to understand how and why a particular
> view of compatibility, if one attempted to enforce it in a license,
> would conflict with the OSD, both for my personal edification, and
> so that I can explain it to others (not all of whom will be satisfied
> with being told merely that it's in conflict, or merely that it's 
> counter
> to the culture so who cares what the answer is).

I can sympathize, and I suspect you may be playing devil's advocate to 
make your point (rather than actually being a devil :-).

The real answer is that Open Source is about the right to take over 
control and maintain something yourself.   That implicitly (sometimes 
explicitly) includes the right to fork, which is incompatible with any 
attempt to enforce compatibility.

The Open Source response (if you will allow me a rhetorical flourish) 
is that the solution to the compatibility problem is even more freedom. 
   Make it as easy as possible for customers to both a) recognize the 
incompatibility, and b) obtain a compatible version  (hmm, could one 
require distribution of a compatible binary alongside an incompatible 
one?).   The assumption is that if compatibility is in the best 
interest of the end user, *and* you give them the right tools, that 
compatible versions will outcompete incompatible ones.

That is, try to find ways to empower the good guys, rather than just 
torturing the bad guys.

My $.02.
--Ernie P.
IANAL, TINLA, blah blah blah

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