compatibility and the OSD

Rick Moen rick at
Thu Sep 23 19:58:57 UTC 2004

Quoting Ernest Prabhakar (prabhaka at

> 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. 

I would say, rather, that the open source response is "Hey, you own
trademarks, right?  Then, make use of the _trademarks_ contingent on
compliance with certification suites -- but don't deny the right to fork
off codebases that don't _aspire_ to qualifying as your products (e.g.,
that don't wave around your trademarks), and thus pose no threat
whatsoever to your branding strategy and control over product identity."

Now, major spokesmen for Sun Microsystems continue to _not get_ this,
whereas Red Hat, Inc. does.  E.g., quoting Jonathan Schwartz at

   And Red Hat's figured that out. They've consistently raised price and
   tightened licensing to be the most restrictive I've seen in the open
   source world.

I've done my own careful analysis (though IANAL), and Red Hat has done
nothing of the kind, but rather has tied a branding program strictly to
updates and paid support, while leaving the right to fork if you _don't_
infringe their (trademark-based) branding rights completely free.

I'm a bit pessimistic about the impending Solaris release:  I suspect
they're going to do exactly the same screw-up they did in the recent
Apache Java case, or worse -- tightly tying copyright permissions to 
trademark and compatibility testing, and thus ending up still proprietary
after a massive waste of time and money.

Rick Moen                      "vi is my shepherd; I shall not font."
rick at                               -- Psalm 0.1 beta

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