ZDNet article - why attribution matters

Matthew Flaschen matthew.flaschen at gatech.edu
Sat Dec 2 00:56:30 UTC 2006

John-Sugar wrote:

> Here is a link to our license: http://www.sugarcrm.com/crm/SPL 
> It is a combination of two OSI approved licenses:
> http://www.opensource.org/licenses/mozilla1.1.php  plus
> http://www.opensource.org/licenses/attribution.php 

This is not true.  It doesn't use the Attribution Assurance License
(http://www.opensource.org/licenses/attribution.php) but rather the
"Exhibit B", which contains much more specific provisions, such as "the
dimensions of the "Powered By SugarCRM" logo must be at least 106 x 23
pixels." that fly in the face of OSD #10.  A real combo of the AA
requirements and the MPL would be open source, in my opinion, but has
not been approved.

Moreover, you haven't commented about the FAQ, which inexplicably claims
that no one can "Sell any SPL-covered code." This doesn't seem to be
based on anything in the license, and would obviously violate OSD #1,
which says "The license shall not restrict any party from *selling* or
giving away the software."  Again, I think only the FAQ is at fault, but
it definitely raises questions about your understanding of the meaning
of open source.

Matthew Flaschen

> David Berlind wrote:
>> John:
>> Thank you for cc:ing your response to license-discuss on ZDNet. In
>> response to what I've so far seen from Michael, Larry, and you, I'd like
>> to add my observations as an objective observer. First, I meant no
>> disrespect to your values, wives, or families, all of whom require
>> serious wage earning at some point.  I have a wife and three children. I
>> totally get it. I hope you understand that I am neutral to the issue of
>> attribution and I'm glad that my post has provoked some discussion here.
>> But I am not neutral to fine print issues that affect users of
>> technology, particularly where the fine print is missing. I  believe in
>> my heart that a failure to disclose the fact that an open source license
>> has so far not yet been approved as such by the defacto consortium to
>> which the open source community currently looks for such approvals,
>> qualifies as fine print that's missing. 
>> I prefer to stay out of the debate of whether attribution makes sense or
>> not and if it does, how much is enough. There are people here that are
>> far wiser than I who are obviously prepared to argue the merits of
>> various approaches. So, from my point of view, the line crossed has
>> nothing to do with your selected degree or method of attribution (eg:
>> pointing back to SugarCRM where no advertising exists). The line crossed
>> is the one where one company or organization decides it's OK to rewrite
>> the rules of open source or, in the case of "commercial open source" to
>> declare a new class of open source without seeking any consensus from
>> the open source community itself. One could argue that no consensus is
>> required before a new commercial license is written and that is of
>> course true. However, there isn't a self-policing community of
>> commercial license providers which has established to seek a standard
>> baseline for what it means to be commercial the way there has been for
>> open source.
>> Perhaps a consensus, when and if one is achieved, will yield a result
>> that's favorable to your position on the issue. But even you point out
>> that now that you've done it (modified the MPL), others are doing the
>> same. Clearly, there's no consensus on how the MPL should be modified,
>> or, at the very least, all those who have followed in your footsteps
>> would not have felt the need to write their own modifications to it.
>> They would have picked yours. You're clearly testing the boundaries.
>> That may have not been your intent. But to this independent observer,
>> your choice (and the choices of others) to modify the MPL without
>> following the community's accepted practice for making such changes, and
>> to continue referring to your license as an open source license
>> (commercial or otherwise) has tested the customs of the community. It
>> tests the limits of the clause in the MPL that allows for changes. It
>> tests the OSI's process.  
>> There's an old George Carlin bit where he talks about how, when he's
>> driving on the road, everyone going slower than him is an idiot, and
>> everyone going faster than him is a maniac.
>> There are a lot of open source developers that don't have any mouths to
>> feed but their own and are happy to operate within the norms of the
>> community. And then, there will be people who, based on the precedent
>> you've already set and are defending, will take it upon themselves to
>> cross a line that even you wouldn't dare cross in modifying an existing
>> open source license (while still referring to it as open source). You
>> and others who have already taken matters into their own hands will of
>> course have to remain silent. Pot, kettle, black. Think it won't happen?
>> Trust me. There are people who didn't think what you've done could have
>> happened. One day, "open source" will simply be meaningless or may even
>> carry negative connotations (it's possible that "free software" could
>> survive such a debacle, perhaps become stronger because of it).
>> Why do I say any of this? Here's where I hope it becomes clear that none
>> of what I just said is meant as a put down to you, Ross, Glenn, Scott or
>> the others. The net result for SugarCRM and others who believe that
>> associations with "open source" are positive associations for their
>> brands will one day find that they are associated with something that
>> means absolutely nothing. Or worse, something negative.
>> You must ask yourselves if that's what you really want.
>> db
>> -----Original Message-----
>> From: Michael Tiemann [mailto:tiemann at redhat.com] 
>> Sent: Monday, November 27, 2006 10:08 PM
>> To: Lawrence E. Rosen
>> Cc: 'John-Sugar'; license-discuss at opensource.org; David Berlind
>> Subject: RE: ZDNet article - why attribution matters
>> On Mon, 2006-11-27 at 18:50 -0800, Lawrence Rosen wrote:
>>> Hi John,
>>> The issue isn't just "Why attribution matters," because it obviously
>> does.
>>> Attribution is already mentioned in lots of FOSS licenses. Attribution
>>> is important to every author, not just commercial ones who work for a 
>>> living (although most do!). Notice of authorship is so important that 
>>> the US Copyright Act even makes the fraudulent removal of a copyright 
>>> notice a criminal offense. 17 USC 506(d).
>>> We should instead be asking: How much attribution is enough? How much 
>>> attribution can be demanded in an open source license?
>> This conflates two very important questions.
>>> I don't believe anyone has argued yet that Sugar's license crosses the
>> line.
>>> Most of us simply aren't sure where the line should be drawn. You can 
>>> legally require in a software license that licensees put neon signs on
>>> the highway to announce your copyrighted work, but is that open
>> source?
>> First: is it attribution?  The Creative Commons folks seem to agree that
>> attribution "in the manner specified by the author" is not a blank
>> check, and they say so in the code (but not the deed) of the license.  A
>> requirement for neon in attribution is not, strictly speaking, needed to
>> satisfy the legal requirements of legal attribution.
>> Second: is it open source?  Just as a lawyer cannot say for sure what
>> the law says until a judge renders a verdict (and even then a successor
>> judge can render a different judgment), the only way to know for sure
>> that something satisfies the Open Source Definition is to put the
>> license before the OSI approval process and see if it is approved by the
>> process.
>> M

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