ZDNet article - why attribution matters

John Roberts john at sugarcrm.com
Tue Nov 28 04:14:41 UTC 2006

There are multiple ways of protecting attribution. We use a text based
language PHP, that does not need to be compiled. If we did use a language
that required a compiler it would be much, much easier for us to embed our
attribution marks in, say a Linux distribution and make it virtually
impossible for anyone to compile the source with the attribution marks

Just another example of a way to be technically OSI approved, but still
protect your attribution marks. What happens if you remove all the redhat
marks and compile the source? RHEL makes that super simple right? No compile
issues? Any average developer should be able to do this right? Can you point
me to an URL and instructions on how to do this? 

Another way is to add external service agreements that surround GPL code
that place extended limitations on the use of GPL code within enterprises
that buy commercial linux subscription contracts? If this is true, it
doesn't seem very open source to me. Even though it's 'OSI approved'. 

OSI is an organization that I believe tries very hard to represent the
interests of both developers and users. I really do not like the idea of a
small group of folks (I'm curious to understand how board members are
chosen, elected, etc.) trying to create laws for the rest of the world. Open
Source to me is about freedom. It's about letting the collective wisdom of
crowds choose the licenses as they, the users see fit. Let the best licenses

I am not trying to stir things up too much here. I'm a huge believer in what
we are all trying to accomplish collectively. I've purposely stayed away
from this discussion because it felt more like punditry then action. And
most importantly, the acknowledgement that open source is growing, but it is
also changing. I hope OSI does not get stuck in the past or it could, and I
think will be superseded by a new open source organization that more people
both developers and users feel represent their real interests and values. 

Attribution is here to stay. If you refuse to acknowledge it, you are trying
to stop change, which will be very hard to do I believe.


-----Original Message-----
From: Michael Tiemann [mailto:tiemann at redhat.com] 
Sent: Monday, November 27, 2006 7:08 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
> 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


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