ZDNet article - why attribution matters

Lawrence Rosen lrosen at rosenlaw.com
Tue Nov 28 16:11:44 UTC 2006

The job of OSI is to mitigate that and provide clear guidelines and
boundaries for people to operate in so that they can anticipate and expect
reliable and consistent results when they release their open source in a
particular way. This ultimately fosters a healthy and thriving community of


Which is, I believe, the whole point. I'm looking forward to those clear
guidelines and boundaries being set through this discussion and the
resulting board decision. Like David Berlind, I can appreciate both sides to
this. What's essential, though, is that this process works to a conclusion,
not that we leave "open source" to the whims of license writers.





From: David RR Webber (XML) [mailto:david at drrw.info] 
Sent: Tuesday, November 28, 2006 8:00 AM
To: lrosen at rosenlaw.com
Cc: 'David Berlind'; 'John-Sugar'; license-discuss at opensource.org
Subject: RE: ZDNet article - why attribution matters




I think this cuts to the point of - what is the purpose of open source?


The person publishing the source has very clear reasons why they are doing
that and how they expect people to use that source.


Other people then wish to retroactively bend that into something different -
usually without the permission of the author, or perhaps as an unintended or
unanticipated action beyond what the author original envisioned!  This
generates friction, or sometimes pleasant surprises - but not always!  ; -)


The job of OSI is to mitigate that and provide clear guidelines and
boundaries for people to operate in so that they can anticipate and expect
reliable and consistent results when they release their open source in a
particular way.

This ultimately fosters a healthy and thriving community of practice.



"The way to be is to do" - Confucius (551-472 B.C.)


-------- Original Message --------
Subject: RE: ZDNet article - why attribution matters
From: "Lawrence Rosen" <lrosen at rosenlaw.com>
Date: Mon, November 27, 2006 9:50 pm
To: "'John-Sugar'" <john at sugarcrm.com>,
<license-discuss at opensource.org>
Cc: "'David Berlind'" <David.Berlind at cnet.com>

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? 

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?

/Larry Rosen

> -----Original Message-----
> From: John-Sugar [mailto:john at sugarcrm.com]
> Sent: Monday, November 27, 2006 3:29 PM
> To: license-discuss at opensource.org
> Subject: ZDNet article - why attribution matters
> OSI,
> I took a couple of days off from email last week so I'm just now providing
> our perspective in the talkback forum. I thought David's recent ZDNet
> article gave fair coverage to this important issue. For the record though,
> there are far more projects adopting attribution clauses then the select
> few
> David calls out. I hope my response below will shed one more view point on
> why attribution benefits vs. hurts great open source projects.
> John Roberts
> News Discussion: Are SugarCRM, Socialtext, Zimbra, Scalix and others
> abusing
> the term "open source?"
> TalkBack  24 of 24:
>  Previous message
> Attribution, why it matters
> David,
> I thought your article was very good based on the complexity of this
> issue.
> Below is my perspective as someone who felt compelled to add an
> attribution
> clause to our license in late 2004. I think we were the first to add this
> clause to the MPL. It appears now that almost every open source project
> with
> significant engineering salaries are also seeing attribution as a small
> request in return for writing and open source licensing their code - all
> of
> which is hard work. In fact almost every new open source project feels
> compelled to protect their identity in some way, not necessarily for
> monetary reasons though. I do find it very interesting that most folks who
> seem to take issue with this attribution provisions are 'individuals' who
> do
> not write any code themselves (but yet who seem to love the creative
> commons
> attribution license).
> Backgrounder, I did not initially want to add the attribution clause at
> all..
> Fact is you can only work for free for so many months, and I and my two
> co-founders, Clint and Jacob all had pregnant wives at the time when we
> first decided to resign from our jobs at E.piphnay and founded the
> SugarCRM
> project and initially worked for free. We have been very upfront, I think,
> in calling ourselves 'commercial open source' - it's even a part of our
> logo. Why? Because we do not want to try and fool anyone that writing
> software full time is free.
> The fact is there is a very ugly side to open source redistribution. There
> are plenty of hosting providers, SI's, etc. that look at open source
> licensed software as 'free' software for them to go and 'sell'. They take
> no
> issue with removing all identifying marks off the software and will even
> go
> so far as to violate the open source licenses and remove copyright
> statements. We were finding ourselves in this position in late 2004 after
> putting in another intense effort to ship a new release of Sugar. These
> folks were simply lifting our identifying marks and 'pretending to the
> world' that they wrote software that they indeed had not. They also had no
> intention at all of adding to the SugarCRM project since that showed they
> weren't the original authors of the software.
> What is interesting is that these folks all use the argument that 'they
> are
> pure open source coders' - which is only the case for maybe 2% to 3% of
> them. For those folks who are actually writing code that takes the project
> forward, I do agree that we would all be better off without the
> attribution
> clause. But.for the 98% of folks that are just looking for more free
> software to sell or host - yes, the attribution clause does piss them off.
> Because the last thing they want is for the end user to think that they
> did
> not write the code themselves. I've been amazed how such a small clause
> could become such an effective deterrent. As an example, you write a book
> (software) and open source license it. You allow folks to rename the title
> and author on the cover. And that's all they change. This is an every day
> reality, and it's not fair. But authors can use the creative commons
> attribution license, one of the most widely utilized licenses on the
> planet
> but OSI does not have a similar provision.
> http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.5/
> Our implementation, specifically the sugar attribution clause, only points
> to www.sugarforge.org. You can not buy anything on this site, so it is in
> no
> way advertising. If you want more free open source extensions or to start
> participating yourself, click the link. Ultimately this is not an issue
> for
> a self appointed group to decide for the rest of us. Open source code is a
> voluntary movement, if folks do not like the clause, they don't have to
> use
> the software. I do think it is important that end users do understand the
> revenue stream (funding) of the code base. I've found our most hardened
> Sugar Open Source users are our most vocal Sugar Professional advocates.
> Why? Because the more successful SugarCRM is, the more open source code we
> will write and the more resources we can invest in our open source sites.
> Lastly, I do think though, taking a bunch of other folk's code, say >50%
> at
> a minimum and adding an attribution clause is not a good use of the
> clause.
> The only reason we felt it was ok to add it was because we wrote the Sugar
> Open Source code base from scratch. Any additional libraries we may use
> are
> fully attributed in the about box of the software. Attribution goes both
> ways.
> John Roberts
> Posted by: john-sugar    Posted on: 11/27/06
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> Google News Alert for: sugarcrm
> Are SugarCRM, Socialtext, Zimbra, Scalix and other abusing the ...
> ZDNet - USA
> ... A growing number of software providers including SugarCRM, Socialtext,
> Scalix, and Zimbra have taken it upon themselves create their own
> derivatives of the ...
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