ZDNet article - why attribution matters

Chuck Swiger chuck at codefab.com
Tue Nov 28 18:54:55 UTC 2006

On Nov 28, 2006, at 10:04 AM, John-Sugar wrote:
> Fair points. To my knowledge OSI does not own the trademark for the  
> words
> ‘open source’, only the domain name.

OSI owns a trademark for "OSI Certified Open Source Software".  It's  
discussed in the FAQ.

> If your whole value proposition is that your software is open source,
> I agree it’s not going to get you very far.  The software needs to  
> stand on its own merits.

Certainly true.  There are probably over ten thousand GPL-licensed  
projects at SourceForge; some are of excellent quality, and others  
less so.  Just because a certain piece of software is under an OSI- 
approved license does not state anything about the quality of the  
software; however, software which has the source code available is  
more likely to be improved than software which cannot be modified  
except by the original authors.

> Open source for us is a descriptor that says the source code is  
> provided, is extensible,
> redistributable, no restrictions of use and is patent free, etc.

Very good-- that's not far from where the Debian Free Software  
Guidelines started.

However, I suggest that you consider the notion of "no restrictions  
of use" carefully with regard to your own licensing, because the SPL  
Exhibit B contains restrictions on use which prevent the software  
from being used on machines which do not have a pixel-addressable  
display or WWW connectivity.  If someone wants to use some of your  
software on a machine which only has a VT100 display, or a machine  
which is not networked, they cannot honor the requirements of Exhibit B.

Do you understand that your license restricts the use of your  
software, or is this point unclear to you?

> I’ve not met many of the OSI board members. I do know they are all  
> very
> smart, well respected group of individuals. I don’t know how they  
> got their
> positions, and why they were the chosen ones to create laws for  
> everyone
> else.

The OSI board doesn't create laws; that's done by Congress in the US,  
or similar organizations in other countries.

> The website states they have not even had a meeting in over a year -
> http://opensource.org/weblog/. I’m just trying to understand how this
> organization operates and who exactly are the ‘approvers’  
> specifically.

See: http://opensource.org/docs/board.php

[ ... ]
> For us though, I’m just voicing my opinion. Vilify me if you like,  
> Sugar
> Open Source is and will always be an open source licensed code  
> base. This
> will likely be my last post on this issue.

Ah.  Well, I'm not interested in "vilifying you", but I'd really  
prefer that you not claim your license is "open source" without  
fixing the issue above, submitting the new version of your license  
for consideration to the OSI board via this list, and having it be  
approved.  While you may choose not to follow the process, doing so  
means that you are choosing not to work with people who are pretty  
good at evaluating licenses and making sure that those licenses are  
well-drafted, legally consistent, and support the goals of the open  
source community.

Claiming to have "an open source licensed code base" isn't of much  
value if that codebase cannot be used freely.  For example, if  
someone wrote some software, and put it under the BSD license, yet  
only released binaries without ever releasing the source code,  
claiming that the software is under an "open source" license may be  
technically true, but in practice is disingenuous and not especially  


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