[License-discuss] [FAQ] Is <some PHP program> Open Source?

Chad Perrin perrin at apotheon.com
Fri Jan 25 19:25:13 UTC 2013

On Fri, Jan 25, 2013 at 06:57:49PM +0000, Cinly Ooi wrote:
> >
> > I missed this until now.
> >
> > "Only if the code is licensed under an approved Open Source license" is
> > probably not the most ideal way to say this part of it.  Rather, say that
> > it is open source only if "the code is available under a license that
> > conforms to the Open Source Definition".  There are, in fact, open source
> > licenses out there that are not OSI approved, and there is open source
> > software that uses licenses that are not OSI approved.  The FAQ should
> > strive for accuracy.
> >
> >
> I might be splitting hair here: I think that the fact that in the quoted
> answer the word "Open Source" is in title case is an attempt to
> differentiate between OSI approved open source, vs general open source
> (small cases).
> The FAQ is hosted at OSI, so I think it is entitled to not consider non-OSI
> approved license non open source.
> I understand and agree with you that non-OSI approved open source license
> exists. I think the wording do make it clear to a person reasonably fluent
> in English to note that there is OSI-blessed Open Source on one hand, and
> open source in general. You are right to say that we should strive for
> accuracy. You are also right that the wording risk saying that non-OSI
> approved licenses are not open source. However, I think it is preferable
> than letting everyone thinks that just because someone write the word "open
> source" in the license it is open source as the community knows it.

I am apparently far less confident that fluent English speakers will make
the distinction the way you suggest.  There are many reasons the words
"open source" might be capitalized, just as there are many reasons "free
software" might be capitalized.

I believe that if the OSI starts claiming that only *approved* licenses
are "Open Source" (or even "open source") this will, in the long run,
serve to marginalize the OSI rather than . . . whatever it is you think
it might offer as a positive incentive for doing so.  Refusing to
acknowledge that non-approved licenses might still be open source
licenses would come across as marketing propaganda rather than an attempt
to be honestly informative.  It might make sense to refuse to specify any
*particular* licenses as open source licenses unless they are approved by
the OSI, but denying even by implication that a license can be considered
"open source" without OSI approval is generally nonsensical as things
currently stand.

If the OSI wants to start referring (especially in an FAQ presumably
meant to be generally helpful rather than merely marketing material) to
the term "open source" as specifically requiring OSI license approval,
regardless of capitalization, it should:

1. acquire a trademark for the term "open source"

2. add a stipulation to the Open Source Definition that requires the OSI
to approve a license before it is an Open Source License

Otherwise, the focus of the FAQ should be on being informative about the
meaning of "open source" and similar matters.

Chad Perrin [ original content licensed OWL: http://owl.apotheon.org ]
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