[License-discuss] FAQ suggestion

Rick Moen rick at linuxmafia.com
Thu Nov 14 21:51:23 UTC 2013

Quoting Luis Villa (luis at lu.is):

> Karl, Richard, anyone else: any thoughts on this?

Just talking around the subject for a moment, there has in the past been
a vague and informal concept of 'open' involving inspectable aka
viewable source code aka source-available code, and also a much more
specific 1980s and Sun Microsystems concept of 'open systems'.  'Open
systems' was a marketing codephrase for *ix-based computing's advantages
accruing from standardised programming interfaces, with an implied
suggestion of more-interoperable hardware interfaces to peripherals, and
encouragement of third-party software.  The usual comparison was towards
IBM-standard computing's much greater lock-in at various levels.  

None of this had anything to do with licensing, let alone articulating
the right to fork, or the right to reuse for any purpose without
additional fee.

Engel says he wishes to add to the FAQ to address "the ambiguity in the
use of the term 'open source' as well".  I appreciate his effort, but 
agree that ambiguity arises from the word 'open', but _not_ when used in
the phrase 'open _source_'.  Context is everything.

People who say that the phrase 'open source' is ambiguous merely because
people have often used the word 'open' to mean other things in the
general context of software are missing the point that the specific
phrase 'open _source_' has a quite specific meanin, established through
overwhelming weight of usage since the 1998 OSI founding.

Seems to me that Engel's commendable draft might be improved on in that
area, so:

   The term "open" applied to software source code is sometimes used to
   imply source code being merely inspectable or visible or available, as in
   the phrases "open computing" and "open systems" that were adopted by 
   proprietary Unix companies' marketing efforts in the 1980s.  By 
   contrast, OSI's term "open source", as detailed in the Open Source 
   Definition, specifically entails not mere inspection access but also 
   conveying to recipients the perpetual and irrevocable right to 
   fork covered code and use it freely without additional fee.

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