[License-discuss] Can OSI take stance that U.S. public domain is open source?

Rick Moen rick at linuxmafia.com
Sun May 4 19:52:02 UTC 2014

Quoting John Cowan (cowan at mercury.ccil.org):

[Appreciating and agreeing with what you say, FWIW, but I have one thing
to add.]

> In the end, certification is just a convenience to the users: it says
> that a group of fairly knowledgeable people are willing to stand behind
> the cliam that each certified license conforms to the OSD.

In my opinion, this is a particularly important function because of
firms that publish deliberately deceptive licensing, such as sneaking
extremely problematic and intrusive badgeware clauses, having the effect
of greatly deterring all third-party commercial reuse, into what is
publicly claimed to be [A]GPL v3 licensing using the 'legal notices or
author attributions' incorporate-by-reference feature in section 7 of
[A]GPL v3.

SugarCRM, one of the main drivers of the badgeware model - back in the
days when OSI was being arm-twisted by that gang of OSBC regulars in the
advocacy effort that resulted in certification of dead-on-arrival
minimal badgeware licence CPAL - appears to have pioneered this style of
Section 7 hokery:  The sponsoring firm behind a Web 2.0 hosted
application claims in all the public marketing materials that the
software is open source under GPLv3 or APGLv3, disclosing _only_ in
obscure, not-easily-noticed places that they actually mean GPLv3 or
APGLv3 with additional restrictions encumbering commercial third-party

Admittedly, OSI's licence-certification program doesn't do much to stop
this sort of chicanery, but at least OSI makes clear that its
certificaiton program certifies specific licence texts and not also
Everyone's Vaguely Similar Imitation Licences with Concealed
Anti-Competition Restrictions.

(As an aside, I also think SugarCRM and imitators' use of section 7, 
when last I checked on that usage[1], vastly exceeded the permitted scope
of notice, e.g., the only notices that may be required to be included
somewhere in the interactive user interface display are a copyright notice 
and warranty disclaimer if applicable:  That is made clear in the
licence text's definition of Appropriate Legal Notices.  Requiring a
company logo on every single user interace screen of the work and all
derivative works exceed greatly what section 7 permits, not to mention
requiring UI display of legal notices beyond the copyright notice and
warranty disclaimer.  This misuse is particularly egregious since
the section 7 wording was edited to its present state at the request 
of SugarCRM, Inc., according to Richard Fontana's post to debian-legal
a couple of years ago.[2])

[1] http://linuxgazette.net/159/misc/lg/sugarcrm_and_badgeware_licensing_again.html
[2] https://lists.debian.org/debian-legal/2011/12/msg00045.html 
Richard opines in this post that SugarCRM's logo requirement as 
of mid-2007, in his judgement complied with FSF's intent about how 
intrusive badgeware might be and still remain free software.  I respect
Richard highly and of course believe him.  By 2009, when I last checked
SugarCRM's terms, they were excessive enough that IMO, if FSF still
thinks that's not out of bounds for free software, they've lost their
collective minds.

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