[License-discuss] Open source software licenses and the OSD
lrosen at rosenlaw.com
Tue Nov 13 19:50:41 UTC 2018
A page at opensource.com <https://opensource.com/resources/what-open-source>
defines "open source" as follows:
The term "open source" refers to something people can modify and share
because its design is publicly accessible. The term originated in the
context of software development to designate a specific approach to creating
computer programs. Today, however, "open source" designates a broader set of
values-what we call " <https://opensource.com/open-source-way> the open
source way." Open source projects, products, or initiatives embrace and
celebrate principles of open exchange, collaborative participation, rapid
prototyping, transparency, meritocracy, and community-oriented development.
I believe most of that is true in our community, but it isn't a very useful
definition for understanding "open source software." It doesn't help any of
us review free and open source licenses.
Here is a proposed definition. It adds patents to the copyright license
grant we usually talk about.
"Open source software" means software actually distributed under terms that
grant a copyright and patent license from all contributors to the software
for every licensee to access and use the complete source code, make copies
of the software or derivative works thereof and, without payment of
royalties or other consideration, to distribute the unmodified or modified
This is a DRAFT, open for your editing and changes.
This doesn't replace the OSD Copyright or the W3C Royalty-Free Patent
definitions that are more specific, but as a summary definition it could
help people understand the fundamental rules of open source. It might also
help us understand if "experimental licenses" that stretch their "copyleft"
or other provisions beyond AGPL satisfy at least the basic principles of
open source software. This definition might be a legitimate justification
for approval of such licenses by OSI because they are "open source software"
even if somewhat unfriendly to some customers.
Copied below is the Wikipedia page describing and defining "open source." It
also is accurate, but not helpful for the OSI "open source software" test.
************************** From Wikipedia:
The open-source model is a decentralized
<https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Software_development> software development
model that encourages <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Open_collaboration>
<https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Open-source_model#cite_note-2>  A main
software development is <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peer_production>
peer production, with products such as source code,
<https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blueprint> blueprints, and documentation
freely available to the public. The open-source movement in software began
as a response to the limitations of proprietary code. The model is used for
projects such as in
open-source appropriate technology,
<https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Open-source_model#cite_note-3>  and
open-source drug discovery.
Open source promotes universal access via an
<https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Open-source_license> open-source or
<https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Free_license> free license to a product's
design or blueprint, and universal redistribution of that design or
blueprint. <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Open-source_model#cite_note-6> 
<https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Open-source_model#cite_note-7>  Before the
phrase open source became widely adopted, developers and producers used a
variety of other terms. Open source gained hold with the rise of the
software movement arose to clarify
<https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Domain_name> domain, and consumer issues.
Generally, open source refers to a
<https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Computer_program> computer program in which
the <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Source_code> source code is available to
the general public for use or modification from its original design.
Open-source code is meant to be a collaborative effort, where programmers
improve upon the source code and share the changes within the community.
Code is released under the terms of a
<https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Software_license> software license. Depending
on the license terms, others may then download, modify, and publish their
version (fork) back to the community.
Many large formal institutions have sprung up to support the development of
the open-source movement, including the
<https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apache_Software_Foundation> Apache Software
Foundation, which supports community projects such as the open-source
framework <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apache_Hadoop> Apache Hadoop and
the open-source <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hypertext_Transfer_Protocol>
HTTP server <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apache_HTTP_Server> Apache HTTP.
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