[License-discuss] The license of OpenMotif (Open Group Public License)

Florian Weimer fw at deneb.enyo.de
Thu Oct 25 20:56:35 UTC 2018

Motif has since been released under the LGPL, so this is largely
of historic interest.

Was the license of OpenMotif ever submitted to OSI?


Debian clearly considered it non-DFSG-compliant, but I can't find a
discussion why this was the case.

In the FAQ, the Open Group wrote:

| Does the Open Group Public License for Motif meet the Open Source
| Guidelines?
| No. The Open Group Public License for Motif grants rights only to
| use the software on or with operating systems that are themselves
| Open Source programs. In restricting the applicability of the
| license to Open Source platforms this does not meet term 8 of the
| Open Software Definition (http://www.opensource.org/osd.html).


I find this surprising.  The license is not worded in such a way that
it is specific to a particular distribution: any free software
distribution will do.  The license doesn't even require that the
software linked with OpenMotif is free software.  It's true that their
definition of “Open Source” does not match OSI's, but as theirs is
more encompassing (to the degree that it misses the point), that's not
an issue at all.

I'm also puzzled why both Debian and Fedora rejected the license (but
Debian did consider it suitable for non-free).  For Fedora, I found


But it's just a reference ot the FAQ, and then the answer is merely


The FSF list does not mention the license under either name.  Richard
Stallman wrote about the license here:


It's not very illuminating, unfortunately.  This is the most relevant

| The license is restricted to use on certain operating systems, those
| which fit a category they call “open source”. Both the free software
| movement and the open source camp consider use restrictions
| unacceptable.

I assume that I myself at the time thought this restriction as overly
burdensome, but I don't think I would do so today, especially since
the license does not require that *all* software on a computer needs
to be open source.  In fact, it looks fairly liberal to me.  However,
when OpenMotif came out, many systems still used proprietary SSH and
the Netscape browser, so perhaps the OpenMotif license was thought to
be too corrosive back then.  (But that was a non-issue when Fedora
removed OpenMotif from the distribution many years later.)

Fedora says “Commercial use restrictions” under
but the reason for that remains unclear to me.  It looks like a
confusion of proprietary vs commercial licensing.

Any ideas why it's so clear-cut that this license violates the DFSG or
the OSD?  Do you still think it does?

More information about the License-discuss mailing list