Use of "open source" in website name

Cinly Ooi cinly.ooi at
Thu Jun 12 17:10:44 UTC 2008

my $0.02:

Combining the word "Open" + "Source" does not necessary have to mean
software.  I am sure most people does not have problem with "Open Source
Cola". It's around for many years.

I personally do not see anything wrong with calling a perfume "Champagne"
since there is no confusion with the bubbly variety. But I live in Europe
and it is the law here.

2008/6/12 John Cowan <cowan at>:

> Beth scripsit:
> > A web developer I know wants to register an available domain
> > "", this site has nothing to do with
> > software but the site is a commercial, for profit venture.
> >

For profit/commercial is not a problem, even for software.

> > I've indicated that I thought it might be inappropriate to use the name.
> Nobody *owns* the term "open source", so there is no legal issue.

Cannot see any. In fact, if the site can be legally classify as "parody",
the law will even protect it.

> Ethically, nobody should use it in a way that could reasonably be confused
> with the software term.  There are already such uses: in intelligence
> work, an "open source" is a source of information that anyone can obtain,
> like a newspaper.

Is your example of intelligent work an example of "confusion" or  an example
of other use of "open source"?

I know I will not buy from someone who try to pass-off something or try to
confuse me. I will say that it is bad commercial judgment to attempt if the
website's owner intension is to pass off what he is selling as "Open Source"
as applied to software but does not resemble it in anyway at all.

It is not a good idea to cause confusion. Witness joe public general
confusion about "Free software" (Freedom vs Free as in Free Beer). In this
case, Free Software Foundation is strong enough to withstand any criticism
thrown at it. Moreover, the confusion is not their own making since "Free"
can means both thing. For a small startup, it may not be able to weather
this confusion. So my advice will be don't start on the wrong foot.

> > Is this a questionable use of the term "open source" ?
> Without knowing what is meant by it, nobody can say.

Agreed. We need more information.

Best Regards,
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