[License-discuss] "Fairness" vs. mission objectives

Eric S. Raymond esr at thyrsus.com
Mon Feb 24 22:24:44 UTC 2020

Nicholas Matthew Neft Weinstock <nweinsto at qti.qualcomm.com>:
> I agree, that seems a step too far.  The term “Open Source” was around and used to describe some licenses before OSI and the OSD existed.

No, it wasn't.  Believe me, I did a *very* through audit on existing
usage at the time I proposed the term for general use in 1998.  I
might be able to do a better one today, but only because search engines
today have more reach than Alta Vista did.

"Open source" had, at that time, a dominant meaning derived from spook
jargon.  It referred to primary intelligence sources that are publicly
agailable as opposed to those that must be gathered by covert neans.

There was occasional, very rare usage of "open source" to describe
software packages. I remember finding two uses of this kind from
USENET in 1992-1993.  After the fact one of them was pointed out to me
by a random Internet denizen who as trying to be a friendly critic and
didn't know I was already aware of the precedent.

There was *no* use of "open source" to describe *licenses*, and no
license that labeled itself as "open source" until after OSI was
founded.  I am certain of this for at least three reasons:

1. At the time, I was intimately familiar with all of the half-dozen
or fewer licenses that might have used that as a label.  They didn't.

2. The semantic space that "open source license" might have occupied
was occupied by the term "free software license"...until *I* pointed
out that a distinction could and should be made for marketing reasons.

3. In the critical first six months I was working to get the term
generally adopted, not one of the Internet's millions of Asperger's
cases *ever* counted coup by exhibiting a pointer to such such prior
usage. Which is particulary telling in view of the fact that they
*did* surface use of the term for software rather than licenses.

So set your mind at rest on that point.  We own the term "open source"
as applied to licenses. No license can get grandfathered in to use
that badge as a result of usage from ancient time.

I am prepared to argue that we also own the use of "open source" as
a description of software - that the very few prior sporadic uses
neither establish any other certification authority nor challenge
ours.  But that is a separate issue.
		<a href="http://www.catb.org/~esr/">Eric S. Raymond</a>

More information about the License-discuss mailing list