Michael Tiemann, president of the Open Source Initiative (and Red Hat's VP of Open Source Affairs), has decided to stand up against the flagrant abuse of the term "open source" (by companies like SugarCRM, CentricCRM, and MuleSource, and OpenBravo, to shame a few). He is urging the community to use "open source" only to refer to OSI-approved licenses. The OSI uses the Open Source Definition (http://opensource.org/docs/osd) to determine which licenses to approve. This definition was originally the Debian Free Software Guidelines (http://www.debian.org/social_contract#guidelines), and is substantially equivalent to the free software defition (http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/free-sw.html). So, by insisting only programs with OSD-compliant licenses are open source, OSI is really helping everyone who believes in FOSS.

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mattflaschen's picture
Created by mattflaschen 14 years 48 weeks ago – Made popular 14 years 48 weeks ago
Category: Philosophy   Tags:
mjd's picture


14 years 48 weeks 5 days 21 hours ago


Quoting one comment in response

Quoting one comment in response to this article:

'I will continue to release software and continue to label it as being open source, because that is precisely what it is. The source code is available for you to read. On top of that, my license might specify that you can only use my software if you telephone me and tell me a joke. My software would still be open source, even with such an absurd license.'

This is actually quite a defensible position. If the source code is open to scrutiny, it can be said to be literally "open source". On the other hand if you are claiming to distribute "free software", you have to meet some reasonable definition of free. Unfortunately in English there are two distinct ways you can define "free", but once you are clear which one you're using, I believe you've got your nose stuck in a philosophical tram line that will lead to to the free software definition.

It's very hard to argue that software that doesn't respect each of the four freedoms is "free as in freedom", but it's quite easy to argue that it's "open".

It's nice to see the OSI finally acquiring some sense of purpose. It would be even better to see them declaring, as OSI co-founder Bruce Perens did in 1999, that "it's time to talk about free software again" (http://lists.debian.org/debian-devel/1999/02/msg01641.html).

mattflaschen's picture


14 years 48 weeks 5 days 13 hours ago


I agree that open source is vague,

I agree that open source is vague, but the term was very uncommon (referring to source code) before OSI popularized it with the OSD meaning. So they do have a legitimate claim to it.

activist's picture


14 years 48 weeks 5 days 13 hours ago


I agree with what you say about

I agree with what you say about Bruce Perens...
I will never call it open source.. is FREE SOFTWARE :-)

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