Open Source Software: Licensing Issues or Not
The Wikipedia Encyclopedia describes open source as “production and development practises that promote access to the resources of the final product.” Before the open source label was conceived, developers and producers used different expressions to describe the concept. Earlier, researchers even used a process similar to open standards to develop telecommunications network protocols. This collaborative process, characterised by contemporary open source work, led to the birth of the Internet in 1969. Its application to software gained popularity with the rise of the Internet. Strategy talks in Palo Alto, California, are said to be where the open source label came from. It came after Netscape said it would be giving away the source code for its browser Navigator.
The politically correct version is that to clarify a possible confusion caused by the ambiguity of the word “free” so that the perception of free software is not anti-commercial, the label “open source” (contributed by Chris Peterson) has been stuck. The official version is that it was intended to shed the confrontational attitude historically associated with free software and to sell the idea of business cases to the commercial world on pragmatic grounds. Whatever it may be, Netscape listened and released their code as open source under the name “Mozilla.” That was the beginning of today’s open source movement, whose main champion is said to be the Open Source Initiative (“OSI”), which champions and continues to champion open source software in the commercial world. Then, we’ve seen the application of the open source philosophy to other areas, including biotechnology. This is what Linus Torvalds, a Finnish software engineer, said: “The future is all open source.”
Open Source Software Policies: Business and Legal Risks
According to the OSI, the argument for open source software is simple: free access to read, redistribute, and modify the source code of a piece of software results in a rapid evolutionary process that produces better software. Open source proponents argue that when programmers can read, redistribute, and modify the source code of a piece of software, the software evolves. People improve it, people modify it, people fix bugs. And this can happen at a speed that, when one is accustomed to the slow pace of conventional software development, seems astonishing.
Free software evangelists, however, have done their best to make it clear that open source software is not synonymous with free software. The philosophy of the open source movement is based on practicality and not on ethical considerations, while free software is based on freedom, not price. Borrowing from Richard M. Stallman, “free software” and “open source” describe more or less the same category of software, but say different things about the software and about values. While the two are not synonymous, they do have a common enemy: proprietary software.
Critics of open source say that open source promotes a different kind of ambiguity in that it confuses the mere availability of source code with the freedom to use, modify, and redistribute it. But open source doesn’t just mean access to the source code; use of open source software must meet a number of criteria, including redistribution depending on the licence under which it is distributed. Different licences require different criteria. For example, under the terms of the GNU General Public License (GPL), published by the Free Software Foundation (FSF) for licencing free software, any work based on the programme or any other derivative work must be licenced in its entirety for free to any third party, whereas the Apache licence does not require derivative works to be open source.You may add your own copyright notice to any changes to any Apache licenced source code and provide additional or different licence terms for use, reproduction, or distribution of your changes, or for derivative works as a whole, provided your use, reproduction, and distribution of the work otherwise complies with the terms of the Apache License. Likewise, there is no requirement that any derivative work created under an Academic Free License (AFL) or a Berkeley Software Distribution (BSD) licence must be distributed in whole or for free if distributed. Furthermore, any derivative work does not have to be free and can be charged as you would for proprietary software.
The subtle licencing criteria between open source in general and free software is further emphasised when you consider that some licences are not compatible. For example, programs or source code distributed under the PHP licence are not compatible with the GNU GPL, as the GNU GPL is a copyright license. That raises a number of licencing issues:
(1) Why are there different criteria under different open source software licenses? Currently, there are approximately 54 licences certified as open source by OSI—a tribute to OSI’s philosophy—which many now see as an unnecessary proliferation of licenses, an issue that forced OSI to admit that-
“OSI’s approach to the development and distribution issues has been to build as many different bridges between developers and businesses as possible while accepting a proliferation of new licenses. This is a problem because, while physical bridges between communities do not interfere with each other, licences do. Interference between different open source licences is now seen as a serious enough problem that OSI has fallen victim to its own past success. “
Open source licencing and legal issues
To address the issue of proliferation, OSI plans to take all existing OSI-approved licences and group them into three levels: (i) preferred, (ii) recommended but not preferred, and (iii) not recommended. This is likely to cause more confusion. One would then wonder why an OSI certified licence would be an OSI “not recommended” license. A “not recommended” tag would not be considered a de-approval (although OSI says it isn’t). Having such a licence approved by the OSI in the first place would be “worse” than not having it at all.
(2) Why are some licences not compatible with others? We can fully understand that compatibility goes beyond the issue of licencing and distribution. For example, the FSF considers all versions of the Apache licence to be incompatible with version 2 of the GNU GPL. About version 2.0 of the Apache license, they say:
“The Apache software licence is incompatible with the GPL because it has a specific requirement that is not in the GPL: there are certain cases of patent termination that the GPL does not require.” (We don’t think those patent termination cases are inherently bad ideas, but nevertheless, they are incompatible with the GNU GPL.) ” The Apache
Software Foundation (ASF), which publishes the Apache license, has responded adequately to FSF’s statement, stating that ASF does not share the same goals as FSF. For now, the controversy rages on. Compatibility is really a relationship problem; the free software movement and the open source movement can be compared to two political camps within the free software community. While it can be argued that the GNU GPL is incompatible with some licences because the philosophy behind GNU GPL is freedom-which free software proponents have been shouting from the rooftops for decades-the GNU GPL itself publishes a list of free/open source software licences that are incompatible with the GPL, distinguishing between non-copyleft and “strong copyright”. Also, copyleft licences such as xinetd have also not been spared and have been considered incompatible because they impose additional restrictions on the redistribution of modified versions that contradict the redistribution requirements in the GPL. Don’t they have the same goals? Still, the free software movement has complained that lumping together open source software is restrictive of free software, as open source software is said to have a much weaker criterion than free software. Then one might ask, what are the criteria for determining compatibility with the GNU GPL, even for copyleft free software licenses? In any case, the FSF does not intend, for the time being, to classify licences in the same way as OSI. Do they share the same goals? Still, the free software movement has complained that lumping together open source software is restrictive of free software, as open source software is said to have a much weaker criterion than free software. Then one might ask, what are the criteria for determining compatibility with the GNU GPL, even for copyleft free software licenses? In any case, the FSF does not intend, for the time being, to classify licences in the same way as OSI. Do they share the same goals? Still, the free software movement has complained that lumping together open source software is restrictive of free software, as open source software is said to have a much weaker criterion than free software. Then one might ask, what are the criteria for determining compatibility with the GNU GPL, even for copyleft free software licenses? In any case, the FSF does not intend, for the time being, to classify licences in the same way as OSI. What are the criteria for determining GNU GPL compatibility, even for free copyrighted software licenses? In any case, the FSF does not intend, for the time being, to classify licences in the same way as OSI. What are the criteria for determining GNU GPL compatibility, even for free copyrighted software licenses? In any case, the FSF does not intend, for the time being, to classify licences in the same way as OSI.
(3) Some of these licences do not support a “one-way street” stance as described by John Udell in Open Source Citizenship, encouraging developers to take and not give back to the community. Or it could be similar to the situation described by Stallman, where commercial developers invited to the “Open Source Developers Day” meeting in August 1998 said they intended to make only part of their work free software (or open source software). free software source), as the focus of their business is developing proprietary add-ons (software or manuals) to sell to the users of the free software. According to Stallman, those developers asked for this to be considered legitimate as part of the community because some of the money is donated to the development of free software. However you look at it,
The ideals and philosophy of open source are threatened by its “marriage of convenience” with the commercial world, which makes a strong case for the traditional free software movement. The adage “bring a case to the commercial world” might be going too far. Ultimately, there could be such a blending of both the open source movement and the commercial world that we can’t differentiate between the two. The enemy would have slipped in unnoticed and ridiculed all the ideals and philosophies of the open source movement.
These are all valid concerns that the open source community needs to address. Finally, I have a piece of advice for my grandmother’s open source movement that I think is appropriate: if you don’t know where you’re going, remember where you’re from.
1. Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia
Open Source Initiative
The Free Software Foundation is third.
Apache Software Foundation
5. Richard M. Stallman in “Open Sources: Voices from the Open Source Revolution”
6. John Udell, “Open Source Citizenship.”