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November 15, 2006



These license are crap. It muddies the waters and causes a great deal of confusion. Most of all, these companies claiming to be open source without OSI approval weakens OSI. Going back now and approving them would greatly diminish OSI's legitimacy. Take a look at how most of these companies have developed their software. Open source is an event for them and not the process it's intended to be.


I would strongly urge the OSI to work cooperatively with the OSS community, so that they can approve an attribution license (MPL + attribution seems the most sensible). Attribution is just another form of notice, and notice forms the 4th part of the 'open source definition.'

In addition, the OSI has already approved other open source licenses which include attribution -- for example, the OSL, the Adaptive Public License, and the AAL.

Also, today's open-source application developers face unique, contemporary challenges that call for a new attribution license. Open source apps distributed under permissive, non-GPL open source licenses can easily be "hidden" in derivative works by larger companies or other redistributors, which can be frustrating (at a minimum) to the original developers.

A lot of open source software projects that use MPL + attribution - style licenses are developing thriving communities -- MuleSource, Zimbra, and SugarCRM come to mind. They deserve the help and the assistance of the OSI and I hope that all the groups involved in the discussion can reach consensus. In the end, the community will benefit most.

Nicholas Goodman

Opensourcer: your assertion that the communities in question (Mulesource, Zimbra, SugarCRM) assumes that they those companies/projects are actuall open source and should be represented by OSI.

Example: if MSFT claimed their licenses are "open source" then by that token the OSI must hear the views of their "community" and reflect the view of the open source community. If OSI represents any community that claims to be open source (and relfect those communities) then OSI would need to approve all the MSFT license they'd call open source (since thats what the "open source" community is).

Consider if you don't make the assumption these companies are releasing open source. Then they are NOT open source communities are they? Shared source, public source, community source, whatever source you want to call it. Why not use GPL if the intent is to keep it from being "hidden" in derivative works?

Lastly, and please comment here publicly so that all that came before can hear: Why do you consider what you (inferred, I don't know who YOU are) write more valuable and elgiible to receive special rights that NO ONE else receives? Say here publicly why your code is more valuable and special than the hundreds of millions before? Tell the linux, apache, eclipse, ... developers why their work requires less protection, and yours more.

AaronF has it right. Does OSI even matter if it can't keep the OSD in tact?

PS - None of these companies are willing to stand the test and submit. None, since the existence of the forced UI attribution clause, have submitted. What does that say about the belief they will stand the test.

PPS - In case you're interested in the future of these "unique, contemporary challenges" for open source, check out the following image on this post:
http://www.nicholasgoodman.com/bt/blog/2006/11/15/open-source-has-a-little-secret-exhibit-b/. Those challenges will pail with those of the UI developer trying to meet his "obligations" to the "open source license." Consider what YOUR application would look like if EVERYONE believed they were special enough for UI attribution.

PPPS - I have no prob with source code attribution. Or even documentation attribution. If people need recognition, fine. If people want to limit RIGHTS with software (dictate UI, use, tie use to permsissive use of a royalty for trademark, etc) that ain't kosher, IMHO.

Nicholas Goodman

sheesh... everytime I sit to right a simple comment it ends up a page. :) Apologies for the long winded-ness.


To answer your question, "Does OSI even matter if it can't keep the OSD in tact?" I would strongly agree that the OSI must strive to ensure that the OSD is consistently applied. For that very reason, the MPL + attribution model should be approved.

The OSI has *already* approved the Attribution Assurance License, which requires as follows (in part):

Redistributions of the Code in binary form must be accompanied by
this GPG-signed text in any documentation and, each time the resulting
executable program or a program dependent thereon is launched, a
prominent display (e.g., splash screen or banner text) of the Author's
attribution information, which includes:
(a) Name ("AUTHOR"),
(b) Professional identification ("PROFESSIONAL IDENTIFICATION"), and
(c) URL ("URL").

This is almost identical to the attribution issue that we're talking about for MPL + attribution. If the OSI has already said that attribution requirements like the one included in the Attribution Assurance License are acceptance and are officially "open source", why should it be any different in an MPL context?

Nicholas Goodman

Almost identical? A splash screen which, in context, explains the author, program name, version, etc. Same like an "About Page" I think the splash screen and about page are more similar to DOCUMENTATION than to the application.

For instance, the ABOUT PAGE or the SPLASH SCREEN are really a "DOCUMENTATION PAGE" included in the application. They are very similar, if not identical to pages included in documentation of programs. I personally would think that this goes too far, but it's nowhere near as far as an ICON included on *each* page on a UI.

Attribution licenses approved to date place attribution in their appropriate place. Like the CD that "samples" from other artists, or licensed artwork for the cover, etc they are in the appropriate place in the CD. There should be acknowledgement for people who are looking.

If someone samples the Beatles in fair use, should they be forced to place on all of their tour posters, cds, websites, etc "Powered by Beatles(tm) Click here for official Beatles Support." ?

Forced UI attribution is a method to limit distribution (those "unique contemporary challenges" of how to get people to pay when these pesky open source license allow use for FREE).

Opensourcer: Whatever company/project you work on: consider, would you use projects that use this license? Do an ls -l extlib | wc -l and COUNT the number of Logos you'd have to slap on your app if everyone believed they were special enough to receive real estate on an application that is only partially theirs.

Nicholas Goodman

PS - Does OSI matter? I think there has never been a time when OSI is needed more.

Without OSI then really any jim, tim or lynn can write any license they want and call it open source. The licensing issues of OS are complex.... Real people, customers, developers need someone like OSI to set a MINIMUM for meeting OSD approval.

Danese Cooper

For Nicholas and others following the Attribution Licenses debate, just a note that John Roberts from SugarCRM has just posted his opinions on the subject to License-Discuss.


Nicholas Goodman

I was just reading that when I refreshed the page. :)


We are NOT talking about the same thing here. Attribution != advertisement. http://blog.buni.org/blog/acoliver/opensource/2006/12/12/The-Buni-Special-Attribution-License-Proposal

Phillip Rhodes

I would urge the OSI to amend the OSD to dis-allow "badgeware licenses" and would further urge them to revoke OSI certification for any such licenses (if any have been certified), and to grant OSI certification to no such licenses in the future. Badgeware, in my experience, is NOT open-source in the eyes of most members of the open-source community.

And don't talk to me about "protecting investments" or needing to "protect yourselves from competitors" or any of that crap. If these folks want to run an open-source company, let them run an open-source company. If not, have them brand their license and their product as SugarSource, IntalioSource, CentrixSource, or whatever, and quit trying to confuse people about what they're offering.



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