Open Source Initiative: About the importance of being called Open Source

Michael Tiemann, President of the Open Source Initiative, yesterday took a clear position against the abuse of the term Open Source, replying to a Dana Blankenhorn post ” How far can open source CRM get?“.

I have been on the board of the OSI for more than 5 years, and until last year it was fairly easy for us to police the term open source: once every 2-3 months we’d receive notice that some company or another was advertising that their software was “open source” when the license was not approved by the OSI board and, upon inspection, was clearly not open source. We (usually Russ Nelson) would send them a notice politely telling them “We are the Open Source Initiative. We wrote a definition of what it means to be open source, we promote that definition, and that’s what the world expects when they see the term mentioned. Do you really want to explain to your prospective customers ‘um…we don’t actually intend to offer you these freedoms and rights you expect?’.” And they would promptly respond by saying “Wow! We had no idea!” Maybe once or twice they would say “What a novel idea! We’ll change our license to one that’s approved by you!”. Most of the time they would say “Oops! Thanks for letting us know–we’ll promote our software in some other way.” And they did, until last year.

It is interesting to see how things change: O tempora, o mores (Alas for the times and the manners).

So here’s what I propose: let’s all agree–vendors, press, analysts, and others who identify themselves as community members–to use the term ‘open source’ to refer to software licensed under an OSI-approved license. If no company can be successful by selling a CRM solution licensed under an OSI-approved license, then OSI (and the open source movement) should take the heat for promoting a model that is not sustainable in a free market economy. We can treat that case as a bug, and together we can work (with many eyes) to discern what it is about the existing open source definition or open source licenses made CRM a failure when so many other applications are flourishing. But just because a CEO thinks his company will be more successful by promoting proprietary software as open source doesn’t teach anything about the true value of open source.

Stand up Stand up by groc

I welcome Tiemann stand up, really. Nonetheless I am among them thinking that Tiemann could hardly enforce his plan, though. My concerns are about the following open issues:

4. Send your proposed license by email to Indicate in the email whether you want the license posted to the license-discuss list with your identification or anonymously. We are willing to consider licenses that the author doesn’t want posted at all, but since community review is an important part of the approval process, we will have to circulate such licenses privately to individual reviewers: because of this, licenses not posted to license-discuss at all may take longer to approve, and are likely to require more interaction with you

Consider taking a position also on these issues, please.

Technorati Tags: OSI, Tiemann, attribution, Open Source