Former CIA Director and U.S. Ambassador James Woolsey recently issued a New York Times op/ed piece with open source stalwart, GNU Bash creator, and technology lead for OSI Affiliate Member NAVO/CAVO, Brian Fox, to call on politicians to expedite efforts toward open source election systems. Director Woolsey was blunt about the need for Microsoft and others to cease and desist lobbying efforts against the open source voting community and commended the open source momentum toward securing the elections.
Having watched a fair number of people attempting to engage both the Open Source Initiative’s licensing evaluation community and the Apache Software Foundation’s legal affairs committee, here are some hints and tips for succeeding when your turn comes to conduct a discussion over legal terms with an open source community.
This is the second episode from the series, "The Faces of Open Source Law," by Shane Martin Coughlan. The series puts a face to the vibrant open source community, and the fascinating discussions happening within it, through a series of interviews that we'll be sharing here. This first "season" focuses on issues related to law (copyright, licensing, patents, foundations, governance, etc.) and includes interviews with several current and former OSI Board Directors.
Should you donate money to the open source projects you use? Or is there a better way to help?
Your business most likely depends on open source software. But are you playing your part to make sure it will still be there in the future? For that to happen, the projects where it is both maintained and improved need to flourish.
A few weeks ago we learned about some great work underway by Shane Martin Coughlan: putting a face to the vibrant open source community, and the fascinating discussions happening within it, through a series of interviews—we thought we'd share them here in a new series.
Open Source and Public Domain are frequently confused. Here’s why it’s a mistake to treat the two terms as synonyms.
Plenty of people assume that public domain software must be open source. While it may be free software within your specific context, it is incorrect to treat public domain software as open source or indeed as globally free software. That’s not a legal opinion (I’m not a lawyer so only entitled to layman’s opinions) but rather an observation that an open source user or developer cannot safely include public domain source code in a project.
You feel slighted by a comment on a mailing list, or a forum post has failed to be moderated live. How should you react?
A recent exchange on a user forum caught my eye, one that’s typical of many user interactions with open source communities. Someone with a technical question had apparently had the answer they needed and to help others in the same situation had posted a summary of the resolution, complete with sample code. When they came back later, the summary was gone.
Individual judgment about the presence of software freedom in a license is not the same as community consensus expressed through OSI approval.
Does it really matter if a copyright license is OSI Approved or not? Surely if it looks like it meets the benchmark that’s all that matters? I think that’s the wrong answer, and that OSI license approval is the crucial innovation that’s driven the open source revolution.
Using the term “permissive” as an antonym to “copyleft” – or “restrictive” as its synonym – are unhelpful framing. Describe license reciprocity instead.
Some open source licenses implement a clever hack invented by Richard Stallman where, as a condition of the copyright license, anyone creating derived versions has to agree they will license the new version the same way as the original. In a play on words, this concept is called “copyleft” and many open source licenses implement this hack.