Since there are many new members of the free software community,
please allow me to introduce myself: I'm Bruce Perens. I might be
best known as the primary author of the Open Source
Definition, and you've probably used some of my free
There's been some question regarding the legal status of the
Open Source certification mark. Although the mark still
exists, its application for federal registration has apparently
been allowed to lapse, perhaps temporarily. In February, I
It's Time To Talk About Free Software Again, because I
felt that the use of the phrase Open Source had caused us
to think less about the freedom involved in Free Software.
What I said then still stands, and thus I'm ambivalent about the
fate of the Open Source certification mark. However, the
Open Source Definition is still
a good idea. That document has been a very important standard: it's
helped us distinguish between licenses that provide a fair return
to the free software community for the effort our developers
contribute, and those that don't. Many large corporations and
individual developers have been influenced to use better licenses
because the community insisted that they be OSD-Compliant,
and that's helped free software prosper.
Now more than ever, as Free Software finally becomes
commercialized, as $100 Million dollar IPOs draw the greedy as well
as those who would treat us fairly, it's important that the free
software community continue to insist on licenses that comply
with the OSD. Our stand on licensing during the next year will
make the difference between life and death for free software.
Either we maintain the quid-pro-quo, or the developers who have
made free software great will leave in disillusionment. Without the
fair return to the free software community that the OSD stipulates,
we'll be left with will be shareware-with-source, when we can get
source at all.
I wrote the OSD with the help of the Debian developers, and it still
exists as the Debian Free
Software Guidelines. None of the presently-announced Open
Source Initiative board members were involved. This isn't to imply
anything negative about them, it's just to point out that they
aren't essential to the preservation of the OSD.
Regardless of what happens with the Open Source trademark
and the Open Source Initiative, the author of the OSD and
many other members of the free software community will continue to
stand behind the Open Source Definition. We will insist on
software with OSD-compliant licensing, and we won't donate
our efforts to anything else. I hope you'll do the same.
Since there are a lot of newcomers to our community, I guess
some of you might not have encountered the Open Source Definition.
You can read an extended analysis of the OSD, with commentary,
at this link.
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