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Bruce Perens -- About the "Open Source" Trademark and the Open Source Definition

Jun 15, 1999, 07:30 (17 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Bruce Perens)


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Bruce Perens

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 software.

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 published 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.


Bruce Perens

Other Editorials by Bruce Perens

Free Software from Bruce Perens