Is it time to revise the Open Source Definition?

Hi all! Thought I would share this interesting read from Richard Fontana on Richard works in Red Hat Legal and has been an important figure and voice in open source licensing for a number of years.

It is worth a read. It raises many interesting questions and thoughts about what revisions to the Open Source Definition might look like.


Yes, very thought-provoking. I like the mention of the FSF’s definition of Free Software. The two definitions are complementary, but the OSD is focused on “the license must not restrict…” and the FSD is more “the user must be able to…”

If you’re putting a license on your own software, the OSD is where you need to focus because the license is what you control. But if you’re looking for software to use, you need to check both OSD and FSD, because the user has to consider all restrictions and not just those under the control of the developer or copyright holder.

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I struggle to see why the author feels “Freedom 0” is not covered in the OSD by item 6, " No Discrimination Against Fields of Endeavor". I mean, if someone wants to use the software to meet some odd purpose or endeavour, it literally is there.

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Hi @rachel_norfolk! I think Richard points this out with the License Zero Reciprocal Public License and shares an observation from McCoy Smith on the OSI license-review list. It is less that you are telling people that they cannot do something, but more about telling someone that they must do something. Check out this excerpt from the L0-R:

  1. If you combine this software with other software into a larger program, you must release any source code for that larger program that has not yet been released.

  2. If you run this software to analyze, change, or generate software, you must release source code for that software that has not yet been released.

I think Richard explains this nuance well in this line:

The accompanying commentary on the FSD suggests that Freedom 0 embodies a kind of privacy right: the user enjoys the freedom “without being required to communicate about [the software] with the developer or any other specific entity.”

Since the Reciprocal Public License is an OSI-approved license, there were some raised eyebrows about the L0-R license when it came through the OSI list. Is this that different? Maybe, maybe not. But either way, ambiguity is the enemy of law and policy in my opinion. So this might be why Richard pointed out that Freedom 0 is missing in the OSD.

Of course… I am not a lawyer and have zero formal legal education background. But this is my interpretation after reading the article and looking at some of the other conversations around the OSD this year.

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