License mess Burns me up

License mess Burns me up

Summary: The lesson, I think, is that the gotchas being placed into non-approved licenses may be practically unenforceable. Not that lawyers couldn't win points in court, but any move toward a court would have a profound negative effect on that vendor's community.

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TOPICS: Open Source
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The best laid schemes o' mice an' men
Gang aft agley,
An' lea'e us nought but grief an' pain
For promis'd joy.

See, laddie, it was Robert Burns I was thinking of, when reading the account of our own David Berlind concerning open source license proliferation.

I'm not burned up at all.

Berlind writes that while the OSI claims it has been working for over a year to reduce the number of open source licenses, vendors like SugarCRM have been rolling their own, then refusing to submit the results for review while still calling their own offerings "commercial open source."

Surfing over to the main site of the Open Source Initiative, I find the most recent public log entries are over a year old, and then I find a more-recent piece by our own Ed Burnette on how Google refuses to support more than 7 licenses.

The lesson, I think, is that the gotchas being placed into non-approved licenses may be practically unenforceable. Not that lawyers couldn't win points in court, but any move toward a court would have a profound negative effect on that vendor's community.

That's the real lesson of the recent Microsoft-Novell mess, not Microsoft's try at playing gotcha but Novell's immediate back-pedal and moves by other open source Linux vendors to isolate it.

This is the power of a community understanding, as opposed to a legal understanding, and the ability of the former to become a market understanding which makes the legal one moot.

Burns' poem, from which the above is its most famous excerpt, is titled "To a Mouse," and asserts that we are all mice in the end, that our best laid plans can easily come undone. Lawyers lay great plans, but the market and the community are the real forces of nature in open source. You violate a consensus at your peril.   

How will you react if your "open source" vendor tries to play a game of "gotcha" with your use of code?

Exactly.

 

 

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Topic: Open Source

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3 comments
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  • Community understanding

    Yes, going to Court would antagonize contributors to an open source company. The penalties could be ostracism, even shunning. That's reminiscent of religious groups, but the comparison seems accurate here.

    In addition to enforcing conformity, though, such groups can develop attitudes strong enough to create problems for those who believe less than fervently.

    For example, the leader of one of the Red Hat clones was willing to tolerate Red Hat's intention to make a profit as an eccentricity.
    But he promised ominously to make certain that none of Red Hat's strategies was offensive.

    A community which knows it's essential can become comfortable making demands.
    Anton Philidor
    • And if...

      ... a sudden turn in the community should shatter the support Red Hat requires, then Mr. Fleury could quote in his best Scots accent:

      Thou saw the fields laid bare an' wast,
      An' weary winter comin fast,
      An' cozie here beneath the blast
      Thou thought to dwell,
      Till crash! the cruel coulter past
      Out thro' thy cell.

      Whatever plans, whatever hopes Red Hat nurtured can be destroyed by a fanatic cleansing.
      Anton Philidor
  • The Single Most Beneficial

    Act for mankind would be to rid the world of lawyers, with the most important additional act of denying anyone the right to a lifetime of continious revenue for performing a mere few minutes (or hours even) of services or entertainment.
    Ole Man