Subject: RE: paradox Open Source / Open Content
From: "Lawrence E. Rosen" <>
Date: Thu, 10 Jan 2002 15:37:10 -0800

Your question raises an important issue of open source compatible
business models.

Restricting the commercial use of software through a license term is
incompatible with section 6 of the OSD:

   #6. No Discrimination Against Fields of Endeavor

       The license must not restrict anyone from making
       use of the program in a specific field of endeavor.
       For example, it may not restrict the program from 
       being used in a business, or from being used for
       genetic research.

       Rationale: The major intention of this clause is
       to prohibit license traps that prevent open source
       from being used commercially. We want commercial 
       users to join our community, not feel excluded from it.

Please note that this provision applies to the *use* of the program by
licensees.  In other words, you could not prevent your program from
being used commercially and still be "OSI Certified Open Source".  

Even an open source program may accept as input a separately copyrighted
work (e.g., an MP3 file, a graphic, a document, a university course,
etc.) that is separately licensed on a restricted basis.  The restricted
licensing of input data for a program does not, by itself, violate OSD
#6 with respect to the program's license.  So if you or your licensees
build a business model that involves making money off proprietary input
data, go for it!  OSI Certified software cannot restrict that business
model -- because of OSD #6.

/Larry Rosen

> -----Original Message-----
> From: [] 
> Sent: Wednesday, January 09, 2002 6:36 AM
> To:
> Cc: stephan Eissler
> Subject: paradox Open Source / Open Content
> Hi all,
> I'd like to ask for your comments and advice.
> My name is Sandro Zic, core-developer of the oc4ware which is 
> the software of 
> some international Web-portals like the 'Open Community 4 
> Science' which will 
> start on Monday (unfortunately, only in German up to now).
> These portals will form a kind of content or knowledge 
> network of free content. 
> We basically adopted the idea of open source for all kinds of 
> knowledge work 
> like research and teaching at universities.
> Our Software is currently GPL licensed and one could say, 
> that the GPLs idea - 
> as stated in the preamble - is right what we want on the 
> level of Open Content or 
> Open Knowledge, just replace 'software' with 'content' or 
> 'publications':
> "The licenses for most software are designed to take away 
> your freedom 
> to share and change it. By contrast, the GNU General Public 
> License is 
> intended to guarantee your freedom to share and change free 
> software--to 
> make sure the software is free for all its users."
> Nevertheless, we encountered a paradox and thus think of moving away 
> from the GPL as the software license of oc4ware. The problem 
> is that if 
> everyone has the possibility to run our software without any 
> restrictions, 
> he might jeopardize the idea of Open Content/Knowledge.
> For example, a big commercial content provider could use our software 
> to start a commercial content network, doing just the same 
> things like our 
> open content network does - except for the fact that users 
> have to pay for 
> accessing the publications offered.
> This is the paradox: If the software is free to use for 
> anyone and the idea 
> and aim of our project is to provide the freedom to share and change 
> content/knowledge of any kind - what if someone uses our software to 
> restrict access to publications by offering them on a 
> pay-for-view basis? 
> This runs counter to the idea _why_ the software is 
> programmed: freedom 
> to share and change content/knowledge.
> To solve this problem, we think about creating our own 
> license, which is 
> basically GPL, but with two additional points:
> Anyone who uses our software for commercial purpose in the fields of 
> science and education,
> a) is obliged to offer the publications for free 9 months 
> after they were 
> published.
> b) is obliged to keep his site (using our software) functioning to 
> communicate with the central routing servers of our network 
> which hold 
> together the decentral repositories.
> The rationale behind this is that our software can be used 
> without any 
> restrictions in all fields except science and education. There are no 
> restrictions at all if the software is used for internal 
> purposes (like 
> company intranet education). But the commercial use is restricted, if 
> publications are offered to the public, regarding the above mentioned 
> points.
> I hope, I made clear our problem and would very much appreciate any 
> help. Maybe there's already been a discussion on such a topic 
> (though I 
> did not find any), maybe you got an idea how to solve the 
> paradox, maybe 
> a proper license already exists, or maybe there is no paradox 
> at all ;)
> Thanks in advance,
> Sandro Zic |
> --
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