Subject: The OSI as a critic (was: Dual licensing)
From: John Cowan <>
Date: Tue, 8 Jun 2004 08:56:27 -0400

A private correspondent wrote to me, expressing astonishment at the notion
that the OSD might be changed simply because "one of the major powers"
(meaning, as I suppose, the GPL) was found not to be conformant with
its terms, whereas "wannabe" compliant licenses are made to conform to
the OSD.  I like my reply enough [buffs nails] to publish it.

The OSD is a criticism of open-source licenses, and the OSI is a critic.
If a theatre critic says that so-and-so's new play is no good, this is
generally accepted as within bounds, and if the critic is respected,
the play will probably not last very long.  But if the critic says that
_Hamlet_ is no good (as opposed to a particular production of it),
he will make himself a laughingstock -- not because Shakespeare is a
"major power", but because his plays (with some exceptions) have held
the stage for four centuries, and have become part of the fabric of the
definition of "good plays", at least in the anglophone theatre.

This analogy is culture-bound, but one can find analogous analogies (!)
in other cultures, and in fact the OSD does represent a cultural
artefact: it states in concise form what our understanding of free
and open-source software is.

John Cowan
"It's the old, old story.  Droid meets droid.  Droid becomes chameleon. 
Droid loses chameleon, chameleon becomes blob, droid gets blob back
again.  It's a classic tale."  --Kryten, Red Dwarf
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