Subject: Re: Definition of open source
From: Rick Moen <>
Date: Sat, 6 Nov 2004 14:19:04 -0800

Quoting Arnoud Engelfriet (

> The whole idea behind open source is that the code is open;
> it's freely available to all. There is no owner.

There is an owner; the owner is the person or persons who own legal
title.  As such, the owner(s) has/have quite a number of unique
statutory rights -- including the right to issue separate code instances
under different terms, including in particular proprietary ones.  Those
rights are _not_ available to anyone who, by contrast, receives a copy
of the code under a licence grant.

I realise I'm being a little bit pedantic, but the popular notion of
open source code having "no owners" has mislead people in the past and
lead to a great deal of mistaken rhetoric from certain half-clued
business columnists, and consequent wasted time.

If you want to state the "whole idea" simply, one formulation might be
"the permanent right and ability to fork, along with the permanent right
and ability to redistribute and use the work and its derivatives freely".  
Of course, that doesn't block off every possible subterfuge (and invites
the usual caviling about copyleft and advertising clauses), but has the 
advantage of brevity.

Cheers,                 There are 10 kinds of people in the world, those who 
Rick Moen               know ternary, those who don't, and those who are now     looking for their dictionaries.  -- Ron Fabre