Subject: Re: Can open source cost money?
From: Bob Young <>
Date: Wed, 26 Aug 1998 12:06:04 -0400

> > On Wed, 26 Aug 1998, Ben Laurie wrote:
> > > Brian Bartholomew wrote:
> > > > The BSD license is a superb way to get university research
> > > > products in mainstream use.  It's a poor way to keep a donation
> > > > libre. 
> > > 
> > > Examples? Proof?
> > 
> > X-Windows is probably the best example of how it's a poor way to keep a
> > donation libre.  Ironically, if it hadn't been for Linux and FreeBSD,
> > it might have stayed libre -- the free-rider problem would have been
> > much smaller.
> For those who may not know, the group that controls X11 (I think it's
> the X consortium -- not sure) has just decided to require a royalty if
> the X11 system is bundled in a product that is charged for.
> It doesn't appear to have occurred to anyone there that this
> constitutes a breach of contract with all of the people who have
> donated work to the X consortium over the years.
> I don't know if it's feasible, but does anybody think a class action
> can be made of this?

Are you sure TOG (The Open Group, the result of the merger between the 
OSF - Open Software Foundation, X/Open, and The X Consortium - the 
folks originally responsible for the X Window System code) have 
finally decided on this course of action?  They have been moving in 
this direction, but to their credit are continuing to take input and, 
last I'd heard, had not yet settled on a final decision.

In any case the proper course of action will not be to sue TOG.  It 
will be to take the 6.3 version of the X Window System and continue 
development of it under the current license.  If TOG chose to 
restrict future versions of their version of the X Window System (6.4 
and above) under more proprietary licenses good luck to them.

These issues have been widely discussed within the XFree86 group, and 
the various OS developers who use their work, including SuSE and Red 
Hat.  We (as a group) are quite prepared to assume responsibility for 
the "new" X Window System if we cannot continue to work with TOG.

As for the "free-rider problem"; it has always seemed odd to me that 
having lots of people use your product -who would otherwise not have 
used your product- qualifies as a "problem".

It is an opportunity in the truest sense of that word.  

Unfortunately the folks at TOG are not marketing types and can't figure 
out how to -convince- all these new users to send them money.  They fall 
back on the bureaucratic solution of -forcing- the users to pay.  
Requiring that users pay is a terrific solution if you have control over 
a proprietary highly popular product.  But for obvious reasons it is 
not going to work with the X Window System, and TOG's attempt to 
control it, with a new license for the new version, is badly damaging 
their credibility with the development community that they hope to 
continue to lead.


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