Subject: Re: Do We Need a New Evangelist
From: Russell Nelson <>
Date: 30 Mar 1999 20:55:51 -0000

Ian Lance Taylor writes:
 > Hmmm.  I don't know if I am quite ready to agree to that.  I think it
 > is correct to describe GPL software as free software, but I do
 > understand what people mean when they say that the BSD license is more
 > free than the GPL.  I don't think they are mistaken or misled.  I
 > think they simply have different priorities.

Argue "more free" if you want.  But not free at all?  *That* is misled.

 > It's that difference that makes me uncomfortable with saying that they
 > are equivalent.  People were never quite sure what ``free software''
 > meant, so the term ``open source'' was invented and given a precise
 > meaning.  That's fine, but you are trying to assert that the precise
 > definition of ``open source'' captures everything there is to say
 > about ``free,'' and I'm not sure about that.

No, because the definition is not precise.  :) The OSD is a minimum
guarantee.  Conformance to the OSD does not grant license
certification.  Convincing five (soon to be six, and then seven) free
software practitioners that the license grants crucial freedoms is

 > I have a similar confusion about qmail, which may or may not be free
 > software, but by my reading of the license is clearly not open source
 > software.

It's certainly gratis software, but it lacks sufficient freedoms to be 
what *I* consider free software, so it's not Open Source software.
Dan doubts the value of open development, so that's fine by him.

 > I'm not trying to nitpick here, and I'm not trying to attack you or to
 > say that you are doing something wrong.  I'm just trying to express a
 > personal feeling, without trying to assert that I am necessarily
 > right.  In some sense open source software and free software are about
 > different things, so it's for me to say that they are equivalent.

Yeah, basically.  Everyone makes up their own definition of free
software, which is the advantage of Open Source -- we define its
meaning.  And we *mean* for that meaning to be the traditional meaning 
of free software.

 >    I think we're doing the right thing at the Open Source Initiative.
 >    Some people will always disagree.
 > I think that OSI is doing a right thing, and I don't agree with Gumby
 > that it is self-defeating or should disband.  (On the other hand, I'm
 > certainly not prepared to take a position on the dispute between OSI
 > and SPI--actually, I don't even know if it's still going on).

Like the Cold War, it's dead.  Like the Cold War, it's not officially
resolved, and so might spring up again, should OSI happen to send
ground troops into Kosovo, to fight against the SPI's troops.

 > However, I think that OSI would better to serve the community,
 > whatever it is called, of which I believe both of us to be a part, by
 > working to stop the proliferation of open source licenses, and by
 > working to bring people into the larger community rather than merely
 > branding their license agreements.  For example, to mention Apple
 > again, putting the BSD sources out again with new copyrights on them
 > benefits few people; encouraging them and teaching them to integrate
 > their changes into existing BSD distributions would be better.

Yes, I agree that proliferation is a bad thing.  On the other hand,
creativity is a good thing, particularly if it can solve the problem
of freeing existing source code without unduly alarming the stockholders.

-russ nelson <>
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