Subject: Re: Be and free software
From: Ben_Tilly@trepp.com
Date: Tue, 23 Nov 1999 12:36:22 -0500


Russell Nelson writes:
> Ben_Tilly@trepp.com writes:
>  >
>  > Russell Nelson writes:
>  > > All OSI certified Open Source software is free software.  Period.  End
>  > > of sentence.
>  >
>  > Only if you agree with OSI definition and the way that OSI interprets it.
>
> It is our intention that any OSI approved license will allow
> modification and redistribution of the software.  How could this not
> be free?

Having an intention is not equivalent to succeeding in that intention.
Also different people have different implicit definitions of freedom.  Note
the free beer/speech argument.  Note the ongoing BSD/GPL argument.  While
*I* share your definition, some others do not and the difference can lead
to conflict.

>  > The example of the latter that Bradley might be thinking of is Darwin.
>  > IIRC, when Apple came out with Darwin, ESR said that it passed the OSI
>  > definition but many others looked at it and thought that it was not free
>  > software.
>
> Many others were wrong.  Now, I will admit that we made a small
> mistake, which is to allow Apple to withdraw distribution because of
> patent infringement in an area where the patent has no jurisdiction.
> However, that has been fixed in APSL 1.1.

Many others do not think that they were wrong.  You do.  This indicates to
me that either someone is wrong or people are using differing implicit
definitions - probably the latter.

[...]
>  > An example showing the former to be problematical is the one just discussed
>  > where Cygnus does piece-work for a chip company to create for them modified
>  > GPLed software (eg a port of gcc).  The copyright on the modifications is
>  > now owned by the chip company, who also has the source-code.  But the
>  > software is not being distributed and source is nowhere available.  Is that
>  > software currently free?  It probably will become so, and they are limited
>  > in what they can do without making it free.  But is it before they release
>  > it?
>
> Yes, of course.  The GPL is not designed to grant any rights to people
> who don't have the software.  There's no free software license which
> puts the onus of distribution on the holder of a copy of the software.

Of course?  It is not so obvious to me.  I think that it is a matter of
valid disagreement.  As long as they hold the product and source tight, and
only use the product internally, I don't consider it free.  If they are,
for instance, selling a specialized embedded advice they might use their
version of gcc to compile code against it.  But now nobody else is allowed
to use the product, see source code, etc.  Doesn't seem very free to me!

In summary I would say that while OSI certified Open Source software is
generally free software, and probably always free by your definitions,
there are some pathological cases that some people will disagree with you
on.  Rather than argue it, just accept that language is being used in
different ways and go from there.

Ben