[Discuss] "Open" licenses

Catarina Mota catarina at openmaterials.org
Thu Jul 3 19:35:24 UTC 2014

Hi all,

Let me start with a disclaimer: I'm on the last weeks of phd dissertation
writing and probably much grumpier than usual. So, provoking a scholar of
open source at this stage is very similar to poking a very angry bear :)
Having said that, here's why I don't understand all this confusion and
discussion about wether NC licenses are open source or not.

We all use words to communicate and what allows us to do that is that those
words have a meaning we all understand. When I say "resistor" you all know
what I'm referring to and that a resistor is not, for example, a capacitor.
Well, 16 years ago a group of free software advocates got together in a
strategy session in Palo Alto and coined the term "open source" - see
this history
article <http://opensource.org/history> for details. Since words and
expressions need meanings they then wrote a definition of what "open
source" means <http://opensource.org/osd>. According to this definition -
the meaning of the label "open source" - goods distributed with an NC
clause cannot be called open source. So that's pretty simple: "open source"
is what it was defined to mean, no more no less.

Now, words and expressions evolve with use, of course, and often take on
new meanings. But in this case - since the originators of the term
specifically said that to be open source a license cannot discriminate
against fields of endeavor (and specifically mention business) - I think it
would be extremely unfair to use their term to mean the opposite of they
wanted. While everyone is free to define the terms under which they want to
distribute a good, it really isn't right to co-opt a term that means so
much to so many people. Just as I'd be really upset if someone used my name
to refer to, for example, beating a dog - or something else I strongly
disapprove of.

There isn't a lack of words in most languages - so why not just create a
new term or use something that actually means what they are doing? The
group who coined the term "open source" went to great lengths to define its
meaning in very specific terms - so why all this questioning of what open
source means?

I do understand however that the question people are discussing on this
thread refers to "open hardware" not "open source hardware," which makes
matters more complicated, but I just wanted to get the "open source" part
out of the way :)

On Thu, Jul 3, 2014 at 2:06 PM, Jeffrey Warren <jeff at publiclab.org> wrote:

> Definitely not open hardware. These things (right to sell, right to use
> regardless of application) are specifically protected!
> They're also part of the four freedoms of free software. Maybe we need a
> similarly easy to remember list to reference.
> On Jul 3, 2014 8:07 PM, "Matt Maier" <blueback09 at gmail.com> wrote:
>> If they don't even mention any of the established "open source" licenses
>> it's a safe bet their license isn't actually open.
>> Just from a quick scan this one obviously violates a couple principles.
>> It doesn't allow you to sell anything, which is a point of contention
>> anyway. But the worst thing (in my mind) is that it restricts fields of
>> endeavor and associated technology. You're only allowed to use the
>> "reference material" to do work that is based on their product and benefits
>> their technology. You can't use it for whatever you're interested in.
>> Basically they're allowing you to do some of their user testing and R&D
>> for them, but without being able to benefit from the work yourself (sell
>> something or use it in your own projects).
>> I would call this license "not open." The few things they do allow don't
>> make up for the things they don't allow.
>> Cheers,
>> Matt
>> On Thu, Jul 3, 2014 at 5:27 AM, Michael McCormack <mike at themccormacks.com
>> > wrote:
>>> Is there anyone who routinely reviews licenses to say "yes" or "no" to
>>> open?  I was looking at license associated the ST NUCLEO boards:
>>> http://www.st.com/st-web-ui/static/active/en/resource/legal/legal_agreement/license_agreement/open_platform_license_agreement_v3.pdf
>>> and off the top of my head, I'd say it is pretty much not what most
>>> people consider the term open to mean as it limits my use to only their
>>> products.  I realize that they may not have any legal grounds to limit my
>>> use, as hardware is subject to patents and not copyrights and without a
>>> patent on their boards they probably have nothing to license.  But my
>>> question is more general though prompted ST non-open-license - is there
>>> someplace that weighs in on whether a someone's new license is open or not?
>>> --
>>> Cheers
>>> Mike
>>> Michael McCormack
>>> mike at themccormacks.com
>>> _______________________________________________
>>> discuss mailing list
>>> discuss at lists.oshwa.org
>>> http://lists.oshwa.org/listinfo/discuss
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