The OSI crackdown: too little, too late?

I had the pleasant surprise to stumble into the post from Michael Tiemann stating that it’s about time for the OSI to defend the Open Source brand against abuse. I can only applaud what the OSI seems to be about, even though my initial comment was along the lines of “about bloody time”.

You know how disturbed am I by that side of the so-called “Commercial Open Source” that’s trying hard to push the limit of what Open Source actually is. To me, the issue is very clear: as much as Open Source is not a proper trademark, there is at a very least a sound ethical reason to consider as Open Source what the OSI (who has come up first with the term) defines as such.

I can understand some of the gripes floating around the Net today: the OSI is far from being an open organization, and the license approval process could definitely get better. Still, let’s be fair: a good part of the industry has been getting a free ride by somewhat abusing the marketing power of what the OSI has been able to build during the years. And don’t even get me started with how a sizable chunk of the open source market has swept under the rug not only the letter but also the spirit of Open Source, which is really about building cooperative process to share knowledge (and make money out of it) whereas most players nowadays are doing all they possibly can to open the source (because that’s their only chance to have a position in the market) and close everything else.

Failing to recognize the role of OSI and the binding definition of Open Source is both unfair and unethical: given the sheer amount of money floating around all those “open source” companies, I start to think they really should consider getting together and find a new marketing term that effectively describes their business model (something along the lines of “we’re fine getting you access to the source code, but that’s almost it”). Shouldn’t bee too hard and will make things much more clear to customers.

As per the OSI, question is “now what?”: the bad guys are already waving the flag of Open Source not being a trademark, and I’m afraid it could well be too late to try and enforce the OSI definition. It would be nice, though, to run an awareness campaign, making sure that the world knows who’s been fathering the Open Source Definition, what is its rationale and what can be considered Open Source. It would be nice, at the same time, to let everyone know what is NOT Open Source according to the definition, and how final users might be able to tell the real Open Source from the “source available” counterparts. This is a battle I’m more than willing to fight, so if help is needed, just count on me.

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