Articles / Bruce Perens replies to ESR…

Bruce Perens replies to ESR's letter

Bruce Perens took the time to explain and clarify his position on the APSL debate, and comment on Eric Raymond's recent public plea to "Understand My Job, Please!" Hit the details link to read his statement.

Bruce Perens' reply to Eric Raymond's "Understand my Job, Please!"

I appreciate how hard Eric works for Open Source, but I feel he mis-represented my actions in his "understand my job, please" message. I was unable to respond to that until now because of a broken net connection.

I did contact the Open Source Initiative before writing my open letter. I also wrote an Apple executive who chose not to answer it. OSI's reply when I contacted them began with the uncivil "If you're so smart", and nobody from OSI who was online at the time appears to have known the name or address of the Apple contact. That knowledge was with Eric alone, and Eric is almost always unavailable due to travel. I had to find the name of the Apple contact by reading it in the press after the open letter was published. I contacted this person and a colleague, who received me politely and with encouragement and apologized that they had not provided a means for public feedback until after my open letter appeared.

I did not volunteer to write the APSL criticism on my own. I was requested by representatives of free software organizations, individuals in the free software community, and the editor of an online publication, all of whom felt a public discussion of the APSL was necessary. If you read all of my messages in this matter, you will find them to be extremely civil, and they have been received as such by the Apple executives I was finally able to contact. Civility should not mean that public debate must be shut off and we must simply accept the results of private negotiations. We must also be able to publicly question and criticize volunteers when they become private negotiators on our behalf, lest our concerns go unheard. Our code of conduct must not be a gag, and should facilitate democracy.

While it's always good for a corporation to release source code, the present situation is that the APSL falls somewhat short of what should be called "Open Source". Eric's private APSL negotiation ignored several critical aspects of the Open Source Definition, and should be discussed in public because of that. My criticisms of the APSL still stand and are being seriously evaluated by Apple: the termination clause is too broad and a critical term is not defined. The notification clause is a logistical problem for distributions and can not be severed without a court hearing that few of us could afford. And yes, there's an export law problem too. Clearly all of these objections are related to the needs of a deep-pockets defendant who might be prosecuted for an intellectual property or "munitions" export matter, rather than the needs of the free software community. It may be that the only fair way in which a large corporation is able to produce free software is to assign a non-exclusive copyright to a non-profit organization who will distribute the software and can shield it from liability issues.

I'm also concerned about Eric's lack of civility when it comes to Richard Stallman and the Free Software Foundation, whom he's publicly denegrated for an entire year. Open Source was intended to be a re-marketing of free software, not an opposing campaign.

Regarding whether or not even one person "in their right mind" would volunteer to take on 1/10 of Eric's load, yes, several have offered to do so, including one who has written a very large contribution to the free software community. We are already taking on several speaking engagements.

The needs of corporations are not necessarily those of the free software community, and it may even be the case that the twain will never meet. Open Source appears to be splitting into something I'd call "Corporate Source", semi-free programs with disclosed source but less than the full set of rights we are used to, and true Free Software as represented by the GPL, LGPL, X/BSD, and other licenses. Public discussion of this fact is essential. We may eventually have to accept that it will never be possible for corporate participation in the free software community to be as full as we would like. Contributions like the MacOS X source may end up being useless to the free software community as far as code reuse is concerned, but they may still be good documentation on the underlying hardware, and will be useful, with some caution, to authors of fully free software.


Bruce Perens

Recent comments

07 Apr 1999 23:27 Avatar csuwi

Re: Ego contest
No, this isn't a contest of egos, it's a contest of ideals. It is essential for the wider acceptance of Open Source that the term actually means somethin precise. It's no good if we have to read every licence of every piece of "Open Source" software to work out whether it's really Open Source as defined by the Open Source Definition.

If the term Open Source becomes diluted and ambiguated by common misuse - especially by the Open Source Initiative - then we will never win the battle to educate the world as to the values behind Free, Open Source software. If, for example, Apple terminated the APSL under one of its non OSD compliant clauses that would ring out as proof that Open Source didn't work in the eyes of the world. Even though that eventuality is something that true Open Source software specifically protects you against.

So no, this "contest" doesn't really help us. But then no conflict of any sort ever helps us. What is important is that not raising these issues will harm us more.

As for "Viewable Source", it's a start - but it implies nothing about the Freedom involved, or the protection of the interests of the author, and of the end user.

In the end - licencing issues aside - what companies like Apple and IBM are achieving is, while not perfect, a very encouraging start. In a big corporate like that it must be almost impossible to make this sort of step when it goes against everything that the past has taught them, their lawyers and their shareholders about running a business. These are important steps forward and the advice and encouragement that Eric Raymond is giving to these companies is valuable. It's just a shame that he jumped the gun and branded this as completely Open Source when it isn't, and then refused to admit his mistake.
Hopefully things will be resolved by the next version of the licence, and the mistake won't be made again.

07 Apr 1999 14:13 Avatar bruceperens

Sorry, Russ, that's not so
I stopped reading Open Source Initiative mail when I asked to be removed from the list, on February 17. I was not shown the APSL or given an opportunity to comment before its release.

07 Apr 1999 12:09 Avatar nelsonrn

Bruce had the chance to say something, and blew it.
At the time the APSL subject came up, Bruce had not been removed from the OSI mailing list. He received a copy of the APSL, and said nothing until after it was published. If he was so smart, why did he wait to reveal his objections?

Open Source is Free Software. There will be an APSL 1.1.

07 Apr 1999 09:03 Avatar markhahn

Open Source vs RMS
I think Open Source is specifically a campaign that opposes RMS/FSF/Free Software, and I fully support that opposition. the main problem is RMS: he has this huge axe to grind, not just about keeping code free, but about taking credit, and about rubbing all our noses in his silly communitarian politics. the discussion is meaningful only as long as it concerns issues like whether APSL's termination clause is a problem. when the discussion is about "Linux" vs "GNU/Linux", someone is being an ass.

but all this licensing brouhaha is misdirected: the issue that must be confronted straight on is software patents. they're plainly wrong, and more of an abomination than any license ever was. software copyrights are, on the other hand, plainly right, for the same reasons that novels, and even yellow pages are copyrighted. if we solved the software patent problem, all these varieties of source license would be moot: copyright protects against plagiarism, and what should be free, ideas/algorithms/interfaces, would be free.

07 Apr 1999 03:49 Avatar dmahurin

Ego contest
Is this some sort of ego contest between Bruce and Eric?

Does this really help us?


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