Become a fan of Slashdot on Facebook


Forgot your password?

IBM Improving Open Source License 39

True_Seeker writes "IBM appears to be modifying its open source license (examples with OpenDX and Jikes) to make it more acceptable to the open source community, according to an article at PCWeek. They are even seeking OSI's blessing on it. "
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

IBM Improving Open Source License

Comments Filter:
  • IMO, you couldn't be farther from right. Without support from the business world, Open Source is as good as dead: It will just take a smarter Microsoft to erase any good it might do.

    On the other hand, if the business world sees experiments by companies like IBM and Netscape succeed, then corporate software will continue to explore the currently-dark-and-scary path of giving away intellectual property.

    The maxim of capitalism is simple: If one can't make money, he goes out of business. OSS will be a true revolution if and only if it is demonstrated that it doesn't preclude profits. IBM has a better shot than anybody right now at demonstrating this. Strategically, they're one of our strongest allies.
  • >After all, when you buy a copy of Windows, you don't sign any contract saying you won't make copies for all your friends, but your first use of the product counts as your agreement to abide by the licensing terms.

    That's not what restricts copying.

    Commercial sales of all types in the U.S. are generally covered under the U.C.C., or Uniform Commercial Code. It's what regulates that if you go into a restaurant, sit down, and ask for food, you are legally obligated to pay for it. Software sales rules are clearly spelled out, including the right to make back-up copies, the restriction on giving copies to anyone else, and I believe things like being able to resell the software.

    Generally if you want to change the conditions, you need to go with a contract, and that's when signatures are needed. (Also, for larger transactions, a contract is generally preferred.) Thus the whole shrink-wrap license idea is highly questionable legally, and there has been some effort by SPA types to get the UCC updated to legitimize those licenses.

    IANAL, but I apparently do have a default score of 2...:-)
  • This new license is conformant with the Open Source Definition as far as I can tell. I'll defer to the public discussion that will soon be carried out on the license-discuss mailing list, but I don't see any show-stoppers. Early discussion on the Debian-legal list has concentrated on GPL compatibility (it isn't) rather than problems in OSD conformance.

    I'm really glad to see that IBM is working with the free software community. I had the opportunity to review and comment on a few pre-public-announcement drafts of this license, and the IBM staff was very cooperative in changing the license to meet the community's needs.

    This and the Apple license are important because we are working out how the deep-pockets corporation can participate in Open Source without running rough-shod over the free software community. In both cases, problems with the licenses were aired in public forums and the corporations responded positively.


    Bruce Perens

  • Point well taken.
    I guess what I'm looking for is an official stance from OSI that states what it would like to see in free/open software licenses...
    ------------------------------------- -----
    Reveal your Source, Unleash the Power. (tm)
  • >But why would IBM want to make their products more "acceptable" to the open-source community?

    Because they want the contributions of open source developers. IBM isn't selling the software, they're selling services based on it. So getting those free open source eyeballs is a big plus; it makes the software better, and thus more competitive with non-free alternatives.

    >QT went free and open-source, yet was hated since
    it still was commercial.

    Well, QT isn't as hated as it was. But there's still discomfort at helping develop something that someone else is making money off of (as QT has both free and non-free sales). Since IBM isn't doing this directly, making the license as friendly as possible allows them to do this. QT can't make their license freer than it is without damaging their business model.
  • If you want to get people to change what they are doing, one of the most important things you can do is stop complaining once they've done what you want.

    Troll fixed the Qt license and I immediately endorsed it. I think the people who hate them can't be the same people who are making a big software contribution. GNOME and KDE are working together on various issues (and they have been for a long time, even before the license was resolved, though most people did not notice).



  • That's not a bad idea. It might be worthwhile to have an OSI memorandum stating what it considered to be open. It, though, (IMO) should be disclaimed heavily as the opinion of one group of voices in the OS community.

    Though it is not stylish to compare the OS movement to Communism, as is being discussed in another thread, there are some similarities between operating systems today and the Russian Revolution. Similarly, if one voice somehow becomes the only voice to be heard, the original ideals of the revolution will be quickly obscured by the policies (whether benevolent or not) of the single voice. While this is not a bad thing as long as that voice caters to the needs of the masses, should it cease doing so without sufficient recourse available to the people, that voice quickly degenerates into what we saw develop under the "Stalinist" period of Soviet history.

    With Open Source greetings,
  • IBM needs the patents to defend themselves against patent infrigements lawsuits. When someone claims IBM violates their patent, IBM can usually provide an array of IBM patents the other company is violating. Result: A cross-license agreement.

  • While I agree with your points, for the most part, I must point out some minor things.

    Firstly, keep in mind that most companies thrive less on actual strength than on customer perception. By defining their own OpenSource license, they put their name in the headlines: at least for us in the OSI/FreeSoftware community. (side point: how do you classify those who support both concepts?)

    Secondly, I object to stating that IBM stands as an enemy and not a friend because they file many, many software patents. While I do agree that there is a level of hypocrasy in claiming to support the OSI while filing software patents, this doesn't mean they are an enemy. There is great danger in the mentality of "if you are not with us, you are against us." The OSI is young yet, and IBM has no way of knowing if it will last -- what I see in the software patent frenzy is an attempt to create a "safety net" while cautiously supporting OSI. I suspect that as the OSI continues to gain support, IBM will become less paranoid.

    Besides, at a company that large, what else do the lawyers have to do? :P Might as well set them up writing an OSD-compatible license than writing proprietary ones, no?

    INAL, nor am I expert. Just my $0.02
    import disclaimer;

    Posted by the Proteus

  • We've been having this discussion on the Berlin mailing list because we wanted to use ILU, which is a great little Unicode library which is under the IBM Public License.

    The problem is, IBM PL and GPL don't get along, so we either have to drop ILU or forget about GPL. It's really a tough decision as so much software under Linux and other Unices is under GPL now.

    Debian folks are extremely into GPL, so anything not GPL compatible is considered non-free. I find this attitude a bit disappointing.

    I think RMS is right though, software should be open. Open software increases quality of software, development speed, and reduces lost productivity.

    I just wish GPL was a little more lax about linking against non-GPL compatible libraries so this whole mess could be avoided, because while GPL guarantees open software, it closes a lot of doors as well.

  • I haven't seen any of this on license-discuss. Either the OSI has abandoned public input on licenses before they're "branded", or IBM has put out a press release alittle early.

  • Glad to hear this.
    Just another day hearing about how OSS is becoming more of a mainstream reality...

    One concern:
    I believe that there will come a time in the very near future, if it isn't already
    time, when there will have to be some `house cleaning' in the Software Licensing
    department... There are so many out there that claim to be Free or Open... I'd like
    to see OSI officially put out a license that states that this is the license to use
    if you wish to keep it free/open...
    Maybe I'm just trying to simplify something that can't be....
    ----------------------------------------- -
    Reveal your Source, Unleash the Power. (tm)

  • by Anonymous Coward
    I'm not too knowledgable about the open-source community, and I've only started with Linux a few months ago, so forgive me if I sound stupid.

    But why would IBM want to make their products more "acceptable" to the open-source community? I mean, isn't that, to quote Pulp Fiction, "an excersize in futility"? QT went free and open-source, yet was hated since it still was commercial. And this is IBM, one of the largest corporate empires, right? If Windows goes open just for the UNIX fanatics, I'm guessing the numbers in Microsoft users will stay the same.

    So is it just me, or will this desperate move accomplish nothing, at least nothing for the general hatred of IBM?
  • Get out of the 80's.

    We hate Microsoft now, not IBM.
  • IBM has changed their OpenSource license. The new one is included in the latest experimental release of the PostFix MTA. It was reviewed by Debian IIRC.
  • > But why would IBM want to make their products
    > more "acceptable" to the open-source community?

    Because the open-source community is growing... if they have access to IBM products which are open-source, then they are more likely to buy the IBM hardware. Not to mention they could harness the power of the open-source coders.

    > QT went free and open-source, yet was hated
    > since it still was commercial.

    QT was gratis, and did release source, but under terms that not everyone liked... it didn't allow for distribution of modified source, etc, etc.. It was revised and I don't remember the outcome of the final license...

    I could release the source code for a product (and hence, open the source) yet still have a license where I would sue anyone for redistribution, modification, printing, using a single line from blah, blah, blah, and everyone would hate that.

    IBM is trying to keep this from happening to them....
  • Ehhhh....are you sure you want to vest so much power in any single group/organization that they have the power to determine a "freeness-quotient" (FQ?) of a software licence?

    It's one things for ESR and RMS (and their associated groups) to proclaim judgments, but for those people to provide official licences for use is pushing it. As I see it, the GPL is already pushing it somewhat, as it is quickly becoming the 'benchmark' OS licence. It seems that one licence won't fit every application. Look at the BSD vs. GPL fight--there are some things in the GPL that make it unacceptable for a large number of people, yet make it very appealing for another large group of people. It would be very hard to reconcile all of the different desires among the OS community.

    Besides, the holy war that would ensue during the drafting/selection process could possibly be _very_ damaging.

    Just my two bits.

  • It's my opinion that IBM wishes to make their products more acceptable to the open-source community because IBM is not the slow-moving, monolithic corporation it was, say 30 years ago, and realizes the power and flexibility of the open-source development model. IBM is, after all, concerned primarily with IBM. If open-source provides them with the means to more rapidly develop better and more marketable products, there is nothing in their philosophy to stop them from adopting it for some projects.

    Two things to watch out for in the way you're thinking:

    Don't make the mistake of equating IBM and Microsoft. While M$ has actively attempted to FUD away the open source movement, IBM has maintained an at least tenative interest and association with open software.

    Don't make the mistake of thinking that commercial != open-source. Open-source is a development model, not an end use, and there is nothing which prevents open-source software from being commercially viable and profitable. Look at Red Hat--sure you can download RH 6.0, but Red Hat still sells a lot of boxed copies of RH Linux, and even more support for RH Linux. For more on this, I recommend Eric S. Raymond's papers on the economic and social characteristics of open source which you can find here [].

    One last thing: Windows will never go open source. It would be too embarrassing.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 06, 1999 @08:18AM (#1816516)
    I really hope this license will be compatible with the other major free software licenses out there.. It is a same that all the new Open Source software out there seems to be incompatible with each other.

    I still believe that one of the pure Free Software licenses without to much restrictions or special cases should be recommended to new participants of our community. Such as the GPL - you are free to use it however you want, but please distribute it in a free manner - or Xfree (BSD without advertisement) - please don't hold us responsible if anything goes wrong but otherwise do what you like. Programmers don't like reading all these different licenses and asking laywers if the code can really be used together

    Why doesn't OSI recommend only two or three really free licenses and discourages people from invention YAPL - Yet Another Public License?
  • IBM had done quite well by free software recently. They are using both Apache and Linux as the basis for real products and have contributed to Apache in a significant way. Yes they are trying to make money, but that does not mean that they can not be part of the free software movement too.

    I think several groups within IBM have realized that they make more money selling services and pre-packaged sollutons than in boxes of software.
  • Get out of the 80's.

    We hate Microsoft now, not IBM.

    This isn't particularly responsive; the original question (which seemed honest enough, so I don't understand why you sound so peeved) concerned why the open-source community is now happier with IBM than MS, when they're both large corporations.

    The answer is that open-source advocates aren't, contrary to what is sometimes suggested, inherently anti-corporate. There are better and worse corporations, and IBM appears to be headed in the right direction. IBM has shucked their monopolistic tendencies, having produced a fine OS (OS/2) that was crushed by today's bad boys and their marketing. SO IBM now hates MS too (bonus!). Recently, they have also done a number of things that indicate they're embracing the open-source ideology and have lent support to Linux. MS has produced FUD and offered a little open-source lip-service, which suggests they think we're all idiots.

    In other words, IBM seems to have changed its ways, while MS still doesn't get it. Besides, whoever's heading IBM these days isn't the richest man in the world through selling crappy software from the market position he leveraged illegally =)

  • Who says there's a general hatred of IBM? Are you saying you hate IBM...that the Open Source community in general hates IBM?

    Desperate move? Hardly, IMO. On the contrary--it's a smart move. I doubt IBM could give a rat's a** whether or not anyone in the Linux community likes them. This would be a desperate move if they NEEDED to attact open-source types in order to survive. IBM could completely ignore the existence of Open Source and it wouldn't make too big a differnece as far as their earnings are concerned.

    I see this as smart business. Of course IBM wants to make money...but I believe their contribution to the Open Source community is valuable for a lot of reasons. Here are a couple:

    (1) Big name support behind the OSI. That's the only way we're going to get more people to use Open Source--and realize that it's a great software development model.

    (2) It gives IBM the opportunity to give back to the OSI. The contributions they can make have the potential to be very helpful...their Java compiler is WAY faster than the standard Sun compiler. We get to look at the code they contribute, and can decide if they're being helpful or not anyway.

    I'm not usually too thrilled about big companies either, but they are a fact of life. I personally think way too much time is spent whining about how terrible big companies are...if I stop and think, there are many better ways to use one's brainpower.
  • Has any thought been given to the legality of any software license (yes, M$ included)? If it doesn't have someone's signature on it, how can it be a valid contract? Will "assumed signatures" hold up in court?
  • by Anonymous Coward
    I wonder if the GPL complies with the OSD.
    If the GPL didn't exist yet and some big corporation submitted it for OSI approval, there's a good chance that you might reject it. Ever other OSS license on the planet allows linking with non-licensed code. Is the GPL a relic of the past?
  • IBM/BSD/Sun/whoever owns source code for program x. They have the right to release it with whatever license they choose. If you don't like the license it's released under, don't contribute to the project. If it's so important to you that you can't possibly stay away from it, send the company/person in question a thoughtful, well-written, non-angry email detailing your opinions and their relevance to the piece of software in question.

    If you ask me rating licenses is a non-issue.
  • The GPL is not a "relic", because it is still actively developed and modified. Keep in mind it is at one end of the spectrum, with the other being proprietary software and NDAs. Somewhere between those two extremes lies "free" software, shareware, etc.

    Secondly, the GPL has already passed OSI certification. It meets and exceeds every criteria. It is unyielding, whereas other licenses yield some (ie: the BSD-style) to allow commercial interests to make use of the code.

    It's a tradeoff that you, as the developer, must decide.

  • What would help alot more would be if IBM were to stop applying for software patents and to make plans to open its current patent portfolio freely to the public. How a company can claim to support open source on one hand and then be the largest producer of software patents in the world is, in my mind at least, ludicrous.

    Granted, IBM is a large company, and I'm sure that there are those there that are true believers in open source, but the company as a whole has actually chosen to stand as one of our enemies, not as our friend.

    We need to remember here that, as with almost all companies, IBM is interested in open source only so far as it gets them money. If IBM weren't of this opinion, they'd be using the GPL, BSD, or other similar already-in-place license, instead of choosing a license to gain some kind of additional advantage for them.

    Please, IBM, the open source community would be much better served with the elimination of software patents than it would by yet another open source license.
  • The OSD was originally written as the Debian Free Software Guidelines. It was originally meant to allow Debian to classify what belonged in its all-free system. Up until then, we'd allowed all GPL, BSD, and Artistic license software. Of course, we wrote the OSD to continue to allow that software.

    I personally think the GPL is the best open license, because it keeps the software open. Nobody can take it private and use your work without contributing to the community as you did. That's fair to the free software developer. That's why I use the GPL on my own software.


    Bruce Perens

  • Sure, implied signatures are perfectly legal - even implied contracts. For example, when you use a vending machine, there is an implied contract - you will give the owner of the machine your $0.75, and in return the owner will give you your candy bar. IANAL, but this topic was covered in a Business Law course i took.

    After all, when you buy a copy of Windows, you don't sign any contract saying you won't make copies for all your friends, but your first use of the product counts as your agreement to abide by the licensing terms.
  • First, IBM in the past 10 years has become extremely big on open standards.

    Next, IBM is not a PC only company, they make a killer Unix system and mainframes. They are very Unix-friendly company and have always been known to make quality products.

    As far as IBM making a desperate movie. They are worth 262 billion dollars. Desperation doesn't exactly enter the picture when you are pulling down 35% profit margins and 1.4 billion dollars a quarter (US billions, not UK billions).

    There is no hatred towards big companies. Microsoft is hated because of their poor quality products, unethical business tactics, and their obvious need to wipe out every software vendor on the planet by integrating their features into their OS.

  • Hell yeah. I work for a company whose main purpose is to develop innovative and valuable (and also non-free) software, and it treats the filing of patents as a defensive tactic, to help ward off lawsuits. Of course, the lawyers who file our patents get a lot of money for this. Funny how lawyers benefit on all sides of this situation. Surely a coincidence.

  • At work, they switched over to using Postfix on our mail hub, and the server load dropped dramatically. It's a large company, so the server is handling a lot of traffic; it's been very reliable.

    Perhaps more importantly, I have a lot of faith in Wietse Venema's skill at writing secure code.

    This is a real win for the free software community. (I hope IBM benefits from it, too.)
  • After all, when you buy a copy of Windows, you don't sign any contract saying you won't make copies for all your friends, but your first use of the product counts as your agreement to abide by the licensing terms.

    Using the product don't count as an agreement. I can't buy a copy of windows and legally make copies for my friends as long as I don't use it. You can't copy it no matter what you do or don't do to the box.

    Opening the box/using the sw merely gives the vendor the option of not taking it back if I try to return it.

Can anyone remember when the times were not hard, and money not scarce?