Different licensing models have left customers confused and vendors squabbling over the definition of open source.
Posted May 18, 2007
Open source software users must demand the right to modify and redistribute the software code and the resulting products, as vendors start to fight over the true meaning, purpose and spirit of open source, according to a recent Gartner study. In the report, Brian Prentice, research director, and Mark Driver, research vice president, say members of the open source software community are concerned about the role that vendors are playing in supplying and supporting open source software.
"Vendors increasingly want to tweak the meaning of open source to include, for example, attribution licensing, which says the user can modify and redistribute the software and make derivative versions based on it only if they give the author credit," Prentice says. "But open source is simply a licensing agreement that allows unfettered modification and redistribution of software code. In fact, it is both a key sign of a healthy open source community and a key benefit to users."
According to Driver and Prentice, the current debate among open source vendors is about reconciling an inherent incompatibility. "The incompatibility is not with the commercialization of open source software, but rather between open source and traditional industry business models designed to achieve single-vendor dominance of products or technical standards," Prentice says.
This incompatibility is also being driven by the literally hundreds of different licensing models under which vendors operate. If licenses aren't compatible with each other, componentizing open-source functionality becomes increasingly difficult. "Just because it's free doesn't mean you can always just deploy it any way you want," Prentice says. "The community as a whole is moving towards a more streamlined licensing situation that will allow for higher interoperability and then basically just less headaches when it comes to deploying a hybrid situation where it's proprietary/open source or varied open source projects."
Prentice says open source software users that the uncertainty around vendors' claims would make sourcing and architectural decisions for open source software more difficult. To mitigate this problem, users should demand a strict definition of open source linked to the modification and redistribution of code and products when consulting a vendor, which are significant benefits of the open source model.
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