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    Here’s the thing: I don’t think you, the Open Source Initiative (OSI), or anyone else gets to single-handedly define a One True Definition of Open Source. Even if the OSI would have unambiguously coined the term Open Source (which is complicated, more on that later) then that still doesn’t mean they get to be the arbiter of all usage of it; it’s just not how language works. If trademarks can be come generic then so can neologisms such as Open Source.

    Whether you like it or not for many people – especially those not deeply invested in the entire movement – Open Source means “there is access to the source code in some way”, with varying levels of things you are and aren’t allowed to do with it. They generally don’t mean “it fits the definition according to this checklist some organisation drafted”.

    This guy wants to be able to label as “open source” software with licenses that violate OSI definition points 5 and 6 (“No Discrimination Against Persons or Groups” and “No Discrimination Against Fields of Endeavor”), so that he can promote software written by or influenced by political activists who want the cultural cachet of being involved in open-source software but who also want to discriminate against people, groups, and fields of endeavor they see as politically unacceptable. (In fact I think this about developers who specifically hate US Immigration and Customs Enforcement). I don’t want him and people who share his politics to get away with that.

    Consequently, I will be pedantic about the label “open source”. I will insist in any space where I have the power to do so that software licensed under terms that discriminate against people, groups or fields of endeavor is not open source software.

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      In fact I think this about developers who specifically hate US Immigration and Customs Enforcement

      No, it’s not. You may surprised to learn that not the entire world is obsessed the political situation in the United States.

      Most the discussions about this revolve around “almost Open Source” licenses – such as the Business Source License, Commons Clause, Reciprocal License, etc. – which restrict various commercial usage to protect the interests and long-term financial viability of the original author(s).

      I don’t care much for the Hippocratic License as I feel it’s too ambiguous and unworkable in practice, although I don’t really mind if people call this “Open Source”.

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        I will insist in any space where I have the power to do so that software licensed under terms that discriminate against people, groups or fields of endeavor is not open source software.

        Seconded. I swear I will do this as well, here on Lobsters and on Hacker News and on Reddit. I already do anyway, but I heard public proclamation is also valuable.

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          There’s good reason that in the list of Four Freedoms, “The freedom to run the program as you wish, for any purpose” is Freedom Zero: it’s the foundational freedom that the others build on (also the authors didn’t realise it needed to be made explicit until after they’d written Freedoms 1-3). The Open Source Definition is the Debian Free Software Guidelines with the word “Debian” replaced, so it’s unsurprising that “the freedom to run the program as you wish, for any purpose” should be foundational to Open Source, and I stand with you in asserting that.

          The original blog post stands in a history that was initiated by the OSI. In wanting to downplay the tricky, political and social aspects of Free Software (and the tricky, homophonic resonances with No Money) they created a term that could be associated with existing business/technology terms like Open Systems and carried none of the political connotations. This opened up the possibility for making arguments that are, accidentally or deliberately, about promoting open source for a particular line of business independent of or even contrary to the social aims.

          Where I agree with this blogger is that the OSI don’t have the authority to dictate how the phrase “Open Source” is used, because they didn’t trademark it. This is a bug, not a feature. Where the Copyleft idea subverted the intended protections of copyright, the FLOSS communities have been unable to do the same with trademark protection and have explicitly avoided trying the same with patent protection.

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          A few days ago, someone who was (probably) using my software was annoying me, and I thought to myself “What can I do as the author of this software, to get back at him”. But then I realized, that it is exactly the vice of free software (or “open source” if you insist) that I have no way of excerpting my power over this user, beyond deluding, manipulating of lying.

          I argue that this has to be kept in mind as a critical factor when talking about software licenses: “How can the author/owner exercise [power] over me?”. From simple things such as breaking my workflow by changing the UI, or preventing my from using the software, for personal or political reasons. As long as I don’t have the last word, I am at the mercy of someone else’s good will.

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          I get where the author is coming from, but I think there’s merit in trying to protect the term against watering down. Otherwise you might get people coming away with the idea that open source is good for various reasons, so therefore this-thing-that’s-not-really-open-source-but-calls-itself-that is equally good. It depends a lot on what one finds the most important part about open source, and that’s pretty personal.

          I expect certain things of an open source license, and if that turns out not to be the case, I am sorely disappointed. I would even say I feel deceived, and that’s the probably the reason people act so fiercely against such misuses of the word. We’ve had the OSI definition for 20 or so years now and it’s become standard enough that uses with a different meaning become suspect.

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            I think the thing is that the ship has kinda already sailed. A lot of developers I’ve worked with don’t really know “Open Source” as more than “the source is available”; those people typically also understand “Free Software” as “it’s free”, by the way. Places like Hacker News and Lobsters consist of a pretty biased set of people when it comes to these kind of things.

            It just seems like a lost battle to me, and also one of (the many) communication failures of the Free Software/Open Source world. This article was kind of split off from a longer article I’ve been writing about that (these things take forever to finish!) but in short I feel that the entire effort would be much more usefully rephrased as “Right to Repair”. This won’t cover the “you can always distribute the program without restrictions”-freedom but I don’t think that’s actually all that important, never mind that it goes against our entire economic model (you could argue that our economic model isn’t a very good one, but you can’t change the world all at once).

            I also don’t like telling other people what to do – and like even less being told what to do – I wouldn’t mind so much if people said stuff like “hey, a lot of people understand Open Source as such-and-such, and it may avoid confusion if you don’t use it in a different way”, but a lot of the times I see people being abrasive, challenging, assuming all sorts of weird intent, and generally just being assholes over it (I wish I had bookmarked some of the discussions). So this kind of stuff rubs me the wrong way on account of that, too.

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              You probably see people being “abrasive” because they’ve worked on open source in part because of a specific meaning of the term, so to see people arguing to water down the concept to include things that are against the spirit and known definition of open source is frustrating. And many of the people / organizations pushing alternative definitions are ones that are trying to co-opt the understood definition of open source for purposes that are not aligned with the majority of open source proponents.

              Let people who aren’t aligned with the OSI definition come up with their own terms and spend the 20 years or so that others have spent making open source popular, rather than co-opt a term that already has goodwill and acceptance.

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                A lot of developers I’ve worked with don’t really know “Open Source” as more than “the source is available”; those people typically also understand “Free Software” as “it’s free”, by the way.

                The irony is so rich here considering that ostensibly the term “open source” was created specifically to counter that misconception about “free software”.

                Of course in actuality it was promoted to appropriate hacker culture to strip it of its political meaning and turn it into corporate-friendly free labor, so seeing it turn out this way is kind of sweet, in a way.

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                  a lot of the times I see people being abrasive, challenging, assuming all sorts of weird intent, and generally just being assholes over it

                  That’s just nerds being nerds. It’s sad, but the tech scene includes many people who lack any sort of empathy or social graces, or who have grown so bitter that they don’t care anymore. A more charitable way of explaining it would be to say they’re just young, idealistic and have the energy to try to convince people on the internet of their beliefs. These folks also tend to be so loud that they drown out more sensible voices.

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                    I see plenty of people being abrasive, challenging, and generally being assholes over all sorts of issues, including ones I strongly support and ones I strongly oppose. And I don’t trust people not to let their object-level opinions of politicized issues affect their judgment about whether people with a strong opinion on that issue are assholes or not. So I don’t even consider whether the supporters of some issue who I happen to see are assholes or not, when I decide what my own opinion is about that issue.

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                      I feel that that is the most healthy way to deal with this stuff. Yet I also understand that a bad attitude will turn some people off an otherwise good idea.

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                You say “pedantic”, I say “precise”. You can argue that language means whatever you want it to, but it is genuinely helpful to have a common set of agreed-upon terms.

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                  I agree! Very pragmatic. So, if I want to be precise, I’ll just point directly to the OSI definition, rather than pretend that it’s the only possible (or meaningful) one. A statement along the lines of “that’s not what OSI means by Open Source” is likely to go farther in conversation than “that’s not real Open Source”.

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                  Hmm, I don’t like terms being redefined out from under me, but I also don’t mind the JSON license.

                  It’s a bit sad the “not evil” line was probably intended to give individuals encouragement and throw a wrench into the corporate acquisition machine, but if anything big corps don’t give a damn (these licenses pretty much never get enforced) and individuals get this FUD about open source vs free software vs libre vs &c &c.

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                    Do you imagine that anyone, anywhere, ever, has thought “oh, I guess I can’t use JSON for this project, it’s too evil”? It’s really hard for me to imagine the intent as anything other than slightly quirky dark humor.

                    Like, maybe that’s where protobufs really came from? Deep in the bowels of the Don’t Be Evil Company, a new protocol of unprecedented wickedness was forged…