Open Source Initiative blogs

  • The SSPL is Not an Open Source License

    We’ve seen that several companies have abandoned their original dedication to the open source community by switching their core products from an open source license, one approved by the Open Source Initiative, to a “fauxpen” source license. The hallmark of a fauxpen source license is that those who made the switch claim that their product continues to remain “open” under the new license, but the new license actually has taken away user rights.


    The license du jour is the Server Side Public License. This license was submitted to the Open Source Initiative for approval but later withdrawn by the license steward when it became clear that the license would not be approved.


    Open source licenses are the foundation for the open source software ecosystem, a system that fosters and facilitates the collaborative development of software. Fauxpen source licenses allow a user to view the source code but do not allow other highly important rights protected by the Open Source Definition, such as the right to make use of the program for any field of endeavor. By design, and as explained by the most recent adopter, Elastic, in a post it unironically titled “Doubling Down on Open,” Elastic says that it now can “restrict cloud service providers from offering our software as a service” in violation of OSD6. Elastic didn’t double down, it threw its cards in.


    And the software commons are now poorer for it. The Elastic projects were offered under the Apache license. Outside contributors donated time and energy with the understanding that their work was going towards the greater good, the public software commons. Now, instead, their contributions are embedded in a proprietary product. If they want to enjoy the fruits of their own and their co-contributors’ labor, they have to agree to a proprietary license or fork.


    This is not to say that Elastic, or any company, shouldn’t adopt whatever license is appropriate for its own business needs. That may be a proprietary license, whether closed source or with source available. The Open Source Initiative strongly believes that the open source development model is the better way to develop software and results in a superior product. But we also recognize that it is not the right choice for everyone in all cases. A company may find that its business needs and direction have changed over time, such that the original license choice is interfering with their business model. A switch may be the right choice. 


    But Elastic’s relicensing is not evidence of any failure of the open source licensing model or a gap in open source licenses. It is simply that Elastic’s current business model is inconsistent with what open source licenses are designed to do. Its current business desires are what proprietary licenses (which includes source available) are designed for.


    What a company may not do is claim or imply that software under a license that has not been approved by the Open Source Initiative, much less a license that does not meet the Open Source Definition, is open source software. It’s deception, plain and simple, to claim that the software has all the benefits and promises of open source when it does not.

  • LCA: Catch Talks by OSI Staff and Community (aka LCA) is a lovely community conference based in Australasia that will be entering its 22nd year in 2021. The volunteer-run event is known for getting deeply technical on topics varying from the inner workings of the Linux kernel to the inner workings of dealing with communities. This year's event takes place on January 23rd - 25th and is accessible is digital and accessible to everyone, whether you live "down under" or not.
    Our General Manager, Deb Nicholson will be presenting on how to build and maintain kinder, gentler and more sustainable open source communities in her talk, "Move Slow and Try Not to Break Each Other."  on Sunday at 11:40am.
    Neil McGovern, the Executive Director of GNOME (an OSI Affiliate member) will be talking about GNOME's game-changing 2020 patent settlement, which we spoke about last year, "Celebrating GNOME's Patent Settlement. His talk "Patently Obvious - The year that lawyers came to FOSS" goes into all the details and will be streamed on Monday at 4:40pm. 
    Another Executive Director at another one of our fine affiliated projects, Software Freedom Conservancy, will also be presenting. Karen Sandler will be looking back at "Ten Years of Outreachy!" a Conservancy project dedicated to provided paid internships for folks form under-represented groups to work on FOSS. Her talk is on Sunday at 10:45am.
    And finally, OSI Board alumni Molly de Blanc will be talking about her academic work in her presentation on technology and ethics, "Introduction to Ethics from an Ethicist-in-Training." Her talk is on Monday at 10:45am.
    Please note: the conference will be run in the Australian Eastern Daylight Time (AEDT - UTC+11) timezone.

  • Facebook’s Visdom Project is now Open Source and Transitioned to OSI Affiliate FOSSASIA

    OSI Affiliate FOSSASIA welcomes the Visdom data visualization project. The project has been developed at Facebook AI Research since 2017. As part of the transition from Facebook to FOSSASIA Visdom has been relicensed under an OSI approved license - the Apache License 2.0 as fully Open Source. This is a fantastic win for the FOSS community. Visdom is now available on the FOSSASIA GitHub.

    Visdom is a flexible tool for creating, organizing, and sharing visualizations of live, rich data. It aims to facilitate visualization of (remote) data with an emphasis on supporting scientific experimentation. It supports PyTorch and Numpy. The project was created by Allan Jabri and Laurens van der Maaten at Facebook, and further developed under the leadership of Jack Urbanek. To date, 90 developers from around the world have contributed to the project with over 3000 projects depending on Visdom. 

    Hong Phuc Dang, OSI vice president and FOSSASIA founder says: 

    I am very happy about Facebook’s decision to license Visdom as Open Source and to transition it to FOSSASIA. We will continue the development of Visdom in cooperation with the developer and user community. We already discussed lots of ideas to move forward on an exciting roadmap with the core team and adding it to FOSSASIA’s Pocket Science Lab applications. We are looking forward to the input and involvement of the community to bring the project to the next level.

    Special thanks to the Visdom development team and Joe Spisak whose role was essential in making this transition happen as well as to Mario Behling for leading the transition team at FOSSASIA.

    More details about the next steps of the project are available on FOSSASIA’s blog here.

  • State of the Source Presentations Available to Watch

    Did you miss State of the Source? Not to worry we have you covered! Presentations from our first ever world wide summit are available to view on our Youtube channel. You can find six videos from our State of the Source Summit on Youtube to watch whenever you like!

    “The critical importance of use-neutrality in F/OSS licensing” presented by Roland Turner. Roland outlines why embedding exclusionary "ethical use" obligations in F/OSS licenses seems like a great idea, however it undermines both the freedom objectives of Free Software and the inclusiveness objectives of Open Source Software. Then he details what harm expanding the Open Source Definition to support it would do, and what cooperation between F/OSS and exclusionary communities might be possible.


    “GPL Exceptions: Filling the Spaces between GPL, LGPL and permissive licenses” presented by Karen M Sandler and Bradley M Kuhn. In this talk, Kuhn and Sandler will introduce the general idea of GPL exceptions and how they work to carve out the spectrum of licensing between the GPL, LGPL, and the highly permissive licenses. Specifically, Kuhn and Sandler will cover in detail the GCC Runtime Library Exception, which they both helped draft. They will also discuss the AGPLv3 Web Template Output Additional Permission, which was published by Conservancy initially for use by the Houdini project.


    “Open collaboration successes and hard lessons: Practical lessons from 10 years of Eclipse Working Groups” presented by Gaël Blondelle. Open Source is an enabler for collaboration! Easier said than done. In 2010, Airbus reached out to the Eclipse Foundation with an idea: Could they replicate our established governance in their own domain? This inspired a new concept: Eclipse Working Groups. Since then, we have created more than 15 working groups. Along the way, we have learned from each of them, identified different kinds of collaborations, and experienced outstanding successes as well as frustrating failures. 


    “Lightning Talks Round One”. 5 minute lighting talks from a variety of different presenters. In Round One you’ll hear from Jomar Silva: Challenges to revamp the Open Source Communities in Brazil. Javier Perez: Time to Spell Out the Open Source Software for Mainframes. Christina Hupy, PhD: Open source: A Unique Opportunity for Career Development in Underrepresented and Underserved Populations Entering the Tech Industry. Stephen Jacobs: Open@RIT a University Open Programs Office. Alyssa Wright: Publish or Perish Your Open Source: When Academia partners with companies to sustain Open Source. A John Hopkins case study. Robert Jacobi: Create to Stop Churn * Jim Hall: Why Linux only has 16 colors. Deb Goodkin: FreeBSD - A Model for Code, Community, and Collaboration. Brian Douglas: Path to Open Source Contributions and “Lightning Talks Round Two”. In Round Two you’ll hear from Kevin Kovadia: How to measure open source score. Jose Manrique Lopez: Open Source Program Office to help on open source sustainability. Panos Kalorogiannis: Code Software, Choose the License Wisely. Shodipo Ayomide: Design from the dimension of open-source. Alexander Sander: Public Money Public Code – Global problems need global solutions! Ruth Ikegah: A Beginner-Inclusive Approach to Open Source. Emmanuel Nwolisa: Free Open Source software movement in Africa and beyond.


    “Closing Session of State of the Source 2020”. Join us for closing remarks, lessons learned, and shout outs to all the amazing individuals that made this event possible.


    Thank you to our Video Recordings Sponsor eng@salesforce!

  • Released: Report on Our Member Survey

    This year, OSI Board member Elana Hashman began a project to survey OSI's stakeholders. This was the first time in our history that we have formally surveyed people in our community. Some of the results were surprising and some were expected, but on the whole, the participants we spoke with want to see OSI do "more." Let's take a look at some of the highlights.

    Who did we talk to?

    Hashman conducted 58 interviews with current, past, and prospective OSI members. Our goal was to find out what open source practioners who aren't already significantly involved with OSI are interested in as well as talking to our long-time supporters. We asked questions to better understand our audience, how they view us and what they'd like to see us undertake in the near future. In addition to the membership survey, we are also working to survey other OSI stakeholders, such as sponsors and policy organizations, in order to make recommendations to the board and inform long-term planning efforts.

    Elana Hashman, OSI Board Director said, "I'm very excited to present the report for the OSI's first members survey. As the Membership Committee Chair, I think it is crucial to seek input from our members in order to ensure that the OSI's strategy is informed and representative. Participants have put many hours into sharing their thoughts on how they view the OSI and how we can improve the organization, and I am so appreciative of the community's thoughtful responses and contributions."

    Response rates:
    7% of our members participated
    10% of our affiliates participated

    Who's in our community?

    35% of respondents belonged to an underrepresented group, 10% worked in an open source programs office, 8% were students










    What do people think about us?

    People give the OSI feedback all the time -- both positive and sometimes negative -- but we mostly hear from people when they are really excited or really frustrated. We hoped to get sense of what people think of our work when they are considering us in the larger landscape of open source advocacy organizations.

    "The vast majority of survey participants define the OSI’s core mission as stewarding the Open
    Source Definition. This includes maintaining a list of open source licenses, advocating for and
    raising awareness of open source, bridging a wide variety of open source participants, providing
    common resources on the topic of open source, educating the public on the meaning of open
    source, and fostering a diverse and inclusive open source community." excerpted from the report.

    What is the role of OSI?

    Maintaining the Open Source Definition or “OSD” (58%) Maintaining the approved list of open source licenses (76%)







    What would people like to see us do in the future?

    We know that our members value our core actvities; we also wanted to hear their opinions about current or potential  partnerships and endorsements. We asked a number of questions about activities we could expand or things that stakeholders wished we would do more of or other resources people thought we could provide.

    Nearly 1 in 4 respondents explicitly called upon the OSI to show leadership in driving diversity
    and inclusion in the open source community

    People had many, many suggestions on ways that the OSI could build on its core work, including but not limited to:

    •     Providing more educational resources
    •     Showcasing best practices for open source
    •     Helping define good open source citizenship
    •     Developing legal resources for projects beyond licenses
    •     Lead more discussions in the open source ecosystem.
    •     Enable cross-pollination between projects and foundations

    Want more? Read the whole report!

    Thanks to everyone who participated in the membership survey -- we are really grateful for all the time you took to share your thoughtful reflections and informed opinions. Over the course of this year, the OSI Board is is surveying members and other stakeholders, looking at the organization's slate of activities and building a strategic plan to become more impactful and data driven in service of our mission to promote open source and provide resources for open source practitioners. The full report is available here or you can email us for a copy.

    Interested in becoming a member or renewing your membership today? You can do that right here.