What is "open source"? reading list

In several sessions, folks have debated how open is open. In the Signal group and elsewhere, some links have been shared. Please add more below with your thoughts to respond!

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Richard Stallman makes me want to :face_vomiting: almost as much as ESR, but I do think there’s a lot of merit to his point about “free software” as opposed to “open source”. And I might note, while I’m on the topic, that “open source” was in fact coined Eric S. Raymond himself, b/c he thought “free software” was too social justice-y I guess.

So yea, I am more inclined to label the software I work on as “free” (as in “free speech” not “free pizza”) or libre, or if I’m strictly referring to the license then as “copyleft”; I still use “open” when I’m careless or worry the other terms will be misconstrued, but try to avoid it.

Insofar as what “free” software means, I defer to the “Four Essential Freedoms” outlined by GNU, which are the best place to start imo:

However, as I’ve been diving deeper into more cooperative ideas about software development and licensing, I’ve come to think more critically about even this more deliberately political stance, which still does tend to skew a bit right-libertarian. There have been some interesting critiques from more left-libertarian folks (ya know, like, anarchists) and Marxists alike on this front, a lot of which bubbled up after the big Mozilla lay-offs in 2020 that shook people’s faith in what these kinds of approaches could achieve, most notably this polemic and its retorts:

But there’s been a growing body of criticism like this for years now, starting at least as far back as Dmytri Kleiner’s “copyFARleft” Peer Production License, which he included in his 2010 book The Telekommunist Manifesto, followed up by similar “copyfair” licenses, which Michel Bauwens and the P2P Foundation have been vocally promoting:



And of course there’s now an awesome-copyfarleft repo on GitHub, too, including the explicitly “Anti-Capitalist Software License” which I noticed recently a food pantry software project out of Colorado was using:

Then going more explicitly into cooperativist movements, there have been some really interesting work by CoopCycle in France, Kat Marchán (aka, zkat) and others working on platform coops:

At the end of the day, however, I think the GNU Public License (GPL) or close variants of it are the most tried and tested licenses, so for purely legal reasons I’m not inclined to use these other licenses just yet, but it’s really great to see this kind of dialogue and experimentation taking place.

All the licenses and many of the links I shared above do only pertain, after all, once you show up in court, so I think it’s really important to explore other means of stewarding this work and making it “open” that are not strictly legal.

oops maybe I should have said “not strictly litigious” but hey you do you. ¯_(ツ)_/¯