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From Simon Kitching <skitch...@apache.org>
Subject RE: IBM and Apache
Date Tue, 19 Jul 2005 23:22:34 GMT

One thing that I think has gone unmentioned in this discussion (perhaps
because many of us consider it too obvious) is that this is not just a
discussion about the letter of the law.

The free and open source software movement is an ethical movement as
well as a technical one. So the goal is not just to keep to the letter
of the various open-source definitions and licenses but to their spirits
as well.

Suppose an ethical investment fund's managers were to realise that while
they were prohibited from investing in tobacco they weren't
*technically* prohibited from investing in land then leasing that land
back to tobacco farmers. The fact that they *could* do such a thing
doesn't mean it would be wise or ethical for them to do so.

The exact ethical stand of the ASF as a whole is probably not tightly
defined, but I think a significant number of current ASF members and
committers would view the ASF as a place where shared development of
software occurs *with the goal of making that software freely reusable
by any person in any manner*. And I don't believe that producing
software which requires the creators of derived products to sign license
agreements with various corporations fits with that ethical goal.

I don't mean that producing such software is inherently evil. But I do
believe there is a difference between what many members of the ASF want
Apache to be and what many large corporations want Apache to be (or to
become). If apache stays true to the former then there may be some
specifications whose freely-available (I won't say open-source)
implementations have to be developed somewhere other than at the ASF. If
the latter, then the ASF may lose some members and some respect within
the wider open-source community.

The most frustrating part of all is that this debate is completely
irrelevant for places where software patents are not applicable. I find
it a shame to be arguing against the implementation of certain
specifications because they cause unreasonable burdens on developers in
the USA and Australia (anywhere else??) when such code is entirely
burden-free in my country as any Microsoft or IBM or other patents are
not valid here -- well, at least not yet!

The nicest solution, however, to this issue is to persuade the
specification-issuing bodies to ensure that all contributors to their
specs provide patent license that generally behave like copyright, ie do
not need to be "executed" (is that the right term?) for derived works.



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