[Linux-aus] Who defines Open Source?

Del del at babel.com.au
Wed Feb 8 07:46:01 UTC 2006

> Question: Who is responsible for defining what Open Source actually is? 
> Following from that, are the OSI the only organisation capable of 
> determining whether or not a licence is Open Source?

Currently that is the case.  Recently, however, for various reasons (one
or more of which may include torpidity) OSI have not approved or declined
any more licenses.  However until some other organisation steps up and
assumes the mantle of recognising open source licenses then OSI are the

The debian-legal folks have always had their own definitions, which differ
slightly from the OSI definitions.  In any case I would personally object
to any product-associated team defining what is Open Source and what is not
-- for example, what if the debian-legal team just arbitrarily decided that
anything packaged in a competing distribution was not Open Source, for their
own personal reasons?  I note that the debian-legal team do not allow a right
of appeal from their decisions:

   Q: I've flouted your advice and written a new license. I strongly believe
   that it conforms to the DFSG and is a free software license. People on
   debian-legal don't seem to agree though. They give explanations for
   their decision which I find completely unconvincing. I keep trying to
   explain the flaws in their reasoning to them, but to no avail. Is there
   any way for me to compel Debian to accept that my license is free?

   A: No.

> Essentially, I'm trying to determine who (or what) determines whether or 
> not a licence is Open Source or not.

Currently the OSIA have adopted the principle that an OSI approved Open
Source license is what defines Open Source, although that is of course up
to debate -- more so in the absence of any activity from OSI.  I'm not
sure that LA have their own principles on this or not, although I'm aware
that LA is a "Linux" body and not an "Open Source" body.

http://www.opensource.org.au/ contains some pointers to other bodies (OSEG,
etc) although I'm not exactly sure who they are.

http://www.opensource.org.au/ points back to OSI for "detailed descriptions
of the various FOSS licences", lending credence to the statement that OSI
is currently the only body doing this.

http://www.opensource.org/docs/definition.php contains the Open Source
definition.  If you could prove in a court of law that your software license
conformed to that definition then it would be a difficult task for any
organisation (OSI, OSIA, LA, whoever) to decline your license as Open
Source and retain any semblance of creditability.


More information about the linux-aus mailing list