Open source is an approach to the design, development, and distribution of software, offering practical accessibility to a software’s source code. Some consider open source as one of various possible design approaches, while others consider it a critical strategic element of their operations.
Software development costs in organizations have been touted as being approximately 15% of total costs. This indicates that the value of one over another development methodology is more of a marketing decision as much as it is about the design of software.
The concept of open source and free sharing of technological information has existed long before computers existed. In the early years of automobile development, a group of capital monopolists owned the rights to a 2 cycle gasoline engine patent originally filed by George B. Selden. By controlling this patent, they were able to monopolize the industry and force car manufacturers to adhere to their demands, or risk a lawsuit.
Microsoft case: Now we skip ahead to May 18, 1998, United States v. Microsoft . The plaintiffs alleged that Microsoft abused monopoly power on Intel-based personal computers in its handling of operating system sales and web browser sales. The issue central to the case was whether Microsoft was allowed to bundle its flagship Internet Explorer (IE) web browser software with its Microsoft Windows operating system.
In 1911, independent automaker Henry Ford won a challenge to the Selden patent. The result was that the Selden patent became virtually worthless and a new association (which would eventually become the Motor Vehicle Manufacturers Association) was formed. The new association instituted a cross-licensing agreement among all US auto manufacturers: although each company would develop technology and file patents, these patents were shared openly and without the exchange of money between all the manufacturers.
Participants in the open source community can modify products and redistribute them back into the community or other organizations. You can however take open source products and redistribute them for sale, but your product will no longer be considered open source. A good example of this Red Hat Linux which took the free Linux distribution and created a Linux distribution produced by Red Hat and targeted it toward the commercial market. The main value of Red Hat Enterprise Linux and why they charge for their product is that it adds a warranty and technical support for up to seven years after the product release date.
Open source doesn’t just mean access to the source code.
The distribution terms of open-source software must comply with the following criteria:
1. Free Redistribution
The license shall not restrict any party from selling or giving away the software as a component of an aggregate software distribution containing programs from several different sources. The license shall not require a royalty or other fee for such sale.
2. Source Code
The program must include source code, and must allow distribution in source code as well as compiled form. Where some form of a product is not distributed with source code, there must be a well-publicized means of obtaining the source code for no more than a reasonable reproduction cost preferably, downloading via the Internet without charge. The source code must be the preferred form in which a programmer would modify the program. Deliberately obfuscated source code is not allowed. Intermediate forms such as the output of a preprocessor or translator are not allowed.
3. Derived Works
The license must allow modifications and derived works, and must allow them to be distributed under the same terms as the license of the original software.
4. Integrity of The Author’s Source Code
The license may restrict source-code from being distributed in modified form only if the license allows the distribution of “patch files” with the source code for the purpose of modifying the program at build time. The license must explicitly permit distribution of software built from modified source code. The license may require derived works to carry a different name or version number from the original software.
5. No Discrimination Against Persons or Groups
The license must not discriminate against any person or group of persons.
6. No Discrimination Against Fields of Endeavor
The license must not restrict anyone from making use of the program in a specific field of endeavor. For example, it may not restrict the program from being used in a business, or from being used for genetic research.
7. Distribution of License
The rights attached to the program must apply to all to whom the program is redistributed without the need for execution of an additional license by those parties.
8. License Must Not Be Specific to a Product
The rights attached to the program must not depend on the program’s being part of a particular software distribution. If the program is extracted from that distribution and used or distributed within the terms of the program’s license, all parties to whom the program is redistributed should have the same rights as those that are granted in conjunction with the original software distribution.
9. License Must Not Restrict Other Software
The license must not place restrictions on other software that is distributed along with the licensed software. For example, the license must not insist that all other programs distributed on the same medium must be open-source software.
10. License Must Be Technology-Neutral
No provision of the license may be predicated on any individual technology or style of interface.
Fake Open Source Products:
Although the OSI definition of “open source software” is widely accepted, a small number of people and organizations use the term to refer to software where the source is available for viewing, but which may not legally be modified or redistributed. Such software is more often referred to as source-available, or as shared source, a term coined by Microsoft.
Another example is Scilab which calls itself “the open source platform for numerical computation but has a license that forbids commercial redistribution of modified versions. Because OSI does not have a registered trademark for the term “open source”, its legal ability to prevent such usage of the term is limited, but Tiemann advocates using public opinion from OSI, customers, and community members to pressure such organizations to change their license or to use a different term.
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