I am the son of an anchorman. I am a First Amendment guy. In a statement after Diana’s death, I said the only thing worse than out-of-control photographers with no sense of conscience would be trying to restrict them. You can’t restrict freedom of speech or the press, even if it is miserable.
— George Clooney quoted in TIME
George Clooney’s quote is reflective of an opinion I expressed last month, which can be read to say that the only thing worse than approving licenses submitted by companies who have been abusive toward open source would be to arbitrarily attempt to restrict them from competing as open source companies. In the same way that George Clooney is a First Amendment guy, I am an Open Source Definition guy, and the fact that Microsoft was willing to draft new licenses with the goal of OSD compliance, submit to our process, participate in our discussion, make changes in response to those discussions, and then ask for an up-or-down vote gives us a new understanding of the power of Open Source.
So now the OSI has approved two Microsoft licenses. Is this the beginning of the end? Or is this the end of the beginning? I know that the eyes of the technology world will be on the OSI and on Microsoft to see what happens next. If, as some fear, the approval of these licenses ends up damaging open source, perhaps we will learn of some 11th condition or some change to the 10 that must be made to better preserve the integrity of what we call open source. Neither the First Amendment alone, nor the original 10 Amendments known as the Bill Of Rights were sufficient to establish a government truly of the people, by the people, for the people (and some would say we still have a ways to go), so why should we expect that after less than 10 years, the OSD will contain everything there is to know about promoting and protecting open source?
Nevertheless, I believe that what the approval means is that first and foremost we (the OSI Board and the open source community) broadly accept that the OSD is sufficiently robust to promote the progress of open source and to protect it. Today it is progress that Microsoft has endured the rite of passage of having their licenses approved. But vigilance is required: the license proliferation problem remains a challenge, and we implore not only Microsoft but every license steward to consider how to best consolidate and harmonize licensing language so that the network effect of open source is maximized. That will be a challenge for another day.