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Lack of leadership in open source results in source-available licenses (techcrunch.com)
263 points by ihsoj 4 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 229 comments



> "It hijacks open-source APIs and places them on top of its own proprietary solutions, thereby siphoning off customers from the open-source project to its own proprietary solution, as it did with the MongoDB APIs."

Basically, there is no such thing as an "Open Source API". APIs are not software, and we've already seen the damage that treating APIs as software (for copyright purposes) can do.

The proper abstraction for APIs (and protocols, and file-formats, etc.) is the standard, which ideally admits the possibility of multiple interoperable implementations, both proprietary and open source (patents being the joker in the deck, unfortunately).


It's certainly an interesting point of view. Take something that's commercial, for example, like Microsoft's docx format. If Open Office/Libre Office implements support for docx, is it hijacking proprietary formats, and siphoning customers off of proprietary projects? (edit: as it has been pointed out, .docx is a bad example, because it was standardized, but the point stands, I believe.)

I hate that this stuff hits HN front page. It worries me that we're developing a culture where I as an individual must adhere to some moral framework when writing code, lest I violate some social open source norms. To me, this is deeply poisonous to the spirit of open source.


".docx is a bad example, because it was standardized"

This is not 100% correct. A large part of the format is standardized in ECMA-376 and ISO/IEC 29500, but many details are implementation-dependent. Many of those details are covered under other specifications like [MS-DOCX] that are covered by a covenant not to sue, but other details are not covered and are therefore in murky legal territory.

[MS-DOCX] https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/openspecs/office_standards/...


Ah, just another reason this example was not very good. It’s a complicated one.


> It worries me that we're developing a culture where I as an individual must adhere to some moral framework when writing code, lest I violate some social open source norms. To me, this is deeply poisonous to the spirit of open source.

Every culture or community has norms, and many of those norms generalize to universal moral principles, like: participate fairly in a community, not exploit it.

"Spirit of Open Source" isn't something defined entirely in the phrase of "open source". It's an idea that gets defeated by actions of some larger players today, hence the outrage (and an opportunity to remind people yet again, that RMS was right about this).


My take on "Spirit of Open Source" is basically: (1) I need this software, (2) I wrote this software and it has satisfied my needs, (3) I'm a nice guy so anyone else who wants to use this can use it free of any requirements whatsoever. Hence I use the MIT license.

I don't care if Amazon or Facebook gets rich off of it. I don't care if Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton get elected based on it. I don't care if the Russians use it. It's a tool, and like a hammer can be used for good or ill, and I disclaim all responsibility for what stupid people do with it. I don't care if somebody forks it and 99% of people start using the fork instead of my original. All I care is that I got what I wanted out of it, I hope perhaps that some other people use it so that they can help contribute and maintain it, and perhaps I'm hoping for a tiny bit of respect and recognition. My expectations are grounded and realistic: very few people will likely use it; I don't have a hope in hell of either making money off of it or of changing the world because of it. And I'm completely satisfied with that. In fact I'm more than satisfied, I feel wonderful because millions of other people are doing the same things with their software and just about anything I could possibly want is out there somewhere. Hence a sense of community and of good will.

Others folks (such as the author of the article) have different "spirits" most of which I find distasteful, including those who have a stick up their arse about big orporations and want to add restrictions about commercial use or about derivative works, those who think their software is God's gift to the world and they thus deserve something for it, those who want to control what others are allowed to do, those who want to change the basic ways that the world works, and those who come from a place of greed and regret. I don't share in any of that outrage, not even a little bit, and so this article (to me at least) is complete rubbish.


No offense to you personally, but I find the opinions you expressed to be naive and self-centered. The open source software you're releasing (scratch-an-itch software) is much different from open source software that we all use, which requires people working together with the goal of building something impactful. Most open source requires effort from many people for development, testing, management, and maintenance, and requires sustained work on it over a long period of time. If everyone had your attitude, it's unlikely that open source would exist as it does today. No Linux, LibreOffice, VLC Player, or even matplotlib, D3.js, Firefox, Tor, or even wget.

People do often do open source to build a reputation, or to be able to push their vision, and both of those motivations should be encouraged. Furthermore, the attitude of "I built the technology and it's not my problem if people use it maliciously" is dangerous.


What’s really interesting for me is that you really seem to have a disgust for people trying to add restrictions to “open source” software with the goal of keeping it open but seem to be totally fine with for profit enterprises adding restrictions to software and services, often trying to extract as much value as possible out of you. Doesn’t that seem to be somewhat of an arbitrary double standard?

Why can’t or shouldn’t the “Spirit of Open Source” be able to include exactly the things that you complain about? I would love to hear your grounding for your position :)


Adding restrictions to "keep it open" is oxymoronic. Folks can do whatever they want with their software licensing, but please don't deceive people by pretending it's FOSS if it's not.


Oxymoronic? Perhaps in a strictly literal sense but first of all there are two slightly disjoint goals: Maximizing user freedom, and maximizing developer freedom.

We can maximize user freedom by having developers put code into a commons, reject the freedom-to-restrict-users, and deny other developers the ability to enclose that commons in those sort of restrictions (ala copyleft).

This has an even more broadly applicable analogy, Popper's "tolerating intolerance" and related paradoxes.[0]

Another way of looking at this is through the frame of positive and negative freedoms[1][2] (often described as "freedom to" vs. "freedom from"). It is often not possible to maximize both. For example, when the goal is maximizing human freedoms for the most people, it is not unreasonable to disallow making any people un-free, which includes denying people the freedom to sell themselves into indentured servitude.

[0] https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/toleration/#ConTolPar

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Positive_liberty

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Negative_liberty


This. Exactly this.


Our disagreement about the spirit of open source is fundamental.


.docx (Office Open XML) isn't propertiary, it's an open standard.


True, that was a bad example, but honestly it's irrelevant. Same point could be made about .doc when it was reversed back when. I thought there was even a court case about someone reverse engineering .doc a while back, but I can't find it right now.


It's a bad open standard though - microsoft basically stacked ISO to push it through.


This. If the only thing keeping customers on my platform is an incompatible API, what does that say about me as a vendor?


That you are not Microsoft? How is this any different from vendor lock in?


A well thought out API is a valuable thing and there's no shame in that being your competitive advantage.


That you’re not going hungry while one of the most valuable companies in the world doesn’t extract value from your work.


If someone gets into writing open source with the goal of making money off of it and gets pissed when others “extract value” from their work, that person never should have gotten into open source to begin with. In fact, for their own sake, they should probably get right the fuck out of open source pronto, because they are seriously missing all the points in spectacular fashion.


I don't agree. Open Source has always been about making money. What you might mean is Free Software, which is quite different from a philosophical point of view.


Open source isn’t particularly about making money. The making money is orthogonal and potentially harder if the source is available with a permissive license. Free software is about freedom of the user to make copies and distribute the source code and again money is orthogonal.

But I think in practice both open source and free software are hard to monitise. Often the open source software is a marketing platform for a managed service ala “we made it were the experts let us host it for you”


I still disagree, open source from the start was designed with companies (and it's developers) in mind and companies are particularly about making money. It's about the underlying values, open source is about making development easier, cheaper, etc.

Btw. I'm not comparing open- vs. closed-source but open-source-software vs. free-software.


I haven't read up on the origins of OSS, so I can't really comment on why it was designed. I will at some point read up on it more.

I agree Open Source & Non-Free (as per R.M.S.) would be much more commercially useful than Free in a lot of circumstances, because if I pay $1000 for some Free as in Speech software I can then go and sell it to your competitors for $10.

The only way I can think that this is not business-destroying if said software is so tricky to set up that it only makes sense to buy it from the original vendor who will set it up for you in the price - in which case that probably breaks the spirit of free software.


Open source has been about protecting open software going forward.


That is simply not true with permissive licenses like MIT, BSD, Apache, etc. which emerged out or got embraced of the Open Source movement.

The Free Software movement on the other hand created licenses which try to prevent the kind of behavior and thus are protecting the open software going forward.


The API situation is interesting because they allow using MongoDB inside your application as a backend [1]. So what happens if you make a wrapper for the API and distribute your wrapped API as a service? How thick does that wrapper have to be before it is considered a different application. To take the most extreme example, what if i just rename find() to query() making it no longer a "MongoDB Service" but a "AmazongoDB service"?

[1] https://www.mongodb.com/licensing/server-side-public-license...


I'm reasonably certain that a lawyer (that is: your lawyer) would tell you not to do that, since it would be pretty obvious that the wrapper is only being used in an attempt to evade the terms of the license.


The problem isn't really here. The problem is that everyone wants a permissive abusable license when AGPL would be just fine. If everyone here complaining just used AGPL then we wouldn't have this Amazon situation.

People want to have their cake and eat it too. They started with an MIT license because it gets more uptake then whine when the license terms are being followed.

But then it wouldn't be widely used. The solution to that is for everyone to use AGPL then the open-source playing field is level again.


Right, but leadership is needed to coordinate that change. The OSI needs to stand up and say "hey, the widespread use of permissive licenses is a threat to the open source community; please try to avoid them, and here's some ways you can accomplish your goals without a permissive license." Most open source projects aren't monetized, and most monetized projects won't be picked up by Amazon, so without a coordinated push permissive licenses are just the simplest way to go.


the FSF have been saying that for longer than the OSI has existed. people mocked them for saying that they were idealistic and unreasonable.


The FSF takes the more extreme stance that general adoption just doesn't matter. If big companies ban libraries using their recommended viral licenses, that's not a problem they're looking to solve; it just means the people writing free software will have an advantage.


And some donate to both. FSF is a big reason we chose GPLv3 - when at first I was thinking MIT.


This is true. We had to change our license from AGPL to Apache to make sure enterprise adoption was frictionless because there’s often a blanket ban on AGPL.

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=20064281


Hmm, wonder if there's something we can take away from this. Let's say the latest major release is AGPL (or newer dominant copyleft) and the previous major release is more enterprise friendly licensed with those offering paid support handling the security and maintenance of them. This means that the community can continue to develop and use the latest and greatest. Not perfect but it might work in some cases.


Sounds like an interesting idea. How about taking it even further and say what you say above but then also provide the latest and greatest release also as a commercial version. Then companies who want the latest will pay for it and OS community gets the latest with AGPL, while companies who prefer MIT license get a version that works but is not the latest or greatest.

That would be much like paying for support, getting the latest and greatest earlier than those who don't pay for it.


I wondered about combining it with dual licensing, but I don't even know how people do that today. Say if a whole community contributed to an AGPL project and it has a dual commercial license, who controls and profits from it?


Maybe all (registered) contributors would have to sign agreement that they give rights to publish also with commercial license to the corporation or non-profit that is in charge of the distribution. Would they be willing to do so? Well maybe they should get a cut of the profits.

That gets complicated managing all the payments, but I can see a single company using this model for their own benefit. Build momentum with the (two) OS licenses and get some income from the commercial license.

What could make this an attractive simple-to-manage model is that there would still be just one product, with different time-based releases of it, provided with a different license.

No need to fix bugs in the older releases, they are fixed in later versions. And everybody gets the fixes eventually but those who pay (or agree to AGPL) get them sooner.


"previous major release is more enterprise friendly ..."

Previous major release would not have the latest features but it would have the latest bug-fixes. That would be enterprise friendly.


As far as I can see this mught actually be a good idea if:

- you want to make your software as open as possible

- while still making money from it

It would require the manufacturer of the software to have some momentum but it sounds doable for some.


I would like to suggest that companies have such blanket bans precisely because they want to be able to take advantage of free software in this way without contributing back. If you really don't care if they do or don't, fine, use a permissive license. But I think it's becoming clear that people do care about contributions, and that's part of what copyleft licenses are for.


Mongodb already used AGPL prior to switching to the SSPL...


The problem is that only MongoDB did it, not the majority of the FLOSS ecosystem.


That’s not what Mongo said. They called out specific issues with AGPLv3’s terms.

http://lists.opensource.org/pipermail/license-review_lists.o...


Most companies use open source because the permissiveness gives them optionality that they value highly, and will even invest resources in supporting, but don't expect to exercise in most cases. If you eliminate that optionality (e.g. AGPL) then it erodes the value proposition of open source for companies and thus their interest in supporting it. This is the reason many companies will not touch AGPL, it eliminates most of the value they expected to get from the transaction. And without company support, open source development would languish.

This is the challenge, and it doesn't have an easy answer. Without optionality, open source offers little to corporate users.


> eliminates most of the value

Is this really true or just perceived? How often is that optionality actually exercised? And I don't believe that most of the value is in it. The benefits to using good software that continues to be maintained by those using or supporting it is immediate.


Dual-licensing is an option too: you can either have AGPL or pay for some other license that allows commercial use without the need to open source everything else.


AGPL is vulnerable to certain workarounds in the same way that GPL was. The CC class of non-commercial licenses might be more applicable, but that may harm adoption.

EDIT: honestly not sure why this is so heavily downvoted (-7 as of the edit), the whole point of SSPL and other licenses is to address the "workarounds" that Amazon and others have discovered in AGPL


Please don't use the (awesome) CC licenses for software -

https://creativecommons.org/faq/#can-i-apply-a-creative-comm...


Would you mind elaborating on that? I am interested in a super-copyleft license for my next project and thought that AGPL was the "best" option out there. In what ways can it be bypassed?


Don't be fooled. I use the AGPLv3 for almost all of my software because it's the strongest copyleft license currently available. Apparently, the only reason the AGPLv3 and GPLv3 are different is because of public outrage from some groups, but there's no disadvantages to use the AGPLv3 over the GPLv3 and I recommend it.

What is your project? I'd like to know, if you're willing to tell.


Check mongoDB's SSPL FAQ (https://www.mongodb.com/licensing/server-side-public-license...).

As far as I'm concerned, SSPL is superior to AGPL in that it catches all the bits that make your software actually work, forcing you to include them as part of the offering. I honestly don't understand the apparent objection to referring to a license with such a clause as open source - all it does is close a (major imo) loophole.


From my reading of SSPL v1, it would seem extremely difficult to use in concert with other free software; it requires you to distribute all software[0] you're using to run your service under the SSPL. The trouble is, you can't do that if you're using any other software in your environment that's licensed under another copyleft license such as the GPL. Does this apply all the way down to the Linux kernel? Who knows!

SSPL v2 appears to be an attempt to correct this[1], by explicitly excluding system components and allowing other FSF/OSI approved licenses if you're unable to release something under the SSPL yourself. But note that not even MongoDB, the project that the SSPL came from, is using v2 at the moment.

The GPL and AGPL have been around longer and have much more of a community behind them, and both versions of the SSPL are incompatible with them. At least for the time being, I'm inclined to stick with the AGPL for network services, because I like having access to all the GPL/AGPL code out there. Maybe someday I'll take a look at SSPL v2; I wouldn't touch SSPL v1 with a 10-foot pole.

[0] "all programs that you use to make the Program or modified version available as a service, including, without limitation, management software, user interfaces, application program interfaces, automation software, monitoring software, backup software, storage software and hosting software" [1] http://lists.opensource.org/pipermail/license-review_lists.o...


It seems there are indeed serious issues with SSPLv1 that I was unaware of. That being said, the loophole in the AGPL that they are attempting to address is also a serious issue. The rewording in v2

> “storage software and hosting software” changed to “host orchestration software”

seems to be fairly reasonable though, unless I've misunderstood things once again?

> But note that not even MongoDB, the project that the SSPL came from, is using v2 at the moment.

From the page you linked,

> If this version is approved by OSI, we plan to apply it to the next release of our MongoDB software, which is currently available under version 1.0.

so it seems they really do just want to address the current loophole in the AGPL.


>> “storage software and hosting software” changed to “host orchestration software”

>seems to be fairly reasonable though, unless I've misunderstood things once again?

It's better, though note that the terms in the list referenced there aren't strictly defined.

>> If this version is approved by OSI, we plan to apply it to the next release of our MongoDB software, which is currently available under version 1.0.

>so it seems they really do just want to address the current loophole in the AGPL.

Sure, I'll give them the benefit of the doubt on that. But the fact that they haven't switched over by now signals to me that they're not yet confident in the newer version of the license; if they're not, I can't say I am either.

And it's worth noting that SSPL v2 was withdrawn from the OSI review process back in March: https://opensource.org/LicenseReview032019


This is all really disappointing - they ought to mention it up front in their FAQ. I hope they (or someone else) submits a v3 with tighter definitions that can close the SaaS proprietary source code loophole without introducing a compromising level of overreach or ambiguity.

> the fact that they haven't switched over by now signals to me that they're not yet confident in the newer version of the license; if they're not, I can't say I am either.

Agreed; I wouldn't want to make use of it either until the dust is well settled.


I recommend taking a look at the API Copyleft License https://github.com/kemitchell/api-copyleft-license/blob/mast...


> overreach or ambiguity

Specifically overreach ambiguity and as mentioned compatibility with other popular copyleft licenses are valid reasons for me.

It seems reasonable for anyone that cares to switch to AGPL now and to an compatible stronger successor, perhaps SSPLv2 but it will take a bit of time. It's great that some are starting to test this.

Remember when there was a ban on any type of open source? We now have to take another step to the left together. The only ones that would truly miss out are the ones serving proprietized and not just using community software.


> “Service Source Code” means the Corresponding Source for the Program or the modified version, and the Corresponding Source for all programs that you use to make the Program or modified version available as a service, including, without limitation, management software, user interfaces, application program interfaces, automation software, monitoring software, backup software, storage software and hosting software, all such that a user could run an instance of the service using the Service Source Code you make available.”

So I can't run a service for it on VPS at a hosting provider, because I can not share the source to the backup system, hypervisor and load-balancer they use? Are firmware-blobs in my kernel-drivers ok? That seems extremely open and far-reaching, to the point that one could argue that it clearly is intended to forbid offerings as a service, even if it pretends not to.

EDIT: after looking up details about the "comical debate" (quote article), that indeed appears to have been one of the arguments. Not surprising the article badmouths the OSI, but doesn't actually engage with or even dare mention their arguments.


Upon rereading the bit you quoted, I agree that could be an issue. I had initially misinterpreted "all such that a user could run an instance of the service using the Service Source Code you make available" to mean it was limited to any essential supporting bits you had implemented that might have otherwise been made proprietary (much to the detriment of a user trying to actually use the source code you provided). It does seem to be overreaching, but I also maintain that the AGPL has a major loophole as things currently stand.

Edit: From the sibling comment, it seems that SSPLv2 tries to address this.


Someone with more money than you can do a proprietary clean room reimplementation.


@AnaniasAnanas: And someone with less money than you can use your software source code "as a reference" when writing their own open source reimplementation. They won't put your name in the copyright notice because they didn't use any of your code, they only used your code "as a reference" when writing their own.


So I will force them to waste money compared to if I used a more permissive license? Sounds good. Plus I could offer proprietary licenses this way.



That's cool and all but it does not seem any more copyleft than AGPL, in fact it seems even less copyleft than GPLv3 as it lacks the Tivoization/drm/etc clauses.


I’m not sure if CC is meant for software either (except for CC0 perhaps).

For instance, does non-commercial mean (1) you cannot use [the output of] the program for any commercial purposes, or does it mean (2) you cannot sell the program itself (and its derivatives).

The difference is subtle but AGPL permits (1) whilst practically forbidding (2) by enforcing copyleft; hence it fits the OSS criteria whereas CC NC wouldn’t if both (1) and (2) are true.


Creative Commons themselves say that CC licenses (outside CC0) are not designed and not recommended for software.


For people who haven't followed this: The headline is as misleading as it can be.

The whole agenda of the guy writing this is to move open source projects to being no longer open source, because he doesn't like what that entails (as it also means "amazon enjoys the same freedoms as everyone else"). But they like to confuse it as much as they can.

This would be much less of an issue if these people were upfront: "We don't like Open Source, so we try something else". But they don't want to do that because they know Open Source has a good reputation, so they try confusion and deception.


> The whole agenda of the guy writing this is to move open source projects to being no longer open source

The situation seems to be much more complex than what you portray (ie "we don't like open source"). Take the SSPL for example - OSI may not recognize it, but as far as I'm concerned it is an open source license. Commons Clause I'm not certain about - is explicitly disallowing sale really inconsistent with open source ideals? I've yet to make my mind up on that one. Then there's the RSAL. That one definitely doesn't seem to be entirely consistent with open source ideals:

> The only restriction is that the application cannot be a database, a caching engine, a stream processing engine, a search engine, an indexing engine or an ML/DL/AI serving engine.


I don't see this. Are you saying the author has a bone to pick with Amazon in particular or that he has a stake in seeing OSS-based cloud services become non-OSS because he has money at stake in selling those services? None of the proposed licenses significantly curtail the possibility of having internal deployments of software or linking against the software in commercial software.


> None of the proposed licenses significantly curtail the possibility of having internal deployments of software or linking against the software in commercial software.

Actually...

The Fair Source License (Sourcegraph, https://fair.io/) explicitly does restrict those things.

The RSAL (Redis, https://redislabs.com/blog/redis-labs-modules-license-change...) kind of does, but only under some circumstances.

> The only restriction is that the application cannot be a database, a caching engine, a stream processing engine, a search engine, an indexing engine or an ML/DL/AI serving engine.

The Confluent Community License (https://www.confluent.io/blog/license-changes-confluent-plat...) only says you can't run it directly as a SaaS offering, which is better but I'm a bit uncertain where the line would be drawn in terms of product functionality.

The Commons Clause (https://commonsclause.com/) explicitly prevents you from selling the software, including hosting, consulting, support, etc. As with the Confluent license it isn't entirely clear where the line is drawn in terms of product functionality.

The SSPL (mongoDB, https://www.mongodb.com/licensing/server-side-public-license...) is in fact an open source license as far as I'm concerned, but OSI hasn't (won't?) recognize it.


Some interesting tests would be Firebase, Airtable, and Google Sheets. Assuming each of those products was built on top of databases available under each license, which would be legal?


Agreed - this is a but misleading.


If you make your project open source, your goal should be maximizing people using it, not maximizing how much you profit from it. I know they may seem identical, but they aren't: Apple makes a lot of money by making software that has huge roadblocks to using it. And as many people are now realizing, open source has the ability to not make lots of money by making it incredibly easy for anyone to use.

We all benefit greatly from Linux, and I think most people have not contributed back to it in any meaningful way, monetary or otherwise. A lot of these projects only exist because they were built on top of other Open Source solutions with no expectation to give them any sort of "cut". Had Linus decided he actually wanted to start a hardware business and then got angry that IBM was better at putting Linux on metal than he was, it would be similar to this situation and I think most of us would be unhappy about a bunch of turmoil resulting from that. But when it's someone else's ideas that are being used for free, they always seem obvious and fundamental, when its your own, it's unique and unfair.

As others have said here, it is OK to say "wait a minute, I want something different", and then do something different. What is not OK is wanting to water down the definition of the term open source so that whatever thing you want to do still gets to use it. The OSI's position here is perfectly reasonable -- that doesn't mean you can't invent some new kind of license or relationship. People forget that OSI had to work to get into industry in the first place, it wasn't automatically accepted. It is somewhat funny and ironic that others now want to benefit from this work while doing something completely different.


> If you make your project open source, your goal should be maximizing people using it, not maximizing how much you profit from it.

Dangerous ground telling people what their goals should be. There is no reason a person shouldn't try to maximise their profits from open source strategies. The Linux example is not a strong one - lots of the kernel devs are for-profit and Linus Torvalds made a fortune [0] - likely linked to his involvement in Linux. With benefit of hindsight it is hard to see how he could have better optimised for profit.

The key insight for commercial OSS is that maximising profit does not necessarily mean maximising your paying userbase size. 10 users paying $10,000 a month easily trumps 1000 users paying $10. And going OSS as a commercial strategy (eg, Red Hat's classic model) gives competitive advantages if you can lever it - no risk of being undercut by a cheaper software package, ability be very selective in who you offer support to and an obvious strategy for wheedling in to new markets.

In the initial rush where computers were being changed out every 5 years (pre 2003 era), having software to sell was where the advantage was. Now the industries are starting to mature and that is no longer as obvious it once was. The money seems to be in support and ongoing relationship fees, which are very amenable to OSS.

So basically, if someone's goal is to maximise profits they should consider making their software open source. Especially if they are breaking in to an incumbent's market.

[0] https://www.therichest.com/celebnetworth/celebrity-business/...


The question is not whether the author made a fortune, but whether they were upset that tremendous more value was captured by others. I’m sure Amazon has made way more money on AWS last year by leveraging Linux than Linus has in his entire life. Now the analogy is exactly 1-to-1 compatible: Amazon offers Linux as a service, Amazon offers MongoDB as a service. If you want another analogy: more value was captured by Github (and Microsoft) from Git than Linus. Again, from offering the software as a service.

It is fine to try to leverage the properties of open source to make profits, just don’t be surprised when it doesn’t, on its own, do so. That is what is meant by my first statement: “open source will absolutely help you gain traction, it will not necessarily help you capture value”. As such, if you use open source, the goal best served is gaining users. Don’t be surprised when it doesn’t make you a ton of money.


> If you make your project open source, your goal should be maximizing people using it, not maximizing how much you profit from it.

Then it has failed miserably at it. For almost each open source project, there is a closed source that has more users. Windows, iPhone, Photoshop, etc.

Making money is a great way to invest in marketing, and reach a broader audience.

Remark that I'm typing this on my Linux desktop, so I'm definitely not opposed to OS.

In my opinion, the biggest benefit is that you have more ownership, because you're able to make modifications and improvements without being blocked by 1 company. I for one, will always avoid closed sourced libraries. I had way too many blocking issues in the past, so I prefer libraries where I can fix things as fast as I want to.


I do not believe Windows has more users than Linux, nor does iPhone. Android has more users than iPhone, and Linux has more users than Windows in the server space. Open source browsers are so successful they’ve now officially eliminated closed source browsers on the desktop (arguably on mobile too if we’re just counting engines). So I’m not sure where you’re getting the idea that open source is failing miserably at maximizing people using it.


And who do you think you are to dictate to others what something as deeply personal as their goals should be?

This must be one of the most arrogant things I've read on HN.


If OP feels it is there place to insist what the OSI should label as open source, then they open themselves up to the should game.

Also, this is meant more as a “if you do X, expect Y” statement. If you open source, expect high uptake not profit. The same way someone might say “If you’re using a hammer, your project should have nails.” I would be surprised to have someone retort “who are you to dictate whether my project should have nails?!”. Similarly, if someone complained in an Ogre forum that the framework wasn’t helpful in making a spreadsheet app, I might say “if you’re using a physics game engine, you should be writing a game not a utility app”.

You can set whatever goal you want, but as the author of this very article agrees with, open source is not going to be good when one of those goals is maximizing profit. Unless of course, if we change the definition of open source.


The simplest example of this is TeX and MetaFont, MetaPost. The only aim of Knuth was getting people to use them. One was, the other two not so much.

And he has not complained that I know of.


Knuth is subsidized by Stanford (and maybe book royalties); not everyone is so lucky.


I don't understand this sentiment. The whole point of choosing a permissive license is that you want others to have the right to profit off of your work and give you nothing in return.

If you don't want others to have that right, then choose a different license.

But don't grant the right and then complain when people exercise it.


I think you might want to look into, if you have not already, a topic referred to as "gift culture"[1]

The hard reality, that someone like myself believes, is that open source works because most actors try to be considerate of others. It falls apart when everyone acts selfishly. I personally believe the world is better off because we have open source software(as generally defined by the OSI and other groups). So my concern, and I'm guessing the concern of others like the author of this article, is about losing open source as we know it today. The fear is that as actors like Amazon behave in a very anti-social and self interested way, other actors in the ecosystem will be drawn into behaving similarly. Eventually we'll return to the era when software was almost always closed.

Of course, you may not find any real value in the spread of open source software. If that is the case, then I would imagine this situation seems strange to you.

[1] http://www.catb.org/~esr/writings/cathedral-bazaar/homestead...


The SSPL "debate" was indeed a shit-show hijacked by people either abusing permissive-license ideologies with a corporate interest in mind, or so blinded by that ideology that they are unable to grasp the idea that freedom is an inherently contradictory concept, and that to maximise overall freedom across space and time it is necessary to restrict freedoms that result in a restriction of more freedoms.

Good on these guys, I hope they build a licensing model or some other thing that can stand up to Amazon. I still consider SSPL to be "free software" very much within the ideals that movement, regardless of what the OSI says.


>I still consider SSPL to be "free software" very much within the ideals that movement, regardless of what the OSI says.

Yeah, I think the issue is that these days there's a lot of open source developers, who zealously believe in open source, but are working for corporations. They have a natural incentive to maximize the usefulness of open source for corporations, whether they explicitly acknowledge that or not. On a social level, I think that's having many effects, one of which is the backlash against SSPL, which is obviously hard for mostly-proprietary corporations to comply with.

Many open source programmers have built a mental model around the notion that the scripts that operate and deploy an application (service) aren't part of the application (service), and therefore don't need to be open source. But that doesn't make any sense from a software-freedom perspective! The fundamental tenets of open source are that users should be able to use, modify, and redistribute the application. If the users don't have access to the scripts that are required to actually deploy a modified version of the service, then it's not meaningfully open source. That's a new perspective, it's true, but I think the old perspective (the scripts to deploy a service don't need to be open sourced) was just wrong, it came from a long period of biased, commercial-centric thinking.


>I still consider SSPL to be "free software" very much within the ideals that movement, regardless of what the OSI says.

SSPL is less free than most of propertiary EULAs. It is literally impossible to comply with the section 13 of the license.

SSPL requires the user to release the source code of everything they are using to host their service and license it under the terms of SSPL. Everything, that even includes operating system and firmware of the server used to host the user's service. No one is able to do that.

I don't understand how can anyone defend that awful license.


Full Disclosure, I work for MongoDB. Please check out the SSPL FAQ (https://www.mongodb.com/licensing/server-side-public-license...). Section 13 is focused only on entities that wish to offer MongoDB as a public third party service. They are free to do so under the condition the hosting company offering MongoDB as a service makes "service source code" open source. For nearly all MongoDB users, this has no impact.


Why did they create SSPL when AGPL already existed?

IMHO all use cases can probably be covered by MIT/BSD, GPL, LGPL, and AGPL. Everything else is license proliferation and adds confusion and problems sharing code between projects.


https://www.mongodb.com/licensing/server-side-public-license... "Why did you base the SSPL on GPL v3 instead of AGPL?"


MongoDB was already AGPL, but that didn't suffice. Amazon simply took the free version of MongoDB, as is, deployed it on its systems in a scalable way, and sold that to customers. They gave the code for MongoDB away, per the terms of the AGPL.

Hence, the need for a new license.

However, they seem to have kept the deployment infrastructure as a trade secret, and since that didn't interact directly with MongoDB's interfaces, it șes that it really didn't come under the scope of the AGPL.


Companies did that for years with Linux, Apache, MySQL etc., and noone got riled up enough to produce this mess.

I think another commenter got it right: this is a fuss created by commercial entities that wanted to have their cake and eat it too.


> Why did they create SSPL when AGPL already existed?

Because they were already using the AGPL, and it did precisely Nothing to stop Amazon from turning into a massive free-rider who undermined the very ability of the project to fund continued development of the project Amazon was free-riding on.


But why should Amazon be prevented from running said software? "Because I don't like it" isn't a good reason.


They shouldn’t, per se. But if they’re not going to be good citizens by contributing back to the project they’re profiting off of, while simultaneously attacking and undermining the ability of the project to fund itself, that’s a massive Free Rider problem that in the long run ends in the loss of a lot of important Open Source projects.

We can attempt to solve this free rider problem, or we can shrug our shoulders and decide we’re just comfortable with a world with a lot of dead Open Source projects and a lot more proprietary software. But “the current situation is fine and sustainable” is head-in-sand thinking. This Bad Citizen behaviour is an existential threat to the long term prospects of Open Source.


Isn't everyone who uses mongodb or Linux or any f/oss but doesn't contribute in kind or monetarily a bad citizen? If you license code under a f/oss license you have to accept that this will happen.

There is no "free rider" problem. There are companies competing and one of them out competing the other. Are you as vocal about every company who failed because they didn't have a good business plan?

Now, should companies (or anyone) who use f/oss contribute back in kind or monetarily? Yes, of course they should; no one is arguing that.


I agree. If it is free/permissive license then the point of such a license is that anybody can use it freely. Why does MongoDB not want Amazon to run it freely? Because MongoDB wants to make money.


> "So my concern... is about losing open source as we know it today."

Open source was born out of a closed source world. It couldn't possibly have been a "gift culture" at that time, and yet it birthed and blossomed and amazingly so. To seriously believe open source would go away requires a belief that the forces that birthed it in the first place no longer exist or have significantly diminished. I'd be interesed to hear you expound on that.


That's a rather ahistoric view. Software was initially very much a gift culture in the mainframe, mini-, and micro-computer eras. Even proprietary software licences were often thrown in gratis by vendors trying to sell high-margin proprietary hardware. Proprietary software was largely developed in-house for a company's own use, and regarded as a trade secret, not published as object code and licensed to others.

This state of affairs continued through the initial phases of the workstation/PC era. It was when IBM PC clone hardware (with their narrower profit margins) started to dominate that proprietary software gained more attractive margins, and the ISV era really took off.

It was this growth of proprietary software cutting into and threatening the existing gift-culture during the 80s that prompted the formation of Free Software and Open Source philosophies (the latter named in the 90s but existing all along).


I don't think it's that hard to understand. To some degree, Amazon's behavior is exploiting an idealism that has given us software such as Linux that we're all benefitting from today, and it's easy to see why a starry-eyed engineer would want to carry on that legacy and create a project such as Redis with a permissive license.

What you say ("The whole point of choosing a permissive license is that you want others to have the right to profit off of your work and give you nothing in return.") is obvious in hindsight, and should go without saying if you start a project with the express intent of commercializing it. However, in many cases, it's not the obvious decision for reasons related to the project's genesis (e.g. Spark or Mesos being student projects), and in others, it's not the route taken because of an idealistic impulse that I think would be really unfortunate to see squashed.


> What you say [...] is obvious in hindsight

It was also widely known for many years before Redis was a thing, i remember Slashdot comments from early 2000s about how BSD proponents are taken advantage of and they seem to like that whereas GPL proponents are taken advantage of as much as they take advantage those who take advantage of them (weird phrasing because the original quote i remember was a bit more explicit).

So it isn't really something you only knew in hindsight, it is also something that comes by ignoring people who were warning you about the consequences of your choice (royal you here).


[flagged]


I'm sure listening more to Stallman would have helped AGPL-licensed MongoDB avoid all this.


Amazon is, in effect, bringing attention to this issue and I am glad that they are.

> What you say ("The whole point of choosing a permissive license is that you want others to have the right to profit off of your work and give you nothing in return.") is obvious in hindsight, and should go without saying if you start a project with the express intent of commercializing it.

Even if you do thoughtfully choose a license with the express intent of commercializing the work, some competing project elsewhere - student projects, in your example - will eat your market. It is about time players entering our industry be warned of the effects of such "pissing-in-the-pool" activities.


> some competing project elsewhere - student projects, in your example - will eat your market.

If a student somewhere is willing to do the same thing as your company for free and release their work under MIT, why is that a problem?

This smacks to me of Microsoft complaining that projects like Linux shouldn't be allowed to exist, because its unreasonable to expect them to compete with free.

If eventually we get into a state where Open Source development really isn't viable, then people will stop doing it, fewer people will be eating your market, and then Source Available projects will become commercially viable.


> If a student somewhere is willing to do the same thing as your company for free and release their work under MIT, why is that a problem?

There isn't a problem with that. The problem is when such projects aspire to commercialize their work, find it hard, and then complain when other commercial entities exploit their work.

The hypocrisy I am pointing out is that to get a software adopted initially projects choose overly permissible licenses; then when they try to monetize the project, they run into issues and cry foul.


"exploit", you need the quotes because nothing was exploited. Someone else was able to execute better than you were, that isn't a crime.


Are you saying that choosing a permissive license is like "pissing-in-the-pool"? As if do so contaminates the market for everyone?


> Are you saying that choosing a permissive license is like "pissing-in-the-pool"?

Yes, choosing overly permissible licenses (non-GPL OSS ones, in particular) contaminates the market for other software projects operating in that market.


Yes. The whole AWS problem stems from having too much software under "permissive" licenses and now enough under reciprocal licenses.

Reciprocal licenses work like herd immunity: you need a large enough ecosystem to effectively keep freeloaders at bay while rewarding those who cooperate often.


How would less permissive software existing have helped e.g. MongoDB with their "AWS problem"?


MongoDB did not have an "AWS problem". AWS did not release anything related to MongoDB until after they stopped making open-source releases.

MongoDB had a "We gave others freedoms we didn't like" problem, so they rescinded those freedoms. Freedoms that they'd given in the first place to profit off of the reputation of Open Source Software. If they'd never given those freedoms out, they'd never have had any problems.


Linux uses GPL, it kind-of forces the tit-for-tat relationship.


Sure, but in this case e.g. GPL vs BSD is only marginally relevant (any modification needs to be GPL in the GPL case) to the particular case of selling OSS software as SaaS since either license lets you package and sell the bare software.


This is exactly it. GPL worked in the past, but if we take a look at Android (which is based on Linux) we can see that it failed to protect users' freedoms completely.


Something that GPLv3 would have prevented.


Then Android would probably have just based off BSD like iOS did.


> an idealism that has given us software such as Linux

No, Linux is GPL licensed, it's not a naive permissive license.


Yes, but you’re still free to turn around and sell Linux as part of a SaaS offering as Amazon does. It saves you from someone surreptitiously forking your project and selling the fork without contributing back improvements to the public, but it doesn’t totally sidestep the issues in the article.


True, but SaaS didn't exist at the time Linux was invented, so it's hard to fault Torvalds for not foreseeing this particular issue. The broader point, I'd argue, is that the idealism behind many successful free software projects was tempered by realism in choosing licenses that compel contributing back to the community.


SaaS has been around since the 1960s


Mongo was AGPL.


There was no “idealism” behind the creation of Mongo, ElasticSearch, or Redis. They were all trying to profit and used open source as marketing.


In practice, lots of initial authors choose licenses out of tribal affiliation and not simple logic or strategy. People who are inclined to distrust the FSF are likely to pick a permissive license even though the truth is they expect things that can only be guaranteed by a copyleft license.

Conversely the LGPL and family exists in some sense because the free software community tried to apply copyleft to project that can really only be successful with a permissive license.


Likewise, I don't understand your position. Just because something is legal doesn't mean we're not allowed to complain. Besides the legal contract, the social contract can be just as important.

For example, my country has freedom of speech and assembly and so forth, and it's easy to see cases where someone exercises their legal rights in ways that are supremely annoying to others, and not in any way productive for society. When we see people abusing the system, we speak out about it. The nail that sticks up gets hammered down.

What's the alternative? Disallow freedom of speech? Sometimes we might feel tempted, but it turns out that that has all kinds of terrible problems. As they say: this is the worst form of government, except for all the others that have been tried.

There are many cases where doing the minimum that the law allows is fine and accepted. (Most people don't intentionally overpay their income tax.) There are other cases where doing something that's merely not technically illegal is frowned upon by social convention. What we're seeing is the corporate world (legal minimum) and the individual world (social contract) colliding. Who wins? So far, the corporations are.

It's easy to say "You should have picked a different license, then!" after the fact, but maybe there isn't a license which would have worked better. Maybe this is the best of several bad options. (Maybe using a more restrictive license would have caused the company to ignore the software entirely and write their own completely proprietary alternative, for example.) Maybe using the internet soapbox to plead for leadership is actually the optimal strategy.

The GNU GPL was an amazingly clever hack to use the legal system to assist enforcing a social contract, but I don't think we can expect to find solutions like that in every case.


There's a famous project that did something similar to this. It's WURFL. The creator behind the project got offended when a big co (Google I assume, not sure) who forked his project and never paid him anything at all. I believe it was under a different, very permissive license. When he found out this happened, he immediately, deleted repos of the code copies of the old license and published a new "commercial" license screwing companies who depended on his database. Luckily, someone cloned the project on Github, but he took it also down with a DMCA.

https://shkspr.mobi/blog/2012/01/wurfl-and-database-copyrigh...

I really hate people who don't understand what open source really means and get offended when someone uses their work in a way that doesn't violate the license, but doesn't give back.


> When he found out this happened, he immediately, deleted repos of the code copies of the old license and published a new "commercial" license screwing companies who depended on his database. Luckily, someone cloned the project on Github, but he took it also down with a DMCA.

I don't understand this. If the old version was licensed permissively what argument does he have to take down a copy of it with DMCA?

And the original companies using it wouldn't care - of course they'd have their own vendored copy internally - they don't need GitHub to keep using it.


Right. I think it’s a bit rich of companies such as Elastic to extend existing open source projects, surf on the goodwill of open source, and then turn around and complain when other companies use elasticsearch as open source.

The real issue with OS today is that it is too difficult to reward authors and contributors with actual cash money. Until this is fixed, “open source” is doomed to be a bunfight between well funded companies and self appointed governing bodies.

Let’s find a way to pay hackers!


I think the corporate patronage is alive and well. If you look at Apache or Linux Foundation, lots of contributors are employees of large corporations. This works out ok in the sense that lots of great software is being created.

I think the problem with Elastic is they have lots of VC investment pushing for a big payout, so it’s not a “pay the hackers” it’s a “make a big payout for founders and investors.” Which I’m not against and think is cool, but I don’t really care about it that much.


I heard somewhere that Amazon did try to do a deal with Elastic and didn't like the price?


I think "hackers" should just ask for money for their work before you are allowed to use it, just like they did years ago - how to do this was already a problem solved even in the 90s. Sure you wont get brownie points with those indoctrinated by the GNU propaganda, but at least you'll be able to get food from the supermarket. And besides, cults are only nice at the beginning when there are parties, later they start to suck when sacrifices enter in the picture.


> ...this was already a problem solved in the 90s. Sure you won’t get brownie points by those indoctrinated by the GNU propaganda...

The “indoctrinated” industry has created a massive community and even more massive ecosystem of interoperability which almost certainly wouldn’t exist under the walled off from everything else and “fuck everyone” nightmare of the 1990s.

Those 90s walled off isolated companies were significantly more cult like and significantly less effective than the system which won out in the open market—the “GNU propaganda” as you refer to it.


>I think it’s a bit rich of companies such as Elastic to extend existing open source projects

I'm not exactly sure what you mean by "extend existing open source projects". Elastic the company was founded by the creators of Elasticsearch and is the way that its authors and most of its contributors are rewarded with actual cash money.


> I'm not exactly sure what you mean by "extend existing open source projects".

I think s/he means Elastic's use of Lucene - https://lucene.apache.org/.


Elasticsearch uses Lucene for the actual inverted index DB systems. They then built a robust and updateable distributed system on top of it. By updateable, I mean that Lucene indexes are fixed at creation, and Elasticsearch coordinates multiple index versions to expose an updateable index system.


I guess it was referring to the fact ElasticSearch is build on top on Lucene


They probably meant Lucene that ES is based on.


The article title is actually "Lack of leadership in open source results in source-available licenses", OP was editorializing. In fact, your sentiment is explicitly stated in the article:

> Amazon’s behavior toward open source is self-interested and rational. Amazon is playing by the rules of what software licenses allow.


The submitted title was "Amazon has exhibited offensive and aggressive behaviors toward open source", which was taken from the body of the article. That's not necessarily editorializing, if the language is representative. But we've changed it back to the original article title now.


The article talks about people switching to source-available licenses as if it were a bad thing. I'm unconvinced. If you have commercial ambitions and are uncomfortable with Amazon using your software, maybe open source is the wrong choice for you?


Yeah, this strikes me as someone trying to legislate a business model into working: engage open source contributors for all features but also have an exclusive rights to sell them in an Enterprise offering without competing with Amazon.

The stronger part of the argument is that Amazon is being anticompetitive by using their privileged role as AWS' hardware operator to compete with app providers in on higher layers. Maybe in a few years we will have a lawsuit related to the one Apple is facing now about ios apps.


What's legal and what's right are very different things. It's perfectly fine to criticize Amazon for behaving poorly even if it's something they are legally permitted to do.


The basic argument is that Amazon is Free Riding because they get massively more out of the resource than they put in, by virtue of their scale alone.

The free-rider problem occurs when those who benefit from resources, public goods, or services do not pay for them, which results in an underprovision of those goods or services.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Free-rider_problem


Amazon isn't free-riding any more than everyone else. If I can buy hardware and hire SREs to run mongod myself, I should be able to pay AWS to do the same things for me, and it's weird that the authors expect a cut in one case and not the other.


It’s impossible to free ride with a permissive license like the one used.

It’s like complaining because Seattle sets up a free subway that supports infinite riders at $0 marginal cost and Amazon has all their employees ride it instead of making google buses.

There’s also an issue that Elastic’s district was actually worse than Amazon’s new distro due to license confusion.


> It’s impossible to free ride with a permissive license like the one used.

On the contrary, permissive licenses has been quietly pushed by companies, together with replacing Free Software with Open Source, in order to exploit it.


This is also incredibly worrying for the original goal of open source which was individual user's rights. I think it will be very difficult to make a license that cleanly allows me a personal user to change/use/distribute the source, but not a big business like Amazon. And sure, maybe its as simple as "are you profiting from it" -- but then we get into weird edge cases of me using your software on my router that I use for my real estate business or something. With open source, the requirements are really easy, as soon as there is a door for someone to get a cut of what you make, we get into the territory of whether you become a big enough target to start demanding a cut from. And then it's up to the courts to decide. That might be great from the author's point of view, but I think completely goes against the whole point of the software user's freedom.

For example, is it that far fetched that at some point someone will come up with the abstract argument that your blogging service is really actually just a fancy interface to your MongoDB instance -- and thus you should pay up since you are a MongoDB provider.


> And sure, maybe its as simple as "are you profiting from it" -- but then we get into weird edge cases of me using your software on my router that I use for my real estate business or something.

Just to be clear, if you are referring to Commons Clause, you can freely use the software for real estate or whatever, you just can't sell the router itself, software itself, or offer paid consulting / support / hosting for the software (well you can, but you need to obtain a commercial license - which is fair enough, since you are making money off the software, not off you real estate business).

This is a common misconception about Commons Clause. You can use it for commercial purposes. Exception is when you are selling the software itself, or the services that base on it.

As for blogging example, the concern is imho not justified. Hybrid licenses need support of community as much as open source ones and such behaviour would be suicide. It would help if the projects were clearly stating the allowed (and disallowed) usages in advance, but it's a bit early... There aren't many projects using Commons Clause yet for example.


> Exception is when you are selling the software itself, or the services that base on it.

I think we're agreeing here: no one actually knows the boundaries of this. I'm simply not interested in being the guinea pig of where the line is of "the services that base on it". In my experience the actual deciding factor for this is when you become successful enough and worthwhile to sue. Then it's up to some judge in Texas to decide whether my service is "based on" this technology? I mean, I can't run my services at all without Linux -- I think they'd have a really good argument that my entire business is "based on it". You and I may see how this is silly, that's not sufficient for making me feel safe in a legal environment that currently rewards patent trolls for example.

> It would help if the projects were clearly stating the allowed (and disallowed) usages in advance, but it's a bit early...

If we're in "warrant territory" of explicitly stating up front every possible "OK use case" to make the user feel safe, then its either going to have so many allowable use cases as to be self-defeating, or not possibly able to predict really exciting unexpected uses and rule itself out from those domains. At the absolute minimum, I'm going to start to actually have to read over the license with a lawyer now (as opposed to one common understanding of something like MIT), since I can't imagine a "one size fits all" of acceptable explicitly spelled out use cases when the whole point of these licenses is to carve out meaningful profit areas for the project itself - something that in my opinion is going to vary greatly project to project depending on the unique features it provides.


Yes, I think we are in agreement. Except that MIT is not as well understood as most people think it is (Kyle Mitchell wrote about it, can't find the link right now), so you might want to lawyer up for opensource too. :)

I just think a solution that better aligns incentives of users, businesses and developers is needed, because opensource doesn't do its job good enough. But time will tell which licenwe will get enough backing to succeed in dethroning it.


Sure, but the whole point is that the parties choosing to adopt "Source Available" licenses are doing so because they failed to predict how their users would use and profit from it, and in response, are wanting a new arrangement that better benefits them. So in some sense, we know ahead of time that this is a group which has been upset by unexpected use of their software. Now they've created a license that specifically gives them the benefit of the doubt in such scenarios in the future (vs. MIT which gives that benefit of the doubt to the user). As such, I as a user would be entering into an agreement that specifically is weighted against me in a case that has happened before, with a party that has shown in the past to want to change the rules when they felt they were not being sufficiently compensated. This makes me feel significantly less safe without the presence of a lawyer than with a license that has lots and lots of example usage. Would you say that's fair?


Fair to the user - less than with FOSS, but more than with proprietary licenses. Fair to developer, yes.

But the problem for me is that if developers don't have incentives aligned with their users', then we get low quality software. I am a FOSS user and have been for many years, but while I appreciate the freedoms it grants me, the whole experience is... Let's say "inconsistent". I would prefer limiting some of the freedoms in exchange for better software, and especially in exchange for having it at all on mobile.

I think the somewhat extreme view FOSS movement holds about freedoms actually hurts opensource adoption, because it hurts its quality and availability.

Note that I don't mind Amazon (ab)using FOSS so much as I mind not having any freedom on mobile.


> I don't understand this sentiment. The whole point of choosing a permissive license is that you want others to have the right to profit off of your work and give you nothing in return. > > If you don't want others to have that right, then choose a different license.

I want you to have the right to be an asshole, but I'd prefer it if you were not an asshole. I don't want to enforce my preferences through contracts, licenses, and law. I might still call you out if you're an asshole.

How hard is it to understand this worldview? A world of freedom, where people do the right thing because it's the right thing to do, and not because they are given no other choice.


The article says that even a non-permissive license (such as GPL) won't stop Amazon from taking your code and running it as their own service.


A lot of people has been mislead (by some propaganda) to think that "permissive" licenses would be enough to build a collaborative ecosystem.

Now they are starting to realize they were naive.


Interesting how human nature always wants to blame everything on one source. AWS might be bad, no argument against it. But the truth is there is more and more speaking about the end of open source as we know it.

E.g. smartphones (the most used end-user computer nowadays) being walled gardens. So walled, that not even a giant like Huawei can easily continue to use Google's OS.

E.g. Trade war makes every side being less open towards all other sides.

E.g. at least one huge Open Source proponent being sold to a company that is known for not handling open source too well.

E.g. big corps like Google having found a way to misuse stuff that is seemingly open source as marketing tools to spread there proprietary actual products.

E.g. with at least many big corps believing that the cloud has beaten on-prem, and who knows what is behind these APIs. Maybe they don't even use Linux and TCP/IP anymore.

E.g. with the rise of AI and machine learning software itself maybe(!) not being the most important tech development factor anymore.

E.g. with Valve not having won the gaming platform war against Microsoft.

E.g. with Microsoft claiming to integrate more and more with open source (but then how much control are they starting to wield, having a shitload of coders, money and users to field for their personal cause).


What a lot of people overlook is when Amazon takes something (DocumentDB with MongoDB compatibility) on internally is they are re-inventing the way the database works in such a way it's dubious if the community would benefit. I do think it would have been better to see this go the Postgres route where they could have continued to contribute to the core product but I believe MongoDB saw competition against their MongoDB Cloud product and decided to change the licensing. This neccessitated the need for a hard fork since they were not interested in working together. An AWS Q&A stated they are working on a completely independent code base that is API compatible with MongoDB 3.6, so there is nothing to contribute back to the MongoDB open-source code base.

DocumentDB much like Amazon Aurora has pivoted much of the database internals to depend on the AWS ecosystem. The whole concept of replica-sets on MongoDB are very rigid and inflexible compared to the elegance made possible by EBS and Amazon engineers.

MongoDB replication is measured in seconds meanwhile DocumentDB replication is "usually less than 100 milliseconds". This makes read replicas in DocumentDB more relevant for all kinds of real-time tasks vs MongoDB.


So Amazon is not a good citizen open-source wise. Some companies doing this has been the state of affairs as long as open source exists, and the world has not ended. Eventually the cost of maintaining forks will force them to engage with the community. Customers will want newer features available upstream. Amazon will contribute things back that make their own life easier. Other companies will struggle with open source business models. Engineers will favor companies that open source interesting projects. Everybody will be fine.


The cynicism that pours into threads like these is kind of depressing, though. People are increasingly more tolerant to predatory business practices.


That's a very wide claim. Amazon may not be the most valued type of open source user, but they are on par with most open source infrastructure historically.

It's as if they are trying to say that only the creators of an open source project can build a SaaS for it. Tell that to mySQL, Postgres, redis, everything apache (Hadoop, Cassandra(which is based on amazon's DynamoDB whitepaper), Kafka, Zookeeper), every programming language ever (Except maybe C#). It has always been the case that open source infrastructure was built by one group and another completely unrelated group, who are much better at cloud anything, built the SaaS offering for it.

If this is Mongo again, it's probably a PR stunt by them to get their failing business model's latest failing hail marry to not completely destroy developer trust (which it will, of course, fail to do).

There is really just one thing to complain about Amazon's use of open source, they aren't supporting back enough for projects they are using. That's it. They should be shunned for it, but that's not earthshattering, and it's definitely not a condemnation of other cloud vendors (Microsoft and Google) who support open source massively.


> There is really just one thing to complain about Amazon's use of open source, they aren't supporting back enough for projects they are using. That's it. They should be shunned for it, but that's not earthshattering, and it's definitely not a condemnation of other cloud vendors (Microsoft and Google) who support open source massively.

That was the author's point, was it not?


We have two contrasting terms that work perfectly well right now:

Open Source, a set of licenses that allow users to run and modify software for personal or commercial purposes without your permission.

and Source Available, a set of licenses that allow users to see and modify your source code provided they meet some kind of criteria you set up, such as not using the code for commercial purposes or not doing things you don't like with it.

These two terms already perfectly encapsulate the entire range of new licenses that are being proposed for databases like Mongo.

But a nontrivial number of proponents for SSPL dislike this distinction because they want the goodwill and reputation that comes from being able to say, "we're Open Source." They want to be categorized the same way as MIT or GPL licenses, even though they fundamentally disagree with the worldview behind them.

> The OSI believes it owns the definition of open source and refuses to update the definition of open source, which is short-sighted and dangerous.

No. The OSI believes that Open Source has a widely agreed-upon definition, and that definition shouldn't be hijacked just because it's inconvenient for some company's software monetization strategy. The level of condescension in this article is really infuriating. Literally nothing is preventing any developer or company from using the SSPL right now: nobody will judge you, nobody will call you evil, the only thing the Open Source community is requesting is that you do not call it Open Source.

Open Source was not invented so you could use it as a PR strategy. We don't need your help.


> Open Source was not invented so you could use it as a PR strategy. We don't need your help.

Ironically, "open source" was explicitly invented as a PR strategy by ESR and friends because the free software ideology was scaring aware rich companies:

https://www.gnu.org/philosophy/open-source-misses-the-point....

http://www.catb.org/~esr/writings/taoup/html/ch02s03.html


> Open Source, a set of licenses that allow users to run and modify software for personal or commercial purposes without your permission.

... And do not prohibit redistribution of the work or source-form derivatives.


> nobody will judge you, nobody will call you evil

I don't think this is true. Lots of people will call anything other than their preferred licenses evil.


Well sure, some people will call you evil for choosing GPL over MIT.

But the developer community as a whole, which has already shown themselves to be basically fine with proprietary software existing, is not going to be thrown off because you call yourself Source Available.

And the people who would judge you for choosing a Source Available license are not going to suddenly be OK with you using SSPL just because Mongo says to call it Open Source.


> and Source Available, a set of licenses that allow users to see and modify your source code provided they meet some kind of criteria you set up, such as not using the code for commercial purposes or not doing things you don't like with it.

GPL is source available, then?


Last time I checked GPL explicitly allows using the code for any purpose ("Freedom 0"). FSF is also clear that it's fine with people making money off free software. The requirement to distribute code together with binaries makes many kinds of business impossible with GPL-d software, but that's a side effect, not the goal as in "Source Available" licenses.


As far as I know GPL complies with the open source definition. You can run the software for any purpose, including selling commercial services.

Source available licenses would be appropriate if you want to restrict use. (For example by Amazon.)


Nope! GPL puts conditions on redistribution, not on modifying or running the code.

AGPL does stretch the definition though, and people have argued indeed that it is not open source.


Some people have argued that, yes. I've even argued it occasionally in the past.

The short justification given is that even though the GPL doesn't let you do everything, it still doesn't interfere with the 4 essential freedoms that Open Source guarantees. You may or may not agree with that justification.

But the people arguing in favor of SSPL as an Open Source license are moving in the wrong direction. If TechCrunch wanted to make the argument that the GPL wasn't free enough for inclusion into Open Source, they could do so. Instead, they're arguing that because the GPL might stretch the definition, we should just go whole hog and introduce straight-up end-user usage restrictions as well.

Techcrunch is taking the, "your thing isn't perfect, so we should all make it worse" position.


> The short justification given is that even though the GPL doesn't let you do everything, it still doesn't interfere with the 4 essential freedoms that Open Source guarantees. You may or may not agree with that justification.

Wait, what? "Four essential freedoms" are part of FSF philosophy, not Open Source, and GPL is literally the canonical example of a license that guarantees and safeguards them. Many Open Source (not Free Software) licenses do not, in fact, guarantee these freedoms.


Yes, the open source definition has its own rules. The one that seems most relevant here is:

"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."

https://opensource.org/osd-annotated


I am conflating Open Source and FSF, and I think people are very right to call me out on that. Especially in this context :)

The point I was trying to get at is that regardless of existing debates over the merits of permissive vs. copyleft licenses, neither side of that debate would say that SSPL belongs here.

Permissive license advocates would say that while they dislike GPL's restrictions, adding more restrictions is a bad idea. GPL advocates would say that the point of the GPL is to safeguard the 4 essential freedoms, and SSPL doesn't safeguard them.

Techcrunch is arguing that because there isn't perfect consensus within FOSS, FLOSS, and Open Source communities, that we might as well just turn this whole thing into a free-for-all.


No. If you wanna get technical about it GPL is structured around ensuring every user can see and modify the code, and do whatever they want with it, except prevent people from doing the first thing (seeing and modifying the code). It's sort of a vacuously false thing where "provided they meet some kind of criteria you set up" has the criteria of ensuring the original clause of "a set of licenses that allow users to see and modify your source code".


Excellent point. Anything to misconstrue a common definition in the name of marketing buzz.


Open Source has been so well understood to mean a certain set of things within the technology industry now that making changes to that definition would just cause unnecessary confusion (beyond what already exists between OSS and FOSS ...). Quite possibly the author is just annoyed his portfolio companies get pushback when taking about "source available" or proprietary licenses to potential customers, but leaping from there to "our customers want open source, thus open source must change to mean what we want to give our customers" is fairly dramatic.

Honestly, I think this editorial could have done with toning down the rhetoric a bit - calling people / groups names ("wonk tank") and generally implying those with the opposing view are irredeemably "short-sighted" isn't particularly persuasive and just detracts from the author's points.


I speak to a lot of Open Source software users in Database space and they tend to love DBaaS offered by AWS and other cloud vendors. It is not convenient for my business but that does not make it a bad thing.

The competition is how great things are born. Some Open Source is being pushed towards proprietary model (Open Core, Shared Source etc) while others will find a way to have sustainable business in the new reality with Cloud Vendors.


For a few years I've wondered about the viability of a "source-available" license with a lot of user-friendly terms (like being able to distribute modified versions which anyone else can use as long as they themselves have a license for the original work, etc...) and a built-in GPL/BSD/etc... conversion after N years.

IMHO, the maximalist position of the RMS camp, while rightfully paranoid about the dangers of fully proprietary software, isn't the optimal solution. Yes, certain kinds of open source projects have been extremely successful, but a lot of this has been driven by corporate interests (i.e., people working on open source projects as a part of their work) and the software that gets built reflects and reinforces these interests.

I'd be happy to pay to have the latest version of some really useful software that respects my rights in lots of other ways (e.g., more control over and access to my data in the app, and be able to tinker/adapt it as I see fit, with full source), particularly if the alternative is that this software doesn't exist. If feels like, at least in some software domains, that the alternative are either (1) user hostile proprietary software or (2) nowhere close to the proprietary alternative in terms of features and robustness.

Obviously that's not the case for stuff like databases and operating system kernels, but that's what it often feels like out of these back-end type packages.


When I open source code, I use MIT. I have introduced open source strategies at places I work, and guided teams through the process.

Ok now that I've established my OSS cred: I'd be really interested in a license that is effectively MIT, _except_ for the 20 largest software companies, for whom there is no license and any use is restricted (you'd need to clearly define what makes a company a software company, and what it means to be the largest, but that's what lawyers are for). They could pay for a commerical license if the customer demand was high enough.

This seems like it would address the main issue as I see it, that is, I want almost everyone to be able to use my software to build cool shit and make money... But if you're FAANG or some shit, come on. The rules are different.


>that's what lawyers are for

One of the reasons the standard open-sources licenses such as the GPL and the permissive licenses are as popular as they are is the lowness of the probability that lawyers will ever be involved.

There was widespread use of GPL software in the 1980s and early 1990s for about 15 years IIRC before the first lawsuit involving GPLed software. Stallman and his legal advisor Eben Moglen did a great job in reducing ambiguity when writing the text of version 2 of the GPL and in explaining the ramifications of the license to developers and prospective users.


This could put off anyone who thinks they could be acquired by such companies from using your software as well. How can anyone know who is going to make it onto the blacklist for the next version etc. Seems quite the can of worms.


If we're getting into company-specific bans, I'd much rather be using the one that banned Palantir than one that bans FAANG, and the one that banned Palantir resulted in a massive backlash.


I quite like what TimescaleDB have done here - their TSL licence prohibits you from selling TimescaleDB as a service, but allows you to build new services that use TimescaleDB as a backend. I'm not sure how applicable this model might be outside of databases though.


Amazon has continually moved to keep source open. They have actively worked to distribute Open Distro Elasticsearch (keeping it under a fully-free license), Apache Corretto (binaries for the OpenJDK to make it more accessible to end-users), etc. Using similar APIs increases consumer choice and interoperability, making it easier to go from open to hosted but also from hosted to open.

These proposed licenses neither are open-source nor free software and are very poor ideas. The SSPL clearly breached the boundaries of open source and the OSI's opinion was only "premediated" in the sense that that was the agreed-upon definition.


The author is suggesting to curb source-available licenses by modifying open source licences to become... source-available licenses.


Amazon isn't perfect in some areas, but I think FreeRTOS should be pointed out. This is a pretty valuable contribution in the embedded/IoT space. https://www.freertos.org/


More whining from Sunil Deshpande. He's upset that no one on license-discuss was dumb enough to fall for the Commons Clause or SSPL. It'll be a happy day when he gives up his anti-open source abuse campaign.


I wonder what your opinion is of Kyle Mitchell https://writing.kemitchell.com/


Nobody proposed Commons Clause to OSI. And I’m not the only one who stood up for SSPL as open source.


There is an elephant in the room, and the elephant is called dual licensing. In my opinion, this is a more severe abuse of open source than what Amazon does.

When RMS introduced GPL the idea was to make everyone share their code, and make the world a happy place full of free Software. Dual licensing abuses this sincere intent to induce fear in commercial users and make them pay.

So using a dual-licensing scheme prevents people from considering authors of SSPL the new leaders of the open-source community.


You might find it interesting that Stallman supports selling exceptions to the GPL (i.e. dual licensing). You can read more about it on the FSF blog [1] but the post ends with the following:

> I consider selling exceptions an acceptable thing for a company to do, and I will suggest it where appropriate as a way to get programs freed.

[1] https://www.fsf.org/blogs/rms/selling-exceptions


OK, if RMS approves it, it's not an abuse, who am I to argue? Still, the goal of open-source, copyleft and permissive flavours alike, is to "get programs freed", not to establish a fairer distribution of the cash flow. So when someone introduces a new superrestrictive license and starts selling exceptions right away, their earnesty can naturally be questioned.


Hopefully, this is illegal in two-party consent states (for audio recordings)... but I bet that they will get those laws repealed.


Open-Source is alive, well and functioning as intended. Tens of thousands of Open-Source projects are producing the software that is driving most of today's tech.

To a venture capitalist, Open-Source is a marketing strategy. VCs would like to profit from the popularity of Open-Source by inserting themselves in the cash flow. But the cash flows in Open-Source are periphery. And the periphery is a humble position for a VC.


This article calls it a lack of leadership in open source, but the reality is Bezos is exploiting everyone using Amazon, from people selling shower curtain hooks to video encoding software, open source deployed across AWS, corrupt tax deals and more. Leadership in open source won't instill ethics or charity in the world's richest man who demands his own not-employees work so hard they must sprint to their lunch break or be fired.

Amazon is accused of using sales data belonging to companies selling products on their platform to help them select 10,000s of products to clone and sell in direct competition to their vendors.

https://www.geek.com/news/amazonbasics-is-copying-all-the-be...

They have copied software hosted on AWS in the past too, whatever proprietary software you're hosting on AWS is hemorrhaging privileged usage data they will happily use against you.

https://www.theregister.co.uk/2013/03/08/amazon_copies_partn...


> Amazon is accused of using sales data belonging to companies selling products on their platform

Why does this sales data belong to the companies and not Amazon, if they are using the platform? Is it unethical to copy a product or software in a non-infringing way?


I think that data belongs to the merchants, just like an S3-buckets logs belong to the developer. It has to be that way or who else has a claim on the data? HP for printing it? Microsoft because it was sent by email in Office? The EU suspects it is anti-competitive to allow Amazon as a vendor to cherrypick items to clone based on data Amazon collect as a platform.

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-09-27/amazon-s-...


Would you apply that logic to any reseller? The corner market shouldn't be able to tally how many apples it sold? That just doesn't seem like a consistent legal principle to me. Clearly if you allow someone to sell your product you are implicitly allowing them to record the fact that they did.

There may be an antitrust argument here, but this data ownership thing seems like a non starter.


Unless it says "Sold by: Amazon.com", Amazon isn't party to the contract. DHL doesn't get to know what is in the package they deliver, so why should Amazon be entitled to that information?


You have a cite supporting that legal theory? Because the fact that it happened on their website using indexing in their database and (especially) that they took payment directly, seems like a pretty strong argument that they ARE a party to the contract.


Amazon isn't buying the goods though. The store selling the good isn't just selling it to Amazon, so it's not reselling.


So Amazon shouldn't be allowed to create any products, or must ignore the data it needs to plan logistics?


If you host your website on AWS and store invoices on S3, Amazon can blindly enter your market with a competing offering and it might lose money, or they can go through your invoices and decide to copy your product because they see how profitable you are. The EU's theory is, if this is what is happening, it gives Amazon an unfair advantage and they shouldn't be leveraging your data against you to compete with you.


> If you host your website on AWS and store invoices on S3, Amazon can blindly enter your market with a competing offering and it might lose money, or they can go through your invoices...

it is totally absurd to suggest they're looking through customers S3 data.


Who's going to stop them and who's going to investigate them?

I think Americans often ignore the reason behind the EU's deep concerns around privacy and regulation is simply because EU lawmakers have no other power over American corporations. Simply none. The most they can do is excessive financial penalties. They cannot jail Bezos. But what they can do, is impose an absurd financial penalty. Amazon will appeal. It will go to court, and the US State Department will try to help Amazon (an American corporation after all, representing American jobs and American workers) and the penalty will be reduced. The EU public is happy, the EU stuck it to Amazon! But they didn't face any significant consequence for their action, and never will.

If however, this happened in the US, it can get thorny for Amazon. A "lowly" judge in Texas can compel Bezos, the richest man in the world, to appear in court. The implicit threat being that, being in non-compliance would escalate the case until it reached the highest courts, which can compel the Federal Govt. to take action to compel Bezos.

A US judge has that power. No judge in any other country has it. Every other country has no reason to believe Amazon will do as it says. Only some have the power to impose the kind of regulations like GDPR, EU being America's close trading and diplomatic partner.


You can. You can supply your own keys if you think a company is insane enough to tank its multi billion dollar platform to steal your product.


I mean sure, for the specific case of storing financial reports in s3, you have a technical solution that works. My point still stands for abhorrent monopoly behavior of some US corps outside of the US.

Amazon did not get where it is by being nice (in fact, this HN post is about that aspect of their behavior). They're rational, they will abide by all laws _where they need to_, including regulations (you can't call in favors all the time). Without regulations, this behavior is incentivized. Even with regulations, there is an ultimate get out of free card if the regulation is non-American.


> Who's going to stop them and who's going to investigate them?

amazon themselves. risking the entire AWS business to figure out that their retailers are selling lots of shower curtains and they could be undercut by $0.05 is idiocy.

> I think Americans...

i stopped reading there, as it couldn't possibly have anything to do with what i was talking about. hope getting it off your chest made you feel better.


> i stopped reading there

Ironically, if you had actually read the post you might have understood that it does.


It's just an analogy, for what they are accused of doing on the retail side of their business.


Yes, it is absurd, it would be illegal.

They could do the same through widely sold advertising metrics.


Amazon should ignore other people data. Amazon has plenty of its data from its own products, no need to create false dichotomies.


Are you also opposed to companies making store brands after seeing how well other brands sell in their store?


> Amazon is accused of using sales data belonging to companies selling products on their platform to help them select 10,000s of products to clone and sell in direct competition to their vendors.

At the risk of being accused of whataboutism, _everyone_ does this.

The big-box stores go direct to China, often to the same factories that their intermediates were using. Walmart doubled-down on a direct-to-factory approach starting in 2010, moving from 20% to 80% direct with cost savings of 5-15%.

Your grocery store sells private-labelled goods. This market is expected to reach $220 billion by 2020.

The weakening of established brands has enabled large merchants to leverage sales data to drive product lines that provide good/better/best options to the consumer. The fact that Amazon started to sell their own products shouldn't have been a surprise to anyone in the industry. Ten years ago the complaint from brands was "big box stores are killing us", now it's "Amazon is killing us".

Pointing out that Bezos is the world's richest man and claiming he's exploiting people is a tired ad hominem attack.


I notice you had no reply to his comment about exploitation of workers. Why is pointing out Bezos’ massive wealth disparity “tired”? I think it needs to get brought up in every discussion about Amazon to point out how little he cares about other human beings that he accumulates so much wealth at the expense of tens of thousands of people.


How is Bezos's wealth related to anything? Just because he owns more % shares in Amazon than other founders do in their companies, that makes Amazon exploitative? The Walton family has a similar net worth. Does that add to Walmart's exploitative nature. Does an increase or decrease in Amazon stock price make them good and bad, because the wealth of Bezos changes?

If you want to make an argument of Amazon revenue and growth, fine. If you think their shares are not as divided as other companies and that makes them exploitative, I am not sure what your argument is.


So you’re using whataboutism as an argument. I never said the Waltons weren’t exploitive. My argument is that Bezos is at the extreme for exploitive behavior considering his massive wealth. He could make less money and give his employees more. He could change company policy to improve employees’ lives. Instead he hoards wealth and sucks as much out of his employees as possible.


These are the bullets from the article:

It takes open-source code produced by others, runs it as a commercial service and gives nothing back to the commercial entity that produces and maintains the open source, thereby intercepting the monetization of the open source.

It forks projects and forcibly wrestles control away from the commercial entity that produces and maintains the open-source projects, as it did in the case of Elasticsearch.

It hijacks open-source APIs and places them on top of its own proprietary solutions, thereby siphoning off customers from the open-source project to its own proprietary solution, as it did with the MongoDB APIs.

Check, check, check. Remember RMS' screed? "Only the writing of software should be paid for, the using of it is an inherent right of everyone and should not make any remuneration requirements on the user."

Back when he wrote that he was mad because companiies wrote code and charged big fees just to use it. He felt that was unfair. But now the shoe is on the other foot, and big companies are just "users" they aren't writing the software, so why should they pay for it? And while RMS was happy to have an architect use CAD software that someone else paid to have written, to design the houses that they sold for big bucks to their own clients, I don't think he thought it all the way through.

The missing bit here is that the "using of software" has a value. Whether you are using a better C compiler than your competitors so your compiled code runs faster than theirs, or you are using a distributed database to offer a scaled up database service that is impractical for an individual to equip and maintain. The whole reason people paid for software in the first place is because it accelerated the value they could create. And when that delta in value, that was worth significant money to them. Still is. That is why electronic CAD software still gets big bucks from its users, the same with packages like Adobe studio.

And guess what? When you use someone's software, and you are getting additional value that is accruing to you, if you didn't pay anything to the person who created it and maintains it, they feel cheated. Surprised? I am not.

When the software manufacturers of old found people that used their software without paying for it, they called them Pirates, and Crooks, and all manner of ill names. They turned to technology, and licensing legalize, to create ways they could pursue those people to make them pay. Not unlike the folks at Redis changing their licenses to make it harder for people like Amazon to "pirate" their software. It would be funny if it wasn't so sad.

There is nothing "free" about Free Software as RMS envisions it, it is just a structural way for the users of the software to rip off the people who wrote it by capturing all of the value gained by using that software to develop or provide a product or service.

It has always been true that software vendors were often extortionate in their pricing while escaping all liability by disclaiming the software did anything. If you fixed that problem, then we will be in a much better place.


Isn't this what GPLv3 is suppose to prevent ? Commercial Entities seems to hate it, there must be a reason, probably because they cannot 'cheat' with it.


IANAL but as I understand it, GPLv3 prevents "tivoization" and AGPLv3 prevents running modified services without releasing the source code. Corporations particularly hate AGPLv3.


what's the difference? unmodified vs. modified code?


Depends. Some commercial entities deliberately choose GPLv3 to sell unrestricted version in addition to distributing the GPLed one for free.


No, that would be AGPL, and freeloaders hate it.


Unpopular Opinion: Maybe it would be a good if API’s were subject to copyright protection.


If APIs were subject to copyright protection, Linux would probably never have happened. All the commercial UNIXes were licensed descendants of the original Bell Labs UNIX code base; Linux was a unlicensed re-implementation of UNIX by Linus.

[EDIT] The same goes for WINE and the various Windows APIs.


Do you want to live in a world with less interoperability all around?


Wasn’t that part of why Oracle v Google was disliked?


Yes. That’s why it’s an unpopular opinion! But I’m still not sure it’s a wrong one.


Wouldn't that likely lead to all kinds of legal trouble about "your API for the same problem is to similar to ours"?

Is it generally good to forbid making compatible implementations of APIs?




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