OSI Open Source Definition

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For software developers, Linux provides a platform that lets them change the operating system as they like and get a wide range of help creating the applications they need. One of the watchdogs of the open source movement is the Open Source Initiative (www.opensource.org). This is how the OSI Web site describes open source software:

The basic idea behind open source is very simple: When programmers can read, redistribute, and modify the source code for a piece of software, the software evolves. People improve it, people adapt it, people fix bugs. And this can happen at a speed that, if one is used to the slow pace of conventional software development, seems astonishing.
We in the open source community have learned that this rapid evolutionary process produces better software than the traditional closed model, in which only a very few programmers can see the source and everybody else must blindly use an opaque block of bits. While the primary goal of open source software is to make source code available, other goals are also defined by OSI in its Open Source Definition. Most of the following rules for acceptable open source licenses are to protect the freedom and integrity of the open source code:

• Free distribution—An open source license can’t require a fee from anyone who resells the software.

• Source code—The source code has to be included with the software and not be restricted from being redistributed.

• Derived works—The license must allow modification and redistribution of the code under the same terms.

• Integrity of the author’s source code—The license may require that those who use the source code remove the original project’s name or version if they change the source code.

• No discrimination against persons or groups—The license must allow all people to be equally eligible to use the source code.

• No discrimination against fields of endeavor—The license can’t restrict a project from using the source code because it is commercial or because it is associated with a field of endeavor that the software provider doesn’t like.

• Distribution of license—No additional license should be needed to use and redistribute the software.

• License must not be specific to a product—The license can’t restrict the source code to a particular software distribution.

• License must not restrict other software—The license can’t prevent someone from including the open source software on the same medium as non–open source software.

• License must be technology-neutral—The license can’t restrict methods in which the source code can be redistributed.


Open source licenses used by software development projects must meet these criteria to be accepted as open source software by OSI. More than 40 different licenses are accepted by OSI to be used to label software as “OSI Certified Open Source Software.” In addition to the GPL, other popular OSI-approved licenses include:

• LGPL—The GNU Lesser General Public License (LGPL) is a license that is often used for distributing libraries that other application programs depend upon.

• BSD—The Berkeley Software Distribution License allows redistribution of source code, with the requirement that the source code keep the BSD copyright notice and not use the names of contributors to endorse or promote derived software without written permission.

• MIT—The MIT license is like the BSD license, except that it doesn’t include the endorsement and promotion requirement.

• Mozilla—The Mozilla license covers use and redistribution of source code associated with the Mozilla Web browser and related software. It is a much longer license than the others just mentioned because it contains more definitions of how contributors and those reusing the source code should behave. This includes submitting a file of changes when submitting modifications and that those making their own additions to the code for redistribution should be aware of patent issues or other restrictions associated with their code.

The end result of open source code is software that has more flexibility to grow and fewer boundaries in how it can be used. Many believe that the fact that many people look over the source code for a project will result in higher quality software for everyone. As open source advocate Eric S. Raymond says in an often-quoted line, “Many eyes make all bugs shallow.”

Source of Information : Linux Bible 2008 Edition

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