BSD: the Berkeley Software Distribution
Richard Stallman wasn't the only one who felt that collaborative an open software programming were worthwhile. As told by Dennis Richie, in his story of how he, Keith Thompson and others created Unix, one of the reasons they and others at Bell Laboratories (K. Thompson, Ritchie, M. D. McIlroy, J. F. Ossanna) began to write the new operating system was that they
were disappointed with the slow development of the Multics system they were using, but didn't want to give up certain social benefits it offered: "We knew from experience that the essence of communal computing, as supplied by remote-access, time-shared machines, is not just to type programs into a terminal instead of a keypunch, but to encourage close communication."
[http://cm.bell-labs.com/cm/cs/who/dmr/hist.html Richie, Dennis: "The Evolution of the Unix Time-sharing System: Origins "]
Unix dates from 1969. In 1974 Thompson and Richie presented a paper about Unix at an operating system symposium, at Purdue University at which "Professor Bob Fabry, of the University of California at Berkeley, was in attendance." Professor Fabry was responsible for bringing Unix to Berkeley. There were numerous steps toward the time when Berkeley released its own variant of Unix, completely independent of Bell Labs and AT&T. These steps are recounted by Marshall Kirk McKusick in his essay "Twenty Years of Berkeley Unix: From AT&T-Owned to Freely Redistributable" which is included in Open Sources: Voices from the Open Source Revolution, distributed by O'Reilly. [http://www.oreilly.com/catalog/opensources/book/kirkmck.html McKusick, Marshall Kirk, Open Sources: Voices from the Open Source Revolution "Twenty Years of Berkeley Unix From AT&T-Owned to Freely
Redistributable: Early History": O'Reilly, 2000]
What happened was that Berkeley computer scientists began making adaptations and additions to the Bell Laboratories releases of Unix and distributing them for free. Eventually, they found themselves rewriting most of the system from scratch, and then, due to several license debacles with AT&T, including a court case, rewriting the entire system. Just as Digital's decision to release a proprietary replacement for the computer Stallman worked on at MIT forced him to conceive of a free alternative, AT&T pushed Berkeley engineers to rewrite the system without AT&T's contributions because the company began charging fees users felt they could not afford. The upshot is that today there are several versions of BSD, all freely available on the Internet and all actively developed. BSD has contributed not only to the advancement of computer science in general, but (because its components were open and programmers could adapt them) to the Gnu project and Linux. [Id]
The BSD License
Of equal importance is the license under with BSD is distributed. Here is what McKusick has to say about it:
The licensing terms were liberal. A licensee could release the code modified or unmodified in source or binary form with no accounting or royalties to Berkeley. The only requirements were that the copyright notices in the source file be left intact and that products that incorporated the code indicate in their documentation that the product contained code from the University of California and its contributors. Although Berkeley charged a $1,000 fee to get a tape, anyone was free
to get a copy from anyone who already had received it. Indeed, several large sites put it up for anonymous ftp shortly after it was released. [Id Networking Release I]
Of course, there was one small problem with the license. It required that the following statement be included in all distributions:
All advertising materials mentioning features or use of this software must display the following acknowledgement: This product includes software developed by the University of California, Berkeley and its contributors. http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/free-sw.html
As Stallman says, including that one sentence in a license would not be a problem and wasn't. However each additional contributor to a product also has the right to add a sentence and, eventually, including such a list becomes, in his words, "obnoxious." If you think this wouldn't happen, read on:
But, as you might expect, other developers did not copy the clause verbatim. They changed it, replacing ``University of California'' with their own institution or their own names. The result is a plethora of licenses, requiring a plethora of different sentences. [Id]
The result was that NetBSD, for example, had 75 such sentences that had to be included in any redistributions. Hence, Stallman recommends that a "Modified BSD" license be adopted by those interested in using the BSD model. In particular he suggests using the X11/XFree86 license. [http://www.x.org/terms.htm X11/XFree86
license or "Modified BSD License" ]
To Copyleft or Not to Copyleft
The important difference between the GPL and the BSD license is that the latter is a non-"copyleft" license. It does not, in other words, stipulate that modified versions of the software should remain free. Nor does the BSD license stipulate that modified or derivative versions of software use the same license. This small difference has had enormous effect on the
software industry. From the viewpoint of government-funded researchers, this license makes sense. They do not fear losing access to their work and so need not restrict how it is used other than to say their version should be freely distributable and modifiable, with the source, and at no cost. Copyleft ensures that programmers will not only continue to have access to their work, and its derivatives, but also that no one will capitalize on their work selfishly, essentially betraying the community spirit in which it was offered.
Programmers and users who wish to work on and with free and open software have to make their own decisions abot what's important to them. If making the code and "setting it free" are enough reward, then the less restrictive BSD-style license may be right. But if you want to be sure that no one in the future can place new restrictions on your work, or you think that community-mindedness should have priority, then the GPL may be for you.
Although the GPL and BSD licenses exist, every new company that joins the free and open software movement seems to feel it must release its software under a license of its own naming and authorship. As a result, it is important to note whether you are getting a free and copylefted program, one that's non-free and non-copy-lefted, or one that's free and non-copy-lefted in the style of BSD. BSD-style licenses are considered by the Free Software Foundation as "free software" licenses. But be careful before including BSD-licensed software in a distribution with GNU GPL'ed software. They might not be "compatible." [http://www.gnu.org/licenses/license-list.html#GPLCompatibleLicenses]
There are at least three different distributions of BSD that aremaintained today, NetBSD(http://www.netbsd.org/), FreeBSD (http://www.freebsd.org/), OpenBSD
(http://www.openbsd.org/), all of which can be found via the BSD.ORG Web site http://www.bsd.org .
Again, as with Stallman's distribution of Emacs, and subsequently GPL'ed free software, BSD was distributed both on tapes (not free) and via ftp. In either case, the code source was included as "The history of the Unix system and the BSD system in particular had shown the power of making the source available to the users." [See above: "Twenty Years of Berkeley Unix"]This was an important precedent which was unknowingly repeated in the development of Linux (see below).
The Beginnings of the OSI, or Open Source Inititiative
In 1997 a group of free and open software programmers and advocates formed around the idea that the term "free software" had too much potential for ambiguity. It was too easy to confuse "freedom of price" with the intended emphasis on "liberty." Bruce Perens, author of the Debian Social Contract, writes that they were motivated by a fear that this ambiguity was hurting the chances for Linux to gain ground in the business world. Eric Raymond contacted him with the idea to use the
term "Open Source":
Raymond was concerned that conservative business people were put off by Stallman's freedom pitch, which was, in contrast, very popular among the more liberal programmers. He felt this was stifling the development of Linux in the business world while it flourished in research. He met with business people in the fledgling Linux industry, and together they conceived of a program to market the free software concept to people who wore ties.[http://www.oreilly.com/catalog/opensources/book/perens.html Perens, Bruce: "
The Open Sorce Definition ":Open Sources: Voices from the Open Source Revolution, distributed by O'Reilly]
Stallman had published a "more precise definition" of "free software," [The Free Software Definitionhttp://www.gnu.org/philosophy/free-sw.html Stallman, Richard: "The
Free Software Definition"] but others felt this was insufficient. Stallman was invited to endorse the term "Open Source," but, after consideration, decided against doing so. He acknowledged the ambiguity of the word "free" but felt that that "open source" came with its own set of problems and, thus, was no better.
Every proposed replacement for ``free software'' has a similar kind of semantic problem, or worse--and this includes ``open source software.'' . . . The obvious meaning for ``open source software'' is ``You can look at the source code.'' This is a much weaker criterion than ``free software''; it includes free software, but also includes semi-free programs ..., and even some proprietary programs .... The obvious meaning for ``open source'' is not the meaning that its advocates intend. (Their ``official'' definition is much closer to ``free software
.'')[http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/free-software-for-freedom.html Stallman, Richard: "Why 'Free Software' is better than 'Open Source' "]
What was worse, to Stallman, as that "open source" de-emphasized the key ethical component of the "free software" movement in favor of the "keep quiet" approach; that is, "keep quiet" about ethical issues, because they make people uncomfortable. According to Stallman, the fact that discussing "freedom" makes people uncomfortable is a lousy reason
to avoid using it. In his words, "we have plenty of ``keep quiet'' but not enough freedom talk." [Id]
If, says Stallman, we emphasize only the practical virtues of free and open software, then users will eventually be tempted back to proprietary solutions for practical reasons that some company cooks up. "Why would users decline? Only if they [had] learned to value the freedom free software gives them, for its own sake." "Open Source" may be a useful term in attracting converts, but keeping them means making them understand the important ethical issue involved: "It is up to us
to spread this idea--and in order to do that, we have to talk about freedom." [Id]
Stallman may well be right, but only time will tell. Eric Raymond and other founders of what became the Open Source Initiative countered Stallman's argument with their own, of which the following is a part:
If the "free software" label were ever to catch on in the corporate world, it all would be all too easy to imagine Microsoft claiming Internet Explorer is "free software" because its cost is zero dollars. Would we really want that? [Id]
The fact that the Open Source Initiative has seen fit to publish its own "more precise definition" of the term "open source" acts as a tacit admission that Stallman is at least partly right; "open source," too, can be ambiguous. The resulting document, however, can be very helpful in understanding what they are talking about. Called, theOpen Source Definition, [http://opensource.org/advocacy/free-notfree.html Open Source Initiative: Why "Free Software" Is Too Ambiguous ], it has nine points defining free and open software; its primary author was programmer Bruce Perens, author of the Debian Free Software Guidelines . This document and the " Free Software Definition " of the FSF combine to make the definitive statement of the free and open software movements.
Netscape was strongly influenced by Raymond's essay and decided to attempt to revitalize its browser by adopting open source development methods [http://www.netscape.com/newsref/pr/newsrelease558.html Netscape Announcement ] and licensing. Netscape wrote its own license for the enterprise, building on the BSD model. Raymond was consulted on the project and, according to
Perens "insisted that Netscape's license comply with Debian's guidelines for it to be taken seriously as free software." [Perens essay] Stallman objected to the Mozilla license because it was not strong on copyleft and has "complex restrictions." However, in version 1.1, the Mozilla license allows the choice of an alternate license, of which the GPL is one; in such cases, software licensed under Mozilla can be linked with that licensed under the GPL. (See dual license ) [http://www.mozilla.org/MPL/boilerplate-1.1/mpl-dual-gpl.txt Mozilla Dual License]
Perens writes that he actually registered the term "Open Source" as "a certification mark, a special form of trademark meant to be applied to other people's products" in his essay about and entitled " The Open Source Definition ." This would have provided a clearer definition of what type of software qualifies as free and open; unfortunately, according to Stallman, that option was lost to the OSI
because someone let the patent application expire before finishing the process, and there probably never was a chance of trademarking the term "free software."
There are conciliatory moves from both the open and also the free software advocates, however. Perens goes to some pains to take the blame for the debate in his "Definition" essay, In the end, the approaches of both the Free Software Foundation and also the Open Source Initiative have much to offer. Richard Stallman also acknowledges that their work is complementary in practice, if based on different foundations:
We disagree on the basic principles, but agree more or less on the practical recommendations. So we can and do work together on many specific projects. We don't think of the Open Source movement as an enemy. The enemy is proprietary software.
We are not against the Open Source movement, but we don't want to be lumped in with them. We acknowledge that they have contributed to our community, but we created our community. We want people to associate our achievements with our values and our philosophy. We want to be heard, not hidden behind a different view.
So please mention the Free Software movement when you talk about the work we have done, and the software we have developed--such as the GNU/Linux operating system. [See above: "Relationship between the Free Software movement and Open Source movement"]
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