Open Source: The Unauthorized White Papers

Donald K. Rosenberg

M&T Books.
An imprint of IDG Books Worldwide, Inc.

Foster City, CA ¨ Chicago, IL ¨ Indianapolis, IN ¨ New York, NY

 The most comprehensive look at the business phenomenon
driving the Open Source software development ever published.

--Bob Young, Cofounder, Red Hat, Inc.

This book should be required reading for those who are considering
migrating to an Open Source environment.

--Nicholas Petreley, Evangelist, Caldera Systems, Inc.

Open Source: The Unauthorized White Papers

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About the Author

Donald K. Rosenberg is president of Stromian Technologies, an international consultancy for software marketing, distribution, and licensing. He is the publisher of the OEM Software Licensing Guide, the Open Source Software Licensing Page, and other on-line marketing resources at Dr. Rosenberg has 20 years of marketing experience and has worked with companies large and small in the U.S. and Europe, both in Open Source and in more traditional software markets and channels. A speaker on Open Source licensing issues at USENIX, ALS, Linux Expo, and Comdex, he is on the Advisory Boards of the Linux Mall and other Open Source companies.


[Dedication page]

For Karla Anne, quae diutius libello proprio carebat





Even Being a Forward Kind of Guy......

I am still flattered when asked to write a forward to a person's book...particularly when that person is Donald Rosenberg.

I met Don at the first Freenix track that was given by USENIX in January of 1997. Don was easy to spot, since he was the one person out of 500 that was wearing a suit, and was second in age only to me.

"What are you speaking on,'' I asked, seeing his speaker's ribbon. "I am here to talk about licensing," Don answered, with a shy smile and the twinkle in his eye that he often shows. "Thank Heaven that someone is doing it,'' I remember thinking at the time.

Linux licensing seems to be the most confusing thing about Linux, and it should be a very easy thing to understand. Free software! How can it get any simpler than that? Yet people kept having issues with understanding the General Public License (GPL) and other licenses associated with what most people call "Free Software" and/or "Open Source.''

I have heard many questions over the years. When do I have to ship the sources to my product, and when can I keep the sources to myself if I want to do so? What benefits do my customer and I have from making my source code available? What parts of a Linux distribution are "free,"' and what do I have to pay for on a system by system basis? Can I really copy a whole CD-ROM of software and sell it for money as long as I acknowledge the people who worked on it? Why do Linux people keep saying there are two meanings of "free" (freedom and "no cost") and that they do not always just talk about "freedom," particularly when the conversation turns to beer.

There are a variety of licenses that have similar meanings, even if the results of applying them are vastly different over time. For example, the Berkeley Software Distribution was one of the most popular versions of Unix, but its license (which did not require changes to the OS to be freely distributed) allowed to other versions of Unix systems based on BSD to diverge in functionality. This allowed the commercial Unix systems to diverge, creating an insurmountable obstacle for independent software vendors (ISVs).

There also exists the whole concept of making money on something that is free of cost, or the perception that people are charging money on something they are supposedly giving away. One can begin to understand why there is confusion in the common marketplace, a marketplace that has existed for years on protecting and selling intellectual property.

But we are going into a new marketplace, a marketplace created by the Internet, which is so big and so diverse that you can find a large enough market to think a different way. The entire computer marketplace at the start of the New Millenium is about 400 million units. Imagine what the marketplace will be like (and the amount of money that will be made using traditional means of selling software) as the market expands to embrace the emerging nations, a marketplace of an additional 5.6 Billion people?

This market may be of people who wish to modify an already existing (and free) operating system platform and who might pay a person good money to tailor it to their needs. You might also find a large enough group of people willing to donate their time and energies to create the basis of this platform and give it away for free. Then have these two groups of people come together to help support each other, all the time building on that which has been built before.

This new market may reject the concept of paying (and repaying) for software developed two, three or four years ago, which is what we do today.

For a long while, I could not explain why people created good software, then gave away both the binaries and the source code to it. Then it hit me. It was the same as an amateur painter.

Very few amateur painters put their paintings in a dark closet. They then typically hang it on the wall. Sometimes they take it to an art show to have it judged by people they feel are better then themselves in various techniques. They might be told how to mix their colors better, or how to use certain artist's tools and tricks to make their pictures better. Finally they apply these techniques to create even better paintings, but they do want their paintings seen and admired. This is why they hang them on the wall.

The equivalent for software of "hanging on the wall" is to be distributed and used by people all over the world.

And if you can do it with an operating system, could you also do it with other things too? Perhaps you could find musicians who played music because they wanted to create art. Old songs would be distributed for free, and could be modified to create new songs without royalty to the original artist as long as the modifications were also distributed for free. Perhaps in the larger audience of the Internet there would be enough people willing to pay for modifying the old songs (or having new ones written) that artists would be paid for creation of new works rather than just living off the royalties of old works.

But I digress. In this book we are talking about software, and Shawn "Napster"' Fanning now knows that music is not like software. Or so the music industry lawyers have told him.

Perhaps, however, Don's book will cause these people to stop and think. Perhaps people will be brave enough to entertain new methods of generating revenue from artistic endeavors. Perhaps with the more immediate "suddenness"' of the Internet market, patents and copyrights should have a shorter lifetime, to allow the original artist to make some money, yet allow others to transform an artist's works later on. Or perhaps as John Perry Barlow, a lyricist for my own favorite band "The Grateful Dead," explains that artists should make the bulk of their money out of public displays of their art (i.e., concerts). Perhaps an artist should give away his creation, but sell his performance. This might be extended to streaming video concerts. Then concepts like Napster would help the music market, not hurt it.

I am a great fan of the Star Trek series of TV shows. In those shows people worked because they enjoyed doing their jobs, not because they were paid. It may take several decades for us to get to that stage, but perhaps the ideals of the Open Source community can help get us started, to "`boldly go where no man has gone before."' But we have to take that first step.

I hope that Don's book lights the fire of ideas for you, no matter what your endeavor might be.

Warmest wishes,

Jon ``maddog'' Hall




Do you need this book? You probably do if you are curious about Linux and Open Source. Nowadays you can open your newspaper or newsmagazine or turn on your television or radio, and find a lot of small news stories about both. You will have a harder time, however, finding a source that covers the whole Open Source world from top to bottom. You can buy Eric Raymond’s book on theoretical writings about Open Source, The Cathedral and the Bazaar; Bob Young’s story of how he got Red Hat, Inc., up and running, Under the Radar; or the perspectives of Open Source leaders in Open Sources: Voices from the Open Source Revolution. They each contribute their part of the picture.

If you want to know more, there are a couple of magazines that cover Linux. To become well informed, you must spend a lot of time on the Internet (where Open Source lives) and visit an Open Source or Linux conference or trade show or two. And you will have to try to pull it all together. That’s where this book comes in. It is intended for a variety of readers — you may be one of them — to pull all the information together.

Who This Book is For

This book is for general readers and computer users who wish the entire subjects of Open Source and Linux would sit still in one place long enough for them to get a look at it (and they do in this book). These general readers are unsatisfied by media accounts and don’t know where to look for detailed information on the Internet. (There’s a large collection of Web links at the end of this book, besides links scattered through the text.) This book is also for corporate IT managers who want to know more about how Open Source will fit in with corporate computing strategies. And, finally, it is for those members of the Open Source community who would like a chance to look back at where they came from and see their movement in a larger context.

If a chapter (or group of chapters) doesn’t interest you at first, go ahead and skip it for now. There’s a glossary in the back. Turn to it if you don’t see terms explained on the spot. Although the more specialized chapters are written in more specialized language, this is not a technical book; it is written primarily from a business point of view. The book spends little time on software development tools because technical people generally have their own ways of learning about new tools.

A Guide to the New Land

If the past looks like a foreign country, certainly the future is even more strange to us; if Open Source is that future, then it will seem even stranger to the ordinary computer users, most of whom are deeply immersed in the Windows world. You may understand about Linux that it is an operating system, that it is free, and that some people are making fabulous amounts of money from it, but the details are unclear, and it all seems to have something to do with dot-com IPO hype. As for Open Source, you may have heard that it’s good, but there is a strange haze hanging over it. It seems to be associated with a closed community of arrogant juvenile geniuses with overly-dramatic or difficult personalities, with demonstrations outside Microsoft offices demanding refunds…and what does that penguin have to do with it, anyway? And will it really destroy Microsoft?

This book takes up these questions and stereotypes. For now let me assure you that the Open Source community is very interested in offering ordinary users a superior computing experience; how they hope to do this forms part of the book. There are plenty of young people in the movement, and they do attract attention. The community also includes many experienced coders and managers with gray hair who are trusted members of the corporate world.

How I Came to Write This Book

My own work is software marketing and licensing. In the mid-1990s I began hearing a low buzz around the Research Triangle area of North Carolina about a little Linux company called Red Hat. I had tried a couple of times to find them, but no one seemed to know where they were (access was through the Internet, and the company was still run out of an apartment in those days). I found them in 1996 when someone gave me the name of Michael K. Johnson, who was one of a dozen Red Hat employees now settled in their new offices. Like so many in the Open Source community (which did not even have that name in those days) he was very helpful and free with information. He had just given up editorship of the Linux Journal, and gave me 18 back issues to help me get started in understanding what was going on.

I had been aware of Richard Stallman and his Free Software Foundation since his early days in the 1980s; he appeared to be in the same category as the man who runs Project Gutenberg, whose goal is to put as much public domain literature on the Internet as possible. There seemed to be no commercial application for either. Red Hat, on the other hand, had a business plan and an aggressive marketer, Bob Young. Bob was quite open and voluble in explaining his branding strategy for Red Hat


During one visit in early 1998 Bob Young sketched the diagram that I titled Unified Field Theory of Licensing? and used in talks and in Chapter 7. At the time he told me I was free to use it, but without his name. Since Bob subsequently put it in his own book, I thought I would explain its appearance here, and the fact that I have been free with it for a couple of years now.

As I began to meet more Linux people (via e-mail), it was inevitable that I should run into Jon "maddog" Hall, executive director of Linux International. Through his efforts, I was invited to give a talk at the Freenix section of Usenix in January 1997. The talk covered the methods of distribution in the commercial software world; it was by now apparent that Linux was headed there (nobody dreamed how soon), and we wanted Linux developers to start thinking about commercializing their software and how it could be done.

From that time on I gave more talks to Open Source developer groups, and as I learned more and accumulated more material, it occurred to me that there was no book explaining the Open Source world to those outside it, or to those who had only a partial view of it from inside. A book is always a larger undertaking than one thinks at first, and I owe apologies to the publisher and to my family for having spent so much time on it. Part of the difficulty was the speed at which things change in the Open Source world; the trick is to keep current while putting in the book the long-term truths about Open Source. Only its readers can tell me whether I have succeeded.

This Book's Organization

The book is divided into six sections, the first looking back into the past, and the last looking ahead into the future. Within the running text there are sidebars that take up related topics in more detail and notes that supplement or update the material. There are also two appendixes and a short glossary.

Part I: Open Source Software is Linux…and More

This part delves into the origins of Open Source software and what has already been done to commercialize it. Open Source is not so much a revolutionary idea as an earlier way of doing things that is being vindicated as everyone moves deeper into the computer world.

Part II: Open Source Software in Your Business

This part explores the idea of adopting Open Source software in your business, and the advantages and problems of such a move. This part includes a quick survey of available software that any office would expect to use and a comparison of Windows and Linux.

Part III: Open Source Licensing: Does It Have to Be This Hard?

This part gets to the heart of what is unique about Open Source software. The licensing can be complicated, but problems are simplified if you know what you want to accomplish and pick the license accordingly. In this part, you also learn to look the legendary UNIX bug-a-boo, fear of forking, in the eye.

Part IV: Linux is Moving UP…and DOWN

This part deals with the flexibility of Linux. It describes how Linux now runs on mainframe computers, runs gangs of PC’s that behave like supercomputers, and runs the software in new cell phones, Internet access devices, and industrial equipment.

Part V: Open Source Software AS Your Business

This part looks at the ways companies are making money in the growing Open Source market. You may find your own opportunity in this part.

Part VI: The Future of Open Source

This part looks at companies and community projects that are moving Open Source forward, and how Open Source is becoming a factor in the competition between companies such as IBM, Sun Microsystems, and Microsoft. You also learn of the plans the large entertainment and intellectual property companies have for your future use of books, movies, music, and software, and how Open Source software and attitudes are in the middle of controversies that can be settled only by Congress or the Supreme Court.


Appendix A contains the complete text of the following public software licenses: GNU General Public License, GNU Lesser General Public License, QT Free Edition License, Apache License, Mozilla Public License, IBM Public License, and BitKeeper. Appendix B lists many Web resources that provide a wealth of information.


A great many people have been helpful to me during the writing of this book:

Tom Adelstein, of Bynari Systems, Inc.;
Mitchell Baker, of;
"The BRU Guys,"
Enhanced Software Technologies, Inc.;
Sam Byassee, of Smith Helms Mullis & Moore;
Elizabeth Coolbaugh, of Linux Weekly News;
Frank Hecker, of Collab.Net;
Chris Herrnberger, of Linux Studio;
Dan Kusnetzky, of International Data Corp.;
Frank LaMonica, of Precision Insight;
Jacques Le Marois, of MandrakeSoft;
Bruce Perens, of the Linux Capital Group;
Nicholas Petreley, of Caldera Systems, Inc.;
Stacey Quandt, of the Giga Information Group;
Pamela Samuelson, of the University of California at Berkeley;
and Marc Torres, of Atipa Linux Solutions.

The preceding list includes many individuals who gave instant response to pestering questions. I hope no one will hold these people responsible for my own shortcomings in this book, and that the many others who have been helpful to me will not feel slighted at not appearing here.



Part I: Open Source Software is Linux…and More

Chapter 1: The Origins of Open Source Software
Chapter 2: Commercializing Open Source Software

Part II: Open Source Software in Your Business

Chapter 3: Benefits and Cost of Open Source in Your Business
Chapter 4: Available Products and More to Come
Chapter 5: Linux vs. Windows

Part III: Open Source Licensing: Does It Have to Be This Hard?

Chapter 6: The GNU GPL and the Open Source Definition
Chapter 7: Complications of Open Source Licensing

Part IV: Linux is Moving UP…and DOWN

Chapter 8: The Drive Toward the Mainframe
Chapter 9: The Secret Battlefield: Embedded Systems

Part V: Open Source Software AS Your Business

Chapter 10: The Platform: Software and Hardware
Chapter 11: The Applications: Non-Traditional Business Models
Chapter 12: The Proprietary Software Business: New Opportunities . . . and Pressures

Part VI: The Future of Open Source

Chapter 13: Companies and Projects
Chapter 14: Intellectual Property