Last week at OSCON, I made the seemingly controversial statement “Open Source Licenses Are Obsolete. During the Q&A period, Michael Tiemann of Red Hat and the Open Source Initiative took issue with my statement, pointing out just how much value open source licenses have created. I don't know whether he really didn't understand what I was saying or whether he was just intentionally misunderstanding to make his own point. But it's clear to me at least that the open source activist community needs to come to grips with the change in the way a great deal of software is deployed today.
And that, after all, was my message: not that open source licenses are unnecessary, but that because their conditions are all triggered by the act of software distribution, they fail to apply to many of the most important types of software today, namely Web 2.0 applications and other forms of software as a service.
I've been banging this drum for many years. In fact, in preparing for my talk, I looked up an old discussion I'd had with Richard Stallman in Berlin during the summer of 1999. I had just given a talk (pdf) on what I was then calling infoware and now call Web 2.0, and made my point about the failure of open source licenses in the world of software as a service. Richard came up to the mike after my talk, and said: . . . [O'Reilly Radar]