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The Internet Fiesta is happening March 19 through 21. This event is a Europe-wide "party" intended to further spread appreciation for the Internet and the joys that it can bring. The Internet Fiesta web site is full of great suggestions for how to celebrate this event, like: "children demonstrating their knowledge to their parents and grand parents," or "artists creating numerical art pieces."

Some folks, notably Stéfane Fermigier of AFUL, think that this event could be more profitably used to showcase the benefits of free software. After all, the net is built on free software, and free systems remain the best way to be a part of the net. The Fiesta as a whole appears to be in no hurry to recognize free software, so AFUL has put up its own Internet Fiesta page (in French, English may be had via Babelfish). They also have a list (English translation) of 32 free software related activities happening in France as part of the Internet Fiesta. This list represents a great deal of organizing on the part of many people. They are to be congratulated, and we wish them the best of luck.

Folks in or near the Netherlands may want to check out the Internet Fiesta Installfest being held in Utrecht.

Another Fiesta-related event - this one in Denmark - is the European Linux Yearbook. Their goal is to close out the Fiesta by writing - entirely within the 24 hours of March 21 - a book on the status of Linux in Europe. It's intended to be a highly cooperative project with many participants; they wish to show the power of the Linux/free software development model. This undertaking is ambitious indeed, but we bet they can pull it off. Happy Fiesta! (Note, at press time the ELY site appeared to be having problems; hopefully they will get it fixed shortly).

Apple will make part of their OS available under an open source license. They got Eric Raymond on stage to say that their license (the Apple Public Source License) is cool, so it must be true. Actually, the openness of the license has been a recent point of debate, as addressed in this letter from Bruce Perens, Wichert Akkerman and Ian Jackson. Eric's, and OSI's, response rebuts their arguments. Legalese easily generates confusion and dissension.

However, what Apple has opened up is mostly the lower-level parts of MacOS X. That includes the BSD-based core as well as higher-level packages like Apache. In other words, what they have released is mostly freely available already; the stuff that truly distinguishes an Apple system remains proprietary. Certainly it is their right to do so, and perhaps understandable as well.

Nonetheless, a question does come up: how committed is Apple really to open source? Are they sincere? Or are they just releasing code that does not matter much to them in order to catch some of the cachet, such as it is, that the open source movement currently enjoys? Apple has always strongly held on tightly to its proprietary systems and intellectual property - to the point of nearly destroying their business. It's not clear that this approach has really changed much.

Let's welcome Apple as they dip their toes in the open source water. With any luck, they will be pleased with their experience and dive in more fully in the near future. (See also: Apple's open source page and press coverage in MacWorld, the San Francisco Chronicle, Wired News and News.com).

Also relevant to Apple's move is Bruce Perens' article on license termination. This articlediscusses the clause found in a number of commercial open source licenses which allows for instant termination of the right to use the software in the event of patent or copyright difficulties. In fact, should a corporation decide that withdrawal of an open source license was in its interest, it would be simple to come up with some sort of threat sufficient to allow triggering of the termination clause.

Apple's license, like a number of others, contains such a clause. Opinions differ on how bad this particular case is - see the comments by Perens and Raymond cited above. Nonetheless, developers working on code governed by such a license should be aware that their right to use the code - and the (perhaps years) of effort they have put into improving it - could vanish in a day. As time goes by and corporations become more comfortable working in the open source realm, one can hope that these sorts of termination clauses will eventually start to disappear.

As a sort of followup to last week's "free" vs. "open source" editorial, interested readers may want to check out another editorial on the free/open topic which has been published on opensource.oreilly.com.

This Week's LWN was brought to you by:

  • Jonathan Corbet, Executive Editor
  • Elizabeth O. Coolbaugh, Managing Editor

March 18, 1999


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