The Culture War in Open Source is On

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Curated by: Small Business Management

Perhaps you remember Eric S. Raymond from his memorable essay “The Cathedral and the Bazaar,” or his advice to programmers on “not reacting like a loser,” or his enthusiasm for guns. Regardless, the legendary open-source coder and commentator recently made a brief comeback to the Open Source Initiative, an organization he co-founded in 1998. On February 24, he announced on an OSI email list that “a wild co-founder appears” after being absent for many years. By February 28, after denouncing the “political ratfucking” and “vulgar Marxism” he perceived to be infecting the organization, he was removed from the list for violating the code of conduct—the existence of which he had also railed against. The previous month, also, Raymond’s OSI co-founder Bruce Perens withdrew his membership over an apparently unrelated dispute about a software license.

These happenings are not unrelated, really. They are part of what has been variously called “the culture war at the heart of open source” and “the great open source shake-up.” The disputes concern the decades-old legal technology at the heart of the movement known variously as “free software” or “open source”: software licenses, particularly ones that turn proprietary code into a common good. The conflicts at

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