Bruce Perens writes to the CEO of Lindows

Bruce Perens has written an open letter to the CEO of Lindows. Lindows is a Linux distro that runs (will run) a bunch of Windows apps right out of the box, which is certainly interesting news for MSFT (who have tried a bunch of bullshit lawyerpoint tactics to nail Lindows for trademark infringement, to which I say, you keep using that word — I do not think it means what you think it means). Anyway, Lindows has done lots of good stuff for the Open Source world, throwing money at good projects and people and conferences. This is all to the good, and they deserve to be applauded for it.

But there’s a problem. Lindows has been in a closed beta test for some time now — with beta-testers paying ~$100 each in order to participate in the program — and they haven’t released their source code (the GPL license which governs the code they adapted for Lindows requires that source be made available with public distributions). Rabid Open Sourcians have called bullshit on Lindows and told ’em to cough up the source of be held in contempt of nerd.

The CEO of Lindows did a little interview where he slammed his critics as empty doctrinaires who punish model open-source citizens (like Lindows) who put all kinds of resouces into the community for failing to live up to the letter of the license. Don’t worry, the Lindows people say, we’ll release the source once we go 1.0 — we’re just keeping it locked up until we get out of beta.

To which Perens says, essentially, Oh, come on. It’s swell that you put down the cash to fly people to conferences and stuff, but that’s window dressing. It’s not an Open Airfare license, it’s an Open Source license. Lindows is built on millions of lines of code written by hackers around the world, contributed under the terms of the GPL. It’s all about the source, sir, so release it. Now.

But Michael, please remember that we are partners. For all that you’ve done for the Free Software community, we’ve done at least as much for you. And our partnership has rules that we are both honor-bound to follow. In the case of my work on Lindows, those rules are the terms of the GPL. You accepted those terms, and became my partner, when you chose to incorporate my software into your product and distribute it to others.

There is a pragmatic reason that I ask you to fulfill your source-code obligation any time you distribute a copy of my work from one legal entity to another: Sadly, some companies never make it to release 1.0. In that case, the pre-release versions provide the only opportunity for a company to fulfill its source-code obligation. Another reason is that if we’re lax in enforcing our terms with you, other companies will think they can violate those terms with impunity.

Link Discuss (via Interesting People)