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Missing Link: Open Source is dead, long live Post-Open-Source

Bruce Perens, co-founder of the open source movement, senses a betrayal of the ideal of maximum freedom of use for free software. He wants to reflect and make a fresh start.

“Open code is a foundation for an open society”, emphasized “Creative Commons” initiator Lawrence Lessig in 1999. Proponents of free software such as Richard Stallman and Eben Moglen therefore devised licenses such as the GNU General Public License (GPL) in order to preserve the freedom of software programs with open source code – and thus at the same time the cooperative creation and further development of knowledge. But respect for such legal models is dwindling. In addition, large internet companies such as Amazon, Google, Meta and Microsoft are increasingly using their platforms and cloud infrastructures built with free software to collect data about their users on a large scale and undermine their privacy.

For some time now, the open source community has therefore been seething with the same intensity as in the late 1990s, when pragmatists such as Eric Raymond and Tim O’Reilly sought to distance themselves from the free software father Stallman and his sense of mission and pursued a business-friendly course with the term open source. Bruce Perens, who founded the Open Source Initiative (OSI) together with Raymond in 1998 to protect software licenses that are compatible with it and thus created the successor version of “Free Software”, names the current problems of the scene and believes that a new start is inevitable. After the former project manager of the Linux distribution Debian had already formulated the open source definition of the OSI, he has now proclaimed the “post open source” era.

What Perens is cooking up sounds pretty definite, even if the details are still open. “I wrote articles about it and tried to put together a license prototype,” the 66-year-old explained his approach in a recent interview with the online magazine The Register. “Of course I need the help of a lawyer. And then the next step is to apply for funding.”

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