Open Source Initiative expands its role to AI and machine learning

Open Source Initiative expands its role to AI and machine learning


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In the beginning, all software was “free software” and “open source”. But, as software has come to market, almost all software has become proprietary. In revolt against this, Richard M. Stallman (RMS) took James Gosling’s Emacs text editor and renewed it under the GNU Public License (GPL), the first free software license, in 1983.

While the rise of free software fundamentally changed the way software was used, not everyone was happy with RMS and its Free Software Foundation (FSF) supporting software licensing. So, in 1998, Christine Peterson, in a meeting with Jon “Maddog” Hall, Larry Augustin, Eric S. Raymond, Bruce Perens, and other free software luminaries, came up with the term Open Source.

The main difference then and now between the two is that free software is about the ethics of code sharing, while open source focuses on the practical benefits of code sharing.

Or, as OSI chief executive and current OS-Climate project manager Michael Tiemann put it, open source was meant to “get rid of the judgmental and confrontational attitude that had been associated with ‘software’. open source” and instead promote the open source approach on “pragmatic and business case grounds.”

While these arguments between free software and open source show no signs of ending, OSI has bigger fish to fry today.

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Over the past few years, open source licensing has faced the challenges of quasi-open source licensing such as the Business Source License (BSL), Common Clause, and Server-Side Public License (SSPL). The arguments for free software over open source and vice versa are clear. It’s much harder for people to understand the difference between a license that’s “sort of, sort of, not really” an open source license and a license that’s a true open source license.

The main distinction between these licenses and those that have the blessing of the OSI is that any true open source license must conform to the Open Source Definition (OSD). It all boils down to the idea that with open source, you have the right to use the software code as you wish. Want to run it on a cloud? Dark. Want to sell the code or a program based on it? You can do that too. How about offering it as a cloud-based service? It’s cool too. With these para-open source licenses, these rights are restricted.

Open Source Initiative (OSI) logo

To make things even more confusing, many companies that now use these pseudo open source licenses started out with real open source licenses.

This is a growing trend. OSI Director of Standards and Policy, Simon Phipps, said: “This is another example of a disappointing trend for companies that have retained control of software rights while claiming to offer open freedoms. source by pulling the rug out when they have gained enough momentum in the market – sometimes called a “ratchet rights” model. OSI recommends that software users pay close attention to the enduring presence of open source freedoms when ‘they commit to deploying a project.

Why are they doing this? OSI Executive Director Stefano Maffulli explained in an interview at Open Source Summit Europe 2022 that moving away from open source licenses has “become a trend among companies. They have a similar recognizable pattern. They grow their business and code over five to 10 years. Along the way, they collect Contributor License Agreements (CLAs) that give the company the rights to their code. Then they amend the license and revoke those rights.” they use open source code to develop, but then they blame open source for not working as a business model.Spoiler alert: open source never was and never will be a business model. is a model of development.

But that doesn’t stop them, Maffulli said, “from blaming open source for leaving money on the table. So, with their backing, venture capitalists demanding that they save every penny and earn more money, they give up their open source licenses.” Now he understands their pain, says Maffulli, “but the way they solve it taints open source.”

So the OSI moving forward is trying to educate companies and developers on what open source really is and what it isn’t.

In this context, the OSI is putting more emphasis on its ClearlyDefined project. This participatory project was created in 2018 to meet this need and stimulate open source projects by improving license data in software packages. Ironically, this project has received support from proprietary companies such as Microsoft, SAP and Bloomberg. While some new old open source companies are turning away from open source, old school companies are realizing the value of open source and embracing it more. OSI is also looking for a full-time Community Manager for ClearlyDefined.

Open source is no longer just about developers and businesses, far from it. As Deborah Bryant, OSI’s new US Policy Director, explained, “In today’s world, complexity is constantly increasing and policy responses to economic and security issues are increasing as the role of Open source software continues to play a vital role in public and societal concerns.”

She’s right. Just weeks after taking up his new post, US Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Democrat Gary Peters and senior Republican Rob Portman introduced legislation to help secure software. open-source. Open source supporters not only need a voice in government policy toward open source, they must have one. Government policy decisions will impact our open source software ecosystem. OSI, both in the United States and in Europe, with Phipps, meets this requirement.

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Going forward, OSI will also address the roles that machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI) play in the use and creation of open source software. It has become an increasingly urgent problem.

For example, the ML model for GitHub’s Copilot AI base pair programming tool is based in part on open source code. Some open source developers are understandably upset by this. Maffulli thinks, “Legally, it looks like GitHub is within its rights.” That said, don’t get lost in the legal weeds arguing whether there’s an open source license issue here or a copyright issue. It would miss the widest point. is a matter of fairness that affects all of society, not just open source developers.”

It’s not just a problem with Copilot. Google’s DeepMind has its own AlphaCode AI development system, Salesforce has CodeT5, and there’s also the open-source PolyCoder. This is a problem that the open-source community needs to address.

OSI will kick off this conversation with four virtual seminars, Deep Dive: AI, in October. These will examine how AI and open source will intersect in business, society, law and academia. I highly recommend attending if you care about open source and AI. It is this, and not the eternal battle between free software and open source, that will matter for the next decade of software development.

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