Who Is Behind “Shared Source” Misinformation Campaign?


Last night I received a google alert about a new blog posting with a most misleading title. The title read “OSI Approves Microsoft’s ‘Shared Software’ Licenses”. This half-truth was paired with another half-truth: that I was President of the Portland-based Open Source Initiative. (The OSI is incorporated in California.)

This morning, I received another google alert from another blog posting with exactly the same article, but from an entirely different blog.

Neither blog has any obvious agency behind them. Neither blog provides any visible means for feedback or correction. As far as I can tell, the blogs may only exist as a means to populate some google cache with semi-credible information–enough to trick Google into marking them relevant, but wrong enough to undermine the work of the OSI and the open source community. Alone, I probably lack the resources to get to the bottom of this. But I am hopeful that as large as this community is (1000s of regular blog readers and millions of opensource.org visitors), you can help figure out who wrote these unattributed postings on this unattributed sites and bring those agents and their sponsors to light.

The blogs in question are:

As to the question of whether the OSI approved ‘shared source’ licenses or not, the real question is: who wrote that headline? What the OSI did was to approve specific licenses submitted by a specific company that happens to be Microsoft. Much was made during the discussion about whether the OSI should even be talking with Microsoft, but the position we took is that the approval process focuses on the license, not the submitter. The OSI does not discriminate against companies; we discern (with input from the community) what does or does not conform to the OSD. And we consider whether or not the OSD in its current form is properly definitive when it comes to describing what is open source. And we’re actively struggling with the balance between encouraging more participation by companies who have so little faith in the overwhelming success of existing open source licenses that they will only come to the party when they can wrap themselves in their own OSD-conformant licenses and encouraging consolidation around known good licenses that really do deliver all the open source benefits with all the legal quality any software developer or company could need.

I do not have a problem calling these licenses by their proper names, both of which contain the term Microsoft, or by associating these licenses with the company Microsoft. It would be awkward and inconvenient, if not disingenuous, to try to refer to them otherwise. But identifying them as ‘shared source’ licenses, which has nothing whatsoever to do with why they were submitted nor why they were approved is a way to jam a contrary concept—shared source—into an open source conversation.

Shared source is a marketing term created and controlled by Microsoft. Shared source is not open source by another name. Shared source is an insurgent term that distracts and dilutes the Open Source message by using similar-sounding terms and offering similar-sounding promises. And to date, ‘shared source’ has been a marketing dud as far as Open Source is concerned.

But, if there are agents who are trying to bring ‘shared source’ into the domain of Open Source as a trojan horse, these agents should be identified and held to account. The OSI approved the Microsoft licenses to give Microsoft the courage to trust open source on terms their own lawyers could accept. They were not approved to make Open Source subordinate to shared source.

The price of freedom is everlasting vigilance. I believe it is better to presume innocence until guilt is proved, and I believe it is better to treat all our constituents fairly, without fear or favor. And we will manage the risks of such openness with accountability. Let us see who is accountable for injecting ‘shared source’ into the business of the OSI, and let us see whether Microsoft will clarify that indeed ‘shared source’ has nothing whatsoever to do with open source, so that their newly minted open source licenses do not fall under a cloud of suspicion.