The crusade against open source abuse

TechCrunch | 11/29/2018 | Staff
gracey (Posted by) Level 3
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Salil Deshpande serves as the managing director of Bain Capital Ventures. He focuses on infrastructure software and open source.

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There’s a dark cloud on the horizon. The behavior of cloud infrastructure providers, such as Amazon, threatens the viability of open source. I first wrote about this problem in a prior piece on TechCrunch. In 2018, thankfully, several leaders have mobilized (amid controversy) to propose multiple solutions to the problem. Here’s what’s happened in the last month.

Amazon - Web - Services - AWS - Hover

Go to Amazon Web Services (AWS) and hover over the Products menu at the top. You will see numerous open-source projects that Amazon did not create, but runs as-a-service. These provide Amazon with billions of dollars of revenue per year. To be clear, this is not illegal. But it is not conducive to sustainable open-source communities, and especially commercial open-source innovation.

In early 2018, I gathered together the creators, CEOs or general counsels of two dozen at-scale open-source companies, along with respected open source lawyer Heather Meeker, to talk about what to do.

License - Infrastructure - Providers - Software - Service

We wished to define a license that prevents cloud infrastructure providers from running certain software as a commercial service, while at the same time making that software effectively open source for everyone else, i.e., everyone not running that software as a commercial service.

With our first proposal, Commons Clause, we took the most straightforward approach: we constructed one clause, which can be added to any liberal open source license, preventing the licensee from “Selling” the software — where “Selling” includes running it as a commercial service. (Selling other software made with Commons Clause software is allowed, of course.) Applying Commons Clause transitions a project from open source to source-available.

Proposal - Participant - MongoDB - Server - Side

We also love the proposal being spearheaded by another participant, MongoDB, called the Server Side Public...
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