Free Software and the future of Sourceforge.net

I have been a steady reader of Slashdot for the past 8 years, although never having contributed anything. This past year I watched revolution-os with my family and it changed us all! Richard Stallman and company has started something that no-one could have dreamed, resulting in the great communities that we have today in the open source / free software communities. I have been a professional coder for the past 15+ years and always appreciate innovation and people who share that innovation. That is the good news…

The bad news…

Part 1:
(I’ll try to make it brief) The terms “Free Software” and some projects on Sourceforge.net are changing the original definitions of these communities as we have known them. Change isn’t bad if the type of change leads to more freedom as opposed to less. There is a project hosted on sourceforge.net (and I’m sure there are plenty more) that displays the license type: GPL and uses the benefits and infrastructure of sourceforge.net. Unfortunately this is simply a guise for a one man show controlling the project via a “closed source” module that essentially makes it useless to work with the part this is open sourced. My question is: “is that legal, or acceptable”? If so you can see that sourceforge.net will become a dumping ground for people to host their money / power making schemes under the pretense of “open” or “free”. What does “Free” mean anymore?

Part 2:
That is one problem, but the next is related to my experience trying to create a new “free software” project on the net (I blogged about it at: http://soft-haus.com/blog/2009/01/02/time-tracker-ready-for-first-peek/). I had written my program and was ready to post it with sourcecode on http://savannah.gnu.org, but found that I could not because of one key requirement of new projects on that site:

My project runs primarily on a completely free OS Please recheck your project

Next I thought I’d use sourceforge.net (since I already have a project hosted there from years back). Alas I found I could no longer use sourceforge due to:

1. Free Redistribution

The license shall not restrict any party from selling or giving away the software as a component of an aggregate software distribution containing programs from several different sources. The license shall not require a royalty or other fee for such sale.

Sorry folks but free software is free software! I can’t give it away free and then turn around and allow someone else to sell it! What is happening to “free” and “open” source? Believe it or not I ended up using code.google.com of all places! It was easiest to use and appeared to give the most flexibility. With these kinds of things going on in the “free” and “open” source community, what kind of future should we expect? Is Richard Stallman’s vision just a pie in the sky?


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