Yesterday, I visited Rob Conery's blog and the post about commercial SubSonic support options made me think again about the open source philosophy. In my opinion, Rob must decide in which category of Open Source is SubSonic located.
- Is it a real open source project as defined by OSI
- Is it an open source project in a way ASP.NET MVC is
If SubSonic is in the first category, I believe NHibernate is in that category, Ayende’s commercial support offering is not acceptable. Since bug fixes are included in that offering and Rob or Ayende are committers that would not sound right to the community.
If SubSonic is in the second category and Rob decides that SubSonic is open source but main official release is maintained and owned only by him or a company, that commercial support offering would be ok.
Following OSS examples are very well suited to define my objection.
Linus Torvalds does not offer bug fixes as a commercial support for the official Linux kernel. He does not because he is the main authority, and the unpaid authority, who decides if a bug fix or patch be applied to the official release of the kernel. (I do not think he has the time to review all submitted patches but he in a way organized the inner workings.) But we all know that Suse and RedHat offer bug fixes and patches for their own distribution, which is understandable and valid. I do not mind the way RedHat or Suse patches and bug fixes are applied to the official kernel releases.
Another example is the Mozilla Foundation. If NHibernate had a non profit foundation as Mozilla and the foundation offered commercial support via kind of Mozilla Corporation that would be OK too. And I want to remind you that Mozilla like foundations do not distribute share profit to any third parties.
- As far as I know, NHibernate is not copyrighted to anybody or any entity. So may other contributors claim copyright for the bugs they introduce which may cause some complications?
- The material itself and the functionality that material provides is not paid in OSS projects. Does offering commercial bug fix support right for the official release of the project cause the material to have some sort of monetary value, since fixing bugs is commercialized which means introducing bugs may be commercialized too?
- What if I, as a non committer to NHibernate project, wanted to offer commercial bug fix support too? Do you think that project leads would allow me to be a committer just because of that even if I'm not qualified to be a committer? Shall I interpret Ayende as monopoly in NHibernate community context? Don't you think that being a virtual/possible monopoly conflicts with the open source?
- If an OSS is not copyrighted to anybody or any entity, do you think that OSS project leads hold legal rights to decide whom to let in or kick out?