Open Software – Inclusion by Definition

Screenshot: HTML-Code by Anja Hähle/ University Library

A software is called open resp. free if it is equipped with a licence which grants the user the right to freely view the source code, to use, to copy, to distribute and to modify the software and to disseminate modified versions.

Before the efforts of the free software movement in the 1980s, which later led to the founding of the Open Source Initiative, the freedom associated with open software did not exist. The end users and developers of software had no opportunity to view the source code of a program and adapt it for their own purposes. Thus the general public was not only excluded from participating in new developments but also from the free use of software.

However, when the Open Source Initiative was founded in 1998, it was not only important to them that software is called open if the source code can be freely viewed, but they also formulated other important criteria. In total, a software license must meet 10 criteria to fulfill the Open Source Initiative’s definition of open software.

In addition to open access as well as free use and modification, these criteria also define broad inclusion. Especially the fifth criterion explicitly states that a software may only be called open if the license does not discriminate against any person or group of persons, i.e. excludes them from participation in the software.

The motto of this year’s Open Access Week is “Open with Purpose: Taking Action to Build Structural Equity and Inclusion”. The Open Source Definition of the Open Source Initiative and the associated licenses have been creating a basis for structural equity and inclusion in software development for over 20 years. Only through this foundation an important basic idea behind open software can be realized. Software should be developed for the general benefit of society by society.

Further information about Open Source Software and Open Science can be found on the Open Science websites of Chemnitz University Library.

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