Does “Open Core” Actually Differ from Proprietary Relicensing?
I've been criticized — quite a bit this week, but before that too — for using the term “Open Core” as a shortcut for the phrase “proprietary relicensing0 that harms software freedom”. Meanwhile, Matt Aslett points to Andrew Lampitt's “Open Core” definition as canonical. I admit I wasn't aware of Lampitt's definition before, but I dutifully read it when Aslett linked to it, and I quote it here:
[Lampitt] propose[s] the following for the Open Core Licensing business model:
* core is GPL: if you embed the GPL in closed source, you pay a fee
* technical support of GPL product may be offered for a fee (up for debate as to whether it must be offered)
* annual commercial subscription includes: indemnity, technical support, and additional features and/or platform support. (Additional commercial features having viewable or closed source, becoming GPL after timebomb period are both up for debate).
* professional services and training are for a fee.
The amusing fact about this definition is that half the things on it (i.e., technical support, services/training, indemnity, tech support) can be part of any FLOSS business model and do not require the offering company to hold the exclusive right of proprietary relicensing. Meanwhile, the rest of the items on the list are definitely part of what was traditionally called the “proprietary relicensing business“ dating back to the late 1990s: namely, customers can buy their way out of GPL obligations, and a single company can exclusively offer proprietary add-ons. For example, this is precisely what Ximian did with their Microsoft Exchange Connector for Evolution, which predated the first use of the term “Open Core” by nearly a decade.