Centric CRM to OSI: But We Are Open Source

Lora Bentley

Last week, Open Source Initiative president Michael Tiemann went public with the more agressive stance the OSI is now taking on the use of the "open source" label. On the organization's blog, Tiemann wrote:

The topic of "what is really open source and what is not?" has been simmering for quite some time. And until last year the question was trivial to answer, and the answer provided a trivial fix. But things have changed, and its time to regain our turf.

He chastised companies like SugarCRM and Centric CRM for calling their offerings "open source" when the licenses under which they released their software are not OSI-approved licenses, and expressed concern that such labeling practices were misleading to customers. His solution:

Let's all agree -- vendors, press, analysts, and others who identify themselves as community members -- to use the term 'open source' to refer to software licensed under an OSI-approved license. If no company can be successful by selling a CRM solution licensed under an OSI-approved license, then OSI (and the open source movement) should take the heat for promoting a model that is not sustainable in a free market economy. We can treat that case as a bug, and together we can work (with many eyes) to discern what it is about the existing open source definition or open source licenses made CRM a failure when so many other applications are flourishing.

Centric CRM responded this week, and the company does not agree that its license is not open source. A Computer Business Review piece quotes the company's executive vice president and chief marketing officer as follows:

Our current license is not OSI-approved, nor have we ever claimed it is. But it is open source... Our software is developed and supported by an online community open to all; ships with full source code and grants customers the freedom to modify their software or any part of it for internal use; and is available for unlimited use, free of charge, by anyone who visits our web site.

The story also indicates that Centric CRM does plan to release additional software under OSI-approved licenses in the future. As for calling its current offering something other than "open source" -- Tiemann points to Microsoft's "shared source" label as an example -- it doesn't look as if Centric CRM will be quick to comply.

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