Conectiva, one of the four members contributing to the upcoming UnitedLinux operating system distribution, has moved to reassure developers that the consortium is following standard open-source practices, despite the introduction of a "closed" test version of the software.
UnitedLinux recently began circulating a beta-test version of its distribution to select partners, and is planning to make the software available for free public download later this month. For the "closed" beta test, users signed a non-disclosure agreement forbidding them from sharing information related to the software.
But such practices immediately set off warning bells in the open-source developer community, where many companies--MandrakeSoft is one example--publish software as soon as it is out of development. Much of the Linux operating system is based on the GNU General Public License, which requires software to be made freely available
Last week, Bradley Kuhn, executive director of the Free Software Foundation, which protects the interests of the GPL, issued an open letter to the UnitedLinux Board of Managers requesting that the group be more open about the way it is approaching licensing issues. "Since nearly all of the volunteers from the Free Software community (your fellow developers) did not receive a copy of the so-called 'closed beta', we ask that in a show of good faith, you make available at least the terms of distribution you used for that product," Kuhn said in the letter. "Even as you release your new product to the public, the past situation must be clarified."
News source: ZDNet
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