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Open Source

Open Source and university tradition

The university tradition of publishing research results for the purpose of verification is continued by the decision to release projects, sometimes financed by the state, as Open Source. Independent third parties thus have the opportunity to verify the complex software.

This university tradition used to apply to physical, chemical or psychological experiments only, today it also encompasses software, as illustrated by the following analogy:

The detailed description of an experiment corresponds to the source code and the installation instructions. The program execution and/or software usage can be viewed in the same way as carrying out experiments. The verification of the test or experiment results corresponds to the testing of the software functionality.

As research and development based upon experiments conducted by third parties, for instance by changing the set-up of an experiment, are permitted and desired in the physical, chemical or psychological areas, modifications to source codes for Open Source software are also permitted and desired.

The Open Source idea:

An Open Source licence is characterised by the following:

Open Source software is "free software". This generic term expresses the fact that the software can be obtained without charge and that it may be freely distributed.

The source and binary codes may be used and modified by anyone. Copies of the unchanged or modified software may be distributed.

Content of a Open Source license

An Open Source licence contains the following items:

Free distribution

The licence must allow anyone to sell or pass on the software as a component of a collective software aggregate which may come from different sources. No fees for this type of distribution may be specified in the licence.

Source code

The program must contain the source code. The licence must permit the distribution of the source and binary codes. Intermediate versions such as a pre-processor or a translator and intentional "modifications" of the source code for the purpose of making it harder to understand are not permitted. If variations of the distribution without the source code exist, they must be easily obtainable and at no cost; for instance, it must be possible to download them from the internet.

Derivative versions

The licence must permit modifications and developments as well as their distribution under the same licensing conditions.

Integrity of the source code author

The licence may limit the distribution of the modified source code only if the licence permits the distribution of patches together with the source code in order to modify the program to "build time".

The licence must explicitly permit the distribution of software based upon the modified source code. The licence may demand that further developments be assigned a different name or a different version number.

No discrimination against persons or groups

The licence may not be discriminatory against persons or groups.

No discrimination against usage options of the software

The rights associated with the software must be granted to all persons to whom the software is distributed, without amending or restricting the licence.

The license may not be product specific

The rights associated with the program must not depend on other portions of a specific distribution list. If the product is removed from such a distribution list, all persons in possession of a version thereof have the same right to the program as the one issued with the original distribution.

The licence must not "contaminate" other software

The licence must not restrict the rights of other software items it is distributed with (e.g. not all products of a distribution have to be Open Source licensed programs as well.)

CampusSource and Open Source

By choosing the GPL, one of the best-known Open Source licences, CampusSource has provided the basis for initiating cooperative processes for the development of software systems and modules for creation and expansion as well as for the operation of an infrastructure for computer and network-based teaching and learning. The GPL (GNU General Public License) is a licence which adheres to American but not German law. CampusSource has established "general terms and conditions" which make the GPL valid in Germany, having been amended and interpreted in accordance with German law.

At this time, there only an unauthorised translation of the GPL  [ German Version ] into German exists.

The following lectures and publications deal with the problem of not having a German equivalent to the GPL:

Open Source Links

Institutions and organizations on Free Software and Open Source



Large projects, that developed a license of their own, have had long and intensive discussions among the community of their developers on license issues.

Web sites with free software

Software Exchange

Literatur zu Open Source

Personalities in the free software / Open Source community

Press releases