According to the Open Source Initiative, paraphrased, for something to be open source it has to fulfill certain requirements:
- no restriction or fees from selling or giving away components of aggregate software
- program must include source code and allowing distribution in source code as well as compiled form in the preferred form in which a programmer would modify the program
- license must allow modifications and derived works and allow them to be distributed under the same terms as the original
- no restriction against persons, groups, or purposes used
- having a neutral license which is distributed
Why is it done this way? It derives from ideology that innovation is the result of exploitation from the innovator for commercial gain. By having high restrictions on sharing, modifying and using existing code, this gives power back to the users and groups that utilize the code for their own purposes.
To protect and benefit creators to support innovation we have copyright. This is a legal right that grants creators exclusive rights to their work. However copyright creates monopoly while it accommodates proprietary software and their profit.
Richard Stallman, a computer scientist working for MIT could not access the code which could upgrade his software, as companies denied his request. Upset by the culture that was restrictive in freedom created by these companies, he and a group of like-minded individuals created a Free Software Foundation GNU to counter the inhibitions on creativity and freedom of speech.
Open source addresses copyright. The perception of proprietary ideology is being changed and is gaining support. While having open source as the primary means of sharing being debatable, it is slowly growing, and may be a part of our culture in the future.