The debate over ‘open source AI’ has reached boiling point — this new OSI initiative looks to set the record straight

Open source AI concept image showing digitized brain hovering over a circuit board.
(Image credit: Getty Images)

The Open Source Initiative (OSI) has announced plans to further clarify the definition of open source AI by embarking on a global workshop series aimed at garnering input from experts.

The OSI said it will engage with a range of stakeholders in the open source space, using their contributions to further develop the draft definition of open source AI it has been working on. 

These workshops will be held in five continents including North America, Europe, Africa, Asia, and Latin America, with the intention of presenting a “stable version” of the definition at the ‘All Things Open’ event in North Carolina.

“AI is different from regular software and forces all stakeholders to review how the Open Source principles apply to this space,” Stefano Maffulli, executive director of the OSI, said.

“After spending almost two years gathering voices from all over the world to identify the principles of Open Source suitable for AI systems, we’re embarking on a worldwide roadshow to refine and validate the release candidate version of the Open Source AI Definition.”

According to the OSI, the complete definition will provide a framework for AI developers to determine whether an AI platform is open source or not, acting as an accepted standard for open source software specifically in the AI space.

The extent to which this planned workshop will affect the definition will depend on the contributions that arise, Michal Szymczak, Head of AI Strategy at Zartis, told ITPro

“We need to assess the workshops as very wide consultations with scholars and AI and ML practitioners who are going to attend the conferences and events,” Szymczak said.

“It is very likely the definition is going to get refined where the current components remain (as the list is rather comprehensive) but their required/optional status might change,” he added.

Szymczak also stated that the global workshop could lead to a heightened adoption rate of the new definition, as participants will be able to point to AI projects which already meet the criteria.

Open source AI is uncertain territory 

Despite the OSI’s mission to create a clear cut definition of open source AI, questions remain over the extent to which current AI models can be defined as open source, with many big name models criticized over their supposed alignment with the community. 


Companies like Meta have defined their models as open, but experts in the field such as OpenUK CEO Amanda Brock have noted that these are not “truly, 100% open source” due to certain stipulations in their terms and conditions.

The Linux Foundation recently made a move similar to that of the OSI to address this problem, unveiling the Open Platform or Enterprise AI (OPEA) as a graded approach to open source AI.

The OPEA breaks down AI platforms into their constituent parts, granting open source licenses where possible and different licenses where not, so as to better integrate open source into the complex technology of AI. 

George Fitzmaurice
Staff Writer

George Fitzmaurice is a staff writer at ITPro, ChannelPro, and CloudPro, with a particular interest in AI regulation, data legislation, and market development. After graduating from the University of Oxford with a degree in English Language and Literature, he undertook an internship at the New Statesman before starting at ITPro. Outside of the office, George is both an aspiring musician and an avid reader.