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How Not to Kill the Golden Goose
Monday, February 21 2005 @ 03:14 PM EST

I read Steven Henry's remarks he gave at LinuxWorld, and I believe if I had been there when he said it, I could have overcome all shyness and stood up to answer him on the spot, lawyer that he is notwithstanding. His remarks didn't make much of a media splash, so I seriously debated whether to answer him on Groklaw or not, because I am aware anything on Groklaw gets more publicity than he otherwise would receive. But I decided to answer him, finally, because his view is not unique to him, and it's important to help people who think like that to understand things better.

First, here is what he had to say, in essence: that Linux and the GPL began as an antibusiness movement, a "religion" of sorts. But now, they have bumped into money, and big business needs them both to change so they can make some money, honey, their old way. Forget about this bazaar stuff and get back into the cathedral, where they rule the roost and play by their rules. Business wants to marry proprietary and Linux, and the GPL gets in the way. And that means shove over, they are taking the GNU/Linux reins.

In their dreams.

Here's a taste of what he had to say in his own words, from the press release I received:

"To believers, open source software is a creed, but big business, believing in profit, now has a big stake in the most prominent open source software, Linux.

The anti-business “religion” that served as a unifying force for open source developers who created Linux will need to share the platform with the money interests who are now needed to penetrate the enterprise world and secure its long-term future, Steven J. Henry, a senior attorney with Wolf, Greenfield & Sacks, P.C., told the LinuxWorld Conference & Expo in Boston.

“Can religion and money coexist in the long run? More than doctrine, economics will control the evolution of Linux,” he predicted.

The new reality must be reflected in open source licenses, such as the GPL, he said.

“The business world as a whole will not embrace a vehicle which does not provide balance and flexibility and does not safeguard its intellectual property. Modifications to the GPL, the license that governs Linux users’ rights, will be necessary to assure economic soundness if the corporate world is going to make ongoing contributions to Linux,” Henry said.

Companies don’t want their proprietary rights to be threatened or to be perceived as threatened. “We ignore the elephant in the room at a price,” he said.

Companies like IBM, Hewlett-Packard and now Sun are profiting by adopting Linux while concurrently seeking to “marry” open and proprietary products. . . . The new GPL will have to address the combination of open and proprietary code better, if it is to succeed, he added.

First, let me say, piffle to this hogwash. Oh, wait. Let me try that again. That doesn't sound quite right. Although it is accurate, heaven only knows. He would like businesses to grab the golden goose's golden egg, Linux, and in so doing, kill the goose that laid it, despite it having the capability to lay many more golden eggs if they leave it alone. Could he be more wrong? Let me count the ways.

First, to phrase things more delicately, here are some of the errors in fact in his remarks:

  • Linux was ever antibusiness -- False.
  • It was ever a creed or a religion -- False.
  • Linux needs business -- False. It's the other way around.
  • Linux needs to "share the platform" with money interests -- False. It's the other way around.
  • The GPL will never succeed unless it changes -- False. It has already succeeded. GNU/Linux is proof.
  • Businesses will not embrace the GPL unless it changes -- False.
  • IBM and HP are seeking to "marry open and proprietary" - False.
  • Economics will control the future of Linux -- False, I hope.

The GPL isn't anti-business either by the way. It just likes to keep its eye on you. Here is what is accurate in his remarks:

  • Companies don’t want their proprietary rights to be threatened or to be perceived as threatened.

The accurate list is a short list, in comparison, and that tells me there are misunderstandings afoot. I suggest you read Sun Microsystems' Simon Phipps' blog to get his corrections of Mr. Henry's remarks about the CDDL. Phipps also points out something fascinating:

"It's a funny old world. Do you ever wonder who was the 'architect of the landmark decision [on] the Federal Circuit ... [that] opened the door to patents for business methods'? If you'd been at LinuxWorld last week you could have met him - Steven Henry, the man who invented method patents and whose influence was the starting point for the whole software patent situation in which we find ourselves, gave a keynote. In that keynote he tried to fling FUD on the license most likely to de-claw his invention. Which was written by a company his audience probably wouldn't expect."

Here's what you find in Mr. Henry's bio:

"Steve was co-counsel to Signature Financial Group and architect of the landmark decision it won from the Federal Circuit in State Street Bank and Trust v. Signature Financial Group. That decision upheld the eligibility of most software-implemented systems for patent protection and opened the door to patents for business methods."

So, not to mock or anything, but now you know where he is coming from. Maybe what is actually needed is for some businesses to understand the GPL and Linux and Open Source methods a bit better, so they don't feel threatened. The simple truth is, it's uncomfortable to change our way of thinking, and no one likes to do it, but here is the truth: it is *business* that has to change, not Linux or the GPL.

Why do I say that? Because, for starters, Linux doesn't need business; business needs Linux. Thanks to the GPL, it is a success already, as Martin Fink pointed out at LinuxWorld, and that is why businesses want to use it. And they are right to use it. But like any tool, you need to read the manual that comes with it, and use it the way the creators intended if you wish to get the best result. The manual for FOSS is the license that comes with the code, plus the methods and ethics of the community that backs and supports it. Those programmers are software's lifeblood. I wrote about it some time back:

GNU/Linux, in contrast, is a gift to the world. Here, it says, need some nice software? Help yourself. Just help the next guy, will you, so we can build up a nice pile of great software we can all enjoy? And if you want the software in a more convenient form, we can sell you some and you can hire us to take care of any problems you may run into, if you want to. You can donate too, to make sure this kind of software gets written. Or you can hire someone to write software precisely matching your needs. Your own monogrammed version. Impractical? Unrealistic? You could say that twenty years ago, maybe even ten. Nobody writes software for free, Gates once opined. But they did write it. They still do.

And now Microsoft's empire is in danger of crumbling, because for the first time, some folks made some competing software they can't buy off. It can't buy the folks who made it, either, because they value some things more than money. But, you may say, maybe the businesses jumping on the Linux bandstand will sell out? They might, some of them. But FOSS doesn't much care. It has a life of its own, and its life just doesn't depend on what businesses do.

The FOSS community has given the world free software, in both the free as in freedom and free as in beer sense. They did it because they believed in it, and because it was a challenge, and because it was fun. It's particularly fun because of the way it's developed, using the Internet to make it possible for the world's best coders to interact meaningfully and easily from wherever they happen to live. As a result, the code is better than you can get from galley slaves, being whipped to row faster, because projects like Linux attract the very best volunteers. It's a system of development based on trust and sharing of ideas and knowledge, which leads to very rapid progress and excellence of code.

The days when any one company could dominate the software space are coming to an end, and an inglorious end I might say, with viruses and spyware and costly upgrades and EULAs that treat you like a criminal up to your eyeballs. How do you like it? The Firefox story tells you, or it should, that your customers are fed up with your ways. Jim Louderback says ZiffDavis websites report 20% of all their hits are from Firefox now:

"They are feeling the heat up in Redmond from Firefox, Opera and more. Amazingly, over the past few months we've seen Firefox users grow to almost one in five at our sites--and that's the norm across the web. They're really feeling the heat up in Redmond--so much so that a secret summit just took place where fast-track fixes were discussed."

Fed up, do you hear me? Fed up means fed up. We are fed up with proprietary software, and how it treats us as end users. Period.

Of course, old-fashioned businesses don't get it yet. They still want to try to balkanize Linux, and ruin it the way they ruined Unix. That's what proprietary companies always do. All that cut-throat competition ruins software, you know. And even if you don't understand that yet, we, the customer, have it figured out now. So you had best get this clear or it will be *you* that doesn't succeed.

Linux is impervious to business. It will continue right on, and thanks to the GPL, there isn't a thing you can do to stop it. You can either go with the flow, or you can isolate yourself. I'm sorry to break it to you, but you can't succeed with GNU/Linux software, if you don't get with the full program. And do you know why? I'll break it down into very simple terms. It's because we, your customers, know how to use software now. There was only one generation of ignorant users. Microsoft got all of them. But that is so over. We are escaping, one by one. No, we usually help all our family members and friends to make their getaway too. No company can take advantage of inexperienced users again. We get it now.

And part of what we get is that freedom and transparency and open standards matter. I am not a programmer. But I care about being able to look at the code. And I do look at it. I look regularly to see what is going on. Proprietary software feels different to me. I can breathe in GNU/Linux. I feel it. One of the very first articles I ever wrote on Groklaw was about this feeling and the need to trust your software:

Business customers are people too. And people are sick and tired of snoopware and viruses and backdoors and all the other things you can't fix or even understand in proprietary software. Linux frees you from those worries. You can learn whatever you want, fix whatever breaks or change whatever you want to make it do something just a bit different, or hire someone to do it for you.

People are sick of license terms that treat them like criminals, where even when you try hard to obey, you never feel free of that I allowed to do this? They love GNU/Linux because you can share with your friends and family freely, install it on as many computers as you own at home and at work. Sick of saving proof of purchase certificates under pain of a visit from the IP police and fines when they can't find that piece of paper from 1998. Sick of typing in numbers to prove they bought the software, and having software call home to validate their right to use what they bought, and companies that shove one-sided EULAs down their throats, claiming the right to monitor their hard drive for compliance. Sick of businesses that care about money for themselves first and customers a distant second. GNU/Linux opened people's eyes. It offers an escape from all of that. So they're going to notice. And they're going to care.

When I am in a proprietary environment, even if it is a very nice one, it feels entirely different, just a little bit oppressive. I was talking to a friend about it, and I explained it like this: I'm staying at somebody else's home currently. We get along great, and in fact, the house is a lot nicer than mine. Everything is very pretty and comfortable, and we're having fun. But as nice as it is, I never feel comfortable the way I do at home. Proprietary software makes me feel like that, like a guest. Well, some proprietary software makes me feel like a criminal, but other software makes me feel like an invited guest, but even that isn't enough.

GNU/Linux, though, feels like home. Why? Because I own it. I can do whatever I want with it on my own computer. No one can take it back or say I can only put it on one computer and one backup. Or that I can't share it with my friends. Or I can't look at the code and change it. Yes, sometimes I do change it. Even little old me. There's lots of information on the Internet, and it's not rocket science to do simple things. Or I ask someone how to do it. Maybe I don't want a splash screen. Or maybe I want my computer to do things just a little bit differently than the default. What matters is, I can breathe. I know there is absolutely no restriction on me, except that I hope not to ruin everything and have to reinstall fresh, but the point is, it's mine and I feel it.

Proprietary software lets me use their software, but only the way they want it used. Like staying at a friend or relative's house. They want certain things in the kitchen done a certain way, and this spice goes on the right and that one next to it, and those glasses can't go in the dish washer, and this pot has to be shined with this product, blah blah. At home, I make those decisions, and if I want to stand the little bottle of basil on its head in the spice rack or throw it in the freezer or mix it with the pepper, there is nothing but common sense to stop me. Do you understand?

I think it's important for business to understand something out of the gate. Free and open source software is better software *because* its developers didn't do it their way. Business spends most of their time, energy and money figuring out how not to share. That doesn't work with software, which is why software patents are so damaging. FOSS gets its strength from sharing. As Fink put it, and I'm working from memory, the GPL gave Linux its wings to fly. Shutting down what has been proven to work successfully isn't good business. Here's how Linus expressed the importance of an open environment and sharing ideas, in an interview with BusinessWeek, which as you may recall named him one of the best managers of the year:

"I think, fundamentally, open source does tend to be more stable software. It's the right way to do things. I compare it to science vs. witchcraft. In science, the whole system builds on people looking at other people's results and building on top of them. In witchcraft, somebody had a small secret and guarded it -- but never allowed others to really understand it and build on it.

"Traditional software is like witchcraft. In history, witchcraft just died out. The same will happen in software. When problems get serious enough, you can't have one person or one company guarding their secrets. You have to have everybody share in knowledge. . . .

"Also it's good to copy good ideas. It should be encouraged. We don't say Einstein was a really smart guy and we should come up with a better theory of relativity. We build on top of his good ideas and have new exciting quests."

What does that mean? Lawrence Rosen, in his book "Open Source Licensing," says this on page 2-3:

"Proprietary software vendors love the software freedom provided by the BSD license, but some of them hate and fear the software freedom guaranteed by the GPL. . . .

"Programmers write source code to direct computers to perform specific tasks, while the computer itself takes care of the routine task of translating the source code into an executable program. For a computer programmer, understanding and modifying software requires access to the source code. The source code must be open -- made available for all to see -- in order that the software can be studied, changed, and improved.

"Open source code is an essential requirement for software freedom, a technical prerequisite. Software freedom is the goal; open source is the means to that goal."

It means, in short, that business needs to stop killing the golden goose that is laying the golden eggs, silly. Business sees one golden egg, Linux, and all it sees is gold, this minute, and if it needs to grab it, killing the goose to get it, so what? I know it's hard to change one's way of thinking, but this is a time when you simply must. Why? Because if you shut down the way Linux was developed in some misguided attempt to bottle it, or remove the license that made it so powerful, you will destroy it. And that's just counterproductive. Instead, you need to figure out not how Linux and the GPL need to change for you, but how you need to change for it.

One more thing. The GPL is being updated, and there may well be some changes made to make it more business friendly, or not, and likely it will address the patent issue, but it won't be happening rapidly. And do know that there is no indication that Linux will ever move to the new version. That is not a given, by any means.

I asked Linux Magazine if they'd be willing to let me republish a column I wrote for Linux Magazine last October, "Protecting the Golden Goose," here on Groklaw, as part of my answer to Mr. Henry's ideas, and they graciously agreed, so here it is, and I hope you enjoy it. No, I hope if you are a business person, or a lawyer for some, you understand it.


Protecting the Golden Goose
~ by Pamela Jones

During his keynote speech at the Ottawa Linux Symposium 2004 on July 24, 2004, kernel developer Andrew Morton talked about the relationship between information technology vendors and Linux, and some of the changes that are occurring as free and open source software (FOSS) attracts great corporate interest:

"... [Y]ou shouldn't take all of this to mean that Linux is going to become some sort of buttoned-down, corporate quagmire. I don't think it will. I expect that the free software ethos, this very lofty set of principles and ethics [that] underlie our work, will continue to dominate."

Morton may be right that corporations mean to protect the free software ethos. But are they? Judging from some recent history, I think companies need to be better educated so that they understand what makes Linux what it is and why it is better.

Morton pointed out several problematic areas:

1. Incompatibility. Morton said, "We are heavily committed to standards, whether they be written or de facto, and we're committed as a matter of principle. We want to be as compatible with as much other system software as [possible], so [Linux] can be as useful as possible to as many people as possible."

Compatibility is a bedrock FOSS value, but it goes against corporate thinking. Corporations want to differentiate and lock in customers. We've already seen some vendors -- and you know who you are -- straying from the straight and narrow Linux path, adding extra features to their kernels, resulting in incompatible versions of Linux, which "by design, lock some of our users into an particular vendor's implementation of Linux," according to Morton.

2. Differentiation. IT and hardware companies tend to bypass the main-line kernel and instead "develop and test new features within the context of a partner Linux vendor's kernel." This can only lead to the Unix curse: fragmentation.

Morton continued, "I see the perfectly understandable vendor strategy of offering product differentiation as being in direct conflict with the long-term interests of Linux. It's not for me to tell vendors how to run their business, but I do urge them to find other ways to provide value to their customers. I strongly oppose the practice, and I will actively work to undermine it."

3. Regression. Hardware and software vendors are reverting to cathedral-style development. Morton quipped, "Whether it's for competitive reasons, for confidentiality, or most probably, due to time pressure, it appears to me that the flow of testing results and the promptness of getting fixes out to the rest of the world is slowing down a bit. So, I would ask the people involved in this release work to remain conscious of this, and try to keep the old golden goose laying her eggs."

Corporations will naturally be reluctant to share knowledge. We saw with the early indemnification programs a myopia about FOSS values, so much so that some even said that it didn't matter if end-users had to give up rights to modify the code, as if end-users aren't part of the development process.

Part of Linux's appeal is that anyone can improve, improvise, and innovate by looking at the code and changing it. Creativity inevitably springs from large numbers of people experimenting, combined with a low barrier to entry to sharing and contributing. Those are essential ingredients in Linux's success, SCO's ill-informed paranoia about where code comes from notwithstanding.

Unix essentially shot itself in the head when all of the Unix vendors decided to differentiate themselves and work individually and competitively to hoard the largest customer base. If Linux follows the same path, it will eat away at Linux like termites. Why?

Because pooling knowledge is better, particularly in software development, which, as Morton points out, is unlike all other kinds of engineering. You don't engineer software like you engineer a bridge. In code, progress is incremental.

This is why intellectual property laws that seek, by their very nature, to keep knowledge out of the pool, aren't working well with software.

Innovation in software happens so quickly that the shelf life of the value of that innovation is shorter than the law's term of "protection." All you end up with is a barrier to learning, preventing the rapid progress you could have had from pooling ideas and skills.

Corporations don't naturally care. But perhaps we can make them care through persistent education and by opposing balkanization, so that "the free software ethos, the very lofty set of principles and ethics which underlie our work, will continue to dominate."

[Please note the article "Protecting the Golden Goose," is copyrighted, does not come under the Creative Commons license, and may not, therefore, be republished elsewhere without permission.]


How Not to Kill the Golden Goose | 418 comments | Create New Account
Comments belong to whoever posts them. Please notify us of inappropriate comments.
How Not to Kill the Golden Goose
Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, February 21 2005 @ 03:30 PM EST
Companies dont want their proprietary rights to be threatened or to be perceived as threatened.

Dear woman,

Corporations enjoy "priviledges", not "rights". People have rights. Property has privilege. Of course some say the idea of the 1886 Union Pacific case of "corporate personhood" may yet prove to replace Dead Scott's people can own people with the idea that property can own people.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Corrections here, please
Authored by: Nick on Monday, February 21 2005 @ 03:41 PM EST
If you see any.

[ Reply to This | # ]

OT here, please
Authored by: Nick on Monday, February 21 2005 @ 03:43 PM EST
Any relevant OT information can go in this thread. Remember to create
clickable links.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Well written...
Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, February 21 2005 @ 03:43 PM EST
...and from the soul, not to mention irrefutable.


[ Reply to This | # ]

Off topic
Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, February 21 2005 @ 03:50 PM EST
I wanted to post off toptic but that link has not been created yet so here it.I
will take me a minuite to compose my thoughs.

Florida Resident.

[ Reply to This | # ]

How Not to Kill the Golden Goose
Authored by: Nick on Monday, February 21 2005 @ 03:54 PM EST
I realize some proprietary business types might not like being told they have to do things the GPL way, for these are the types of people who give orders and take charge and it feels strange not to be able to do that with Linux. Well, to those types I point out that no one forces them to use Linux. Feel free to go your own way and continue barking orders and counting your gold. Nobody is going to stop you. Have fun.

But what PJ said about the views people have of Microsoft is true. There are an amazing number of people now who have dim views of Microsoft. Yeah, I see plenty of supporters too, so I'm not saying it's universal. But compare public perception, conventional wisdom if you will, of the company now compared with the way it was ten years ago. Remember when Windows 95 was introduced, and Jay Leno was MC for a vast party up at Redmond, and people were lining up at midnight to get their hands on a copy? Microsoft was riding high back then (and they had the stock performance to prove it).

Look at them now. Longhorn? Ho hum, doesn't affect me. I left the Microsoft world behind years ago. For me it was reading Judge Jackson's entire Findings of Fact (all 150 pages). You did actually read it, right? Not just read press reports about it? If you read it, you have clear documenation of dirty deeds done by Microsoft. These were the findings that were upheld on appeal (though the remedy phase got cut). I was so indignant at Microsoft's behavior that I decided to cut the company out of my life. And I did it.

I am not a fanatic about it in the sense that I don't go around telling people to get rid of their Windows. In fact, if I know a guy is a serious gamer, I tell him that Windows is where it's at. But for myself, it was an irrevocable split. And just by casual recommendation, my family broke away too. And friends. Some went OS X, some went Linux, some a combination. None of them regret losing Microsoft from their lives. All of them enjoy not having to deal with viruses and spyware.

Microsoft had a great business model and could have kept mindshare as well as marketshare. But they got greedy, did dirty tricks, and so this is one ex- Microsoft customer who will never again trust them on my computer. They are out of my lives for good. And yes, I have Firefox like so many of my friends now. Love it.

[ Reply to This | # ]

How Not to Kill the Golden Goose
Authored by: fstanchina on Monday, February 21 2005 @ 03:54 PM EST

One more thing. The GPL is being updated, [but] there is no indication that Linux will ever move to the new version. That is not a given, by any means.

In fact, there's a clear indication that Linux will not move to a new version, and it's near the top of the COPYING file (i.e. the GPL) you can find in the kernel sources:

Also note that the only valid version of the GPL as far as the kernel is concerned is _this_ particular version of the license (ie v2, not v2.2 or v3.x or whatever), unless explicitly otherwise stated. -- Linus Torvalds

[ Reply to This | # ]

Anti-business - yeah right.
Authored by: Toon Moene on Monday, February 21 2005 @ 04:01 PM EST
> The anti-business “religion” that served as a unifying
> force for open source developers who created Linux will
> need to share the platform with the money interests who
> are now needed to penetrate the enterprise world and
> secure its long-term future

Funny - when I started to contribute to GNU Fortran, my main motivation was to
reinvent the business world of the eighties, where it was the norm that you
would get sources with the operating system / utilities that you bought with the
hardware (I have a healthy dose of CDC NOS(/BE/VE) development under my belt).

It's only such outfits like Microsoft who think it a good idea to hide the
source away from their customers ...

Toon Moene (A GNU Fortran maintainer and physicist at large)

[ Reply to This | # ]

Linux, GPL and Proprietary Software CAN Coexist
Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, February 21 2005 @ 04:03 PM EST
I think you can have it both ways. But you still have to make a living.

There are only a few ways to make a living in the computer industry:
1. Sell hardware.
2. Sell software.
3. Sell services (consulting, providing data - such as music, maintaining
systems, advertisement, etc.)

Note the misconception about the GPL. GPL'd software is STILL PROPRIETARY
software. GPL'd software is not public domain software - which is truly free,
without need of license for use or modify. All the GPL is is a license to use
proprietary software. The GPL gives you broader rights than the usual
Microsoft-like license: You have full access to the code, can modify the code,
can freely distribute and copy the code, etc. However, it is still proprietary
that you have to follow the license stipulations in order to use the software.

There is no problem in using both GPL'd software and more restrictive-
licensed software together.

Look at what IBM is doing with Linux, for example. IBM is selling hardware
(to make money), using Linux as the operating system platform, selling
restricted-licensed middleware (e.g. WebSphere - to make money), and
selling services (again to make money). IBM gets it. You do not have to
modify the GPL. You do not have to kill Linux. IBM works at all three levels
of generating money in the computer industry - without having to fight the
GPL - working fully in cooperation with the GPL for the software using this

People who complain most about Linux seem to want to make proprietary
changes to the operating system code. But why do you need to do this? You
can just as easily sell software which runs on Linux which has a more
restrictive license to the specifications you desire. You can, for example,
develop a game for Linux (e.g. Quake) and sell it for the Linux platform. I
don't see why people would object to you selling a game with a more
restrictive license than the GPL.

I also see people who are on the opposite side - who believe every software
should be free and GPL'd. I think they are irrational. You don't need to have

every software GPL'd. GPL'd software may cost nothing to copy but it is still
NOT free - you still have to follow its license restriction. Certainly such
people would be aghast if Linux was forced into the public domain - where
truly free software resides.

Note that many restrictive-licensed software tend to be much more well-
designed than GPL'd software. This is because the programmers have much
more incentive to put quality into the software. Examples include Mac OS X
and other software from Apple Computer.

GPL and non-GPL licenses can co-exist. You just have to pick what software
you want to use. The ability to choose IS FREEDOM.

[ Reply to This | # ]

How Not to Kill the Golden Goose
Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, February 21 2005 @ 04:04 PM EST
"Sick of saving proof of purchase certificates under pain of a visit from the IP police and fines when they can't find that piece of paper from 1998. Sick of typing in numbers to prove they bought the software,"

I'm currently going through this rigmarole at work... I've got slack time waiting for more data from our customer and my managers have decided to use me to do "the audit"... the task they've been putting off for the past 9 months. What a nightmare... having to interrupt people to get access to their machines to do a sweep for all software installed and email the results back to my machine... and after that, I've got the horror of finding all the actual licenses and proofs of purchase to try and tie up with what's actually out there on the machines...

And when I bring up the subject of Linux, the management go pale... our product only runs on ms-windows and requires scads of proprietary software on the developers workstations to actually produce and support it.

[ Reply to This | # ]

FOSS works because Physics works
Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, February 21 2005 @ 04:05 PM EST

I think FOSS works for the same reason that Physics works. Whether from academia, industry, government labs, or individual researchers, people publish the physics (or chemistry, or biology, etc.) models and theories they create, so that subsequent generations can refine these models and theories. One of the great successes of Western society is the advancement of its sciences, and the root cause of these advancements has been the free and open-source nature of scientific inquiry (you can't patent the law of gravity for example).

Society as a whole, and industry in general, then profits from the application of these sciences. The FOSS software movement is basically predicated on the notion that we should treat computer science just like we do other sciences -- keep the pure development free, and then let industry profit from the application of that development.

You'd have to argue that our basic centuries-long model for doing Physics has been unsuccessful to convince me that the same development principles won't also advance the state of computer well as advancing the best interests of society and industry as as whole. These pundits who argue against FOSS might as well argue against Physics.

Like Physics, at this point the relative merits of FOSS are not a matter of opinion, they're a matter of historical record. This isn't theory. As PJ says, we can prove that it will work because, well, it already has.

[ Reply to This | # ]

How Not to Kill the Golden Goose
Authored by: cknadle on Monday, February 21 2005 @ 04:19 PM EST

What Steven Henry said isn't exaclty true, and I am confused why he went through the trouble of saying it in the first place. Modifying the GPL to cater to business? Does he really think that's realistic? Eeeeeent.

First of all, there is still proprietary software available for Linux. There are videogames, CAD software, backup software, web serving software... Etc. There's software that has dual licensing, such as the Qt widget libraries, for instance, specifically to allow making both free and pay-for software.

So not only did he say things that were wrong but he also said things that were incorrect. In terms of "the sprit of the law verses the letter of the law" he blew it on both.

-- Chris

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How Not to Kill the Golden Goose
Authored by: philc on Monday, February 21 2005 @ 04:26 PM EST
The GPL is pro-business. Business in general directly benefits from the GPL. It
may not look like it is pro software business (which it is) but it is definately

First off, to be pro-business usually means that the effect either generates
more revenue or allows business to operate more efficiently. The gross business
output of the country increases.

Think of the interstate highway system. By a lot of measures it is pro-business.
However, if you are in the railroad business it doesn't look so pro-business.

The proprietary vendors of today are in the positon the railroads were when the
interstate highway system was built. The railroads being monopolies had lost
touch with their customers. They got bloated and inefficient and became a drag
on the economy because of the unneeded cost and unresponsiveness to their
customers. They reduced their customers ability to grow and make money because
of increased cost and inconvenience. (Do any proprietary software vendors come
to mind?) When interstate trucking emerged the railroads were forced to change
or fail. The current railroads are much more efficient and customer oriented and
they bring value to their customers again. Todays proprietary vendors are going
to go through a major change. The survivors will be intune with their customers
needs and they will provide value that exceeds the cost.

The GPL is even pro business for proprietary software vendors in that new
business opportunities will emerge as a result of migrations to GPL software
(much the same as interstate trucking and truck stops emerged when the
interstate highway system was built. Proprietary vendors can make money by
exploiting these opportunities.

Proprietary OS vendors are going to have to provide a compelling value
proposition. Part of the value is in the product and services and part is in the
business relation. Open software will be created when the value proposition

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Where businesses fail to "get it"
Authored by: tknarr on Monday, February 21 2005 @ 04:36 PM EST

I think it's a fundamental difference of position that's at the root of why businesses and businessmen come off the way they do about Linux and the GPL. For decades, they've been the kid in the sandbox with all the toys and everyone else has had to come to them with their hand out if they wanted to play. Problem is, with Linux and the GPL that's not the case. Linux and GPL software in general is the new kid with an even bigger and better set of toys, and it's business that's having to come with their hand out wanting to play. But they can't shake lose the "my toys, my rules" attitude they've been able to take for all those years. They want to play with someone else's toys, but they can't stop acting like it's that someone else wanting to play with their toys. I really think they simply can't comprehend the new kid when he says "What do you mean I have to play by your rules? They're my toys. If you want to set the rules go back to your toys and leave us alone.". And honestly I think that, or the equivalent, is the only answer Steven Henry and his ilk need or deserve.

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Economics will control the future of Linux
Authored by: mr.mighty on Monday, February 21 2005 @ 04:37 PM EST
Economics will control the future of Linux -- False, I hope.

It's in fact true. However, the software industry has always had limited competition and/or monopolies in various sectors. Linux specifically, and FOSS in general, is breaking down these barriers by producing software to perform the same tasks. As we approach perfectly competitive markets, the price of each copy of software will drop to the cost of producing that extra copy. Economics demands it. The cost of software distributed on the net is very very small. The cost of software distributed otherwise is the cost of disks, manuals and materials, all stuff that RMS says you can charge for.

Frankly, I'm glad that economics control Linux's fate. Microsoft, and many other companies, will not be comforted by the same thought.

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But GPL licensing HAS changed
Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, February 21 2005 @ 04:52 PM EST
The argument that the GPL (in sense of ``how RMS licenses his code'') hasn't changed in order to secure success isn't quite right.

As first released, gcc required a small utility library to be linked against pretty well every binary it built. libgcc.a contained things like division and multiplication for processors that didn't have it (early SPARC), floating point for processors that didn't have it (68020 sans 68331, 386 sans 387, lots more) and a few other odds and ends. It was licensed, as was the rest of the gcc suite, with the nascent GPL (this is about 1987) and meant that unless you rolled your own runtime you could only use gcc to _compile_ GPL'd code.

It was problems like that which gave rise to the LGPL, a license whose sole purpose is to allow the mixing of GPL and non-GPL code. Now I can't speak for RMS --- I spent a week with him fifteen year ago, which hardly qualifies as mental transfer --- but were I in his shoes I would have very mixed feelings about the LGPL. It's done exactly what the ``oh, Linux must change to embrace business'' people are talking about: weakening licensing terms in order to secure commercial success.

  • Has it allowed GNU/Linux to penetrate deeper into the non-free software world? Yes. People who wouldn't release source (Oracle, say) can now release code which runs cleanly on Linux and has access to (for example) GUI libraries.
  • Has it encouraged people to release code under the GPL in order to secure access to other GPL'd code? No. It's given access to that code without requiring any release of source, on any terms.

As I say, I don't speak for RMS, but I'd be prepared to bet a small round of drinks that he sees code being free (as in speech) as rather more important than closed-source binaries linking against gnome.

Is the LGPL a sell-out? From a lot of angles, it looks awfully like it.

ian secure more commercial use? Yes.

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What is with the "religion" and "anti-business" words
Authored by: Chris Lingard on Monday, February 21 2005 @ 04:53 PM EST

It is weird that they always use the words "religion" and "creed" when they speak about the GPL. I have never seen the connection.

I have the freedom to write computer programs. When I do this at work then I Copyright it however the company want. In my spare time, at home; I can do what I want.

I do not want to be a consumer, where everything is dictated, and I have no choices. That is not a religious belief. I am not anti-business, I just do not see why we all must be happy little consumers, with no rights or opinions.

Why do these people think we have to obey the company line. If it was jobs for life, then it might not matter too much; but I have never seen much company loyalty to employees.

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Real life business
Authored by: star-dot-h on Monday, February 21 2005 @ 04:55 PM EST
Our experience as a software development company is as follows (in reverse order
of importance):

1. The GPL frees liability from audits by third parties.
2. Gives us a wide range of high quality solutions, and combinations of
technologies that we can offer our clients
3. Allows tight budgets to be focused on solutions rather than royalty payments
4. Makes our environment more interesting to employees who enjoy working with
GPL based technology, enjoy contributing to FOSS projects and enjoy being a part
of a wide and vibrant community.
5. We find that adherence to the ethical underpinnings of FOSS gives us a good
basis on which to make what are often challenging decisions on how to operate.
Our clients and staff seem to like the results :-)

We are not perfect, and we make mistakes all the time but the GPL is definitely
not business unfriendly and over 8 years we have consistently grown in terms
revenues, staff and capabilities.


Free software on every PC on every desk

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How Not to Kill the Golden Goose
Authored by: Nick_UK on Monday, February 21 2005 @ 05:00 PM EST
It's strange how a lot of people - including a few posts
here - don't get that bit about why open source coders do
it. They just do it. Business doesn't matter - the Linux
kernel crew don't care one iota if IBM, or Microsoft or
whoever use it or don't. Jobs that spring from that is
just a bonus/aside.

Within the open source coder realm (me included on crap I
turn out) nobody cares if it is used or not... it's just
done as it's what we what to do. Fun.

You can't turn a totally free pastime into a business
layer just because a few big guns are plowing money into
it. That is their fight... not anybody elses.


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Why I like Open Source...
Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, February 21 2005 @ 05:20 PM EST
The comment about Einstein reminded me of this. I like Open Source because I
get to stand on the shoulders of giants and do things I could not have done

In a talk that I heard from Bruce Parens, he mentioned something to the effect
that all the proprietary software he ever worked on is now gone, while all the
open source software is still around. Imagine if every project you worked on
today had to be done from scratch, we'd never get anywhere. I, and millions
world wide, can now build exciting new extensions to software because we have
access to it, AND can extend it. Without the ability to extend what exists,
we'd all still be writing teco macros.

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How Not to Kill the Golden Goose
Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, February 21 2005 @ 05:21 PM EST
PJ, I enjoyed your rebuttal immensely. There are a few points that I might be
more reticent about. First I would say that Richard Stallman's GPL would not be
the success it is today without the genius of Linus Torvalds and the evil genius
of Bill Gates. The reputation of the GPL might not look so good without them.
Unattractive GPL'ed software would be more visible and held to higher standards
without them. Second while I seem to be immune to malware on Linux, I don't see
this as the result primarily of the GPL. Operating as other than root and having
a system of privliges was established before the GPL. Also I don't see the GPL
protecting a Linux with 95% market share in a manner we would be comfortable.
Third, I find the idea that Linux or GPL software is not subject to market
forces is not born out in the pages of Groklaw. Of course it may be the way
that one defines market forces and their affects. Linux and GPL development and
adoption continue despite FUD. I still beleive that Linux development would be
slowed if MicroSoft were to fix their EULA and their code. And I see continuing
efforts to undermine one of our favorite GPL projects, Linux, as long as there
is an entity with market interest.

I wish you had been there, I would love to hear that voice infused with clarity,
eloquence, passion and conviction. It might just be that the forum that gets to
witness your voice will be one that carries much more weight.

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I liked your simile
Authored by: ssavitzky on Monday, February 21 2005 @ 05:25 PM EST

The old "car with the hood welded shut" analogy was getting awfully tired.

Actually, the difference between Windows and Linux is even more like the difference between renting an apartment, and owning a house. When you're renting, you can't paint the walls, get a new refrigerator, or even call in a plumber to fix a plugged drain without getting permission from the owner. When you finally get permission, it's on their terms -- you get to use an inoffensive color of paint, the cheapest brand of fridge, and their brother-in-law who happens to be a plumber.

It's true that owning my own house has a few more responsibilities. I have to make my own decisions now. But if I want to paint a bedroom blue or give my fridge to a neighbor so I can buy a new one, I can do it, and the only things I have to worry about are whether my kid likes the color and whether the new fridge fits through the front door. And if the fridge doesn't fit I have the option of ripping out the front door and enlarging the frame to make it fit. And my rent isn't going to go up next year.

The SCO method: open mouth, insert foot, pull trigger.

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Economics and Linux
Authored by: Thomas Frayne on Monday, February 21 2005 @ 05:35 PM EST
"Economics will control the future of Linux -- False, I hope."

As I once read in an economics text, economics is not about money. It is not
even about scarce resources. It is about using resources in the most efficient
way to accomplish useful work and improve the general welfare. For example, if
two persons with equal skills and and similar assets were isolated, it would
still make sense for them to divide up the work and trade the assets: the work
would get done more efficiently, and both would receive more benefits from the
assets. Economics plays a part in even this simple situation.

Economics IS controlling the future of Linux. FOSS programmers are trading
their work based on licenses like the GPL that ensure that they are paid in kind
by anyone who wants to distribute products based on their work. Proprietary
companies are paying their employees to write code; they contribute it to FOSS
to attract free improvements from FOSS programmers, and to better sell hardware
and services.

Other proprietary companies offer proprietary software products that can be
included in a Linux distribution as part of a mere aggregation. These products
can compete with both FOSS and other proprietary products, and sometimes the
same company offers both. For example, Wine competes with Win4Lin and
CrossoverOffice, OpenOffice competes with StarOffice.

The result is a storm of innovation and an exponential growth that has reached
critical mass. Anyone can compete with Linux by offering products that give
better value, but nobody can lock users into a product that no longer gives
better value in a rapidly moving software world. The proprietary companies that
want to survive in this world will have to be nimble. This is economics at its

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Linux software can be proprietary?
Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, February 21 2005 @ 05:36 PM EST

As I understand it, you can still write software for Linux and make it
proprietary. So, I don't understand the concern. Enlighten me, please.

For example, I still have my 5-year-old Applixware office suite. As far as I can
see, it's proprietary. I had to pay for it. There is no mention of the GPL in
its licensing terms. You can't copy it and redistribute it. It didn't come with
source code.

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Economics Lesson
Authored by: DaveAtFraud on Monday, February 21 2005 @ 06:00 PM EST
In evaluating how "business" and Linux can co-exist, keep the
following in mind:

Businesses exist to alleviate perceived need in exchange for value.

You will note that the statement is morally neutral but applies equally well to
someone who wants to sell you a pet rock (or worse) as it does to someone who
wants to sell you food or other necessities. It is the nature of the specific
exchange that determines it's morality, legality, etc. I, for one, have no
desire to raise my own food and am quite happy paying someone else to do so so
long as the exchange is value for value.

Moving along,

"Economics will control the future of Linux"

It already does since economics is just a single word that describes value
exchange among people. Luckily, this particular economic exchange isn't defined
by extracting as much money as possible from the "customer" in
exchange for as little value as possible. As long as Mr. Gates & Company
exist and attempt to coerce people into staying in their little extortion racket
("Keep paying us money and we won't hurt you," is a pretty ugly
business model), The fallout from that economy will also influence Linux (I have
argued elsewhere that Linux would not be what it is today if Microsoft had not
already distorted the software market).

Quietly implementing RFC 1925 wherever I go.

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How Not to Kill the Golden Goose
Authored by: ExcludedMiddle on Monday, February 21 2005 @ 06:23 PM EST
The Golden Goose analogy is an attractive way to try to explain to those that don't quite understand the FOSS model. I found in useful, in Oct 03, to try to rebut an article by what was a new commentator at the time, Daniel Lyons at Forbes. I used that analogy, and I'm posting it here just because I believe that those here at Groklaw may find this little comment to be interesting. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to convince Mr. Lyons; since that time, he's unfortunately proven to be an anti-FOSS advocate.

The article that Mr. Lyons wrote was called Linux's Hit Men which has a lot of interesting parallels to the speech that PJ quotes here. In summary, the FSF was about to talk to Cisco for using Linux in the Linksys router without releasing the code. FSF of course, was just trying to enforce the legitimate rights of the GPL. Mr. Lyons' thrust was that this was somehow not just anti-business, but communist. He also was painting the FSF as if it were some kind of extortion sceme, to get donations for the FSF.

This was one of those commentaries that was so egregious that I had to respond. They added a message board for the article because of the flood of messages. Basically, what these commentators who ask for other licensing don't seem to understand is that the value is not in a particlar piece of useful FOSS software, like Linux, as it is today, but instead in the process that got it there and will make it into even more powerful and useful software in the future. It is the licensing that brought it to where it is. It is the work of thousands of dedicated programmers and millions of users who make suggestions because they can see the code that got them interested in this thing in the first place.

My own feeling continues to be that FOSS software is one of the best values for business out there. I want to share what I wrote because I feel that it applies here too. I still feel that there is a big table of businessmen and women with their knives and forks out hovering over this goose which has gotten nice and fat. But the goose isn't what they want, it's the eggs. And although they might have a nice feast that evening, the next day, there will be no more golden eggs. The real task that we as advocates have is to point this out. This is a NEW business model. The money will be made finding ways to make money when the code is OPEN rather than closed. Why is this so difficult to understand?

Don't Kill the Golden Goose!

Open source software is a new business model. While that is a change from what companies are used to in the past, it has nothing to do with communism. In fact, open source is rooted in the strongest ideals of capitalism. That is, it takes ideas that others have had, and builds upon it, so that entrepreneurial individuals can profit from it. Some of the largest companies in today's economy are based on those ideals. McDonalds didn't invent the hamburger, it built upon it, and improved on the process. Disney didn't invent Sleeping Beauty, it reinterpreted it.

The differences that this article seems to misunderstand is the intent of the legitimate copyright holders of this code. There are millions of man hours of work from some of the finest programmers built into the Linux system. Without this excellent work, the Linksys router, a smash business hit, would not be possible. The programmers that put in this difficult work decided to release this code according to the GPL rather than keeping it secret. Don't confuse open sourced material with the public domain, it's still owned by the copyright owners. And their wish is to let others improve it still farther.

Open source software got to the point it is today by solving real business problems, running enterprise-critical systems, and allowing others making a profit from it by opening, not closing their work. In millions of instances, people tweaked the system because of issues that it had running in particular environments, or they may have optimized it for a certain process. This gets passed back into the original code, and everyone benefits.

Linux would not have been viable to make a top-selling product if the GPL didn't exist. But what this commentary seems to be suggesting is that Cisco be allowed to steal the code, and go against the copyright holder's wishes illegally. If the FSF or others who are attempting to protect the copyright holder's rights were to roll over and give up the fight, the first business use of GPL code would have ended this very valuable, revenue-generating resource a long time ago.

In the past, the only way to make a business out of software was to keep it secret. This is not the case anymore, they can also make money from software being open. Instead of fearing this new business model, and giving it an inappropriate label, it would be far more interesting to see articles about how to take advantage of this very exciting, very powerful resource that's open to all businesses, within the rules of this new business model. Why make the suggestion to kill the golden goose now that its gotten nice and fat? Don't miss out on the true value of the goose: the golden eggs.

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    IBM does "marry" propietary and open source
    Authored by: dcarrera on Monday, February 21 2005 @ 07:18 PM EST
    Sad to say, but they do.

    Okay, perhaps not the Linux kernel itself. But what about Workplace? It is based
    on and IBM has given nothing back to the OOo. What about
    Websphere? (Apache with mod-ibm-ssl).

    Corporations are not generally "believers" in open source. At best,
    they are fair weather friends or temporary allies. I don't enjoy saying this,
    but I think it's important to recognize.

    Incidentally, I think this is also an example of why the GPL is so important. A
    company can make a commercial version of and Apache because they
    have licenses that permit this. The only reason why they don't do the same with
    Linux is because the GPL doesn't let them.

    /daniel waves his "GPL rulez" flag. :-)

    Daniel Carrera. volunteer.

    Make a difference. Join Join OOoAuthors today.

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    Disinformation purveyor
    Authored by: DebianUser on Monday, February 21 2005 @ 07:21 PM EST
    How does something like that end up being distributed at LinuxWorld? I
    guess speakers are not vetted, or else someone judged the resulting antiFUD
    flood would be beneficial with such an obvious target presented.

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    How Not to Kill the Golden Goose
    Authored by: rezende on Monday, February 21 2005 @ 07:58 PM EST

    At this time (between Feb 17 and 25), a preparatory conference (PrepCon2) for the UN World Summit on Information Society (WSIS) is being held in Geneva, Switzlerland. A proposal to include, in the draft document to be submitted to the Summit assembly, a reference to FOSS as a set of viable models for will be presented, which the US delegation wants to barr.

    A document explaining why this inclusion is important is circulating among the delegations. I'm posting a good part of it here just because, like a previous poster, I believe that those here at Groklaw may find it to be interesting, specially those taking upon themselves some deFUDding tasks.

    FOSS: What, Why & How

    Brazil's delegation to WSIS Prepcon2

    Feb 17-25 2005

    What is FOSS?

    Source code

    Revolutionizing many social and economic activities, the Internet did it most profoundly to businesses related with ICT intangibles (such as softwares, digital contents, etc.). In particular, it has yielded new business models and modes of production, distribution, and enterprising for software, as well as new ways to mix and match them.

    New models for development and licensing, collectively known as Free/Open Source Software (FOSS), have emerged and shown their worth. By exploring decentralization, commoditization, convergences and cost decreases in ICTs through -- and as -- new means of value aggregation which Yale Law professor Yochai Benkler has named “commons-based peer production”1.

    The crucial difference between these new models and modes of production, and those inherited from the pre-Internet era, is the way they treat source code. Knowing this difference is essential to grasping its deep consequences. Roughly speaking, source code is the human expression of an intellectual work in a form that can function as template for packaging and distributing products.

    For instance, before typewriters, manuscripts would be source code for literary publications. And after high level programming languages, the version in which a program is originally written, by a human in such a language, is source code for that program. Whereas its automatic translation (compilation) to a given hardware platform's machine language is its object code for that type of platform.

    Object code is actually what runs on a computer. When intended for distribution, a copy of a set of inter operating object codes, packaged with documentation on how it may work and a license to use, becomes a software product. Note that not all software is done for distribution, and not all licenses rely on the same contract law, copyright or intellectual property protection mechanisms.

    Modes of production

    In fact, most software development is not for distribution, but for private use by an enterprise. In this case, whether done by the enterprise or outsourced, software and production mode are called in-house. In-house softwares are mainly developed to supply specific semiological needs, not general enough to spur demand for distributable products (“distros”) from the software industry.

    While harnessing the largest share of programming resources, the in-house mode of production yet attracts much less attention from scholars, investors and the press following ICTs' evolution. One can attribute this over-focusing on modes for distribution to the fact that “distros” aggregate value and generate business chains among distinct sectors of the economy. But there's more to it.

    The importance of production modes for distributable software goes beyond economics, as UC Berkeley sociologist Manuel Castells shows2. It has to do with the nature of ICTs, the dynamics of its markets and their structuring roles. Roles not only at in-house development, but also in the evolution of social practices, including governance, and trade, mostly of other ICT intangibles.

    Microelectronic industries and markets operate with cost structures very sensitive to scale. So they evolved under a drive for modularization, standardization, miniaturization and product streamlining which, by the early 80's, has reached an important threshold, the so called “downsize revolution”: the drive's effects reaching other markets and industries, through interdependencies in business chains.

    With downsizing, local networks connecting smaller, cheaper computers of growing capacity, became prevalent over mainframe data centers, of centralized processing and communication. In tandem, software engineering was growing complex, pushing systems into layered and modular architectures, with standards for interconnectivity and interoperability gaining importance.

    Free, as in speech

    The downsize revolution affected the economy of ICTs in important ways. It allowed software and hardware businesses to decouple, pushed by new risk assessments from a milestone antitrust lawsuit filed by the US government against IBM, for its predatory monopolistic practices of tyeing in hardware rents, software licenses and support contracts, then the prevalent, monolithic model.

    To flourish independently, the business of producing and licensing distributable software had to develop its own models. Thus, a decade before the potential for inter network mesh connectivity matured into a rich, diverse, layered set of universal standards, reached by today's Internet with the inclusion of the http protocol in the 90s, a set of such models was picked by the market.

    For lack of a better word, and to be contrasted with FOSS, this set has been called the proprietary model, for it hinges on the premise that software enterprises ought to treat source code as business secret: thus, a guarded property, such as the recipe for coca cola. The soundness seems obvious. To translate and copy code costs but nothing, licenses to use individual copies generate revenue.

    The logic is superb, except it does not factor in the dynamics of ICT markets, driven by the semiological nature of its products. Soft + ware is not soft + drink. One then has to ask: what from this picture's missing dynamics could weaken the proprietary model to the point of someone considering alternatives? An answer is best grasped by examining alternatives of proved success.

    We'll do it by contrasting FOSS and proprietary models and modes, and by listing case histories. But before, we end this session by contrasting their founding premises. As early said, this is key. So, what is FOSS? FOSS is an exercise of choice, to treat source code as language, a “privately owned” commons, a knowledge base open and free (as in speech) to the able and willing.

    Why FOSS?

    Why open source?

    At this point, one may ask the obvious question: why open source code? If compilation into object code is automatic, and source code is made openly available, this doesn't jive with user licenses for individual copies as a source of revenue for a software enterprise. Free as in beer? some jump indignantly: How can programmers earn a living, or the boss pay salaries this way? How, if their intellectual work is to be treated as a commons, therefore available to competitors?

    The answer lurks under the word “competitor”. How competition is transformed in and by cyberspace. Software is not soft drink. FOSS licenses do not place code in public domain, their authors still control the use of their work. But not by attempting to control access to individual copies of object code, installed in computers around the world. Rather, by controlling how its human readable expression, source code, can be legally used by others, through copyright law.

    Instead of competition and piracy in the marketplace, FOSS licenses make a U-turn from the proprietary view, to aim control at cooperation in production modes. FOSS distinguishes right to access from right to reuse (to make derivative works from), and authorship from property of code. It does not treat software as softdrink, for the latter is a rivalrous good, and the former isn't. The question then becomes, how can this U-turn pay off, and to whom?

    Before delving into case histories to answer, we'll step back and go by stages, for one's view of what's going on will get shuffled. Better keep an eye on the card deck. First, note: the opening question actually begs for its opposite, more revealing. Why was software's source code closed in the first place? For it only happened when its business decoupled from hardware's, by the 80s. Second, keep in mind: most software development is in-house. In these cases, the proprietary-FOSS dichotomy need not apply, since there is no software distribution, no general user license.

    “In house”, how source code is to be treated becomes a private matter between programmer and who contracts him/her to write software, responding to the enterprise which will pay and use it. Since it's no one else's business, programmers may sign whatever in-house contracts they like, there being FOSS in cyberspace or not. But he/she will not program in a vacuum. Other softwares will play some structural role, particularly software fit for distribution. Just as ICT markets, with the role of its products and services in today's society. But could he/she distribute?

    Why open standards?

    What makes a software businesswise fit for distribution is, basically, the scale of demand. Some projects may plan to build demand by marketing for new needs (demo versions), but most types of software have the demand scaled by the niche it can occupy in the “ecosystem” of ICT intangibles, as softwares become ever more modular, layered, complex, interdependent and bound by standards, besides ubiquitous.

    From architectural layering, patterns emerge. The closer to hardware, the broader the potential demand for a given type of software. Basic ones with the broadest potential, such as operating systems (OS) and network stacks, on platforms going from servers to desktops, followed by middleware, such as databases, managing tools and virtual machines (for platform independence, distributed computing, etc), followed by applications.

    In the application layer, demand patterns again diversify. From the pervasive office suites, email and browsing clients at the desktop, to more specialized types, such as desktop publishing, video and programming tools, with in-house apps at the higher end. And, as demand at lower layers stagnates to market growth and hardware upgrading, the strategic importance of standards grows.

    So, a good reason for markets to have picked the proprietary model at an early stage of software business independence from hardware's may be its capacity to unfeatheredly channel technical and semiological net effects into economic ones, towards monopolism. In a deregulated, emerging market it sure happened, as we saw the largest accumulation in the history of capitalism. Control of the process of setting up and licensing standards from a broad base became, then, key to power.

    While a desktop broad base and standards process emerged from the OS market (with Windows), the Internet was being built on open and free standards, set up by meritocracy, colaboration and consensus. Softwares for Internet stacks were FOSS from the start, there was even a FOSS OS from late 70s, but which lacked key ingredients to breadth of market. So the monopolistic strategy became EEE: Embrace (open standards), Extend (to break interoperability) and Extinguish (competition through net effects), a bedrock for vendor lock-in.

    Why collaborate?

    This OS is BSD, a branch from Unix, the first OS fully multi platform. BSD is UC Berkeley's OS enterprise, branched from Unix's source code under license by its owner (AT&T), then a regulated telecom monopoly barred from doing business with software. One reason BSD may have failed to become a broad base for FOSS standards, led today by Linux, is its developing model (somewhat closed). Which brings us to why and how FOSS models work or don't.

    Today's softwares are complex works, requiring many programmers to build. To successfully compete with proprietary equivalents, a FOSS project has to find a way to compensate for lack of revenue from user licenses. Savings from not having to manage compliance of every installation of a copy is not a cash flow. Although both regimes yield revenue from support and services, the streams from FOSS projects are open to any. The way is open collaboration, the key to success is motivation. Thousands of coders refuse to be passive victims of ever nastier vendor lock-ins (one only needs to read a proprietary End-User Licence Agreement, EULA, to realise what that is).

    Basically, a FOSS project requires free license, open standards and a community of developers. But understanding how collaboration yields positive balances for software development, enterprising and consumers is a complex task3. Most projects which scaled up to global success, such as GNU, Linux, BSD, Apache and Sendmail (respectively web and mail server global market leaders), Mozilla, PHP, MySQL, KDE, Debian, etc. had each to develop ad-hoc strategies to face ominous challenges of different nature while going from small voluntary groups to global cooperatives with complex managing, paid workers and large corporate contributors. The economic bottom line is efficiency, only bad for entrenched monopolies.

    To large corporate contributors or to small independent ICT shops, the payoff is measurable in demand for services and support, at a truly free market where competence is regulated by openness. IBM, for example, which maintains hundreds of full time programmers dedicated to maintaining the Linux kernel (fixing it and making it evolve), besides others to the Apache project, has ended 2004 with an estimated backlog in service orders of US$ 116 billion. The part collected from Linux-related services alone, twice the revenue in licenses from its own (and world's largest) ICT patent portfolio4.

    For governments, the bottom line is political. Reasons for preferring FOSS to conduct its actions, ever so more dependent on ICT, include

    • technological autonomy;

    • sovereignty for assuring transparency and auditability through in-house compilation, particularly against spyware disguised as supplier's Digital Rights Management components;

    • freedom from vendor lock-ins; and

    • independence from closed or proprietary standards and formats

    How FOSS?

    The vendor lock-in problem

    The first obstacle to FOSS benefits is understanding what's at stake. Monopolistic stakeholders, and those in positions to benefit from them, get out to spread fear, uncertainty and doubt (FUD)about FOSS and about what may follow from its choices. Politicians have gone from denouncing it as child's play, a romantic experiment by lunatics, to the latest communist threat to capitalism. FOSS is ideological, since it's a choice for a more socially balanced evolution for ICT and the Information Society. But also a set of models for today's software market, of growing efficiency.

    Meanwhile the proprietary model, the best the market could pick before the Internet, only lose efficiency as the Internet revolution unleashes, poised to double licensing costs in two years5 . And monopolies, as they age, tend to get abusive searching for the fountain of youth (have you read your latest EULA?). To sustain their positions, ITC monopolies need to create artificial scarcities of information and knowledge. For that, they promote a radicalization of Intellectual Property regimes, calling it “harmonisation”, bound to asphyxiate new modes of commons-based peer production, such as FOSS.

    To defend themselves from IP radicalism, FOSS enterprises need to be overcautious and zealous with copyrights, to which its transparency is a boon. Meanwhile, as source code gets more abundant and programming tools better at code reuse, since people don't need to reinvent the wheel they can better concentrate on collaborative ideas for new business experiments. The more FOSS gets created, the lower the threshold for potential demand from which collaborators to successful projects can be drafted, and therefore, more at the application layer supplied.

    How Brazil is getting involved....


    1- Benkler, Y.: “Coase's Penguin” The Yale Law Journal, Vol. 11. Yale University, nguin.html

    2- Castells, M.: "Innovacion, Libertad y Poder en la Era de la Informacion" ,
    World Social Forum, Jan 2005, 3635

    3- Weber, S.: "The success of Open Source", Harvard University Press, 2004.

    4- IBM 4Q04 Quartely Earnings. vestor/4q04/4q04earnings.phtml

    5- Thomson, I.: “Software license fess to double in two years: Gartner warns of predatory pricing

    [ Reply to This | # ]

    It's just rubbish
    Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, February 21 2005 @ 08:30 PM EST
    If this guy doesn't like software licensed under the GPL, or doesn't like the
    GPL license that copyright holders choose to release their code under --- then
    let him and his buddies write their own software under their own license with
    whatever terms they choose. In fact, there is nothing to stop them from doing
    it right now.

    So why is he unhappy? Nobody is stopping him from developing his own software
    under whatever license he wants.

    The real reason, in my opinion, his kind is unhappy is that they can not co-opt
    stuff that doesn't belong to them.

    In my opinion, it's all a variation of the same underlying unhappiness in each
    of Darl McBride, Merkey, and now this guy.

    I used to think their problem, was that they couldn't inwardly digest the
    difference between "freely available with certain conditions attached"
    (Open Source), and "freely available with no conditions" (Public
    Domain). But the fact that this camp (indeed lawyers in this camp), keep
    trying to argue that they could, should or ought to mean the same thing - when
    they are plainly very different - I just feel in my hear, the truth is their
    argument is real about wanting to co-opt other people's work (or if you prefer a
    less generous word - GREED).

    The good news is though, at the end of the day, none of this camp have any
    realistic chance of achieving this co-opting strategy. (They ain't persuading
    anybody, and they ain't going to get over Linus et al to sign over their
    copyrights)... so at the end of the day, they're just talking a bunch of
    baloney that ain't going nowhere.

    IANAL IMHO etc

    [ Reply to This | # ]

    How Not to Kill the Golden Goose
    Authored by: blacklight on Monday, February 21 2005 @ 08:35 PM EST
    "Economics will control the future of Linux -- False, I hope."

    It is partially economics that motivates IBM to have such a strong cooperative
    relationship with the Open Source community. The embedded chip manufacturers
    have by and large jumped into the Linux lifeboat - for solid economic reasons.
    The process of meeting the very sophisticated and legitimate needs of the
    corporate members of the Open Source community is resulting in a Linux that is
    constantly improving in terms of robustness, scalability, flexibility and scope.

    Unlike the process of developing proprietary software, the process of developing
    Linux is open and disputes over the fundamental design of Linux flare up often
    like bonfires. But I believe that Linux is that much stronger in that we are
    compelled to deal openly with these disputes instead of hiding them to maintain
    a certain PR imagery. I believe that Linux's open development process offers
    contributors large and small a degree of fairness, especially since the keepers
    of Linux are not allowing themselves to be unduly influenced by any single
    corporate entity.

    [ Reply to This | # ]

    Anyone else noticing...
    Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, February 21 2005 @ 08:35 PM EST

    ... that, since Linux has started making inroads into businesses, and that it's getting more support from corporate developers, there are more and more cases of hardware that is no longer supported?

    I have some older systems running SCSI-based storage. I cannot upgrade them to 2.6 kernels because the drivers for older SCSI adapters are not being updated. The new drivers seem to have good support for all the latest and greatest killer Ultra320 RAID adapters. Unfortunately, anyone running systems that have Ultra-wide adapters, or, even , in some cases U160 adapters, is stuck back in the 2.4 kernels. It's not encouraging to see developers inserting comments into drivers saying things like ``those cards are end-of-life blah blah blah''. End-of-life to who? That attitude is making it more difficult to take an older system and install Linux on it unless you want to take a step a backward. It seems to me that the embracing of Linux by hardware vendors is turning that long-time support for older hardware into a push for "updating" Linux so that it'll only run on more recent hardware; hardware that the vendors would, of course, just love to sell you. And, I'm sorry, but that ``we can't afford to keep supporting older hardware'' argument doesn't hold water. I doubt very seriously that Linux users have been storming the gates demanding that old cards get firmware updates, etc., etc. It's not, after all, like we ever got much of that in the past.

    It's not just the SCSI area either. I recently removed Firefox 1.0 from my SuSE system and reinstalled the beta version (1.0 preview) that came with the 9.2 distribution. Why? De-support for my HP LaserJet's PostScript interpretter. Both generated Level 3 (which printed fine using the Level 2 interpretter in the printer) but the official 1.0 release switched to a different PostScript generator that will not print to a printer with an interpretter earlier than 2014.116 (It now needs to be at least 2015.x. For all I know, 116 was the last patch to 2014.) So, I cannot print from Firefox without adding a pipe to a gory "gv" command into the print stream which results in horrible looking output. (A firmware upgrade is not available from the hardware vendor so I'm stuck.) The kicker is that the preview version printed just fine. Why the change? To help HP and company sell new printers?

    There is a great danger, IMHO, of Linux losing its soul if it continues on its current course and the folks who are not Fortune 500 companies wind up being left behind. ``World Domination'' is all well and fine but let's not forget how Linux got where it is.


    [ Reply to This | # ]

    How Not to Kill the Golden Goose
    Authored by: blacklight on Monday, February 21 2005 @ 08:42 PM EST
    “The business world as a whole will not embrace a vehicle which does
    not provide balance and flexibility and does not safeguard its intellectual
    property. Modifications to the GPL, the license that governs Linux
    users’ rights, will be necessary to assure economic soundness if the
    corporate world is going to make ongoing contributions to Linux,”
    Henry said

    (1) IBM and a slew of other contributors have been making contributions to Linux
    without asking for Steven Henry's permission.

    (2) Who is this Steven Henry, who purports to speak for an entity called the
    "business world"?

    [ Reply to This | # ]

    How Not to Kill the Golden Goose
    Authored by: blacklight on Monday, February 21 2005 @ 08:50 PM EST
    The impression that I am getting from Steven J. Henry's address at Linuxworld is
    that he is a patronizing, ignorant and smug individual who is trawling for
    clients. I take due note of his firm Wolf, Greenfield & Sacks, P.C. only to
    make sure that I do not hire them. It appears that Linux has become successful
    and high profile enough that some white shoe law firms are trying to leech off
    Linux's success.

    [ Reply to This | # ]

    How Not to Kill the Golden Goose
    Authored by: blacklight on Monday, February 21 2005 @ 09:01 PM EST
    "First, here is what he [Steven J. Henry] had to say, in essence: that
    Linux and the GPL began as an antibusiness movement, a "religion" of
    sorts. But now, they have bumped into money, and big business needs them both to
    change so they can make some money, honey, their old way. Forget about this
    bazaar stuff and get back into the cathedral, where they rule the roost and play
    by their rules. Business wants to marry proprietary and Linux, and the GPL gets
    in the way. And that means shove over, they are taking the GNU/Linux

    It sounds like a screed from Darl the Snarl, complete with the attempted Linux

    [ Reply to This | # ]

    I would have loved to be there also...
    Authored by: fireman_sam on Monday, February 21 2005 @ 09:28 PM EST
    I have a response (but I won't post that one here).

    I would have asked him "What right does business think it has to use our
    software, which we have written ourselves and then expect us to change the way
    we allow them to use it. If business cannot work with the GPL, they will have to
    work without it; Including the software the GPL covers."

    [ Reply to This | # ]

    How Not to Kill the Golden Goose
    Authored by: Reteo Varala on Monday, February 21 2005 @ 09:29 PM EST
    To phrase a quote from the movie "The American President:"

    "And I've been operating under the assumption that the reason Bob devotes
    so much time and energy to shouting at the rain was that he simply didn't get
    it. Well I was wrong. Bob's problem isn't that he doesn't get it. Bob's problem
    is that he can't sell it!"

    Thank you. ;)

    Without credibility, no one would believe you. Without reliability, no one
    would believe in you.

    [ Reply to This | # ]

    How Not to Kill the Golden Goose
    Authored by: Rocketman56 on Monday, February 21 2005 @ 10:26 PM EST
    As someone who has to use Lotus Notes, Wine and Crossover Office do actually
    work well.. I've converted to RH EL WS3 on my laptop about 6 months ago and
    haven't looked back.. Unfortunately, the company still has a couple of required
    sites that require IE only. I've tried to run Konqueror in emulation mode and
    it didn't work. There are alternatives, which I do use, but they aren't as
    easy. (Not to mention the fact that the CIO decreed all internal sites are to
    be browser independent. I'm still waiting for something interesting to happen
    about that. (Grin!)) The biggest headache with Notes was getting it setup
    properly the first time, after that everything worked. There are changes afoot
    for Lotus Notes on Linux but I can't go into that.

    I am testing Suse 9.2 Pro right now, but the VPN software is not stable yet. It
    does do a better job with wireless networking, so I do have an incentive to

    Send me a note off-line if you have questions about Notes under Wine.

    [ Reply to This | # ]

    Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, February 21 2005 @ 10:49 PM EST

    In the room? At a price? Don't understimate the ability of
    an elephant to leave the room, and not necessairly by the
    same way he entered. Additionally, we will now be
    expected to PAY you for using OUR software. Thats a very
    interesting economic concept. Problem is, you already have
    all of our software because we gave it to you, and you
    either have, or represent businesses that think they have
    all of the money that might be available to us. Suppose you
    give us all of your money but attach the requirement that
    we share it with our fellow brethren. If we use it to
    generate a profit, we will contribute back to the
    community. (Wait, isn't this how economies are supposed to
    work sort of??) At its peak, (March 2K) the Nazdaq total
    capitalization was about 6 trillion, of course its
    about a third of that now but considering that it is just
    one exchange, and taking all stock, bond, currency,
    and commodity markets together, your legacy closed source
    software companies added together don't amount to market
    cap squat by comparison. I will be impressed by your big
    dollars when you fork them over.

    [ Reply to This | # ]

    How Not to Kill the Golden Goose
    Authored by: timycc on Tuesday, February 22 2005 @ 12:05 AM EST
    Here is what I like most from the words of the guy, these proved he is
    completely ignorant of the software business, and has no stand to talk like he
    knows something.

    "Linux is the first, biggest and perhaps will be the last major
    bazaar-style open source development project to get traction in the commercial
    sector," he said.

    Linux is neither the first, nor the last open source project that penetrated
    the business world. Whether it is the biggest has to be seen. Maybe the
    proprietary software has not encountered its worst enemy yet.

    The GNU tools has been long known to be the most influential software in the
    microprocessor industry. Not to mention the Apache server, the many servers like
    the bind running DNS server, various mail servers, etc., that rule the internet

    And the samba slowly eating away the file server market, MySQL, et al. the SQL
    servers, that supports the kernel of businesses. With the Firefox and just started the attack of the business desktop.

    The attack of the open source software is from every front of the software
    business. The kind of competition is impossible to rival against. How can you
    fight an enemy with endless supply and staff? And who has nothing to lose to
    you in any way, who has no sales target to bend your better decision, and who
    will only increase in power by continuous improvement without the instability of
    business decisions, economy environment, budget cut, etc.? It is like fighting
    with an enormous, fierce, yet invisible foe.

    Linux is known to these people just because it is the kernel and focus point and
    get the news reviews. What they do'nt know is where they must fail.

    Intelligent businesses will know how to tap into this power in the correct way
    and make money instead of relying on the old licensing model that does not work
    anymore. That is what the big guys are doing right now.

    [ Reply to This | # ]

    Lawyers Don't Understand - Ever
    Authored by: Anonymous on Tuesday, February 22 2005 @ 12:28 AM EST
    What troubles me about lawyers and businesses in this country is their inept
    thinking that by killing Linux in this country, the "plague is dead".
    They've somehow managed to protect their way of living and ding dong, the witch
    is dead.

    Nothing could be more removed from the truth.

    People in other countries are embracing Linux because it is the right operating
    system for their needs. It gives them email, web and a wonderful platform to
    write their own software. It empowers them to enter into this century with
    modest computing and the brain between their ears. And look out, because while
    the lawyers and business interests have walled-off the US with software patents
    or beaten each other silly with lawsuits, the rest of the world will have
    whizzed past us on the tails of FOSS.

    Go ahead fellas, keep fighting and wasting your resources over something you can
    only, maybe, slow down in the US. The rest of the world is more than happy to
    fill any voids.

    On a completely different topic, when does Linus get the Nobel Peace Prize?

    [ Reply to This | # ]

    PJ, I agree...
    Authored by: Anonymous on Tuesday, February 22 2005 @ 01:55 AM EST
    "Unix essentially shot itself in the head when all of the Unix vendors
    decided to differentiate themselves and work individually and competitively to
    hoard the largest customer base. If Linux follows the same path, it will eat
    away at Linux like termites."

    Is it not ironic that SCO (Caldera) formed a group to benefit from cooperative
    development, much as Linux inself. It was not until Yarro/Darl, et al developed
    the M$ world view that they not only owned, but indeed, were intitled to every
    contributor's efforts that they got into trouble. Surely, we see the effects of
    greed in SCO's (eventual) downfall. M$ will just as surely follow. Thank you,
    very much, I prefer the GPL view.

    [ Reply to This | # ]

    Economics will control the future of Linux
    Authored by: Anonymous Coward on Tuesday, February 22 2005 @ 02:31 AM EST
    This is true. It was true and will always be true. But that is not a bad thing.
    Without economics controlling what is best for a company Linux (or any other GPL
    success story) would never have made it this far into those businesses.

    But people still don't get that. I recently read an article by a economics
    professor who (in my opinion) writes very solidly on most matters. He wrote that
    Linux wouldn't have a snowballs chance in hell.
    After analyzing why he said that it boils down that Linux doesn't play by the
    rules he's learned that are needed for a startup to enter (and survive) an
    established market.
    But then again the GPL (with Linux just being the most well known branch) is
    what they call a disruptive product. Disuptive products tend to not play by the
    established rules (otherwise they wouldn't disrupt the established order) but
    forcing a rethink of those rules so that the product (and the new rules it
    brings along) can be integrated with these existing rules.

    [ Reply to This | # ]

    How Not to Kill the Golden Goose
    Authored by: muswell100 on Tuesday, February 22 2005 @ 03:32 AM EST
    What truly irks me is hearing FUD-wielding shills like Mr Henry attack the
    supporters of the real 'Golden Goose' - FOSS - by branding them 'religious
    fanatics', 'zealots' or even worse - 'Liberals'. My own enthusiasm for Linux and
    the OSS stable is exactly that - enthusiasm. If it comes across as fanaticism to
    people like this, there can be only two reasons for it:

    A:) It suits them to call FOSS advocates these names in order to smear them in
    the general public's eyes.

    B:) Like most people, I react strongly to injustice and bullying. To some less
    enlightened folk, this might make me appear as some sort of liberal crusader.

    Well, I would counter these anti-FOSS accusations with an observation of my own.
    There is a particular brand of businessman (I don't think I need to name names)
    who seems to think that strong-arm tactics, corruption and industrial despotism
    are completely acceptable - nay, desirable - so long as the 'bottom line' is

    I work in business myself. I live in a capitalist society, and to some extent I
    too represent businessmen the world over in that I help run and support industry
    directly. This doesn't mean I have to leave my morals at the door every time I
    clock in. What business really needs is choice and quality. Businesses won't get
    that from monopolies.

    [ Reply to This | # ]

    I hate to disagree...
    Authored by: Anonymous on Tuesday, February 22 2005 @ 03:59 AM EST
    Sorry PJ, whilst I personally and morally agree with
    Linux, the GPL, FOSS, GNU and Open Source, business and
    corporate greed will win in the end. Money is power. And
    money is held by the greedy corporations who have links to
    power. The US government is only interested in what can
    make money for it, and the US economy, hence Microsoft
    being basically unpunished post US DOJ trial. These same
    powers will look and see - what makes more money for the
    US government? Microsoft or some anti establishment

    Sadly, it is only a matter of time. Within 10 years Linux
    and Open Source will be dead, proprietary software will
    rule the roost, and anyone that stood in the way of
    proprietary software will be in jail for digital offences.

    I would love to see it go the other way, I really would.
    Maybe i'm an old person in a younger persons body, maybe
    i'm too cynical, or paranoid, or maybe i'm just wiser than
    the hopeful few.

    Those who have power will not relinqish it. If Sun and
    Microsoft and Computer Associates were to start suing
    small and medium sized open source projects for IP
    infringement, and win enough cases they would have a clear
    cut case to the US Congress to illegalise the GPL. This
    is what will happen. Once the GPL is gone, everything
    will be out the window. Open Source software will be
    raped and ruined. The rich will get richer. And more
    powerful. And the rest of the world will quietly follow
    the US for fear of economic reprisal. Remember that a
    HUGE percentage of software is US owned and based. If US
    businesses were to dictate terms, the rest of the world
    would be in ruins.

    I truly hope I am wrong, but I see no hope.


    [ Reply to This | # ]

    Why GPL? Why not BSD?
    Authored by: dhonn on Tuesday, February 22 2005 @ 04:54 AM EST
    I am so glad BSD exists (not that I use it). Corporations also have choice they
    can choose GPL or BSD. You see Apple chooses and uses BSD Microsoft chooses and
    uses BSD, even Yahoo. BSD is free to use and abuse and has less controls. GPL
    is controlled, with rules that allows more freedom. GPL is about collabration.

    If corporations wish to proprietize open-source they should go with BSD. BSD
    is cheaper than GPL. More freedom to them there. Other than that I see many
    companies adpoting Linux and the GPL because of its value not relating to money.


    [ Reply to This | # ]

    The Lexmark DMCA Gambit--Good News For Linux?
    Authored by: TheBlueSkyRanger on Tuesday, February 22 2005 @ 05:15 AM EST
    Hey, everybody!

    A thought struck me while reading how the judge ruled in tossing Lexmark's

    I was uncertain about software patents until I thought about it. To me,
    software is an idea, not an actual physical invention like the chainsaw or paper
    clip. And this seemed to be what the judge was driving at.

    Since the whole software patent thing happened when the judiciary (and the world
    itself) didn't really understand what would happen, could this mean that judges
    right realize that patents for software are not enforcable like they are for
    physical objects? And with the whole public good angle, since a computer
    nowadays is worthless without some sort of OS, do you think this could mean that
    MicroSoft's patent threats might not have a leg to stand on? Or am I missing
    something here?

    Dobre utka,
    The Blue Sky Ranger

    [ Reply to This | # ]

    How Not to Kill the Golden Goose
    Authored by: Anonymous on Tuesday, February 22 2005 @ 05:38 AM EST
    2. Differentiation. IT and hardware companies tend to bypass the main-line kernel and instead "develop and test new features within the context of a partner Linux vendor's kernel." This can only lead to the Unix curse: fragmentation.

    If I remember correctly, Linus depreciates the Idea that the vanilla kernel be used in a production system, and I might add that for desktop use the vanilla kernel is not optimal and security fixes do not lead automatically to a new release (2.6.2 + security patch = where only that particular hole is plugged. In my opinion the bugs and security issues that show up after release should lead to steady incrementing of the 4th digit number, one number per patch applied. This would lead to a usable vanilla kernel where bugfixes are still applied to, but new features go into the next release candidate.

    How does that not contradict the above citatation? Should we use the vanilla kernel or should we apply patches ourselfes? Please note that I try to see that from the point of the packager, although I am not one.

    Geri (too lazy to remember yet another password)

    [ Reply to This | # ]

    In favour of restrictive licences & patents?
    Authored by: mikeprotts on Tuesday, February 22 2005 @ 06:50 AM EST
    How business have grown if human languages had been licensed & patented:

    US vendor to French prospect:
    I would like to sell my product, would you like to take out a license to use the
    US English patent so you can understand me?

    French prospect:
    Je ne comprend pas!

    US Vendor to British prospect:
    I would like to sell my product, would you like to take out a license to use the
    US English patent so you can understand me?

    British prospect:
    Here is my court order demanding license fees for illegal use of English, and
    additionally a 'cease & desist' order ...

    US Vendor to Canadianprospect:
    I would like to sell my product, would you like to take out a license to use the
    US English patent so you can understand me?

    Canadian prospect:
    I already have a license from your competitor, but under the terms I can only
    listen to him, and even this conversation may render it invalid. However, if
    you would like to talk to me in French ...


    [ Reply to This | # ]

    It is a misconstrued question, but age old
    Authored by: jig on Tuesday, February 22 2005 @ 08:59 AM EST

    Question: do you want to use it, or own it?

    corporations have gotten into the habit of answering "both!", because
    they've been taught that stability seems to come from ownership. plus, courts
    now award irresponsible settlements when ownership rights have been stepped on.
    the fear of being the one who doesn't 'own' is real and sadly isn't irrational.

    they just need to be reintroduced to the idea of 'use'. 99% of these
    corporations he talks of don't really want to own an operating system, they just
    want to feel like they are in enough control that they can send proper numbers
    to their litigation risk assesment team. it is important to not confuse the two,
    as he does (on purpose). they just want to be able to make good decisions.

    education is of course the answer, at least for linux and the gpl. if you can't
    speak directly to the CEOs, you have to speak to the advisors, which many times
    means lawyers, but also senior IT staff. henry was trying to make a stab for the
    new admitents into the linux curious. they tend to be uneducated in the
    subtlties of FOSS that reveal his almost assuredly deliberate twists of the
    truth. such attempts HAVE to be confronted intelligently, and vocally, directly
    to the same crowd.

    at the same time, schools (law and engineering) have to be educated on FOSS as
    well. enough so that they can at least offer basic understandings and skills to
    their graduating classes. this is a bit of a fight, and relying on momentum
    alone is risky.

    reintroduce companies to the idea of use rather than draconian ownership. make
    then reevaluate decisions to own things that they really don't want to own.
    like, why own an OS when all you want to do is sell a helper app? or why release
    a propretary helper app when what you really want to do is sell the underlying
    hardware? sometimes the answers will still be to own and to be proprietary, but
    most companies are stuck (some teetering on the edge) on the road of 'own
    everything, or we'll get sued' because they've forgotten how to turn the wheel..

    [ Reply to This | # ]

    How Not to Kill the Golden Goose
    Authored by: seanlynch on Tuesday, February 22 2005 @ 09:31 AM EST
    This is a typical tactic used in propaganda. Accuse your opponent of your sins
    and faults.

    Here "The Cathedral" is accusing the FOSS movement of being too
    "religious". They say that the merchants in the bazaar don't
    understand business too well. All of us merchants are scratching our heads and
    wondering what those cardinals in the cathedral are talking about.

    Funny how many people keep trying to tie the FOSS movement to some kind of
    religious movement. They wnt to paint it as a movement based on belief alone,
    and not on technical merit.

    Compare this to how the FOSS movement sees itself. I would suggest reading the
    Cathedral and the Bazaar. The FOSS movement sees itself as a marketplace, a
    place of business and competition. The Cathedral is the structured, top down
    development method. The bazaar more open, and a little frightening for some.

    The vendors of the bazaar do want some regulation, they are not anarchists.
    Strict adherence to standards helps ensure a fair market. Do you want a few
    vendors colluding behind the curtains of their stalls to fix prices and steer
    customers only to each other? Standards assure that customesr can switch
    vendors, ensuring competition and harnessing the power of the marketplace to
    reduce costs.

    The palace guards should probably patrol the bazaar now and then. Do you want
    your customers afraid to shop because of pick pockets and theives? (why do I
    picture Darl McBride here?)

    Yes, too much regulation could hinder growth, but no regulation allows the
    vendors to collude and avoid the competitive forces of the market place. Think
    of Enron or the savings and loans crisis. Some watchdogging and regulation is
    neccesary for the marketplace to be free. I know that that sounds contradictory,
    but history has shown us that no regulation usually destroys free market
    competition. A good balance is needed.

    I think the FOSS movement understands that by not even trying. We just create
    the tools we need to get our work done. By sharing the tools with others, we all
    gain. If there is a need, a solution will be built. And then it will be reworked
    ten times over, refined and improved until it works well.

    [ Reply to This | # ]

    Economics will control the future of Linux -- False, I hope. - No PJ, TRUE
    Authored by: Mecha on Tuesday, February 22 2005 @ 10:16 AM EST
    Economics will control both Windows and Linux. As more and more companies are
    realizing that Microsoft is syphoning away their profit, they will switch to an
    open source system that doesn't require license fees to enable growth. They
    will also realize that though the set up and fine tuning is much greater with
    linux then with windows, once it is fine tuned, there is less need for
    administration of the system (unlike Windows which requires far more
    administration). It all boils down to the TCO, which I am possitive Linux is
    cheaper to install and maintain. So even simple Economics should dictate to
    most companies to switch to open source software. Some are switching entirely,
    some are testing the waters by using one app here or there, gradually phasing
    out the money pit known as windows.

    LINUX! Because Microsoft should have no business in your business!

    [ Reply to This | # ]

    What is software engineering?
    Authored by: Select Star on Tuesday, February 22 2005 @ 10:23 AM EST
    You don't engineer software like you engineer a bridge.
    This is argued in more detail in a 1992 C++ Report article by Jack Reeves entitled What is Software Design?. The basic principle in that article is that the source code is the design.

    Favourite related quote:

    We could get so much wider acceptance if we could get people to stop comparing writing software to building a building or a bridge. Either that or I want one of those cool helmets while I'm coding.
    --Steve Ropa on the mailing list, 16 Jan 2002

    [ Reply to This | # ]

    Note to PJ
    Authored by: Anonymous on Tuesday, February 22 2005 @ 10:24 AM EST
    I'm well down the list of comments, so I don't know that this will get your
    attention, but, here goes.

    Economics will dictate the future of Linux, because economics dictated the
    PRESENCE of Linux. I have more than once stated my belief that Linux and all of
    the fine GNU software out there would not enjoy the support and scope that it
    has, except for one powerful driving force: Microsoft. We have an economic
    system based on competition that even outlaws some forms of co-operation
    (anti-trust), but MS attempted to derail the competition that we feel is
    important to us all. Thus, it lent itself to an environment that necessitated a
    new form of co-operation that was not illegal because it was not
    profit-motivated. The GNU and Linux both existed before MS had achieved a
    strangle-hold on as many software markets as they could grab. It is my belief
    that they never would have achieved the stature that they have, if a healthy and
    competitive software market still existed.

    In short, the people proposing these changes identify economics with themselves,
    and what is good for them is good for the economy, but the economy, and free
    software, are both bigger than they and their needs.

    Geek Unorthodox

    [ Reply to This | # ]

    Golden Goose is a quirk in our system:
    Authored by: dodger on Tuesday, February 22 2005 @ 10:34 AM EST
    We live in a capitalistic system. The ugly side of our system shows up clearly
    in the nonsense legal battles that we have been immersed in here in Groklaw for
    the last years, as well as the monopolistic SHUTOUT and bully tactics by
    Microsoft. Legal/Bully-tactics are surely the WARTS of glorious capitalism. And
    like our 'Democracy', its only future lies in our eternal vigilance, against
    those forces that want to bring it down. To be wooed by the 'dark side' means
    instead of inventing, cooperating, and creating, people are seduced by suing,
    patenting, copyrighting and finding the loopholes and bugs in our system and
    then exploiting them. It is not 'illegal' but it is a 'non-productive' energy
    spent on exploitation. It would seem that no matter how hard we try to plug the
    damm, it always will spring new leaks. Business/Shareholders will applaud
    Microsoft with their patent on the IsNot opererator (it's like copyrighting a
    diode) while the other world looks aghast at the blatant attempt to corner the

    [ Reply to This | # ]

    Linux and economics: disagree
    Authored by: Tsu Dho Nimh on Tuesday, February 22 2005 @ 11:29 AM EST
    "Economics will control the future of Linux"

    PJ hopes this is false. I opine that it is TRUE.

    GNU/Linux/OSS is being widely adopted because of the forces of economics ...
    spreading the burden of tool development and maintenance across a large group
    makes more economic sense than trying to keep everything proprietary.

    Even pre-Linux, the swapping of "know-how" was noted as being
    economically sound under certain circumstances.

    von Hippel, Eric (1987) "Cooperation Between Rivals:
    Informal Know-How Trading," Research Policy 16: 291-302.
    "a novel type of cooperative R&D: the informal trading of proprietary
    know-how between rival (and non-rival) firms. I have observed this behavior to
    be widespread in one industry. I propose that the phenomenon makes economic
    sense, and that it may be present in many industries. Indeed, it may be
    applicable to any situation in which individuals or organizations are involved
    in a competition where possession of proprietary knowhow represents a form of
    competitive advantage."

    [ Reply to This | # ]

    How Not to Kill the Golden Goose
    Authored by: docrailgun on Tuesday, February 22 2005 @ 11:48 AM EST
    Unfortunately for Mr. Fink (what a great name for a patent lawyer!),
    witchcraft isn't dead either. The funny thing is, the neo-pagan movement in
    general and the "recreation" of "wicca" in specific could be
    seen as a lot like the FOSS movement: the Church (proprietary software
    compainies) tried (and mostly succeeded) in stomping out those in the hedge
    "infringing" on what the Church intended to be their monopoly
    (healing, helping people with their problems, so on) through claims of devil
    worship (FUD) and spurious legal action in both criminal/civil and religious
    courts. These tactics succeeded so well that modern folks that wanted to
    identify with whatever "tradition" might have existed (and if there
    ever was a real "tradition" of "witchcraft" in Western
    Europe is debatable, of course) have had to recreate that "tradtion"
    from pretty much whole cloth (other than the Western magical tradition... but
    that's _really_ off-topic)... just like the FOSS movement has had to recreate a
    tradition of independent and communal programming from the ancient days of
    pre-Microsoft monoculture. Linus is sort-of the Gerald Gardner of FOSS, creating
    a framework for others to start off with and improve on. Also, like FOSS, if you
    ask five wiccans a question having to do with their religion, you'll get six

    [ Reply to This | # ]

    How Not to Kill the Golden Goose
    Authored by: Anonymous on Tuesday, February 22 2005 @ 12:59 PM EST
    Ultimately, you don't get judged on what you do, or have, or take, or are.
    You get judged on what you give.

    So, I'll help the golden goose whenever I can.

    [ Reply to This | # ]

    The answer to this is quite simple.
    Authored by: Anonymous on Tuesday, February 22 2005 @ 01:38 PM EST

    Businesses that aren't clueless have come to realize that their computer systems are far too important to the operation of their business to leave the likes of Bill Gates and Darl McBride in charge of them. Open source specifically solves that problem in creating an alternative to being held hostage to proprietary conflict-of-interest schemes.

    [ Reply to This | # ]

    How Not to Kill the Golden Goose
    Authored by: Anonymous on Tuesday, February 22 2005 @ 03:23 PM EST
    The vast majority of technology companies are America,
    they are American based. The rest of the world uses these
    technology companies products. Think about it.

    As to laws - The Australian government recently signed the
    FTA - despite the Sentate saying they found no benefit to
    Australian and 40 odd instances of concern. Despite no
    referendum. Despite opposition to the FTA from the
    public. It was still signed. So much for you concern
    that governments don't introduct laws.

    Governments don't have to say why - they can just *do*.
    Patriot Act anyone? Your broad rights as a citizen have
    been demeaned to such a point by the Patriot Act and yet
    the average American doesn't care. The government knows
    ths. If only 5% of the population are smart, and fight,
    that leaves 95% of the population that don't care about a
    decision. The majority rules...even by ignorance or
    stupidity or laziness.

    Patents - If you don't think that patents will get thru
    eventually in Europe, you must believe in fairies. Once
    this happens, various companies will start launching legal
    action against a myriad of open source products on patent
    infringement. Many will go under and not fight the patent
    action due to legal expenses. IBM can't protect them all.
    And IBM won't protect them all, it does not make monetary
    sense, and it must consider the will of its shareholders.

    IBM is in Linux and open source for money, not morals.
    They're playing the side of the fence to get what they
    want. They have more tact than Sun and understand
    community better than Microsoft. They may want you to
    believe that they care, but they're a ruthless
    international corporation who's main concern is making
    lots of $$$.

    Tell me - when Microsoft starts enshrouding all of its
    formats with DRM, how are FOSS going to reverse engineer
    them for compatiblity? They won't. Not under the current
    DMCA laws. As compatibility dwindles, so will support -
    both from the normal users like us, and from the
    corporates that are just starting to invest in open source
    as we speak.

    In the end, business cares about $$$ not morals...if you
    think anything else you're a fool.

    I'm very sorry to sound pessimistic, I believe i'm being
    very realistic. There is a difference. When people are
    realistic and acknowledge problems people call them
    pessimistic. Would you rather me lie, just so your ears
    hear optomistic words? That would indeed be foolish.

    The GPL is not as safe as many think. I think RMS and co.
    know this. A lot of businesses would love to see it
    dismantled so that they can rape and pillage open source
    software without any restraint. The question of
    copyrights would be an interesting thing - but it wouldn't
    be hard for a government to pass legislation saying that
    all previously GPL'd software is public domain. Of course
    many will say that they can't do this, cos then they're
    ignoring the copyright ownership of the original
    developers, and whilst i'd normally agree with you here,
    my cynicism for governments doing the right thing tells me
    that laws get passed, money gets paid under the table and
    laws stay in place.

    For those that think India is a safe haven for open source
    (due to the views of the current prime minister) think
    again. He has a term of power. Nothing more, nothing
    less. There is nothing stopping his successor(s) to
    overturn any decisions that he's made on open source, and
    in fact it most probably will happen, since new
    governments generally spend a lot of time on repealing
    laws that the previous government made.


    [ Reply to This | # ]

    How Not to Kill the Golden Goose
    Authored by: Anonymous on Tuesday, February 22 2005 @ 03:51 PM EST
    Propriatary Software and the DMCA go hand in hand. The DMCA is increasingly
    mis-used, and finally getting some smackdown.

    Both are trying mightely to remove the freedom to do with what you purchase what
    you want to do. DVDs with "Operation Prohibited" is only a small
    indication of how your freedoms are being attacked.

    It is not an issue of FOSS playing with corporations. It is a question of FOSS
    protecting the rights of the user!!!!

    [ Reply to This | # ]

    publish or perish imperitive alternative
    Authored by: Anonymous on Tuesday, February 22 2005 @ 07:24 PM EST
    You don't have to patent, just publish an idea, then it can't be patented by a
    subsequent inventor.
    this supports the "publish or perish" imperitive, and makes the
    technology available to all.

    [ Reply to This | # ]

    How Not to Kill the Golden Goose
    Authored by: Anonymous on Tuesday, February 22 2005 @ 09:57 PM EST
    Quote: "I would respectfully point out that your doomsday view omits quite
    an important
    part: the end users."

    No, it doesn't. 95% of the World users windows. The rest don't give jack about
    Linux or open source. That is the real user base, not 5% of the world that
    values freedom and collobaration.

    Quote: "End users too might not care about the principles behind FLOSS and
    GPL, but they
    too care about money. And they care about risk too."

    Again, 5% of users versus 95% of users? I know which one i'd choose if i'm a

    Quote: "Another example, are you actually aware of the risk implications of
    software at CEO level? The reason BSA/FAST are able to use their scare tactics
    is because (AFAIK) if they find a breach it results in criminal charges at
    level. So a couple of rogues, someone forgetting to delete a trial version
    (even if not used), even a single simple mistake is enough to create hell and
    damnation at board level"

    If you're an employee you are legally bound by the employers directive to not
    install anything other than what the IT department says you can. I know where I
    work that they run that tightly. Active desktop, win2k and voila, it's locked
    down nicely. I value freedom as well, but what do you do with the guy who takes
    his laptop home, gives it to the kids, and they get a virus on it that infects
    your whole network?

    Quote: "Let's talk about DRM, the next arrow on the badly strung bow that
    vendors use.
    DRM is a total solution that will touch every bit of YOUR (note) intellectual
    property and create a strongbox around it. If this "solution" fails
    it will take your data (and thus your business) with it."

    I'm sure Microsoft can quite happily decode their DRM encoded data. People have
    been doing it for years with md5 sums and other various cryptographical


    [ Reply to This | # ]

    How Not to Kill the Golden Goose
    Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, February 23 2005 @ 10:12 AM EST is a good point.

    Mainly being that you can develop any program for Windows and release it under
    any one of the OSI approved licenses and it becomes Open Source. We must always
    be diligent with making sure people understand the differences.

    [ Reply to This | # ]

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