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Question about free software philosophy

After an earlier discussion related to free software, I did a little reading online about the movement.  I read something by Richard Stallman, in which he asserted that the free software movement didn't mean "free as in beer," but rather "free as in speech."  But reading further, it seemed that even if the foundation of the movement is "free as in speech," the upshot of free software would ALSO mean that it's free as in beer (since they say you should be able to do whatever you want with any software).

So, am I correct in concluding that the free software movement holds that people should not be able to copyright software?  That it should be freely usable by anyone?

If this is the case, there's something I don't understand.  It seems that when you use software, you are using someone else's labor (the programmer's) to accomplish a task.  If you don't pay the programmer, you are essentially getting that person's labor for free.  That seems unjust.  If Microsoft Word helps me do my job, then I would think that the creator of the software should be compensated. 

Do the free software people have a good answer to this?  I know discussions about this can get heated.  This really isn't a troll -- it's something I am genuinely interested in knowing.

programmer
Thursday, July 31, 2003

> So, am I correct in concluding that the free software movement holds that people should not be able to copyright software? 

No, you are not correct.  The GNU license is a kind of copyright.  The FSM does hold that software should not be distributed under restricted, revocable licenses.

> That it should be freely usable by anyone?

Correct.

Eric

Eric Lippert
Thursday, July 31, 2003

The upshot of Stallman's philosophy is that every programmer is a contractor, writing specialized code on demand from a world of general (GPL'ed) components.

In his world, there would be no copyright, but you woudl be compensated for your efforts directly from the buyer of your labor (in the same way any store owner sells good to customers).

There would be no real shrinkwrap market, beyond people repackaging available software into convenient CD-ROMs and boxes (see Linux distros).

jason

JasonB
Thursday, July 31, 2003

"In his world, there would be no copyright,"

that is total rubbish.  The GPL can exist _because_ of copyright.
Every programmer automatically has copyright over their work.  Because they have that copyright they can choose to release the code under the GPL, if they choose they can in fact release the code under differing licenses.  For instance its quite common these days for OSS to provide 2 licenses, one under the GPL and the other for commercial companies wanting to use their code for propriety products.
GPL = copyright

"There would be no real shrinkwrap market, beyond people repackaging available software into convenient CD-ROMs and boxes (see Linux distros)."

?? thats the definition of shrinkwrap software, isn't it?

FullNameRequired
Thursday, July 31, 2003

This looks to me as a future I don't want to be in.

Software used to be a field of opportunities. A field where you could create something, and if that something is good, get huge rewards.

The future you are projecting seems to me like basic, "metered", x $ per hour contractor-like work.

A future where I have little incentive to strive to create something really significant, because, hey, if I worked 100 hours, I will get x*100 $s... no chance to sell my product, except through dubious arrangements like making them buy support (which is more work after doing the original work of creating the software), etc.

John K.
Thursday, July 31, 2003

"the upshot of free software would ALSO mean that it's free as in beer"

only if you assume that a programmers time is worth nothing.
Which, of course, is untrue.
A labourer is worthy of his hire.

"since they say you should be able to do whatever you want with any software"

actually they dont, they say that if you want to use GPL'd software you have to use it in the manner specified by the GPL license.

"So, am I correct in concluding that the free software movement holds that people should not be able to copyright software? "

no, that is incorrect.


" That it should be freely usable by anyone?"

They hold that people should be able to choose to release their code in a way that protects it and ensures its availability for people.


"If you don't pay the programmer, you are essentially getting that person's labor for free"

thats right.  And they do insist on payment, just not in the form of $
That is why its specified that if you alter the GPL'd code, or add to it, you must give those changes back to the GPL community.
Its a form of payment, you can use the code without monetary charge but as payment you must give your improvements and changes back to the community.

"If Microsoft Word helps me do my job, then I would think that the creator of the software should be compensated.  "

exactly :)  In the case of GPL'd code, the author has given permission for people to use his copyrighted code so long as they promise to give their changes and improvements back.

FullNameRequired
Thursday, July 31, 2003

"Software used to be a field of opportunities. A field where you could create something, and if that something is good, get huge rewards."

Isn't there an economic term for that kind of field?  I forget the exact terminology, but the general idea is that in any area where the return is greater than normal a market distortion will occur with everyone investing in that area until its return is flattened out to the same general average as every other part of the market.

So, for eg, if fish and chip shops suddenly begin to make higher returns than other investments everyone will pour money into fish and chip shops until there are so many that the market is saturated and the roi normalises.

So it could be argued that what we are seeing is the free market in action :)


" future where I have little incentive to strive to create something really significant"

<shrug> thats up to you, I suspect that creative people dont generally need a good excuse to create.


"because, hey, if I worked 100 hours, I will get x*100 $s"

:) so we all have to work for a living from now on.  bugger, huh?

gravy train ride is over, no such thing as a free lunch, etc etc.

FullNameRequired
Thursday, July 31, 2003

This is very interesting.  Now, a further question -- do free software people think that it is wrong to insist upon being paid (in money) for each and every copy of software that sells?

In other words, do they regard what Bill Gates has done -- creating software that has become spectacularly popular, and therefore accumulating many billions because MS gets paid for every copy that sells -- to be morally wrong?  Or do they just prefer to adhere to Free Software principles in their own community, while reserving judgment on how other developers choose to do it?

Those of you who have explained the movement, seem to be suggesting that the developers of Microsoft Word should have been paid a fair hourly wage, and then the software would be released, and the developers should not be paid over and over again (in money) for the copies that sell.

programmer
Thursday, July 31, 2003

Think about free software as a *tactic*. Lots of people release their code as free software for lots of different reasons, e.g.:

(1) because they have modified a GPLed work and would rather have their version released under the GPL than try to re-implement all the GPLed code they depend on

(2) because (as Joel said a while back) the software is complementary to some other product or service they sell, and by pushing the software price to zero they can charge more for the other product or service

(3) because they'd rather be famous than rich, and therefore would rather have their code widely distributed for nothing than collect kilobucks from a few customers

(4) because they don't see how they can make money off licensing the code, and they'd rather share the code and hope other people contribute improvements than just sit on it

(5) because they believe as a matter of principle that certain kinds of software, e.g., operating systems, should be free, even if proprietary software runs on top of it

(6) because they believe as a matter of principle that all software should be free

Members of the "free software movement" generally belong to group (6), but I think that most of the people contributing to Apache, Linux, etc., are in other groups. RMS seems bitter that so many people have adopted the tactic *without* joining his movement.

Seth Gordon
Thursday, July 31, 2003

"Now, a further question -- do free software people think that it is wrong to insist upon being paid (in money) for each and every copy of software that sells"

unsurprisingly what 'free software people think' varies wildly depending on which free software person you are talking to and which type of license is their current favorite.

for the sake of simplicity Ill stick to talking about the GPL if thats ok with you.

simple answer is 'no', they do not.  The GPL does _not_ attempt to stop people charging for each and every copy of software that sells.
It _does_ insist that, if the software is based on GPL'd code, its source also be made available.


"do they regard what Bill Gates has done -- creating software that has become spectacularly popular, and therefore accumulating many billions because MS gets paid for every copy that sells -- to be morally wrong?"

LOL, beats me.  the point to remember here is that there is no 'they'
I know lots of people who dislike bill gates in particular and microsoft in general for all kinds of reasons.
<g> I have no doubt that some people believe that its morally wrong to be so rich.

but, frankly, since microsoft products are not based on GPL'd software, its the business of no one except bill gates and microsoft how much they charge or what the ydo with their software.

"Those of you who have explained the movement, seem to be suggesting that the developers of Microsoft Word should have been paid a fair hourly wage, and then the software would be released, and the developers should not be paid over and over again (in money) for the copies that sell."

im not suggesting anything of the sort.  I couldn't care less what the developers of Microsoft Word are paid, or how microsoft distributes its products.

im a contract developer, I work for clients who distribute their product commercially and for clients who use the code I provide in house.
Where its appropriate I use OSS as this saves my clients money, where its not I dont.
I have 2 products that I wrote and sell over the internet, and I have released no GPL code of any kind in my life.

The GPL is _only_ a copyright license, its nothing more and nothing less.

FullNameRequired
Thursday, July 31, 2003

Most open source fans are not developers, and those that are are actually not very good or experienced as developers.

Open source is yet another movement that commoditises the programmer's work. Instead of rewarding effort, it turns all programmers into replaceable cogs. The beneficiaries are an ever increasing range of parasites, including corporate managers at IBM.

anonymous too
Thursday, July 31, 2003

It gets back to programmers protecting themselves. Everything does. If anyone tried this with lawyers, doctors, academics, whatever, they wouldn't get past first base.


Thursday, July 31, 2003

FullName, if you really want to "save your clients' money," then don't charge them anything. Your argument's not logical.


Thursday, July 31, 2003

"FullName, if you really want to "save your clients' money," then don't charge them anything. Your argument's not logical."

LOL

I can see a flaw in your argument...

FullNameRequired
Thursday, July 31, 2003

" Instead of rewarding effort, it turns all programmers into replaceable cogs."

Im certainly not a replaceable cog.  If I keeled over and died all of my clients would go bankrupt almost instantly, Im that important to them.

Im sure that your clients are in the same position :)

FullNameRequired
Thursday, July 31, 2003

Look at OSS and FSF as a barter system.  I could do many of the things given, time, money and effort.  Instead, I have "X" and need "Y".  You have "Y" but really need "Z".  And I need "Z" too.  So together we build "Z". 

Now staying outside the religious arguments, I could easily buy "X"."Y" and "Z".  They are readily available.  By "bartering" for them our "co-op" gains the product at a reduced cost.  Now the argument becomes "But company xyz has lost sales, and thus reduces head count, and programmers become unemployed."  I don't see it..

Consider that every company does not build a C++ compiler, a VB.  If they had to build one, would that not employ more developers?  Are we not, by purchasing any packaged software, taking developer jobs away?  How many developers has Joel sent to the unemployment line because the company purchased his products rather than write there own.  --- See how "out there" that sounds.

And there is the rub: If we could build it for less, we would not buy.  But really, in many cases if we could not get it for less, we would not do it at all.    So in many cases, it is more that the addition of functionality provides a mechanism for more developers to occur.  Without Apache would the web have happened?  Certainly.  But the cost of entry would have been set by the produces of server software.  In effect the internet "Tax" would be the price of entry.  What if this was at the $5000 level.  How many people would have their own servers?  How many of us could afford an Oracle or MS SQL Server license, just to learn the technology?  And how many of us are viewing this web site, with MSIE, a free browser?

Mike Gamerland
Thursday, July 31, 2003

The problem I have is the idea that you download this bit of GPL code and it suddenly solves your business problem just like that, no further work required. It doesn't, it usually needs work - lots of work - to actually do what the client or customer needs doing.

Perhaps the idea of working with someone else's code is beneath the dignity of the doomsayers here, but the fact is most work we do today is *NOT* 'building the next killer app'.

Besides, almost all medical and legal knowledge is available in books and papers which you can go to a library and read for free, but I don't see anyone panicking about their profession being devalued by all these nobodies doing their own medical and legal work.

OC
Thursday, July 31, 2003

OC - you may be correct.  But it also provides a large short-cut.  If not, why do it? 

MSHack
Thursday, July 31, 2003

Okay MSHack, write your own browser. From the OS up. Then post your reply.

Of course we're making shortcuts. If I want to build a house, I use bricks, not grains of sand. Mind you, the grains of sand option would keep a hell of a lot of people in work!

OC
Thursday, July 31, 2003

Please keep in mind that I'm sleepy, and I am /not/ a representative of the free software movement.  You know how people who aren't Windows or Java programmers tend to get all the details wrong.  So people who don't have their hands in it every week don't always have the best arguments.  Neither do I.  Get the water straight from the source.

Read the Gnu Manifesto, under "Some Easily Rebutted Objections to GNU's Goals", look for "Won't programmers starve?"
http://www.gnu.org/gnu/manifesto.html

As for copyright, well, they have an interesting view on it.  This is one article that spells out Stallman's opinions on the subject:
http://www.opendemocracy.net/debates/article-8-40-31.jsp

Philosophies are not any easier than programs we write.  We don't think we can understand an entire program with just a few questions and quick assumptions.  Do we all know the consequences of free software?  Everyday, people makes snap judgments and dismissals ("A scripting language where whitespace defines blocks?!  No one will use it!"), but maybe you want to refuse to make these quick judgment calls, and be skeptical when someone tells you to not think for yourself and agree with the majority.

Greg
Thursday, July 31, 2003

OC -- I was agreeing with you.  My comment was on your "lots of work" statement.  If it is too much work it may be better to build it yourself. 

While it may not apply to you, many people feel that if a FSF version exists, use it, even if it is a square peg for the round whole. 

As I said, I was agreeing with you.

MSHack
Thursday, July 31, 2003

Stallman is an interesting character, but many of his ideas are not based in reality.  He tends to be an extremist.  Have you ever seen the cover of the original gnu emacs manual?  It has pictures of what looks like an oil barren with money flowing out his pockets.  Hell I'll take it if it pays the bills, and let's me go snowboarding every once in awhile.

They way he goes on ranting that Linux should be called GNU/Linux is crap.  He can't come to terms with the fact that he couldn't write nor organize the one really important piece of an OS.  The kernel.  Herd is just a joke.  Stallman has made his mark on the industry. He should just be happy with that and move on. 

I am really not a huge fan of GPL because of its viral nature.  In my opinion if you want to make some thing free, make it really free.  Use a BSD stlyle licence.  I will never write Open Source software as a product, but I will gladly take the work of others and incorporate it into my software or systems if they allow me to do it for free.

I am a linux user and advocate not because it is GPL freeware, but because it is a better solution for certain problems.

christopher baus
Thursday, July 31, 2003

FullNameRequired wrote, "Im certainly not a replaceable cog.  If I keeled over and died all of my clients would go bankrupt almost instantly, Im that important to them."

If this statement is true then there is good chance that somebody is doing something wrong!!!

It could be that:

(A) You are writing software applications/systems in such a manner that nobody but you can understand the source code.

(B) You have very specialized knowledge and even though someone could easily read the code and documentation you have written it would still take this person several weeks to get up to speed.

(C) You are doing fixed price work and only release the source code upon completion of the contract.


FullNameRequired wrote, "Im sure that your clients are in the same position :)"

Generally speaking no. It has been three years since I did a non-trivial project for a client all by myself. However, the last time I did such a project my client had a requirements document that I created, as well as, all of the source code. Granted it would have took anyone who replaced me at least several days to get up to speed, however, that is true in just about any contracting situation.

One Programmer's Opinion
Thursday, July 31, 2003

"If this statement is true then there is good chance that somebody is doing something wrong!!!"

LOL
I totally agree.

That was broadly my point :)

In at least one sense (the realistic one) every programmer is _already_ a replaceable cog.

<g> In fact I consider it a part of my duty towards my clients to ensure that I am as replaceable as possible.

FullNameRequired
Thursday, July 31, 2003

Quick note:  consider that one can be fairly anti-Gnu but pro-GPL.  I don't believe in the Gnu religion, it isolates programmers from a lot of mainstream society.  But out of pure self-interest, I would use GPL instead of the bsd license anyday.  There are a million selfish reasons, plus it's a good license for a programming society on purely educational grounds.  I can even choose to give permission when someone wants to close its source.

The only reason against the GPL is that I'm harming other closed-source programmers.  That's a religion too, and I don't believe it either.

Greg
Thursday, July 31, 2003

RMS may be an extremist, whatever, but at least he's got an evolved ideology, and that's his most significant problem. Ideologists tend to think in linear terms. Back in 1995, software was still expensive, and vital platforms under the control of only a handful major players. So the whole open-source, free software movement was just a logical response to those challenges. RMS believed that without his movement (and leadership!) a new Dark Age of MS slavery would come, and that his bunch would need the tools to fight them in near future.

But those end of days never came to happen - Apache, Linux, OpenOffice, Mozilla, Eclipse, they are here, available, and co-existing with other, commercial solutions. Instead, we now find a situation where (1) project budgets consist of perhaps 5% for software licenses, but a vast amount goes into consulting and highly specialized engineering, and (2) whole businesses depend on the expert knowledge of just a few (as has been pointed out by some folks in this thread, too).

So, as a consequence, RMS should now postulate that Oracle database experts wander around and share their knowledge with anyone who asks for it, for free. Or Java zealots who work 9 to 5 on free online seminars for everyone, for free. Or just go to your local library and build them some archive system, for free.

Now, there's our Public Work Code?

Johnny Bravo
Thursday, July 31, 2003

"But those end of days never came to happen - Apache, Linux, OpenOffice, Mozilla, Eclipse, they are here, available,"


<g> I dont particularly want to defend RMS much at all, but you must admit that as the first to begin talking about and distributing free software he played a biggish part in bringing the likes of OpenOffice etc into reality.

Not to overplay his contribution either, but it does seem a shame to deny him recognition where he deserves it.


"So, as a consequence, RMS should now postulate that Oracle database experts wander around and share their knowledge with anyone who asks for it, for free"

im really not sure what you are getting at here...? 

I dont believe that RMS ever wanted to deny workers the right to charge for their labour, or their knowledge.

His main purpose as I understand it was to ensure the average person had access to source code and binaries without necessarily having to pay for them.  One reason for this was to remove the possibility of a small group of companies having total control over the market( a possibility which probably seemed more likely in the days of mainframes and unixs than it does now), and another was because he believed that knowledge = power = freedom for individual people.

A sideeffect of ensuring that is that it becomes harder to sell those same binaries.

FullNameRequired
Thursday, July 31, 2003

Yes, he was talking, while others were coding: Apache Foundation, Linus Torvalds, StarCorp/Sun, Netscape, IBM.

I was pointing to the fact that now we have great free software tools for anyone to use, but the power to build those tools, the expertise to keep small and large companies in business, lies in the hands of just a few. What if those few people suddenly stopped development? Yes, that's an academic question.

Free software advocates often argue that due to the new choice in the OSS market, you are no longer dependent on commercial vendors. Yes, but now you're dependent on the continuing efforts of the developers and their knowledge.

Look, I can already imagine how that Munich thing will turn out: the software is free, but once it's installed, IBM and SuSe will squeeze out the bavarians, for endless "consultancy" work hours, "maintenance" tasks, and to keep the local developers happy so they "don't head for Silicon Valley".

Johnny Bravo
Thursday, July 31, 2003

And no, he did not play any part in bringing OpenOffice (or the likes) into existence. Actually, OpenOffice is based on StarOffice, initially developed as a commercial competitor to MS Office by a small company in Germany called StarDivision. They sold to Sun (StarDivision's CEO received some 30 millions from that deal, simply put), which at that time needed a proof that they were really commited to the open-source movement. Just because by that time the last Java zealot had realized that the fate of Java lied in the hands of a single, commercial company called Sun, with a slogan like "we are the dot in com". Obviously, the latter one should've read "we are the dot in org".

So, OpenOffice serves as an ideal example for the nature of the whole movement: on one side, heros like RMS who firmly believe thy end is nigh without their prophecy, and on the other side the same old corporations who jump on any bandwaggon which promises cheap marketing.

Johnny Bravo
Thursday, July 31, 2003

hi Johnny,

"Yes, he was talking, while others were coding: Apache Foundation, Linus Torvalds, StarCorp/Sun, Netscape, IBM. "

actually he is directly and indirectly responsible for a lot of the tools that are bundled with Linux.

As I understand it he began creating tools that would replace the propriety versions used in the *nix operating systems, those being the only ones he had knowledge of. 
he and his cohorts had just seriously begun work on a GNU kernel when Linux burst onto the scene, so instead of completing that (although I do have an idea its still being worked on by some die hards) most of the GNU tools were ported across and are now bundled with Linux.
..there were a _lot_ of those tools.
<g> hence his continued insistance on referring to GNU/Linux...thats not entirely unreasonable, although a little pedantic.

"Free software advocates often argue that due to the new choice in the OSS market, you are no longer dependent on commercial vendors. Yes, but now you're dependent on the continuing efforts of the developers and their knowledge."

ah, right.

Of course that is true, but I believe its a much easier position to be in than being dependent on commercial vendors.
If a school is using OSS and the main developer stops working on it that school can choose to continue development themselves if they wish.
They may or may not decide to do so, but it is at least an option.
That option is totally absent in the event that the developer of a commercial application decides to stop producing it.
Neither is an ideal position to be in, but at least the users of OSS have some additional choices.


" Look, I can already imagine how that Munich thing will turn out: the software is free, but once it's installed, IBM and SuSe will squeeze out the bavarians, for endless "consultancy" work hours, "maintenance" tasks, and to keep the local developers happy so they "don't head for Silicon Valley"."

<shrug>  maybe, that depends entirely on IBM and SuSe.
Whichever system Munich used it was going to cost them millions of dollars. 
IBM and SuSe are no more or less likely to deliberately rip them off than Microsoft.
But, and this is important, if IBM and SuSe _do_ start ripping them off and overcharging on the consultancy work then Munich can simply look elsewhere for other developers.
If Microsoft started to rip them off then Munich really doesn't have many options except a total changeover to some other operating system.

FullNameRequired
Thursday, July 31, 2003

"So, OpenOffice serves as an ideal example for the nature of the whole movement: on one side, heros like RMS who firmly believe thy end is nigh without their prophecy, and on the other side the same old corporations who jump on any bandwaggon which promises cheap marketing."

LOL

and _this_ I totally agree with.

OSS is a wonderfully chaotic combination of pragmatic companies and wildly idealistic programmers.
Its largely funded by companies who have an entirely pragmatic interest in it.
Thats actually one of the reasons I suspect its going to survive brilliantly for the forseeable future.

FullNameRequired
Thursday, July 31, 2003

You assume that there's no problem for any institution to have a running, customized system, built on open-source, with mission-critical parts, and then suddenly loose the only person who really understands what's going on? Or scale it up a little bit - IBM installs a system for Munich, with some 14.000 seats. Who can provide alternative support for such a large, linux-baed installation the next day after the contract with IBM is released? Or next month? Sorry, that's nowhere near idealistic, but simply unrealistic.

Johnny Bravo
Thursday, July 31, 2003

"You assume that there's no problem for any institution to have a running, customized system, built on open-source, with mission-critical parts, and then suddenly loose the only person who really understands what's going on?"

not at all.  In _any_ system of that size losing the only person who really understands what is going on is going to be a real problem.
I just do not believe the problem will be any worse regardless of whether the system is running on windows or Linux.

"IBM installs a system for Munich, with some 14.000 seats. Who can provide alternative support for such a large, linux-baed installation the next day after the contract with IBM is released?"

No one, but exactly the same argument applies whether its IBM or Microsoft who was providing the support.
Which means thats not an argument against Linux, but an argument against running such a large computerised system :)


"Sorry, that's nowhere near idealistic, but simply unrealistic."

totally agree.

FullNameRequired
Thursday, July 31, 2003

In all the bashing of Stallman as an extremist, one thing should be noted: in arguing that all software should free (as in beer and speech), he didn't say that the government should force private companies to be open source.  Instead, he went out and built, and arranged to be built, a suite of completely free software, called Gnu.  It lacked only a kernel, which Linus Torvald's provided.

All of you comparing open source software to socialism (take note, John K) are missing the point.  There's no coercion involved in Stallman's fantasy world; instead, people get together and collectively build their own.  Much more like a good old fashioned American barn-raising, than a socialist paradise.

To my knowledge, Stallman has never advocated any action against commercial software companies besides simply choosing his alternative.  If he's a radical anything, it's libertarian, not socialist.  And if you don't know the difference, you have no business condemning anything with those words.

Justin Johnson
Thursday, July 31, 2003

I've read very little of Stallman's own words, but I read a report that said he thinks that releasing software without the source should be illegal - and it all stems from some incident years ago when he wasn't allowed to make an adjustment in a closed printer driver.

ST
Friday, August 01, 2003

I could be wrong--I don't particularly care for Stallman, and I don't follow him that closely, since he is a rather freakish extremist (I just dislike seeing someone pilloried unfairly).  But I'm going from my memory of things he's written or interviews he's given.  If you can contradict me, please do.

Justin Johnson
Friday, August 01, 2003

"In my opinion if you want to make some thing free, make it really free.  Use a BSD stlyle licence. "

GPL makes it more likely to remain free.  With BSD, a big company could take the code, roll it into their proprietary products or tack on some features and use their marketing or monopoly power to advance their market share and diminish the interest in the original free product.  Like if Microsoft took the tabbed browsing code out of Mozilla to put into IE, thus giving people even less incentive to move to Mozilla ... allowing them to further entrench their browser dominance and hijack web standards.

The reason for the GPL is to stop proprietary interests from using your freely provided code to compete against you.

T. Norman
Friday, August 01, 2003

>"I've read very little of Stallman's own words, but I read a report that said he thinks that releasing software without the source should be illegal - and it all stems from some incident years ago when he wasn't allowed to make an adjustment in a closed printer driver."

That's one part I agree with.  The source should be released, even if it means you can't make copies of it.  People should have the right to see the source for programs that run on their PCs and servers, so they can be inspected for trojans, spyware, or any other hazards (not that individual customers can or will inspect it, but if there are hazards someone out there will notice and publish them).  The only exceptions should be software that runs on a platform that has no possibility of damaging or inappropriately exposing data on the user's system, like the game consoles with no hard drives and no internet connectivity.

Without the source, how do you know what the hell is being transmitted to Microsoft when you do a Windows update or XP activation?

T. Norman
Friday, August 01, 2003

I've seen it quite seriously argued that if all software companies had to release their source code, it would actually improve their copywright protection, since it would be so much easier to prove that your code had been copied.

Stephen Jones
Friday, August 01, 2003

> With BSD, a big company could take the code, roll it into their proprietary products or tack on some features and use their marketing or monopoly power to advance their market share and diminish the interest in the original free product.

If they're using monopoly power, it's an anti-trust issue. If you think anti-trust is broken, fix that, not change the way everybody programs

If they using marketing power or tack on new features, more power to them.  Other companies can use their marketing power to tack on their alternative features too. Let the best one win!  That is EXACTLY how capitalism advances technology - and is I think generally a good thing.

S. Tanna
Saturday, August 02, 2003

>"If they using marketing power or tack on new features, more power to them.  Other companies can use their marketing power to tack on their alternative features too. Let the best one win!"

More power to them, yes, they have every right to do that if given the opportunity.  But that doesn't mean the developers of the original code should give them that opportunity. If the developers intend to keep the software free and useful and protect it from being hijacked by proprietary interests, releasing it under the GPL helps to maintain that freedom.

T. Norman
Saturday, August 02, 2003

Is it correct to assume that the GPL is compatible with any software related business model except the one where you make money by writing higly usable (no "training" complement), high quality (no "support" complement), software for a large group of users (no tremendous one client pays for the whole shebang) thast runs on commodity hardware (no "expensive hardware" compliment)?

Just me (Sir to you)
Monday, August 04, 2003

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