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Linux & Microsoft as a Cold War? 443

I confirm writes "The BBC's Bill Thompson summarises the GNU/Linux vs. Microsoft struggle as a "cold war", and in one choice quote says:"It is rather ironic that Microsoft and other closed model companies rather resemble the Stalinist or Maoist model of a command economy with complete centralised control." I'm not sure I accept Thompson's conclusions, however: "So now would be a good time to start thinking about how we persuade governments that market in software may eventually need to be regulated, just as the market in electricity, water and food is, and that that regulation may well include a statutory duty to disclose source code and allow it to be used elsewhere." "
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Linux & Microsoft as a Cold War?

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  • by nokilli ( 759129 ) on Sunday March 07, 2004 @10:57AM (#8490563)
    Regulation is the worst possible scenario for OSS, regardless of any pretense towards open sourcing software. Regulation means bureaucrats, who wield great power, and who will be attractive places for people like Microsoft, who possess vast fortunes, to spend it. For instance, imagine that they mandate open source, but then throw in a requirement that the programmer assume responsibility for its performance, or become liable in other ways. Then, the only people who would be able to participate would be companies with deep pockets. Like Microsoft.
    • by Apreche ( 239272 ) on Sunday March 07, 2004 @11:08AM (#8490623) Homepage Journal
      You're right and wrong. Regulation is bad for OSS. It is also terrible for MS too. Nobody involved with software wants it to be regulated. Regulation stifles innovation. Imagine there was a regulation that said all software needed to be at least X secure. Both MS and OSS are screwed. Being held liable for how secure your software is would ruin everybody. That's just one example of a regulation that would mess everything up, but just about anything would be terrible. Keep it free.
      • by CeleronXL ( 726844 ) on Sunday March 07, 2004 @11:14AM (#8490652) Homepage
        Microsoft however, with it's deep pockets, would be able to fairly easily maneuver around this regulation with little-to-no hassle, paying people to overlook it or otherwise passing laws to alleviate the weight of the law on companies such as themselves.
      • by El Volio ( 40489 ) on Sunday March 07, 2004 @11:24AM (#8490701) Homepage

        Being held liable for how secure your software is would ruin everybody.

        Well, all the developers, anyway. Users would benefit from such a regulation, and if handled properly, this could work. Whether it's a "cap" or just related to disclaimers about intended uses of products, limits could be placed on the liability. There are problems to be solved (how do you handle the case of an individual developer vs. someone like Computer Associates?), but claiming that requiring developers to be liable for damages caused by flaws in their products is the same sort of protectionism we decry in large corporations in other industries. No one seriously suggests that automobile manufacturers shouldn't be liable for certain flaws in their products it may cost them a bundle but the result is safer cars.

        That said, a source code disclosure requirement is not that distant from current copyright regulation. Currently, rights holders are legally required to deposit two copies with the Library of Congress. Note that this is not a requirement to have a copyright on your works in general, there are just penalties associated. Interpreting or amending the law to include source code is not that far of a reach.

        • by HeghmoH ( 13204 ) on Sunday March 07, 2004 @11:41AM (#8490770) Homepage Journal
          Being held liable for how secure your software is would ruin everybody.

          Well, all the developers, anyway. Users would benefit from such a regulation....

          If it really does ruin all the developers, then users will not benefit. If all of the developers are ruined, who is going to write new software or fix old software?
        • by TCaptain ( 115352 ) <slashdot.20.tcap ...> on Sunday March 07, 2004 @11:43AM (#8490787)
          In the long run, users would lose out as well.

          Developpers would slowly but surely stop developping new ideas for fear of being fined/sued/thrown in jail. OSS would trickle to almost a halt.

          Microsoft would be hurt as well, but as someone above said, with its connections and deep pockets, it could more than sustain and ignore the slap on the wrist it would get with each violation.

          In the end, users would get fewer choices without substantially more secure software.

          Thanks but no thanks
          • by FauxPasIII ( 75900 ) on Sunday March 07, 2004 @12:01PM (#8490884)
            > Developpers would slowly but surely stop developping new ideas for fear of
            > being fined/sued/thrown in jail. OSS would trickle to almost a halt.

            Just like all the car companies have closed down because of safety standards, right ? Bah...

            The test for liability of a manufacturer is simply, were they negligent ? There's more than enough wiggle room there to allow manufacturers to safely innovate while clamping down on those that are grossly dismissive of safety concerns.
            • by Fallen_Knight ( 635373 ) on Sunday March 07, 2004 @12:36PM (#8491075)
              ummm, for me to design and build a car is costly, and to mass produce to sell to people.. not going to happen without even more $$$ and if i go out on the roads with my new car and it fucked up i can kill someone.

              For me to design and code software is cheap and easy. And if it fucks up... wtf cares? people won't use it, no ones hurt (physically), and if they relied on it oh well, their fault for not backing up their data or whatever.

              That is the WOSRT comparison you could have made, why not just compare it to the rules for the space shuttle...

              A better comparision would have been software Vs home electronics, there are a few rules in home electronics, but pretty much anyone can build and design home electronics and sell them.

              Regulation in software has no place, computers cannot kill or injure people. cars can (and do)
              • by doomdog ( 541990 ) on Sunday March 07, 2004 @03:29PM (#8492117)
                How in the world did drivel like this get modded up to +4 Insightful?

                For me to design and code software is cheap and easy. And if it fucks up... wtf cares? people won't use it, no ones hurt (physically), and if they relied on it oh well, their fault for not backing up their data or whatever.

                Spoken like a true loser/script kiddie/whatever -- completely unprofessional. Software developers should take pride in their work, and shouldn't release things that they aren't proud to claim. And the "and if they relied on it oh well, their fault...". What kind of an attitude is this? Is this the basic open-source "it's free software, so don't complain if it doesn't work" attitude? Or is this guy just a bigger loser than most?

                If this idiot's opinions are indicative of how the open source community views their work, then the world is right to avoid it as much as possible -- and it should be shunned by true professionals that do care about the quality of their work...

                computers cannot kill or injure people

                Have you no sense of history? Do a search on the Therac-25, and let me know when you want to retract your statement...
                • by WNight ( 23683 ) on Sunday March 07, 2004 @03:59PM (#8492198) Homepage
                  Don't run third-party software on your medical equipment.

                  Seriously, computers in control of serious things shouldn't have a general network connection and shouldn't be able (through signing binaries or whatever) run unapproved software.
                  • None of what you wrote would apply to the Therac-25 problems. It was simple programmer error that caused the malfunction, and killed a few people...
                    • It means that there should be no general liability for writing software. If you write control software for medical machinery you should certify that the whole thing works, software and hardware. If you write a solitaire game you certify nothing. As long as nobody tries to run a solitaire game on a medical computer you don't need to certify that the game won't kill anyone.

                      You see?
                • "Spoken like a true loser/script kiddie/whatever -- completely unprofessional."

                  Here's a hint - not everyone is professional at everything they want to do. Professionals get paid.

                  "Software developers should take pride in their work, and shouldn't release things that they aren't proud to claim."

                  Again, a proper attitude for the commercial world - NOT the hobby world.

                  "And the "and if they relied on it oh well, their fault...". What kind of an attitude is this? Is this the basic open-source "it's free softw
              • by Zspdude ( 531908 ) on Sunday March 07, 2004 @09:46PM (#8494145) Homepage
                Excuse me? Computers cannot kill or injure people? Only cars can?

                This is a distinction that can no longer be made, especially as cars are starting to become computer controlled. ;)

                In addition there are only so many ways that a car can kill or injure you: there are far more ways that computer failure/insecurity can negatively impact your life, even to the point of death.

                You can't try and limit the realm of computer software to the home PC or to the workstation: both OSS and MS extend far beyond these. If you want to use software in a *serious* capacity (which, um, well, I'm afraid people do) regulation can and does have a place in software development. As software controls more and more things in our lives, this regulation will become more and more important. Maybe it will come in the form of self regulation: people not using insecure/inferior software. Regulation it remains.

                To try and say that computers have no influence to kill/injure people and that buggy/insecure software is of no consequence, is a n inadequate reflection of software use in the world today.
            • by thentil ( 678858 ) <thentil@yahoo.cCOUGARom minus cat> on Sunday March 07, 2004 @01:49PM (#8491443)
              Bah. That's asinine. Car company Foo can afford a car that doesn't meet the safety standards 100%. Let's say they know they can save $500 per car by omitting a certain part that, without which, will result in 5 per 100,000 failures. As long as they aren't fined more than $10,000,000 per incident, they're good to go. However, if I am an open-source car developer and I have some magical machine that creates cars at next-to-free (all I have to do is put in the time to create the design) and I give these cars away, if even one is found to not meet the safety standard and I'm found liable for it, I'm done. So what regulation does is shut down the open source developers.
            • by gmhowell ( 26755 ) <> on Sunday March 07, 2004 @01:52PM (#8491455) Homepage Journal
              Just like all the car companies have closed down because of safety standards, right ? Bah...

              They have dumbass. They have either closed, or development became so expensive and unprofitable that they've been bought out by larger manufacturers.

              Next time you use an analogy, try to get your facts straight.

              Kaiser, AMC, Nash, International Harvester, Studebaker... The list goes on.
              • by BinxBolling ( 121740 ) on Sunday March 07, 2004 @02:19PM (#8491665)
                They have dumbass. They have either closed, or development became so expensive and unprofitable that they've been bought out by larger manufacturers.

                I suppose you missed the word 'all' in the post you were responding to?

                The remaining larger manufacturers still design and develop new cars. Innovation still happens (e.g. hybrids). I'd love to see you try to show that innovation in the auto industry is slower now than it was 50 years ago.

                Further, you've cited not one scrap of evidence that it is specifically regulation that has caused the industry consolidation. There are lots of reasons why the barriers to entry are high in the automotive industry, and why it's hard for smaller players to stay afloat. Regulation is only one, and not a very large one.

      • by ratsnapple tea ( 686697 ) on Sunday March 07, 2004 @11:39AM (#8490761)
        Yeah, regulation can stifle innovation, but at the risk of sounding glib... it can enable innovation too. Depends how great the need for regulation is and if it's the "right" sort of regulation. One example is splitting up the radio spectrum early last century so that radio, TV, etc. could be developed without worrying about stations stomping on each other.

        So maybe a little regulation might help. Maybe not. Who really knows?

      • by JanneM ( 7445 ) on Sunday March 07, 2004 @11:42AM (#8490781) Homepage
        Regulation stifles innovation. Imagine there was a regulation that said all medicines needed to be at least X safe. Both farmaceutical companies and Uni researchers are screwed. Being held liable for how safe your pharmaceuticals are would ruin everybody. That's just one example of a regulation that would mess everything up, but just about anything would be terrible. Keep it free.


        I basically agree that regulation would not be a good thing in this field. Just wanted to point out that this argument is not a good one.

        There are, in fact, excellent reasons to regulate software for safety reasons in some fields; medicine and process control are two of the obvious ones. The problem is that unlike pharmaceuticals, for instance, software is not in fact one field, and so you can not regulate it as if it was.

        Software is a medical technology (and should be regulated as such); it is a accounting mechanism (and should be regulated as such); it is a childrens toy; it is a power plant safety implementation; it is an artists tool. Software is by its very nature everything to everybody. You can't regulate it as software.

        What you can (and probably should) do is to regulate its use in any of these fields as that field seees fit (or not regulate at all, as the case may be). When it is to be used in medicine, regulate it as a medical technology. When it is used for process control, demand the same the same level of testing and validation as you do of the pressure valves and pipe fittings.

        So, yes, regulation of software is not only necessary, it is a benefit. Trying to regulate all software just as software, on the other hand, is a nonstarter.
        • by SimoM ( 30771 ) on Sunday March 07, 2004 @12:38PM (#8491089)
          What you can (and probably should) do is to regulate its use in any of these fields as that field seees fit (or not regulate at all, as the case may be). When it is to be used in medicine, regulate it as a medical technology.

          Software is already regulated in some fields, such as when it is part of a medical device. See, for instance, FDA-imposed design controls on medical devices "automated with computer software" in 21 CFR 820.30 []. FDA has stated that "Software must be validated when it is a part of the finished device. FDA believes that this control is always needed, given the unique nature of software, to assure that software will perform as intended and will not impede safe operation by the user." (in their final rule [] on that "Quality System Regulation"). The regulations call for extensive documented verification and validation activities.
      • Cutting edge is almost always proprietary, copyrighted, trade secret or patented if possible. 5-10 years later other techniques evolve to do similar work. Let the consumer decide what they want with their wallets. If Microsoft can do such a damn good job and show how truely excellent and overbearingly productive their software is, then the customers will buy. If Linux & the likes of Open Office can do the same thing, then again, I say let the consumer decide where to spend his money. Government wil
      • by squashed ( 664265 ) on Sunday March 07, 2004 @11:53AM (#8490835)
        How about beefing up liability for closed source applications -- in a manner that users cannot "opt out of" by shrink wrapper -- but leaving open source applications with effective immunity? The argument being, that effective 3rd party oversight protects the open source user.
      • Imagine there was a regulation that said all software needed to be at least X secure. Both MS and OSS are screwed.

        Imagine if there was regulation that said that buildings had to at least X stable. Fly by night architects would be screwed.

        Think of all the innovative architectural designs that are being stifled as we speak by those bizarre regulations that require buildings to not fall down.

    • by probbka ( 308168 ) on Sunday March 07, 2004 @11:09AM (#8490630) Journal
      Regulation of software is just asinine. This suggestion stems from a basic misunderstanding of economics.

      The reason power and water are regulated is that they are industries wherein the cash flows and flows after an initial huge investment in infrastructure, and little else is needed. Also, they are industries wherein a monopoly is very easily attained, as 3 or 4 sets of power lines and water mains for an area from various companies is just asinine. This is called a natural monopoly. So, the government steps in to keep these natural monopolies from strangling customers and holding power hostage for exorbitant fees.

      Software is so totally different though. Multiple versions of software are far from redundant, and actual R&D is necessary in order to stay current. Software is not a NATURAL monopoly business.
      • by Mr. Piddle ( 567882 ) on Sunday March 07, 2004 @03:49PM (#8492151)
        Software is not a NATURAL monopoly business.

        Only when standards allow for true interoperability (e.g., TCP/IP). Microsoft exploited people who are technically ignorant to achieve a true monopoly with their shitty proprietary technology. I can't plug my 110V two-prong toaster plug into a moron-purchased Microsoft-branded outlet that has 55 prongs and operates at 5, 12, 60, 100, and 440 volts with DMCA-protected PCM data channels just so their uber-toaster can have fancy automatic LED designs on its side.

        However, the software industry is so immature that I have to argue that regulation is terribly bad, as even good widely-used standards are rare and volatile. We need to let the industry flesh itself out further before the government steps in and screws everything up. Regulating now would simply codify the totally craptastic state of affairs in the industry right now.

    • For instance, imagine that they mandate open source, but then throw in a requirement that the programmer assume responsibility for its performance, or become liable in other ways. To some extent I agree but I disagree at the same time. I think it is the responsibility of the programmer/corp/* to ensure proper patching, fixes should something happen. That's something that should be common sense. What you're stating from what I'm reading is you want to be able to throw out whatever program you like without r
      • Umn. IBM doesn't have deep pockets? I don't think the parent poster was saying that *only* Microsoft does...
      • by SlamMan ( 221834 ) <> on Sunday March 07, 2004 @11:19AM (#8490678)
        How so? If I develop something for free because I'm a nice guy, how does that suddenly become something I need to support until the end of time?

        It's not like I'm getting paid to do this, and if you choose to run my buggy software that I released rather than just sit on, thats your choice. Not my responsibility.
        • If I develop something for pay because I need to pay the rent or have something to eat how does it suddenly become something that I need to support until the end of time?

          If you choose to buy my buggy software that I released rather than that of my competitor that's your choice. Not my responsibility.
      • by dossen ( 306388 ) on Sunday March 07, 2004 @11:28AM (#8490724)
        On the issue of liability, how would you make that work? If I create a program and you choose to use it, you want me to be responsible for fixing any problems with the program for as long as you use it? Or can I declare it "end of life"? If so, what prevents me from putting it out there, freely distributable, and then declaring it obsolete/"end of life" right away? Or if I cannot decide when to stop supporting it, what happens when my program develops a problem (or rather, the problem is discovered) years after I released it? I might have moved on, died, forgotten how it worked, or some other reason might make it impossible for me to fix it. How about my expenses? What if I'm employed and cannot fix the problem in the time I have (or perhaps I'm not even allowed, for contractual reasons).
        If you want some kind of liability, that's fine by me, but you will have to pay me an amount that reasonably covers my expenses with regard to this liability. So if you get a program from me for free, or even for a small fee, don't expect me to fix problems that require much time or cost money to fix (I might do so anyway, but that's a different matter).
        And if you need me to be liable for problems, why are you using software that does not come with a warranty?
    • by TykeClone ( 668449 ) <> on Sunday March 07, 2004 @11:15AM (#8490659) Homepage Journal
      Regulation bites. I work in the banking industry - very, very, very regulated (which is fine from a safety and soundness standpoint - we don't want to revisit the bank failures of the depression).

      The worst part of government regulation is when the regulators have to "have something for the report" - that is when they start creeping past the scope of what they're supposed to be trying to do.

      For example, with the Year 2000 deal, the government thought that it would be a good idea to mandate that all banks be ready, and then to regulate them as such. For our small bank, my project was more than 50% work for the government in documenting stuff instead of working to make sure that everything was good to go.
    • And while they are on regulating a hobbist's work they may as well set rules about playing football in your backyard.

      "No warranties" for Free Software means something like "I'm doing this on my own; if you like it take it - just don't complain later if it's not good enough". On the football example, it'd be like people watching a game between friends complained if they decided to leave the game at the middle. The players had no compromise to end the game; the programmer releasing code on good will has not
  • by mangu ( 126918 ) on Sunday March 07, 2004 @11:02AM (#8490587)
    To get everyone to release source code, just make the copyright laws do what they were intended to do in the first place: no binary files should have copyrights, only human-understandable information should be copyrighted. The same goes for encrypted or otherwise copy-protected information. Those are protected by trade secrets. The purpose of copyrights is to ensure that the ideas embodied by those works would be available for future generations, which doesn't happen if only the executable binaries are publicly available.
    • by cpghost ( 719344 ) on Sunday March 07, 2004 @11:22AM (#8490696) Homepage

      Are copyright laws really a good idea for software? Remember, copyright protection lasts for at least 70 (but up to 95) years after the death of the author. Moreover, copyright renewals would extend this period even more. Now tell me any kind of software that would not be utterly obsoleted in, say, 100 to 150 years from now! Software-Copyrights effectively eliminate public dissemination forever. Is this the purpose of copyright, as intended when it was invented?

      • That's not a problem with copyrighting software, but with copyrights in general. They shouldn't (imho) last anything like as long as they currently do.

        Copyrights are meant to be an incentive to authors, etc to create more works. Tell me - if I (somehow) manage to create a wildly popular work, and am able to live comfortably on the royalties for as long as it is protected by copyright, what incentive is there to me to produce more if that protection extends beyond my death? Yes, I realise that that's a some
  • Cold War Parallels (Score:5, Interesting)

    by MacEnvy ( 549188 ) <> on Sunday March 07, 2004 @11:03AM (#8490588) Journal
    I think that while MS may be somewhat totalitarian in their practices, a better parallel to the Cold War would be capitalist versus socialist ideals. In this scenario, it is obvious that MS is the pinnacle of capitalist practices, while the Linux community is much closer to socialism - shared effort for shared gain, group ownership, etc. Think about that one ...
    • ACK (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      thats true. []
    • by Clinoti ( 696723 )
      Well in consideration your argument is precise in relation to socalism vs. capitalism; a caveat remains that through this process we in the OS/Gnu community endeavour to show And prove that virtual idealism and accountability is the true future of development.

      The OS community and those who contribute to it are simply the natural evolution of software (or works) in the arena of the marketplace. This allows for innovation and invention which are not limited to the scope of dedicated control of the product b

    • by Daytona955i ( 448665 ) <flynnguy24@yahoo.COWcom minus herbivore> on Sunday March 07, 2004 @11:38AM (#8490757)
      I don't think you can really compare M$ vs. Linux as capitalism vs. communism/socialism or any other ism. It's really not the same thing.

      Sure Microsoft has the monopolistic dictatorship qualities. They don't care about the people, only about themselves. Security is an afterthought and they run things. No one is going to take them down. However, they are capitolistic in some sense because they are a company providing a service. However, if you look at their practices, they are anything but competitive. If someone releases a better product, they release theirs as free and tightly integrate it into their OS. They then send some goons to muscle suppliers (like dell, compaq, etc...) to not install the competitors product. This is very anti-competitive.

      Now let's look at linux. Aside from being free (as in speech... something this country was founded upon) it is all about choice. It is also all about producing a better product. It's also about choices. If you don't like the way a product is going, you can take the source and code it the way you want. (or hire someone to do it for you) There are also many companies that use linux to make money (in a very capitolistic sense). RedHat is the perfect example of this. They use their reputation and hard work to get where they are.

      However the biggest fact is that software developers have no control over what you do in terms of religion, and every other aspect of life. Americans have it ingrained in them that communism is a bad thing so everyone tried to relate what they don't like to communism. In fact most people that say this, don't even know what communism is. I'm also not supporting communism... I don't think it would ever work and it's more of a throwback to a dictatorship but that's besides the point. I don't think communism is necessarily "evil" but rather what people choose to do with is could be evil.

      I'm just tired of people trying to use the "all (linux|Microsoft) users are just like communists." I think there is room for both to survive. I've been a Linux user for about 9-10 years now so I know how to use it. I haven't used a M$ product in about 2-3 years now. (Not word, office, that crappy media player, etc...) So I must be against closed source right? Wrong... I have an apple PowerBook G4 with OS X. Sure it's got an open source component (and I have open office, emacs and a bunch of otherr free GNU tools from fink) but it also has a very closed proprietary part which is definately not free.

      Should all software be open source? It doesn't matter because it never will. There will always be a niche that needs customized software for their needs and people always like choice and if you can offer something better than open source can offer, you stand to make a lot of money. I think they can live side by side but M$ needs to stop their anti-competitive practices!
      • There are two kinds of communism. The first is the one you know well, everybody gets one dictator and what he says goes. The second was only practiced by the ancient greeks. A pure democracy where everyone was a part of the goverment. You had to vote, it was law. You had to take part in your town, city, and State. You had to do millatary service, but you also had to take care of the goverment. Capitalism was practiced, and encouraged, but everyone was also an active member of the goverment. The USA
        • by the gnat ( 153162 )
          There are two kinds of communism. The first is the one you know well, everybody gets one dictator and what he says goes. The second was only practiced by the ancient greeks. A pure democracy where everyone was a part of the goverment.

          Neither of these is communism. Go read Marx. Communism is a system where private capital is abolished, where the entire economy is managed by the government and is essentially based on continual redistribution of wealth downwards. Private property beyond a subsistence leve
    • Nonsense. Microsoft is a monopoly that dictates exactly what the entire computer industry can do. Just like the Communists, they will claim that everything they do is for the good of all the computer users, but they

      The vast majority of free software you see is being written by people to satisfy their own desires to have a computer that works the way they want it to. It is also being written to satisy their own egos, to get their names known in the computer industry, or just to get a whole lot of people usi
  • .. MAD factor in?

    MAD = Mutually Assured Destruction []

    I personally don't want to run BSD, do you?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 07, 2004 @11:07AM (#8490609)
    RMS has always distanced himself from the Open Source movement because (he says) we avoid talking about "freedom, about principle, about the rights that computer users are entitled to".

    He's right. We do avoid that. But not because we don't care about "freedom", "principle" or "rights". Speaking for myself, I trust that anybody who's ever heard me speak or read my writings on the First or Second Amendments knows that I am quite passionate and vocal about freedom and rights; like RMS, I defend them even when they are unpopular with my audience. Other Open Source advocates don't seem to me to be any slower than I to speak the language of "freedom" and "rights" when they judge it is appropriate.

    But "when they judge it is appropriate" is a very important qualifier. There are two different kinds of reasons an open-source advocate might avoid speaking about RMS's `freedom'; either disagreement with his goals, or a judgment that doing so is ineffective, is bad tactics.

    The difference is important, and this is where RMS misrepresents what we are about. He would have you believe that the FSF and OSI have diverged over vast matters of principle, when in fact the OSI (and the Open Source movement as a whole) is carefully designed to be able to include people with beliefs like RMS's.

    The Open Source Initiative does not have a position for or against RMS's goals. Please don't take my word for this; go look at our advocacy materials on the Open Source website, especially the part in the FAQ where it says "Open Source is a marketing program for free software".

    Now it is true that some individuals associated with OSI occasionally argue with some of RMS's goals and principles (and one of those individuals is me). But the OSI is a big-tent organization; we have never condemned RMS's principles, and never will -- because we don't need to!

    The real disagreement between OSI and FSF, the real axis of discord between those who speak of "open source" and "free software", is not over principles. It's over tactics and rhetoric. The open-source movement is largely composed not of people who reject RMS's ideals, but rather of people who reject his rhetoric.

    Is this justified? Well -- consider the 180-degree turnaround in press and mainstream perception that has taken place in the last fourteen months, since many people in our tribe started pushing the same licenses and the same code we used to call "free software" under the "open source" banner.

    Where we used to be ignored and dismissed, we are now praised and respected. The same press that used to dismiss "free software" as a crackpot idea now falls over itself writing laudatory articles about "open source". And the same corporate titans who dismissed RMS as a `communist' are lining up to pour money and effort into open-source development. Our market share and mind share have both zoomed to a level that would have seemed the stuff of delirious fancy as recently as January of last year.

    Have all the opinion leaders and executives who have turned around suddenly seen the pure light of the GNU manifesto? No; instead, they point to the work of Open Source advocates to explain their conversion.

    OSI's tactics work. That's the easy part of the lesson. The hard part is that the FSF's tactics don't work, and never did. If RMS's rhetoric had been effective outside the hacker community, we'd have gotten where we are now five or ten years sooner and OSI would have been completely unnecessary (and I could be writing code, which I'd much rather be doing than this...).

    None of this takes anything away from RMS's prowess as a programmer or his remarkable effectiveness at mobilizing other hackers to do good work. Emacs and gcc and the GNU code base are an absolutely essential part of our toolkit and our cultural inheritance, for which RMS deserves every praise (which is why I led a standing ovation to him at last LinuxWorld after observing that "without RMS, none of us would be here today"). But as an evangelist to the mainstr
  • by cpghost ( 719344 ) on Sunday March 07, 2004 @11:07AM (#8490614) Homepage

    Calling for legislation to step in, is almost always a bad idea. We may be dreaming of an open source friendly regulation, but this is unlikely to happen. We simply don't have the purchasing power that Microsoft and others have with our politicians, so we'll end up having a heavily regulated market with anti-competitive, pro closed-source rules. Remember DMCA?

    • Jesus Christ, do you Americans even elect your politicians? Here, in Norway, our politicians are elected and claim to serve the people. Why don't you start a revolution, and ditch your fascist and corrupt two-party system?
    • I'm completely astonished by the moderation of parent and the replies.

      First of all, the parent is modden +5, insightful. OK, fair enough, even though interesting would have been better.

      The replies get a 0; troll and just plain 0. So, what are they saying? The first one (from me) is trying to be humorous about the fact that "purchasing power" with politicians is slightly ironic, and that it looks like fascism.

      The other is a more sober response, with valid arguments.

      But it looks like Slashdot also has

  • analogies suck (Score:3, Insightful)

    by cft ( 715198 ) on Sunday March 07, 2004 @11:08AM (#8490622) Journal
    nux is a feudal state with Linus as their King, he dictates what people do and has executive powers over the direction linux
    goes. sure, you could fork your own state, but the food (developers) and land (users) is limited, and you're likely to be screw
    ed over by another state (sco).

    yeah, cause analogies are always correct.

    btw is slashdot broken, i post like once per week and keep getting 'call it a night cowboy!'
  • by SharpFang ( 651121 ) on Sunday March 07, 2004 @11:10AM (#8490635) Homepage Journal
    Soviet Union was communism in economy, totalitarism in politics.
    US is capitalism in economy, democracy in politics.

    Microsoft is capitalism in economy, totalitarism in politics.
    Free Software is communism in economy, democracy in politics.

    Communism is a good thing, unfortunately it appears way too often accompanied by totalitarism which wastes all profit communism could provide, and gives otherwise very good ideals a really bad name.
    • Err, let me correct myself before a flame war emerges.
      US is [b]supposed to be[/b] capitalism in economy, democracy in politics.
      What it really is, due to all patent issues, corporate influences, lobbies, hidden powers etc is beyond me. Certainly not democracy or capitalism as dictionaries defines them.
  • Possible regulation (Score:3, Interesting)

    by nenya ( 557317 ) on Sunday March 07, 2004 @11:11AM (#8490637) Homepage
    I am strongly opposed to the idea of regulating software for the general market. Even though certain things like power, water, and transportation may need some kind of regulation, the price we pay for uniformity is inefficiency, bloat, and increased cost. Regulation tends to involve tax advantages for companies in compliance, which tends to stifle innovation by advantaging the status quo.

    However, I am not entirely opposed to regulating software for government use. This makes a lot of sense to me, actually. If you want to get the government contract, you should have to meet certain standards, especially security standards. A business could do this, so there's no reason the government couldn't. The possible advantages would be an optional but well recognized standard that companies could meet if they wanted but are capable of declining if they so choose. I do think a open-source clause could be a good thing.

    The drawback here is that powerful (read "rich") parties would probably be able to write the regulations so that they are biased towards particular kinds of software, if not particular brands. They could also probably prevent an OSS clause from being adopted, if not actually requiring close source.

    Any time we experiment with giving the government more control over anything, we need to be very careful. Governments do not relinquish their powers. They always and only expand them. Regulating software, even in a limited capacity, sounds to me a lot like the proverbial foot in the door.
    • I am not entirely opposed to regulating software for government use.

      See FIPS requirements.

      Governments do not relinquish their powers. They always and only expand them.

      Sad, but true. And that's exactly the reason why we need to be extra careful when we call for Government's "help."

      Frankly, I believe that software is also a way to express opinions, both technical and political. Government control of software would be in direct contradiction of free speech, wouldn't it?

  • Excellent article (Score:5, Interesting)

    by pieterh ( 196118 ) on Sunday March 07, 2004 @11:12AM (#8490643) Homepage
    Fair and balanced.

    But it's not really a war between opposing sides. It's a war between the furture and the past. And the past is doomed to failure, simply because the technology curve has progressed to the point where large chunks of the software ecology are essentially free. Microsoft and Oracle unhappily sit right in the middle of this territory. Apple, IBM do not. I wrote about this in an editorial last year. []
  • It is rather ironic that Microsoft and other closed model companies rather resemble the Stalinist or Maoist model of a command economy with complete centralised control.

    Yes, and so does the human nervous system. So that must mean that we are all Stalinists! I wonder why Fascist/Hitlerian was left out, as the command structure there is exactly the same as in a Communist system.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 07, 2004 @11:16AM (#8490661)
    When you say you don't like Microsoft, you really don't like the choices millions of people make. I've been in this business long enough to know an analogy to war is ridiculous. You seem to believe that any choice of Microsoft is illegitimate and that open source can't fight fair in a free market, which is the big joke. Linux is doing great without the government, thank you.

    And this committee for patriotic software, should it ever be enacted, will be the downfall of open source. It will be just another control point for power and allow the morality police a central point of control. It will become a do-nothing political body like all the rest.
  • by FreeLinux ( 555387 ) on Sunday March 07, 2004 @11:16AM (#8490665)
    start thinking about how we persuade governments that market in software may eventually need to be regulated

    Bad idea. If it needs to be regulated then I believe that your product is inadequate. If your product is the best, then the market will decide. Think about it for a minute. You have a free operating system with free applications that you claim to be superior to everything else yet, you then want/need government regulation and mandates to require people to use your "better product"? That just doesn't make sense.

    I don't care what monopolistic practices Microsoft pulls, short of government mandates requiring Microsoft's use. If the product is truely better it will be chosen over others. The price is already right.
  • by Zakabog ( 603757 ) <> on Sunday March 07, 2004 @11:17AM (#8490669)
    Microsoft would have thousands of nuclear weapons, except they would constantly explode in their own silos. Everyone would have an easy to use rifle (with baby blue color theme), but only a handfull of people will be able to keep the rifle out of enemy hands, everyone else will just leave it lying around outside cause they're too lazy (or stupid) to secure it anywhere.

    Linux would have some great weapons but only 20 people would know how to use them, 12 of these people would have them loaded correctly, 5 will accidentally shoot themselves in the face, 2 would use the guns of the people who shot themselves in the face, and continue to shoot those people in the face, and the last person would develop a new loading mechanism and distribute it to everyone so they now have to figure out how to load it all over again.
  • by NZheretic ( 23872 ) on Sunday March 07, 2004 @11:18AM (#8490677) Homepage Journal
    The suggestion has been made before ...

    Subject: Pig iron [Was: Article: Gates memo calls for security focus] []

    On Fri, 18 Jan 2002 15:16:08 GMT, Alun Jones <> wrote:

    >In article <u0O18.81315$> , Simon Chang
    ><> wrote:
    >>It remains to be seen whether Gates & Co. continues to treat inadequate
    >>security policy and implementation as just public relations issues.

    >In Microsoft's favour, look what happened when Gates wrote a memo suggesting
    >that the company should get with the Internet. Complete U-turn on the part of
    >the whole company, with a huge emphasis on Internet development. What Gates
    >says, goes. Just maybe those doomsayers within Microsoft who have been saying
    >yes, but what about the security angle? (I presume there are some) will now
    >be listened to, and their recommendations acted on. I certainly hope so.

    I fully admit, it is a Great Leap Forward, just like another one in history... cn_economy.html []
    +Mao launched the Great Leap Forward program in 1958, arguably the greatest
    +economic folly of the 20th century. To help China surpass the economies of
    +Britain and the U.S. in 15 years, he decreed that every Chinese should
    +produce smelt iron. Hundreds of millions of citizens neglected farms to make
    +low-grade pig iron. Beijing did not know that grain was rotting in the fields

    Why the above quote? Check out the language Mr Gates uses in his letter
    ( see the register []
    ). Remind you of the announcements of the old five year plans from
    the old Soviet and Maoist regimes? Even down to the use of catch phrases!

    If Microsoft's Management is serous ( and given their past pronouncements
    on the security of their products - thats a very big if ) , it is a
    Herculean but not impossible task ahead. It will not happen overnight.

    Microsoft Makes Software Safety a Top Goal - January 17, 2002 U.html []
    +Every developer is going to be told not to write any new line of code, Mr.
    +Allchin said, until they have thought out the security implications for the

    YES !!! Finally, but a little too late since almost all of the core OS and
    application code has already been written.

    Microsoft should have started this process three years ago.
    The attempt to turn their current inherently designed insecure products
    into a trusted system is like that of turning a sows ear into a silk
    purse. The result is more likely to be pots and pans into useless,
    unsaleable pig iron. A lot of the core design for many of the products
    is going to have to be rewritten.

    As for Trustworthy computing See

    Avoiding bogus encryption products: Snake Oil FAQ ... l/ []
    ... the warning principals apply as much to secure software
    products as it does to cryptographic products.

    For software to be Trustworthy it requires that both the source and
    build processes be verifiable by public inspection by peers in the
    industry. That *requires* an unrestrictive license such as open
    source (

  • Flamebait? (Score:2, Troll)

    by bj8rn ( 583532 )
    from the now-thats-serious-flamebait-1 dept.

    Oh yeah? Well, fuck you too! And don't say you weren't asking for this!

  • Good, strong point. There is nothing wrong with making your software's source code public to the world, unless you're Microsoft. It'll tag a lot of coders to fix that shit. =/

    Just as he said; it's still possible to sell your software and have it open-source. It's actually better for business... because there is always just someone out there who is better than you -- Even if you're God.

    "But once we see an open source alternative to Quark Express running on those Linux boxes, or Postgres databases repla
  • software is cheap, free (open-source) software isn't.
    When you try to write an opensource software you will many hurdles, but you should be willing to face them.
  • by valence ( 164639 ) * on Sunday March 07, 2004 @11:23AM (#8490699)
    I disagree strongly that government regulation mandating open-sourcing is the key to solving the issues related to SCO/Linux/Microsoft, and although I agree with the basic points about FUD being the primary weapon of SCO/Microsoft, as well as the potential benefits of open sourcing for large corporations, I find very little in his article to support his assertion that this sort of regulation is the right direction.

    Frankly, if open sourcing is going to be key for economic viability in the marketplace, the correct capitalist response would be to let market pressure bury those companies that don't do it, not to impose regulation. I can see regulation protecting open-source companies from FUD assaults, which are inherantly detrimental to a free and open marketplace... but not regulating the production and distribution of software.

    Utilities like water and power require regulation because they are infrastructural supplies that aren't optional, nor does there exist (or can there, really) much of a competitive market in them to control excesses. With software, this is not really the case. Even for fundamental software like word processors and database tools, there is a robust marketplace with tons of options.

    Fundamentally, Marx's critique of unconstrained capitalism wasn't wholly off base. But America isn't unconstrained... consumer protection laws and so forth counter the excesses of capitalism here. The government's role here should be protection laws that preserve an open marketplace (no FUD attacks) and regulation where infrastructure is privatized.

    This is what I think, anyway.
  • Regulation Obsession (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Brian Blessed ( 258910 ) on Sunday March 07, 2004 @11:26AM (#8490712)
    If you read some of Bill Thompson's back catalogue, it seems that the man is obsessed with regulation as a cure-all solution (see here [], here [], or here []).

    It is a widely-held British viewpoint. Whenever there is some new perceived problem with the internet (a global network), politicans here start publicly calling for new government regulations. They know how pointless it is but want to be seen aligning themselves with the popular stance.

    - Brian.
    • by LordK2002 ( 672528 ) on Sunday March 07, 2004 @11:55AM (#8490850)
      If you read some of Bill Thompson's back catalogue, it seems that the man is obsessed with regulation as a cure-all solution (see here, here, or here).
      Yes indeed, this is the same man who thinks that we should place the entire internet under government control and just trust them to keep it democratic.

      He is so clearly out of touch with any realistic view of how governments and other powerful organistions actually behave that his writings deserve very little attention IMHO, whether they support open source or not.

      First rule of freedom: you don't give anybody an inch more power than they absolutely require to do the job entrusted to them.


    • by vrai ( 521708 ) on Sunday March 07, 2004 @12:07PM (#8490908)
      Don't tar all of Britain with Mr Thompson's facist brush. The BBC owes it's existence to Government legislation and taxation so it makes sense that they will employee a technology 'expert' that shares their views. Those of us in Britain who don't depend on the public purse have a rather more sensible view of how the internet should be run. Namely that it shouldn't be run at all - just allowed to exist in whatever form it's users think is best.

      As the links you provide show, Bill Thompson is an idiot and clearly has little understanding of information technology. Which is why he is an ideal demagogue for the Blair Broadcasting Corporation.

  • "[..] that regulation may well include a statutory duty to disclose source code and allow it to be used elsewhere."

    Where does this assumption that anyone has a right to source code come from? If somebody doesn't provide source code, your right is to not use it, don't buy it! It's as simple as that. If open source can't win economically, then using goverment power to force a win is no win at all. (Using OSS to create closed source in violation of licence is a seperate issue.)

  • by newdamage ( 753043 ) on Sunday March 07, 2004 @11:27AM (#8490717) Homepage Journal
    Last time the DoJ stepped in to deal with Microsoft being a monopoly and engaged in anti-competitive activities ...hmm, yeah, that worked out real well. Glad to see Microsoft no longer has a stranglehold on the market and doesn't have restrictive deals with other players in the tech industry.

    Quite frankly, right now this is just a war of attrition, and I think Microsoft realizes they can't win with their current market strategies. If Linux was run by a single company responsible to shareholders, then Microsoft would probably have things back to business as usual, but I still don't think Bill & Steve have figured out just how to really deal with Linux as a competitive force.

    The Open Source community has shown the ability to organize and get things done (yes, I know, this isn't the case in all projects, but it has gotten substantially better). And as long as the Open Source movement stays on the current track that it's on it's only a matter of time before the average consumer begins to recognize projects as Mozilla, Open Office, and the Linux OS as something they should look into using over Windows.

    The fact that I can get my Mom to recognize how cool Mozilla is compared to IE/Outlook is and that she can get everything done on an install of Mandrake 9.2 is proof that progress is being made.
  • by say ( 191220 ) <sigve@wolfraid[ ]no ['ah.' in gap]> on Sunday March 07, 2004 @11:27AM (#8490720) Homepage
    While government and legislation power can be wielded in a bad way, most modern democratic states would be able to wield it in the favour of the people - at least a lot more in favour of the people than the board of Microsoft would! I think the slashdot crowd is extremely black or white on this one: Either you have extreme liberalism (as of today), or you have complete stalinist regulation (as of.. soviet russia). What about regulations like "every government system has to be open source" or "government funded schools have to use open source" or "every government-funded computer program has to be released under the GPL" or even "the government does not trust any closed source app"? That's also regulation. And it is good (tm).
  • by evanbd ( 210358 ) on Sunday March 07, 2004 @11:29AM (#8490728)
    Copyright, along with patents, was intended to advance the sciences and useful arts. The way this was accomplished is to allow a period of protection, after which the work was available to the public. Therefore, patents require an explanation of the patented device. Copyrights in the past ensured that the work was available because text is human readable. However, modern copyright is being applied to software in binary form, which is not human readable. After the software enters the public domain, new programmers may still be unable to use it for anything for lack of source code. Therefore, copyright on software should require the disclosure of the source code. The creators are still afforded protection for their work through copyright, but now society gets the benefit that the copyright bargain was supposed to provide -- the later use of the work.

    Of course, for this to work, copyright terms need to be returned to something reasonable, but that's a different problem.

  • by fermion ( 181285 ) on Sunday March 07, 2004 @11:29AM (#8490729) Homepage Journal
    As much as the US would want to malign command economies, they are in fact the way that much, if not most of the money and productivity is managed. Corporations are not free markets. They do have some aspects of the early USA, such as the ability to vote by the landed gentry, but the leaders are as autonomous and shielded as any dictator, as can be seen by Disney. They tend to decide products and strategies independently. They are also as ruthless and difficult to force the rule of law upon, the apparent example being Stewert.

    The problem with OSS, like the free market, is that it it requires inefficiencies. In a free market we may have 10 companies producing a product that only requires 2, or things being produced that are of no value at all. Sure, eventually the free market will sort out the inefficiencies, but the command economy tends to not have them at all. We see this now with companies refusing to hire anyone. New employees are sort of needed, but they would still represent an inefficiency. So no one is hiring. With MS and SCO, they can control development and focus efforts and consumer attention on a single product. Closed source companies do not have four competing GUIs and three competing APIs.

    I personally find the free market, and by extension OSS, to be exciting and wonderfully innovative. However, it is easy to see how the Mr. Tators of the corporations would find such a free for all of ideas and strategies to be as disturbing as a bunch of upstart, uneducated, uncultured colonialist believing they were anything other than agents to be used a the King wished.

  • by smchris ( 464899 ) on Sunday March 07, 2004 @11:31AM (#8490735)
    It is rather ironic that Microsoft and other closed model companies rather resemble the Stalinist or Maoist model of a command economy with complete centralised control."

    Centralized control is not so unique to communist political structures. Fascism has a pyramidal hierarchy. And when legislators listen to corporations first, that is also a command economy.

    So it is not ironic at all.

  • by nemaispuke ( 624303 ) on Sunday March 07, 2004 @11:31AM (#8490736)

    This not only affects Linux, but any Open Source application. The last Government contract I worked on, we wanted to deploy an Open Source monitoring agent since the deployment of a "major vendor" product was not going to happen for some time. The response from IA (Information Assurance) basically was "has it passed Common Criteria evaluation and can you show us proof?" The answer was no, so the app was not deployed. We even provided the source code for "review".

    I think the tools are already in place within segments of the US Government to stop the deployment of OSS by simply pointing to and saying "It's not on the Approved List". Most OSS does not have the deep pockets of IBM and Oracle to afford CC evaluation (SuSe and RedHat respectively). Now whether Microsoft had anything to do with this I cannot say, but I think it is not simply a matter of development models, but security models as well. And even in the case of a OSS product sucessfully passing CC evaluation, some agencies are not happy. Read the latest version of the DISA Unix STIG and see what they say about SuSe Linux (they complained that no US (NSA) Protection Profiles were used in the evaluation. So does that mean it is less secure and should not be used?

    Some Governments could simply point to the US and say "we won't adopt OSS because the US doesn't". Just a thought

  • by WombatControl ( 74685 ) on Sunday March 07, 2004 @11:42AM (#8490780)

    I utterly hate the analogy that FOSS is communistic. First of all, last time I checked, FOSS hadn't killed hundreds of millions of people as communism had. Second, it doesn't work on a philosophical level.

    Communism is based on a centralized command system in which the state controls the means of production in the name of the people. Of course, this never works out as only a fool would automatically presume the interests of the state and the interests of the people are exactly the same.

    In software development, this is closer to the closed source model - the state (ie Microsoft) orders that a task be done and the apparatchiks do it. Granted, Microsoft doesn't kill those that fail, and Microsoft is nowhere near as corrupt as the former Soviet Union, but the overal concept of centralization remains the same.

    FOSS development is more like anarchocapitalism than anyone else. No one is forced to open their code, but programmers like myself do so because that's how we rationally get the most benefits. Granted, I could sell my products and perhaps make some money, but I couldn't recoup the costs of development without putting as much time into marketing as I do programming - and I don't care to do that.

    The essence of capitalism is free exchange - which is why capitalism requires a free society in order to function well. Without the concept of the right of property, the GPL or other FOSS licenses would be meaningless. If I can't "own" my code, I can't dictate the license terms, and we're back to the state of nature. In the state of nature, everything is free for the taking - so long as you're cunning enough to take it. The whole reason government exists is to prevent that from happening by creating the social contract. (Which is why the statement that sacrificing liberty for security is wrong - that's the whole point of government itself, but I digress.)

    FOSS devlopers give out their code because it provides them with the greatest rational benefit, not because some centralized authority tells them they must. That isn't communism, that's capitalism, and that's why the FOSS development model is doing exactly what capitalist economies do to state-planned economies - dynamically growing faster and more agile with each passing day.

  • Cold War issues (Score:5, Interesting)

    by sageres ( 561626 ) on Sunday March 07, 2004 @11:54AM (#8490841)
    Think about that: Soviet Union and United States never really fought directly anywhere (well, very few times and most of the public never knew about this). Their playground was Koria, Vietnam (where Soviets were sending in weapons, ammunition and training), Afganistan (where Americans did the same thing). More indirect battles were fought in the central Africa. Countries like Angola changed their eligence style of government there within period of two weeks , of course at the cost of millions of lives of local natives. What about South America? The communist gangs in Peru, Nicaragua, Bolivia, Columbia and others did not just "came out" without support of the old Soviet Union. Nowdays these same gangs are into drugs, robbery, kidnappings and absolute terrorism for money. Now lets take a look at the world of Microsoft vs. Linux. These have never fought their direct battles either. GPL has never been tested against Microsoft EULA (oh I wish there would come a day when such test would be possible). The companies that support and endorse Linux have funded or persued anti-Monopoly lawsuits against Microsoft, and as we recently found out it is Microsoft who funds and persues the lawsuits that came on us from the face of SCO. And think about it too: SCO has not dared to sue Linus or any of the special groups surrounding Linux (OSDL, FSF (GNU), the Open Group, Kernel development team, whoever else). Instead they choose to fight their battles via the third parties and the users, or code contributors. So far the battle is fought on the sidelines. There will be a day when Microsoft and FSF, OSDL and others will be in direct lawsuit against each other.
  • by cantabrigian ( 689418 ) on Sunday March 07, 2004 @12:17PM (#8490949)
    With the US experiencing an ever-widening trade deficit, I cannot help but think that American lawmakers have reason to believe that a well-defined market for intellectual property is the only way to secure America's economic future, and that Microsoft and other closed-source software companies are providing the most promising means of sustaining a flow of money into the US.

    Essentially, US exports of tangible goods are in decline, and it seems ludicrous to think that providing a management layer for organizations that actually exist overseas can last forever. Do we actually believe that workers in India will not someday discover that if they managed their own companies, then they would not need the US at all? Perhaps this is a bit of an oversimplification, but I think that the point resonates in the hearts and minds of people concerned about economic sustainability for the US. So we're going to support Microsoft, dammit, because OSS is the way to seal America's fate as the country that contributes only intellectual property to the world and gets essentially no compensation in return.

    As a supporter of OSS, this notion frightens me. But I have yet to hear an argument that this is not as serious as I fear.

  • command economy? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by elmegil ( 12001 ) on Sunday March 07, 2004 @12:17PM (#8490950) Homepage Journal
    closed model companies rather resemble the Stalinist or Maoist model of a command economy with complete centralised control.

    Clearly written by someone who doesn't work in the industry. While there is control from the top and heirarchy, it definitely is not always a "command economy". In my experience and reading, many companies have project teams that come up with ideas, that are then built into products via a competetive process, not a "command" process.

    Seems to me someone had their OSS hat on too tight--there are certainly benefits and advantages of OSS, but statements like this take it too far and destroy any credibility you might have to talk about the real issues.

  • by ZoneGray ( 168419 ) on Sunday March 07, 2004 @12:29PM (#8491012) Homepage
    Well, it's a little bit of an oversimplification to contrast "centrally designed" software with OSS. Centralized control is bad for an economy, because an economy is made up of people with varying goals. But when there is a common goal, centralized control can be a good thing. Think military, sports teams, etc. Or designing a huge application.

    But.... IP law, even though it's perceived as "pro-business," is a broadly socialist concept; the government grants arbirary privileges that a copyright owner could not enforce by themselves. In this sense, government already regulates the software market. The failures of the current scheme should not be used to justify extending government control.

    The emergence of Free Software is a market response to overpriced proprietary software, to API's designed to generate consumer and developer lock-in, and to the anti-consumer license provisions that it leads to.

    Free Software and proprietary between them cover the market well, and it's probably the best compromise we can come up with. In other words, don't expect commercial software to ever be as nice as you want it to be. Just make sure that Free remains Free.
  • by David Gerard ( 12369 ) <(ku.oc.draregdivad) (ta) (todhsals)> on Sunday March 07, 2004 @04:23PM (#8492333) Homepage
    Bill Thompson has been a technology moron with the BBC for a while now - read his past columns. He has an obsession with regulation in general, particularly governmental control of the Internet; this is part of that.
  • Author was way off*. Open source software is closer to socialism than anything, while proprietary software is pretty much capitalism. If you don't think so, look at the philsophies underpinning both of these:

    Sharing/common good
    Driven by profits
    No such thing as a common good

    If you look at these traits, you would find that open-source software is closer to socialism and proprietary software is closer to capitalism. That's economics.

    If you look at the political dimension, you would find that both open-source software and proprietary software are libertarian (to a large degree).

    So to sum up, open-source software would be libertarian+socialism** while proprietary software (as exemplified by Microsoft) would be libertarian+capitalism. This basically means that, under the political compass [] two dimensional system, open-source software would be near the bottom left, while the proprietary one would be the bottom right.

    (* The confusion over proprietary software and capitalism arises because Microsoft is thought to be a monopoly by some. Because of that, some people (namely capitalists) don't consider MS to be capitalist. These capitalists would argue that capitalism needs free markets and perfect competition. My theory is that free markets lead to monopolies or oligopolies and if this is true then these capitalists' reasoning is baseless. This is exactly what happened in the case of MS. MS was a small company competing under perfect competition at one time. It simply monopolized the market like all businesses attempt to. Therefore, one CAN consider MS to be capitalist, even though it has monopolize many of its markets)).

    (** When I say libertarian+socialism, I'm not talking about libertarian socialism (which is anarchism), although it is close. Open-source software is not anarchist because there are rules (the existence of copyrights means that the person who wrote the software has more power than someone who did not. Under anarchism, you wouldn't have this situation because copyrights do not generally exist under many anarchist systems. If open-source software had no copyrights (i.e. author who wrote it has no more rights than someone who did not write it), then open-source software can be considered anarchist. From my view, public domain software is basically anarchist)).

    Sivaram Velauthapillai
    • Socialism != Stalinism
    • Voodoo economics (Score:4, Informative)

      by rumblin'rabbit ( 711865 ) on Sunday March 07, 2004 @09:40PM (#8494113) Journal
      The state of economic knowledge of your typical /.'er is truly appalling. You state that there's no such thing as the public good in capitalism? Read Adam Smith's "The Wealth Of Nations". It may be more than two centuries old (first published in 1776, rather appropriately) but it's as relevant today as it ever was. Adam Smith explains in great detail how a person behaving in his or her own self interest adds to the public good.

      And capitalism is not in the least elitist. The paper boy, the owner/operator of the corner grocery, the local landscpape expert, the software consultant - these are every bit the capitalists that Bill Gates is. Indeed, the ability to produce value efficiently is a wonderful equalizer, constantly raising up the capable and bringing down the arrogant. So many of todays billionaires started with essentially nothing, and so many of tomorrow's billionairies have essentially nothing today.

      And so far as socialism being egalitarian, communal, and sharing in the public good? Well, perhaps you could point out a good working example. All I can think of is Stalin and the twenty million Russian corpses he left behind.

  • by 4of12 ( 97621 ) on Monday March 08, 2004 @11:26AM (#8498287) Homepage Journal

    ...So now would be a good time to start thinking about how we persuade governments that market in software may eventually need to be regulated.

    Governments have already taken many steps backwards using the power of regulation. Witness extended copyrights, lengthy patent protections, DMCA prohibitions reverse-engineering.

    Many of us who believe free and open source software could provide efficiency and productivity increases world wide are becoming cynical of government regulation as it has been as much a force for encumbering as it has for freeing.

VMS must die!