re: Open Source Has Not Failed. Don't Cover Up Corporate Abuse of Open Source VIEW POST


When reading this article, I remembered a quote from Richard Stallman: "Open source is a development methodology; free software is a social movement. For the free software movement, free software is an ethical imperative, essential respect for the users' freedom. By contrast, the philosophy of open source considers issues in terms of how to make software “better”—in a practical sense only.".

So I think that this discussion is more about the free software movement than the open source one. I agree (partially) with Stallman and in that sense open source didn't fail: it made software better.

Big companies are allowed to do whatever they want with open source software because we let them. The biggest example I can think of is the license issue with ReactJS and Facebook. As Ben said in its comment, what we come to are just "economic tradeoffs".

You cannot set something free and expect that no one will take advantage of it: you have to fight for it. Either you play the same game these companies are playing and be sure that your software can't be used as part of a proprietary product (use the GNU/GPL licenses) or you can just sit back and hope that the Facebook and Google won't passively use your code to develop their next killer product and make billions out of it.


I think it's misleading to conclude that we must either fight for it with legal methods like viral copyright licenses or just accept that corporations will make a lot of money without paying. There are obvious reasons for corporations to tithe money to open source projects. And, from a risk management standpoint, it is increasingly beneficial for them to do so as a security measure to make sure that their important dependencies continue being developed.

On the other hand, the necessary increases in open source donations do not seem to have happened perfectly in a vacuum. I would first suggest social stigma as one factor to the solution, but corporations only seem to respond to that when the advocacy comes from within (see Google walking back its technical support of China's censorship). Failing that, legal remedies might work, but I'm eternally skeptical about the efficacy of enforcement and I'm sure new, completely free alternatives would turn up to replace any of our current open source dependencies that adopted a mandatory payment model. If the way the market moves is toward completely free, then the market must adapt to keep itself sustainable, even if that means the market needs to read an economics text more complicated than "Supply and Demand" or "Obey the invisible hand."

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