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


I think this is a more appropriate quotation to sum up his point in his own words:

The crux of this essay is thus: not only did open source not stem or stall the redistribution of wealth and power upwards, but rather it aided and abetted the redistribution of wealth and power upwards. To be an open source proponent at this time without acknowledging this very real and most unfortunate consequence is to be a cog in a much larger machine; a stooge; a very useful idiot.

The first sentence is what latched into my mind and, upon finishing, lead me to write my piece. Saying that it is mere complicity elsewhere might be a better hedge of the point, but that point is still blaming open source technologies for wealth inequality and, as I summarize the article overall, driving said inequality by allowing the corporations to rake in huge profits without compelling them to pay license fees. Most of my article was about the second order effects of this arrangement, not the lack of direct fees.

The second sentence shows how we differ when we say open source is being abused. In his view, free licensing is equatable to free labor in service of these large companies. He demonizes open source as "the building blocks of modern capitalist behemoths" and says that corporations somehow hacked the intellectual monopoly system by starting new projects with its tools. This is not a hack, allowing them to use the software is not "complacency," and open source developers are not idiots. Open source software is intended to be used as material to build on by everyone. Letting the blame for wealth inequality spread from the corporations to the open source tools is just wrong. No, corporations are abusing open source in two big classes of ways: 1) by not supporting the projects materially, whether by tithe or workhours, 2) by altering their expectations of open source developers in ways that harm the software industry at large. The first makes large projects less sustainable even as they become more important to the industry. They need not support the projects out of altruism, but they have every practical reason to do so because, without that support, the project may die. The second hurts basically every developer, especially ones with less professional experience, by making the industry more insular. That snowballs into a shortage of experienced developers later.

And Mark's remedies for this situation amount to making open source software more closed or appealing to some sense of fairness in the idea that a developer should be entitled to patent restrictions of work they made for hire. To be too brief, making software more closed isn't an actual remedy when the market is essentially demanding free software, so patents and restrictions don't address this.

Also, he makes a lot of other direct statements in the latter half of the piece that I disagree with like "Using or developing more open source software is not going to improve anyone’s lives." It certainly has. "Developing open source software is not a public good." It is, but the larger projects need support. In my view, the easiest way to allocate resources to these projects is based on who's using them and how much, which is something that can be regulated via norms although those norms have not exactly materialized. How exactly to get us there is an open question, but one way we can start is by not doing the things described in my article.

  • Mike -

    "In short, we don't and should not shame Disney for using the public domain. We shame Disney for denying the public domain to everyone else in their attempt to keep their work out of the public's hands, which is a much stronger driver of inequality than releasing some work and not charging rent. The analogy to software companies is direct: don't shame them for using open source. Shame them for attacking the copyright system and lobbying to restrict our rightful access to works held within that system"

  • Mark -

    "A very few large companies have been able to establish concentrated bubbles of wealth and power that continue to grow at an astounding rate. These companies have learned how to use intellectual property laws to remove competitive threats and establish choke holds over their particular industry segments."

  • Mike -

    "corporations are abusing open source in two big classes of ways: 1) by not supporting the projects materially, whether by tithe or workhours, 2) by altering their expectations of open source developers in ways that harm the software industry at large"

  • Mark -

    "they have created businesses that make vast sums of money, there are tightly constrained groups of employees who benefit, and they tend not to pay others for software. The money comes in, but it never leaves"

  • Mike -

    "We must address that real, critical role directly because corporations often ignore it, to their own detriment, while causing a lot of inequitable division of labor and wealth"

  • Mark -

    "We may not be entirely responsible for either the problem or the solution, but we’re certainly complicit and, thus, responsible for helping to resolve the issues"

Not trying to be a jerk. The opposite actually. But it really seems like this guy is on the same side as you. Most examples you give of "disagreement" are actually small statements taken out of context. He is NOT anti-open source and he in no way "let's the corporations off the hook" (he does the opposite actually, his point is THEY won't stop unless you make them).

Once again. I do not agree with either of you. BUT... This guy should be your ally because you are both on the same anti-big bad corporations team. But because you can't let go of a few small statements or have different ideas to handle it you went and wrote an entire post against it. WTH? You agree with 80% of what he says!

And IMO most of what you state as not agreeing with are not actually where he is, but rather your perception of where he is because of how you interpret certain statements. (If that makes sense). Just food for thought. I'm done now. Feel free to respond but I probably won't (not in a disrespectful way, I just feel I've thoroughly made my point and there is nothing left to say, feel free to have the last word, I'll just listen and not speak)

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