Is Open Source Exploitative?

from the no,-but-the-political-system-is dept


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Comments on “Is Open Source Exploitative?”

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Lord Binky says:

Doin' it for the Lulz

Ok, So if I make an automated roomba bot with an AI complete with full visual segmentation and identification just because I want it to chase my cat around and squirt a water gun at it while having the cat be able to win by pulling the fuzzy ball on a string that will trigger a shut down (or turn on MUHAHAHAHAHAHAHA) and I release all my code and plans as open source so people can do what they want with it. Then someone uses it for some commercial project they make craploads of money from, how is that exploiting anything me? I was never asked to do it. I still got to chase my cat with a robot. I was never coerced to do it. I think the cat is the only one exploited.

Alien Bard says:

Re: Doin' it for the Lulz

Amen, brudder!

Although in all honesty I have to admit the selfish side of me would be jealous over not getting any of that moola. Fortunately I’m a civilized individual and able to suppress that animalistic side. I would rather see a stranger profit from sharing my idea then everyone suffer from its absence.

PrometheeFeu (profile) says:

Re: Re: Doin' it for the Lulz

There are many things that we want, make us angry or sad or whatever in life. Most of us are capable of dealing with those emotions without lashing out in extreme ways. Not so with the copyright maximalists. Instead of responding to the copying like civilized human beings, they call file sharing theft and ask their friends in Washington to go and throw the file sharer in jail. They are a bit like small children who throw a tantrum because they want a toy that someone has.

DannyB (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Doin' it for the Lulz

Don’t forget extraditing people from a supposedly civilized country for legally (in his country) linking, yes just linking, to content they didn’t like.

Don’t go after the hosted content.

Go after the links. That way they can persecute more people.

If they took down the hosted content, then all the links would be worthless and they couldn’t go on ruining people’s lives.

@J_Plotkin (user link) says:

Maybe open souce can buy you happiness

I think Open source has to be viewed as a state of mind of philosophy. Otherwise, if you view it in “closed source” terms it’s clear exploitation.

That being said, it would be nice if those who contributed to open source ventures got paid out of whatever profits do pop up. I suppose money isn’t everyone’s prime motivation…it is mine…but go figure!

ltlw0lf (profile) says:

Re: Maybe open souce can buy you happiness

I think Open source has to be viewed as a state of mind of philosophy. Otherwise, if you view it in “closed source” terms it’s clear exploitation.

Absolutely agree…though I’d go one step further and say that yes, it is exploitation, but voluntary exploitation. Not all exploitation is bad, and in this case, the programmer is well aware of what they are doing and what they are giving up and give it up freely (which is what I think Nina is saying.) However, I’ve heard people use this same argument to me when discussing my open source activities. Luckily my employer is very happy with my “side-learning,” but I’ve heard people say that open source causes all sorts of problems for the companies that employ hobby open source programmers because they split their efforts and the employer isn’t getting full efficiency from the programmer because of this (which is stupid…I believe, and I see from others too, that I am more efficient at my real job because I am more experienced and have a wider scope than others that don’t have those experiences.)

I write open-source to scratch an itch, or to do something that I want to do…I get paid to do monkeywork, and as far as I am concerned, I have far more fun scratching itches than the monkeywork I do at work. If I was paid to do the open-source work…I am not sure I’d have as much fun (though it would be nice to have more time to spend on my open source stuff…but I’d probably waste it on fixing up my house or other stuff.)

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Maybe open souce can buy you happiness

“they split their efforts and the employer isn’t getting full efficiency from the programmer because of this”

That’s only true if the company feels like they have a right to the programmer’s time outside of work hours. Unfortunately, they often do. I’ve seen mandatory overtime for projects lasting years, and people coming in on their vacation days. I’ve actually seen “Anyone who’s taking vacation this Friday is required to work this Saturday.” (Totally ignoring that people generally take Fridays off to get an extended weekend.) When a company has this philosophy, it’s easy for them to think that any “other” programming is somehow interfering.

Anonymous Coward says:

Fame, not fortune

Obviously, participating in open source projects is all about the fame, not the fortune.

As someone who has contributed to a couple open source projects myself, I see that the altruistic nature of it impresses people. It often becomes a talking point during interviews and discussions with other software professionals – and it looks good on a resume.

It also serves as an example of my abilities in the real world (as opposed to some closed source product I worked on for a previous employer, which I cannot show to others). “I can do X and Y, see project Z on github as proof”.

DannyB (profile) says:

Re: Fame, not fortune

Yes, sometimes fame. But not always.

It may not be about fame. Some people never get fame.

It can be about passion. It can be to scratch your own itch or solve your own problem and hopefully solve others’ problem at the same time.

It might just be for plain ol’ fun. Or a hobby.

Someone who builds, say, a Rubik cube solver, probably didn’t do it for fame. Or money. What other possible reasons are there?

Sam (profile) says:

Re: Re: Fame, not fortune

Personally, I don’t expect to receive fame or fortune from my open source coding, and it’s certainly not the reason behind it. I’m aware that it’s good experience, will likely look good on job applications, etc, but I code because I enjoy it and because it solves my problems, and I release my code on the off-chance it might solve someone else’s. To some extent my contributions to other projects are also a way of giving back to the community that’s built the enormous amount of free software I use on a regular basis.

Rich Kulawiec (profile) says:

If anyone thinks it's exploitive...

…then they need to stop using the Internet, because it’s built entirely around open source (and open standards and open protocols). This has been pointed out numerous times (and probably will need to be pointed many more times; some people are simply dense); a good exposition may be found in “Information Wants to be Valuable”:

In the decade-plus since that article was written, some things have changed: in particular, open source has become even MORE important. For instance, the author mentions majordomo, which at the time was the best-available software for mailing list management; it’s now been supplanted by Mailman — also open source. Apache rules the web, and its only real competition are other open source servers. Languages like Python and Ruby have gained prominence. Perl has matured into a a very rich environment. MySQL and PostgreSQL have become the databases of choice (nod to nosql approaches). Solr/Lucene are on their way to dominating search. Sendmail no longer dominates as it did then — but the serious competition (postfix, exim, courier) is all open source.

I think at this point it’s not hyperbole to say that it’s impossible to use the Internet without using open source. So to those who object: bye.

DannyB (profile) says:

The only people who complain about open source . . .

. . . are the people threatened by it. This would be the IP monopoly loving crowd.

People who write open source aren’t complaining. Nobody is holding a gun to their head to write open source code.

It’s like saying people who do volunteer charity work are being exploited. If anyone actually said this, then they are free to not volunteer and go spend their efforts doing whatever they please. Leave alone the other people who volunteer to help others — possibly by writing open source code for their use.

Bengie says:

For sake of argument

It’s only exploitation if the people contributing aren’t being compensated. But they are. They get a good feeling, fun and/or learning, which is worth more than the money commonly associated with their work.

To say that everything has a monetary value is pure ignorance.

Life for example. If you and your loved ones could live forever, would you trade that for money?

Karl (profile) says:


As most people pointed out here, a lot of voluntary contributors would do the programming anyway, for reasons that have nothing to do with money. But this is the argument most cited by detractors as “proof” that open source is exploitation, so for the sake of argument, I’m not going to consider it.

So, instead, let’s consider the many ways that contributors to open source projects are tangibly rewarded. Those who still say open source is exploitation need to consider a few things.

First: It ignores the many, many programmers who get paid to develop open source projects. How many programmers are on salary at Google?

It also opens the doors for programmers to build their own businesses out of open-source software. For example, the Drupal CMS (like most CMS’s) is completely open-source, but there are tons of businesses whose sole job is to deploy Drupal websites for money. And because open source has a much lower barrier to entry than closed source, it makes it easier for smaller businesses to enter the market.

In fact, I’d say a huge percentage of the actual code contributed to open source projects comes from the people I just mentioned. Again regarding Drupal, many widely-used third-party modules originate from businesses, not volunteers.

Second: even if the programmers don’t get paid in money, that doesn’t mean they are doing the work without a tangible reward. Chief among them: They get robust software that costs nothing – meaning they often don’t have to pay huge amounts of money that they would otherwise. (In addition, that software is often more convenient – no nag screens or DRM, etc – and more secure.)

Now, this isn’t necessarily a reward for contributing, since even people who don’t contribute get the same software. I have a PC loaded up with free software of many varieties, and I haven’t contributed to the majority of those projects.

But more importantly for programmers, they also get software that is libre (free as in freedom). This means that if they want the software to work differently, they can modify it themselves. This makes free software more useful than closed source software. The polite thing to do is release those changes back to the community, but even that is not required.

Third: It completely ignores the “resume effect” – the fact that your open-source code can be used to get yourself a paid programming job. Admittedly, this is a bit of a long shot (speaking from experience), but it’s not trivial. Also, if you’re already a paid programmer, often you can’t show examples of your work to future employers – since that work is closed source, covered under NDA’s, etc.

Now, obviously, you’re not going to get stupid rich simply because you contributed a few lines of code to WordPress or whatever. But even by traditional standards, open source can hardly be called “exploitation.”

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