Bill Gates Claims Open Source Means Nobody Can Improve Software

from the say-what-now? dept

Wired is running an interesting article about Bill Gates' thoughts on the pharmaceutical industry, which he's increasingly focused on as he transitions out of Microsoft and into his foundation. He clearly understands the basic problem, though I think he has the wrong solution in brushing off the idea that "open sourcing" medicine is a huge opportunity. As for why... well, I'll be discussing that in a future post. Instead, for this post, I wanted to focus on a rather bizarre statement out of Gates (all the way at the end of the article) in discussing why he dislikes open source software. His complaint is that open source creates a license "so that nobody can ever improve the software." It's hard to figure out how to respond to that statement since it's the exact opposite of how open source software works. The exact point is that anyone can improve the software. It's proprietary software like Microsoft's that's limited such that only Microsoft is allowed to improve it. It's no secret that Gates isn't a fan of open source software, but it still seems odd that he would make a statement that is so obviously false, both in theory and in practice. Perhaps old FUD habits die hard, but one would hope that as he enters "retirement" he'll have a more open mind on such things.

Filed Under: bill gates, open source, pharmaceuticals

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  1. icon
    PaulT (profile), 23 Apr 2008 @ 1:24pm

    Re: BUT..

    You only have to share the code if you release a product using that code. If you keep the product to yourself, you keep the code to yourself.

    The sharing aspect of the GPL is to protect the original coders. If the licence didn't force you to share the code, there would be nothing to stop a company from taking the code from an open source product, modifying it and then releasing it as their own work.

    The GPL says simply - if you use this code, the original coders must be compensated. The requested compensation is for the additional code to be released. Linksys should have understood this condition. I can't use Microsoft's code in my projects - it would be illegal and it is expressly forbidden. GPL projects say - go ahead use the code, but if you do you must abide by these conditions...

    Don't like those conditions? You have a choice - don't use the code! But again, it's only if you release the product yourself that these conditions apply - you can modify code internally to your heart's content.

    In the case of your example - a rather poor one I must say - the LCD projector would have the conditions firmly printed on it. You have the choice - use the projector and post the videos or *don't use it in the first place*!

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