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 @ 2:59pm

    Re: Re: Re: In a practical sense he is right

    "If you include GPL code in your closed source product .. it in effect makes it open source .. which makes GPL commercially unviable for companies that sell closed source solutions."

    No, it makes it a non-viable choice for people who want to steal other peoples' code.

    Put it this way: If I somehow obtained a competitor's code, modified it and released the resulting program, I'd be violating copyright. I'd be liable for lawsuits, no matter how much of the code was mine to begin with - the fact I included stolen code would make the whole thing illegal.

    Now, the GPL makes it so that instead of the blanket "you must not modify, alter, redistribute..." demand that comes with proprietary code, you are allowed to do these things *as long as you redistribute your changes*. If you refuse to do this, you are violating the copyright agreement as surely as if you stole proprietary code.

    Why do you think you should have the right to use OSS code in your closed source product without agreeing to the licence? If you want the code, agree to the licence. if you don't like the licence, don't use the code. Why is that so hard?

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