Could Open Source Software Be Put Into The Public Domain Instead?

from the need-to-fix-public-domain-first dept

There are dozens of free software and open source licences -- many would argue rather too many. Different licenses impose different conditions. For example, the best-known and most widely-used is the GNU General Public License, which is designed to ensure that anyone building on GPL'd software and distributing it should make the modified program available under the same license. Others, such as the BSD license simply require the copyright and license notices to be included with any code that is used.

Open source licenses are often described as the "constitutions" for the communities that form around the software they govern. That would seem to imply that in their absence, alongside other unwanted consequences, the communities would collapse. A provocative paper by Clark Asay, Assistant Professor at Penn State University Dickinson School of Law, suggests that this isn't the case, and that software could be released into the public domain and yet still thrive as a collaborative project.

He points out that despite its undeniable success -- free software now dominates many of the most important sectors in computing -- there are transaction costs associated with it. For companies, these arise from ensuring full compliance with licenses, no mean task if corporate lawyers are unfamiliar with the subtleties of this world. For programmers who are choosing a free software license for their code, not only is there a bewildering choice, but some of them are mutually incompatible. This means that code from one project can't always be dropped into another using a different licence, which makes building on open source harder than it should be.

Asay suggests that placing software into the public domain would avoid all these issues, and allow the code to be re-used more widely, with resulting benefits for coders, companies and users alike. However, he recognizes that there are some important concerns that need addressing.

For example, one of the strengths of licenses like the GNU GPL is that it prevents free riding: if a company takes GPL'd software and uses it in a product that it distributes, it must adopt the GNU GPL and contribute its code back to the original code's community. If the code were in the public domain, that wouldn't be the case -- it could simply be taken and used without further ado. But Asay notes that there are good reasons why companies are likely to make their code available anyway:

if a firm were to take and close a project, they almost certainly would not obtain the free labor that contributors around the world are willing to provide to open-licensed projects. Without that free labor, firms would lose the most significant advantages of an open model of innovation, and the free labor would likely remain loyal to the open version of the project. Firms thus already have incentives to open and contribute as much of their materials as possible, since doing so will attract free labor and trigger innovation in directions that better suit the firm and its strategic direction.
The key point is that the code without the community that creates it is pretty much dead. A company may gain a short-term advantage in taking public domain code and enclosing it, but by refusing to give back its changes, it loses any chance of collaborating with the coders who are writing the future versions. It will have no influence, and no way of raising issues of particular concern that help it with its products. Instead, it will have to keep up the development of its own version of the code single-handed. That's likely to be costly at best, and may even be impossible except for the very largest companies (Apple is an example of one that has succeeded, basing its Mac OS X operating system on the free BSD version of Unix.)

That also explains why coding communities will still function, even in the absence of "constitutions". Anyone who refuses to accept consensus decisions simply becomes isolated if they try to ignore them. Alternatively, if the community leadership starts to go astray, forks of the code may occur that gain sufficient supporters to become the main line of development. In other words, the natural collaborative development dynamics produce many of the same results as formal licenses that lay down what norms and behavior are expected.

Asay also tackles the important issue of attribution in a world of public domain software. Many programmers contribute to free software not for direct economic benefit, but to enhance their reputations, which may translate into financial benefits in the form of a higher salary or job offers. Asay points out that the current system of providing recognition is unsatisfactory -- often attribution is buried deep in licensing documents that no one ever looks at. That may explain in part why developer profiles on the popular GitHub code hosting service are becoming more common: it's a way of displaying programming prowess in a form that is easy for peers -- or potential employers -- to access. As the site itself explains:

Every developer gets their own profile page that is automatically updated with a stream of the important things they are doing on GitHub and a list of the Open Source projects they are hosting at GitHub. Many developers have started referring to GitHub Profiles as the new résumé.
The use of such pages makes the attribution requirements of software licenses less crucial, and would obviously work fine even if software were released into the public domain.

One problem with Asay's idea is that the state of the public domain today is unsatisfactory. For example, it is very hard to place works in the public domain -- the Creative Commons CC0 is perhaps the most thoroughly worked-out tool for doing so. As Asay notes, we need legislation to formalize and facilitate this move, and to address issues such as liability.

This difficulty emphasizes how much the public domain has been neglected as copyright maximalists have sought to portray it as an anomalous wasteland that needs to be made "productive" by reclaiming it through copyright enclosure. But the public domain is the natural condition of all knowledge -- that which can be shared freely -- while it is copyright and its monopoly that is the deviation from that state. If nothing else, Asay's proposal may help to bring some much-needed attention to this important but neglected area.

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  1.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 1st, 2013 @ 5:46pm

    PhysOrg :New process transforms old milk jugs into everything from lab equipment to cell phone cases

    Open source or public domain is where everyone can change the "Made in [put country here]" and start putting the "Made in my garage"

     

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    AB, Mar 1st, 2013 @ 6:46pm

    Re:

    Right up to when the original manufacturer decides that since they made them, you should have to pay them for permission to recycle. But of course that will never happen; that would be as crazy as someone having to pay special license fees to listen to the radio in their business.

     

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    JEDIDIAH, Mar 1st, 2013 @ 6:53pm

    Been there, done that.

    This person neglects the history of these licenses.

    They exist specifically because this "assume everyone will play nice" approach failed. It failed very quickly. It only took one jerk to take advantage and create a commercial derivative.

    After that, the original contributors screamed bloody murder and the GPL was born.

    Copyleft licenses and copyright enforce equality and allow all collaborators to exist on an equal footing with each other. They ensure that one jerk won't take advantage of everyone else. This "law and order" approach to liberty is what allows collaboration with Free Software to flourish.

    It's all about the contributors.

    The honor system doesn't work. It was already tried.

    Liberty requires the rule of law.

     

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    Chris Maresca, Mar 1st, 2013 @ 7:16pm

    A professor who knows nothing of the real world...

    Disclaimer: For almost 10 years (from 2001 to 2010), I owned a firm that did open source strategy for almost all of the top tech companies (IBM, Intel, TI, Oracle, MSFT, HP, Google, Motorola, etc) as well as 3 of the top 5 banks in the US & UK, four national governments, 4 cabinet-level US gov't agencies, over 60 startups, including Facebook & eBay, plus foundations such as the Linux Foundation & Grameen Foundation. Needless to say, I have a _little_ knowledge in open source vs the real world....

    1. The professor completely mis-understands why open source exists - it exists because of free speech, not free beer. And the licenses are there to insure that the speech remains free, much like the US constitution guarantees freedom of speech. The genesis of this idea is that, in the early 1980's, some programmers realized that quite a lot of community knowledge in the craft of software production was being lost because code was not 'visible' to newly minted programmers. Worried about this trend, they came up with the radical idea of enforcing continued public availability of community knowledge through licensing. This radical notion eventually came to be branded as 'open source'. It is not about a community _producing_ software, it is about the knowledge related to _how_ it is produced being open & freely available. That knowledge, in software, is transmitted primarily through through source code.... The side effects of easier extensibility, crowdsourced development, communities, etc. are side-effects of this licensing model, but are NOT the primary reason for it. Public domain cannot achieve this (cf. tragedy of the commons) - it was the locking up of public goods (in particular EMACS) that cause people to think of this very model.

    2. That corporations and their lawyers don't understand open source is pretty much completely untrue. All F500 corporations have policies in place for the usage of open source and it is very well understood. It's so well understood that there are streamlined approval processes in most F500's that actually make it FAR easier to deploy & use open source than other types of licenses. Why? Because the licenses are all STANDARD - every GPLv2 license is exactly the same as every other GPLv2 license (etc). This is vastly different than proprietary licenses, each one of which is different and HAS to be vetted by legal... There are other issues related to using open source in commercial environments (support, IP isolation, etc) but legal issues due to licenses are definitely not one of them.

    Suffice it to say that this assistant professor has thought up an intellectually interesting thought that has zero bearing on the real world....

     

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    Spaceman Spiff (profile), Mar 1st, 2013 @ 7:41pm

    Re: A professor who knows nothing of the real world...

    Well put. The US government has shown its lack of respect for Public Domain, by placing PD works back into Copyright, long after the Copyright had expired. And we think they should be equally respectful of PD software? Right! That, and $5 will get you a nice latte at Starbucks these days! And to think, I still remember the 10c cuppa joe... :-)

    As stated, keeping FOSS under copyright keeps it protected from pinheads that will take advantage of it and then place their versions behind paywalls - witness the BusyBox kerfuffle a couple of years ago dealing with router and other set-top vendors who used BB's open source software without providing access to changes back to the community, as required by the GPL licenses that they had agreed to by using the software!

    So, PD is great, but there definitely is a place for GPL'd and CC'd licenses - you want to use it, NP. You want to charge for it (commercial use), pay us to support it! You want to change it? NP. Just provide proper attribution, and release the changes under the same caveats that we provided with the original source! PD doesn't allow for that, and yet that is what will keep the open source community health and vibrant - just my opinion... :-)

     

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    AB, Mar 1st, 2013 @ 8:02pm

    Re: A professor who knows nothing of the real world...

    Thank you, I found your response extremely well written and informative.

     

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  7. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
     
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    out_of_the_blue, Mar 1st, 2013 @ 8:02pm

    "Without that free labor..." -- Well, Apple wouldn't have an OS.

    And its billionaire owners took it without least pangs of conscience. That's why no one wants to contribute to "free" projects: as mentioned even here at DirtTech, people don't want others to profit more than themselves. -- By the way, that's the essence of the Luddites, a social movement much reviled by modern dolts who think it was machine-smashing, not revolt by exploited laborers.

    Anyhoo, I keep wondering if Minion Moody even notes that:

    a) Creative Commons licensing relies on being legally enforce-able, just as does other copyright.

    b) The moral right to insist on licensing terms isn't even in question: the products exist solely because of the creators.

    c) Every creator wants a reward, even if only notice.

    Now, the sum of those to me is that COPY RIGHT IS NATURAL. Open source is essentially the same as copyright in that the creators insist on keeping control! I suppose you might try 'splainin the diff, cause I just don't see WHY you're so down on "copyright"!

    Now. This is flatly wrong: "the public domain is the natural condition of all knowledge" -- NOPE. You're some kinda communist, aincha? -- Knowledge begins inside one individual's head. Of course many people can look at the same facts, that's "mere" perception of reality, but EACH individual brain must grind through whatever mysterious calculations that wet-ware does, and THEN it's knowledge, and THEN it can be "shared" -- but no one is required to do so either morally or practically -- and there's definitely no communal knowledge without developing a complex set of symbols... Meh. Like talking at dogs here, so I'm exercising my right to keep more in my head.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 1st, 2013 @ 9:16pm

    Re: "Without that free labor..." -- Well, Apple wouldn't have an OS.

    If there were no copyrights there would be no need for open source licenses it was exactly because creeps like you started taking away the public domain that open source was born.

    It uses the same legal tools and principles to basically achieve the same thing as a public domain, but one public domain with legal teeth in it you dolt.

     

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    Adrian Lopez, Mar 1st, 2013 @ 10:07pm

    Re: Been there, done that.

    They exist specifically because this "assume everyone will play nice" approach failed. It failed very quickly. It only took one jerk to take advantage and create a commercial derivative.

    There are plenty of successful projects which allow for closed-source commercial derivatives. All products licensed under the MIT, BSD and zlib licenses are of this sort, the licenses' main purpose being to ensure attribution and communicate the author's intent with respect to licensing.

    These licenses haven't killed the projects in question, and they aren't lacking contributors.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 1st, 2013 @ 10:56pm

    Re: "Without that free labor..." -- Well, Apple wouldn't have an OS.

    Knowledge naturally belongs to the public domain. No one has a natural license to truth. That you think there is such a license... well, we all know, already, that you're just a giant ROOSTER. (It's bad form to call someone a cock, even when they blatantly act like one, especially someone so ignorant as our ootb.)

     

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    Pixelation, Mar 2nd, 2013 @ 12:26am

    Re: "Without that free labor..." -- Well, Apple wouldn't have an OS.

    You say, "...COPY RIGHT IS NATURAL." and "...there's definitely no communal knowledge without developing a complex set of symbols..."

    Language (a complex set of symbols) is not natural, it is developed. Copyright only exists through language. No language, no copyright. I would even speculate that there are no rights at all without language. Society grants us rights through language. Even some we would like to believe are "inalienable", which is a laugh riot. For now, society says there is a copyright. Just don't conflate that with being natural.

     

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    gnudist, Mar 2nd, 2013 @ 12:54am

    Re: "Without that free labor..." -- Well, Apple wouldn't have an OS.

    I release under GPL to COMBAT the artificial monopoly of copyright. If there were no copyright I would not need the gpl.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 2nd, 2013 @ 1:27am

    would be very risky. someone would come along and put a patent on it or a copyright on it so as to get money. how many things have been taken out of the public domain, so as to enable someone to monetize it?

     

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    Chris Maresca, Mar 2nd, 2013 @ 2:28am

    Re: "Without that free labor..." -- Well, Apple wouldn't have an OS.

    I'm not even going to try to fully debunk your points because it's obvious you know little or nothing about how open source works in practice. Here are, however, a few things that showcase your deep, deep lack of understanding about contributors, copyright & licensing.

    1. The largest contributor to the Linux kernel recently was MSFT (yes)
    2. 90%+ of all Linux committers (and not just in the kernel) are paid to do so, e.g. it is part of their jobs.
    3. Among the largest contributors to open source in the last 15 years has been the finance industry. For the first 8 years of this period they ACTIVELY avoided any attribution (and mostly still do).
    4. Most formal entities (companies, gov'ts) prefer to contribute projects with more 'liberal' or zero licenses, although this has been changing in the past 5 years.
    5. Copyright is the basis for open source licensing and the mechanism by which all open source licenses are enforced.
    6. 'Public domain' is the natural state of information. There is no other state unless you assign licensing terms. Note that 'public domain' does not necessarily mean that no one has a copyright. Never mind that copyright did not exist until about 200 years ago when the first laws granted it to creators...
    7. AFAIK, there is only one country in the world that specifically allocates copyright as a 'natural right', eg. where copyright is a birthright, like free speech or the right to vote and cannot be given away.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 2nd, 2013 @ 5:34am

    I can prove the entire premise of this idea wrong very quickly.

    Apple, BSD, and OSX.

    Done.

     

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    special-interesting (profile), Mar 2nd, 2013 @ 6:13am

    Public domain although perfectly viable is yet an (popularly) unrecognized concept. (unfortunately).

    Open sourced software using gnu or other similar licensing has some restrictions in that the writer wants compensation when their brilliant (or worthless) contributions are used for profit. How do we as a society reward the individual software writers contributions? Some method would be cool. Public domain would not do this. Hard to analyze is the collaboration which the open sourced community provides.

    “(Apple is an example of one that has succeeded, basing its Mac OS X operating system on the free BSD version of Unix.)” Wow! I did not know that. I mean really... WOW! -metaphorically kicks S. Jobs- (I have learned something.)

    My theme lately is limiting the terms of copyright to much less that the lives of the audience say 15-30 years or so. Better yet kick the entire copyright amendment out and enact a new 'Right of Origin' amendment. (or whatever)

    This is a great topic that exemplifies the difficulty of rewarding ones personal coding effort and conflicting needs of the public at large. NOT resolved but it great to try to tackle it.

    Disclaimer: went Linux years ago. (Apple = Windows = walled proprietary garden = DUMP)

    Chris Maresa: beyond me but what I comprehend I agree with.

    Spaceman spiff: the 10c cuppa joe... (nostalgia) Inflation... monetary policy??? Yikes.

    out_of_the_blue (unregistered nick) raises good moral controversy. All solved by limiting copyright terms to less than the lives of the audience. (hehehe)

    Chris (again): “Microsoft has been a large contributor to open sourced software”. -suspicion- (the officially unsecured windows OS does not breed trust) #7 what country?

    To the topic: if copyright was limited to a term less than my (your) lifetime what would it matter about restrictive copyright terms? (gnu or otherwise?) It is culturally (vitally?) important that we be able to use what we learn within our own lifetimes!!! to enable our individual greatness, or that our entire lives be declared irrelevant? (wow what a concept! Please expand on this,)

     

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    PaulT (profile), Mar 2nd, 2013 @ 6:19am

    A simple answer to the question in the headline - no.

    The reason why open source licences exist rather than simply being public domain in the first place is that the corporate giants would most likely just steal the code, make whatever changes were necessary to take it out of the public domain, copyright it and lock it back up again. They'd probably then use their patents and copyright claims to shut down the public domain sources they stole from. You don't have to look any further than Microsoft's early reactions to Linux to see that this would happen.

    By making them open source, they are still protected by copyright against inevitable misuse, forcing those corporations to respect their creators and submit back to the community if they decide to contribute.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 2nd, 2013 @ 6:42am

    Re: "Without that free labor..." -- Well, Apple wouldn't have an OS.

    if "COPY RIGHT IS NATURAL" explain why in over 49,000 years of human history and 6,000 years of writing, copyright came in about 300 years after the invention of the printing press.
    Attribution is about the only right of creators that has been respected for any length of time.

     

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    PaulT (profile), Mar 2nd, 2013 @ 7:11am

    Re: "Without that free labor..." -- Well, Apple wouldn't have an OS.

    Dear god, why do you insist on posting things about technology? You clearly don't understand any of the basics...

    A quick rebuttal:

    - You *are* aware that not only is OSX heavily modified from its FreeBSD source, but that it's not Apple's first OS, right? They had OSes well before they touched open source, why wouldn't they have one now without it?

    - No one wants to contribute to free projects? I can post links to hundreds of thousands of projects that prove you wrong, but your idiocy is clear enought without the need for citation.

    - Copyright is natural? A legally enforced restriction on what people can do with content, that only appeared in very recent history, is natural? I shudder to think at the kind of society your fictional world contains, but thankfully it's fictional and nothing to do with the world the rest of us inhabit.

    - Also, I'm not surprised that you haven't got a clue what knowledge actually is. It makes sense that someone so completely and consistently wrong as yourself doesn't understand knowledge.

     

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    aikiwolfie (profile), Mar 2nd, 2013 @ 10:20am

    "Open source licenses are often described as the "constitutions" for the communities that form around the software they govern. That would seem to imply that in their absence, alongside other unwanted consequences, the communities would collapse. A provocative paper by Clark Asay, Assistant Professor at Penn State University Dickinson School of Law, suggests that this isn't the case, and that software could be released into the public domain and yet still thrive as a collaborative project."

    I've never known anybody to even suggest this. The purpose of the GPL is to stop industry or other entities building on open source code and then refusing to share their improvements. Clearly such entities would not really be part of the core community and would just be bit part actors on the side lines scraping up scraps of code from the web.

    The problem is not so much the "not sharing". It's the unfair advantage they gain.

     

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    Evgeniy, Mar 2nd, 2013 @ 10:54am

    Re: Chris Maresca

    Hi,
    I'm sorry for my ignorance, but I think this question really belongs here: I naturally thought that releasing information into the public domain means that anyone can access it at any time in the future. Isn't it the case?

    If this is the case, why do you think that if information has been put into the public domain, then it may get lost? If someone uses it and hides the derivatives, it doesn't really mean leakage, because the original information is still available. I guess that in the past the free licenses — this kind of protectionism — were really necessary to ensure that the free approach to dealing with information would find its safe path in the world of commerce; was this really the cause? If it was, then how much necessary they are now for people developing free software? In the case of software, industry has appreciated free knowledge now... Thank you for your analysis!

    ---------------
    Re: out_of_the_blue

    Hi,
    Thank you for your post. I think that by "the public domain is the natural condition of all knowledge" Mr.Moody meant that one cannot reasonably own knowledge, it is simply impossible; knowledge (laws of logic and nature) does exist outside any individual and as such cannot be "owned". Therefore, it cannot be "shared"; it would be like sharing stars or sharing air.

    Practically: sure, one doesn't have to "share" what appeared in his or her mind, but if someone else learns the same thing, generally it is not fair to restrict her/him to develop what s|he learned, possibly by examining others' results. This would be a restriction (violation) of a natural and worthy freedom. The problem is that while knowledge doesn't belong to anyone, work does; and the question is whether, and if yes then when and how, work can be protected and "shared". By protecting its results? But what if some part of the results are knowledge, which is, in theory, free? Maybe, in some other way? Looks like difficult questions...

    By the way: the "share-everything-you-have" approach is a very simplistic description of communism, and, as I suspect, a quite erroneous one. But this is a difficult question, too; there are many different communisms described by many people, to begin with.

    Thank you again for sharing your thoughts.

    -----------------------
    Please forgive me my mistakes of word usage or grammar; I am not a native speaker of English nor ever tried to learn it thoroughly.

     

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    ldne, Mar 2nd, 2013 @ 3:24pm

    Re: "Without that free labor..." -- Well, Apple wouldn't have an OS.

    Because the vast majority of people screaming about copyright infringement and piracy are not the creators of what they're screaming about and are instead people who essentially create nothing at all. copyright isn't natural, at all, as naturally, if I am capable I can create for myself a copy of anything I can examine and my capability is the natural limitation. Technology changes that limitation in many areas, but I still have to be capable of using the technology, I must know how to do make it work. Copyright is a limitation on my natural ability, and my extended ability through technology, to copy what I can examine. The majority of Open Source licenses on the other hand are not a limitation on my ability to copy, but are instead a requirement that I share what I learn from my copy with others so as to foster improvements.

     

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    nasch (profile), Mar 2nd, 2013 @ 8:28pm

    Re: "Without that free labor..." -- Well, Apple wouldn't have an OS.

    And its billionaire owners took [BSD] without least pangs of conscience.

    Why would they have pangs of conscience? They didn't violate the license.

     

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    nasch (profile), Mar 2nd, 2013 @ 8:30pm

    Re:

    Apple = Windows = walled proprietary garden = DUMP

    How is Windows a walled garden? There's plenty to criticize about it, but you can put any software you feel like installing on a Windows machine.

     

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    Brad (profile), Mar 2nd, 2013 @ 11:01pm

    There are plenty of open-source programs that are, in fact, in the public domain — SQLite would be one example thereof. (And if for whatever reason your lawyers don't think that's clear enough, it's possible to buy an explicit license.)

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 3rd, 2013 @ 12:28pm

    Re: Re:

    It must have been a while since you used Windows. They are at version 8 now. It includes a walled garden named Metro. The ability to run non-Metro apps is legacy, planned for removal. UEFI which is a required part of a computer for Windows 8 to run on it means you cannot install any non-Microsoft approved OS. Unless you're smart enough to buy a computer that UEFI can be disabled on you will be walled in like you can't imagine.

     

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    nasch (profile), Mar 3rd, 2013 @ 3:40pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    It must have been a while since you used Windows.

    I'm using it right now.

    The ability to run non-Metro apps is legacy, planned for removal.

    In other words, still there.

     

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    Chris Maresca, Mar 3rd, 2013 @ 5:38pm

    Re:

    Open sourced software using gnu or other similar licensing has some restrictions in that the writer wants compensation when their brilliant (or worthless) contributions are used for profit.

    That's simply not true. No open source license says you cannot use the software for profit, it merely says you have to release your modifications under the same license as the original software.

    This is fundamental and pretty much invalidates the rest of your comment.

    And, BTW - http://bit.ly/YItrC9

     

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    spodula, Mar 4th, 2013 @ 1:38am

    Oh yeah?

    "...."there are transaction costs associated with it."
    There are costs associated with complying with any license. There are less for most open source licenses.

    "no mean task if corporate lawyers are unfamiliar with the subtleties of this world."
    If your contract and licence lawyers are unfamiliar with the subtlties of licencing, you should probably kick them out and get lawyers who know their jobs.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 4th, 2013 @ 5:28am

    Re: Re: "Without that free labor..." -- Well, Apple wouldn't have an OS.

    Re: "Without that free labor..." -- Well, Apple wouldn't have an OS.

    NO, they simply would not have THAT OS, they would have an OS, just like Microsoft has an OS, and IBM has an OS.

    you could just as easily say, that without UNIX there would be no open source OS !!!

    Much if not most of the knowledge that has gone into the Open Source OS, or applications has been taken from knowledge gained by commercial, proprietary and closed system.

    NOT from being OPEN, but from using knowledge gained from CLOSED systems.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 4th, 2013 @ 5:42am

    Re: Re: "Without that free labor..." -- Well, Apple wouldn't have an OS.

    what's this bullshit about 'natural' ?? do know what natural means ??? what is 'unnatural' ?

    something that is natural is defined as 'exists in nature', a tin can therefore is natural, it's NOT unnatural !!!

    Someone said language was developed and not natural, Most people would agree that language developed naturally.

    It was not 'developed' it developed naturally, language, like knowledge is a natural thing, language is a form of communication, not the communication itself. Language, as communication has been around much longer than written language, as long as language has existed, copyright would have existed, it developed naturally just as language developed.

    nor does natural equate to good, or better, for better for you, plutonium is natural, just as snake venom is, as is arsenic.

    also, copyright or language is not knowledge, either is a written document, or computer source code, none of that is knowledge, knowledge is not related to WHAT YOU HAVE, it relates to what you know, within your brain/mind.

    It's got nothing to do with information, you can have all the information in the world and have zero knowledge or understanding.

    I know the authors like to play with word meaning, and the meaning of anything, these same people make a living from the application of THEIR KNOWLEDGE, processed in their own brains. They also put their name on what they write, making it clear they have claimed ownership of that expression of knowledge.

     

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  32.  
    identicon
    k, Mar 4th, 2013 @ 7:18am

     

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  33.  
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    Mason Wheeler (profile), Mar 4th, 2013 @ 11:06am

    Re: Been there, done that.

    They exist specifically because this "assume everyone will play nice" approach failed. It failed very quickly. It only took one jerk to take advantage and create a commercial derivative.

    After that, the original contributors screamed bloody murder and the GPL was born.


    ...proving once again that people are stupid. "Oh, look at this horrible extreme thing that's causing harm. We need to reject this and fight against its harmful effects. I know! Let's set up a new system that's just as extremist as the problematic idea we're trying to reject, and push it as The Only True Way now. What a brilliant idea!"

    The GPL is not about getting more people to use (and to contribute to) your code; it's about pushing a strict anti-proprietary-software ideology on everyone in the name of "freedom". And it's given the entire concept of open source software a black eye because a lot of people equate open source with the GPL and all of its ugly restrictions. No one has done more harm to the essentially good ideas behind open source than Richard Stallman and the FSF.

     

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  34.  
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    Mason Wheeler (profile), Mar 4th, 2013 @ 11:11am

    Re: Re: "Without that free labor..." -- Well, Apple wouldn't have an OS.

    That depends on whether you're talking about written language (a set of symbolic images) or spoken language (a set of symbolic sounds). Spoken language actually is natural, as evidenced by the fact that a "speech center" exists in the brain, whose entire purpose is learning to speak. It atrophies sometime in the second decade of life, which is why learning a second language later in life is so much more difficult than picking up your first one.

    There is, however, no equivalent "reading center". That's purely an invented concept.

     

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  35.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 4th, 2013 @ 11:15am

    Re: Been there, done that.

    The point is that creators want to place limits on their work (e.g., no closed commercial derivatives, can only use it with attribution, etc.).

    If you just want to give it to the world with no strings attached, public domain is fine.

     

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  36.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 4th, 2013 @ 11:17am

    Re: Re: Been there, done that.

    Plus, most the GPL versions are not written very well (although it's not surprising that the first couple iterations of something new are imperfect).

     

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  37.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 4th, 2013 @ 12:12pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    "I'm using it right now."

    While it's true Microsoft had in the past made operating systems that were not walled in, that was the past. And the fact that you are currently still using one of those is irrelevant to the current corporate offerings.


    "In other words, still there."

    Windows still has a part not walled in, but there is still the other side that is walled in. So Windows is a walled garden, much like websites that have some stuff public and other stuff behind a wall.

     

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  38.  
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    nasch (profile), Mar 4th, 2013 @ 12:37pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    And the fact that you are currently still using one of those is irrelevant to the current corporate offerings.

    1. I was responding to your speculation that I haven't used Windows recently. 2. The original quote did not reference "current corporate offerings" but "Windows".

    Windows still has a part not walled in, but there is still the other side that is walled in. So Windows is a walled garden, much like websites that have some stuff public and other stuff behind a wall.

    The vast majority of current Windows installations are open. And that will likely remain so for several years at least. Part of the most recent Windows OS is a walled garden. And my understanding is you don't have to use that part; you can just use the open part. So I still maintain the assertion "Windows is a walled garden" is inaccurate.

     

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  39.  
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    N.Olsen (profile), Mar 4th, 2013 @ 3:26pm

    Apple's success...

    I'd say that Apple's "success" with BSD Unix is actually the perfect example of what you're talking about. They may have "succeeded" in keeping the best parts of their code in-house, but they've had to sacrifice security and speed of updates as part of the process.

    I'd say that Apple could release more updates faster and be more secure than they are if they'd leverage the power of the community a bit better.

    ...but who am I to argue with the Ghost of Steve Jobs?

     

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  40.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 4th, 2013 @ 8:46pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Current NOT past versions of Windows are so walled in they require that the computer hardware be set to disallow booting any operating systems not authorized by Microsoft.

    The name Windows must be meant to represent the kind with bars. Windows = walled proprietary garden!

     

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  41.  
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    tomxp411 (profile), Mar 5th, 2013 @ 11:08am

    Re: Re: Been there, done that.

    I release code under GPL, and I don't do it for any political reason.

    I just happen to believe that a "pay it forward" license like the GPL makes the most sense for free software. While the license isn't perfect, it's a lot easier than writing my own license.

    Ideally, I would like to see a GPL variant that excludes commercial exploitation.. I don't want to see my free programs bundled up and sold on EBay, for example.

    But GPL works perfectly for what it was designed for; it keeps projects like Linux free for people that need free, and it mandates that companies like Red Hat and Google to give their improvements back to the community.

    I honestly don't think the current free software ecosystem would be doing nearly as well today without a license like GPL behind it.

     

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  42.  
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    tomxp411 (profile), Mar 5th, 2013 @ 11:16am

    Re: Re: Re:

    They are at version 8 now. It includes a walled garden named Metro. The ability to run non-Metro apps is legacy, planned for removal.

    The first thing I installed on all 3 of my Windows 8 computers is Chrome.

    Chrome can run on the Metro full screen interface or on the desktop.

    Chrome did NOT come from the Microsoft store.

    So please explain how my walled garden OS is allowing me to run a Metro app that I didn't get from Microsoft?

     

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  43.  
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    nasch (profile), Mar 5th, 2013 @ 11:32am

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    So please explain how my walled garden OS is allowing me to run a Metro app that I didn't get from Microsoft?

    By "Windows is a walled garden" he seems to mean "some future version of Windows will probably be a walled garden". ;-)

     

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  44.  
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    Rod Donovan, Mar 13th, 2013 @ 6:24am

    Re: Been there, done that.

    "A provocative paper by Clark Asay, Assistant Professor at Penn State University Dickinson School of Law, suggests that this isn't the case, and that software could be released into the public domain and yet still thrive as a collaborative project."

    Just another PhD, that doesn't know what he is talking about. If someone designs, and builds a better mouse trap, to just give it away would be a loss of time, and money. No one works for a loss! Since there is no patent, or licensing use, someone will profit from the inventors loss. As always, lawyers get in the way. The GPL provides the inventor a standards use contract that can be take to court if need be. Also, it gives credit where credit is due. To just release it to the public domain is foolish. I declare Dr. Clark Asay's paper null and void.

     

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  45.  
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    nasch (profile), Mar 13th, 2013 @ 9:33am

    Re: Re: Been there, done that.

    If someone designs, and builds a better mouse trap, to just give it away would be a loss of time, and money. No one works for a loss!

    How is that any more giving it away than releasing something under the GPL?

     

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  46.  
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    Greg Blackburn, Jul 19th, 2013 @ 9:49am

    I like where this is going...

    Any way to encourage efficiency and allow growth and improvement will give value. Just make sure it's legal and not crossing any ethical boundaries.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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