27 February 2009

This isn't “Open Source”

As a kind of pint-sized free software fidei defensor I feel obliged to counter some of the misconceptions that are put about on the subject around the Web. But I find myself in a slightly embarrassing situation here, in that I need to comment on some statements that have appeared in the virtual pages of Computerworld UK....

On Open Enterprise blog.


Crosbie Fitch said...

I'd say that the essence of free software is that the purchaser effectively does buy the software (unless they're given it free of charge).

It is only copyright or patent that prevents the recipient enjoying what would otherwise be their property to do with as they wish.

Unfortunately, given copyright and patent are still with us, the only way their constraints can be neutralised is via an adhesive copyleft license, i.e. the GPL.

If you buy GPL software, you are assured that it is as if you bought it unencumbered by legal constraint or privilege (though it may still be at the mercy of 3rd party patents).

The notion that when one buys an intellectual work, one only purchases temporary and conditional liberty to a loaned, ephemeral copy of it is pernicious.

It would thus be more appropriate to say that GPL software is the only software that can be purchased.

Glyn Moody said...

Yes, that's an interesting way of looking at it. Of course, the *actual* situation is slightly different because of the GPL hack. Which means that you do license it, which was my point in this argument.