[LINK] GPL .. good or bad?

Kim Holburn kim at holburn.net
Thu Apr 30 19:34:00 AEST 2009

I think Eric Raymond is simply wrong in his article and Sam Varghese  
pointed it out well:

> Anyone who hasn't been living under a rock for the last three years  
> is fully aware that the global economy is shot to pieces. The  
> problems started in America because people were sold dodgy mortgages  
> by hucksters masquerading as real estate brokers. A large number of  
> banks have failed. People have lost their jobs by the million.
> In the midst of such a situation, a man who advances an argument  
> that the markets can seek efficiency and attain it is talking  
> rubbish. The markets are controlled by human beings. And it is these  
> flawed human beings who decide the direction things take by means of  
> the crooked or straight tactics they use.
> Thus, the most efficient system does not win. The system that is  
> willing to bend the rules to its advantage, use its contacts to  
> avoid prosecution and its money to lessen resistance and shape  
> public opinion wins. Let me say just one word here: Microsoft.


> Raymond can keep arguing that it's political failure, not market  
> failure, that has led to the current mess. But then he fails to  
> realise that a perfect free-market system where nobody intervenes  
> and everybody plays by the rules will never exist. We might as well  
> believe in the unicorn.
> People often complain that the GPL hinders business because of its  
> viral nature. But they fail to realise that what they term "viral"  
> is just meant to, as the Australian Democrats put it, "keep the  
> bastards honest."

But the key point really is that the open source model is really an  
ancient, well-tested model.  Human knowledge and art have developed  
over several thousands, possibly tens of thousands of years or more,  
by open collaboration. ie by sharing, ideas, copying ideas, parts of  
ideas, adding to others ideas, building on the ideas of others etc.

It is how scientists and mathematicians work, how science and maths  
started and developed.  It is how most of scientific and mathematical  
knowledge is developed at our universities.  It is a method seriously  
tried and tested over thousands of years.  It works in a lot of  
different economic and political environments.  We know it works  
because it got us where we are now.

The current tendency towards locking ideas up using intellectual  
property of various kinds is not only very, very new but unproven:  
there is no proof that intellectual property rights have any positive  
effect on innovation and creativity and there is even evidence of the  

As for the economic models of open source, it is the GPL that allows  
big companies like IBM to seriously fund open source development with  
developers who get paid salaries for developing stuff.  IBM and many  
others fund this work because they know that other people can't lock  
away their work and they benefit from everyone else's work.  They are  
adapting to OS models with new business models which are making OS  
even more successful.

It's possible to base proprietary work on GPL code.  I have a  
marvellous device: a TomTom.  It runs linux, and it is rock solid and  
stable and TomTom publishes the source etc to comply with the GPL but  
the main navigation application and data are proprietary and closed.   
All legal and in compliance with the GPL.

On 2009/Apr/30, at 9:27 AM, Tom Koltai wrote:
>> -----Original Message-----
>> From: link-bounces at mailman1.anu.edu.au
>> [mailto:link-bounces at mailman1.anu.edu.au] On Behalf Of
>> stephen at melbpc.org.au
>> Sent: Thursday, 30 April 2009 4:15 PM
>> To: link at anu.edu.au
>> Subject: [LINK] GPL .. good or bad?
>> GPL: why Eric Raymond is wrong
>> by Sam Varghese, Thursday, 30 April 2009
>> http://www.itwire.com/content/view/24739/1231
>> Snip>
>> The Economic Case Against the GPL  http://esr.ibiblio.org/?p=928
>> <snnip>
> Unfortunately - this is the problem.
> For open source to be successful - unfortunately it needs to be closed
> before investors will consider it to be capable of providing them a
> return.
> GPL release programmers havent yet learnt that the Akamai's and  
> Junipers
> of the world started with open source and raised their capital by
> closing the GPL - and then tuning it.
> When young programmers learn that their efforts at purely open source
> will doom them to an old age that has lots of kudos, but few shekels
> they are usually already old programmers.
> But that is the way of the world, that we call capitalism.
> Wisdom comes from the realisation of mortality - what I call the  
> creaky
> bone sydneome - at about .... 45.
> For those of you thinking on how I could say somehting as wise as
> this...... Pretend I didn't.

Kim Holburn
IT Network & Security Consultant
Ph: +39 06 855 4294  M: +39 3494957443
mailto:kim at holburn.net  aim://kimholburn
skype://kholburn - PGP Public Key on request

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