[LINK] GPL .. good or bad?

Richard Chirgwin rchirgwin at ozemail.com.au
Thu Apr 30 19:07:36 AEST 2009

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
>> In all worlds, markets seek efficiency, because investors are 
>> constantly 
>> seeking the best return on capital. Thus guarantees the most 
>> efficient 
>> system will win, eventually. The flip side of this is that 
>> markets will 
>> punish those who adopt the less efficient mode. They'll be 
>> outcompeted. 
>> Capital will flow away from them.
>> <snip>
>> If we live in "Type A" a universe where closed source is more 
>> efficient, 
>> markets will eventually punish people who take closed source 
>> code open. 
>> Markets will correspondingly reward people who take open 
>> source closed. 
>> In this kind of universe, open source is doomed; the GPL will be 
>> subverted or routed around by efficiency-seeking investors as 
>> surely as 
>> water flows downhill.
>> <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.

Who said "wise"? :-)

But I'm not sure I agree with the premise anyhow.

First: the reason I've eventually swapped to Linux had nothing to do with the
philosophies of open source, and nor with getting the software for nothing. I
swapped because Windows became unbearably painful to use: four hours with Vista
was all I needed.

Second: I also use an open source geographic system called Grass-GIS. It's got a
code base stretching back more than 20 years. So the inevitable gravity towards
commercial software somehow hasn't killed this particular project.

Third: How can markets punish the free project? They can't. There can be users,
or non-users, but there is no "punishment", at least not in the sense that the
markets punished other spreadsheets for not being Excel.

But there's another issue at work in the Eric Raymond article. With great skill,
he manages to blur the issue so as to use a discussion of the economic funding
model to attack the licensing model.

It is, in fact, garbled reasoning. Economic efficiency is only adequate to
measure economic units; it cannot measure the externals.


> Tom
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