Comments on: GNU democrats http://www.lessig.org/2002/10/gnu-democrats/ Blog, news, books Tue, 10 Oct 2017 06:01:00 +0000 hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.8.2 By: John Moore http://www.lessig.org/2002/10/gnu-democrats/#comment-27234 Fri, 17 Jan 2003 19:02:27 +0000 http://lessig.org/blog/2002/10/gnu_democrats.html#comment-27234 The problem with government funding of GPL is the reduction of the freedoms of its citizens to use the software. They can only use it in one way – with the “viral” GPL license.

On the other hand, the current practice of providing public domain code precludes neither subsequent GPL licensing nor proprietary licensing. It is the maximal freedom approach. For example, an open source group (GPL, BSD, or whatever form of license) may base a project on the code. At the same time, a closed source company may also pick it up and sell (and hopefully enhance) it.

A lot of software simply doesn’t make it into the open source world because it is not worth it, given the open source “business models.” Either there is no profit in it or there is no appeal to working on it. This software, typically specialized, will likely be abandoned unless companies can add proprietary value and distribute the result in a closed source mode.

Other software will support the open source process, and some may thrive in both environments.

It is important to recognize that government funded code is likely to be undergeneralized, hard to install, not very friendly and perhaps not very portable. Much of the best software ideas come from academic research, but the code and its packaging are likely lacking. Sometimes the only way the software will provide maximal (or any) utility in the private world is for a private company to pick it up and do the work, and reap their reward through closed source. Examples of this include popular commercial math packages used by many academics.

Even if the binaries are simply placed in a nice box and put on a store shelf, value is added or nobody buys it. In this case, the company may make an obscene profit, but what’s the harm?

I have other comments about this on my blog although they are intentionally of a more polemical nature.

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By: John Juergensen http://www.lessig.org/2002/10/gnu-democrats/#comment-27233 Fri, 01 Nov 2002 09:10:26 +0000 http://lessig.org/blog/2002/10/gnu_democrats.html#comment-27233 IBM just announced a $10 BILLION commitment to their “On Demand” computing strategy, a big part of which is predicated on open-source software. No doubt they’re making this commitment in anticipation of the extreme difficulty of earning a profit due to GPL’d code.

Sheesh, this would in itself seem a prima facie rebuttal to Adam Smith’s concern.

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By: Eric Lyons http://www.lessig.org/2002/10/gnu-democrats/#comment-27232 Wed, 30 Oct 2002 17:21:25 +0000 http://lessig.org/blog/2002/10/gnu_democrats.html#comment-27232 I find it troubling that a government — whose funding comes from _me_ — would produce something to which I have either no or restricted access. Excepting cases of national security, isn’t a government licensing mechanism really just a specialized tax?

Note that this isn’t to say that a government patent isn’t a bad thing; on the contrary, I think it’s an excellent way of keeping citizen-funded R&D in the public domain.

But that’s not how it seems to work.

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By: Peter Cordes http://www.lessig.org/2002/10/gnu-democrats/#comment-27231 Tue, 29 Oct 2002 00:26:58 +0000 http://lessig.org/blog/2002/10/gnu_democrats.html#comment-27231 Note that _most_ corporations don’t sell proprietary software. Most corps are not in the software industry at all, and only use software. For software they develop for their own use, they have little reason to avoid the GPL. The group of corporations who might want to do something with gov’t funded software includes more than just companies who develop and support Free software for others to use.

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