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Free software? You can't just give it away
Times Online ^ | February 21, 2006 | Times Online

Posted on 02/23/2006 7:31:29 AM PST by N3WBI3

Who could be upset by a scheme that allows free use of software? Well, Gervase Markham has found one Trading Standards officer who is

Who could possibly be upset with the Mozilla Foundation for giving away its Firefox browser?

One of my roles at the Mozilla Foundation relates to copyright licensing. I'm responsible for making sure that the software we distribute respects the conditions of the free software licences of the underlying code. I'm also the first point of contact for licensing questions.

Most of the time, this job involves helping people who want to use our code in their own products understand the terms, or advising project members who want to integrate code from another project into our codebase. Occasionally, however, something a little more unusual comes along.

A little while ago, I received an e-mail from a lady in the Trading Standards department of a large northern town. They had encountered businesses which were selling copies of Firefox, and wanted to confirm that this was in violation of our licence agreements before taking action against them. * Click here to find out more!

I wrote back, politely explaining the principles of copyleft – that the software was free, both as in speech and as in price, and that people copying and redistributing it was a feature, not a bug. I said that selling verbatim copies of Firefox on physical media was absolutely fine with us, and we would like her to return any confiscated CDs and allow us to continue with our plan for world domination (or words to that effect).

Unfortunately, this was not well received. Her reply was incredulous:

"I can't believe that your company would allow people to make money from something that you allow people to have free access to. Is this really the case?" she asked.

"If Mozilla permit the sale of copied versions of its software, it makes it virtually impossible for us, from a practical point of view, to enforce UK anti-piracy legislation, as it is difficult for us to give general advice to businesses over what is/is not permitted."

I felt somewhat unnerved at being held responsible for the disintegration of the UK anti-piracy system. Who would have thought giving away software could cause such difficulties?

However, given that the free software movement is unlikely collectively to decide to go proprietary in order to make her life easier, I had another go, using examples like Linux and the OpenOffice office suite to show that it's not just Firefox which is throwing a spanner in the works.

She then asked me to identify myself, so that she could confirm that I was authorised to speak for the Mozilla Foundation on this matter. I wondered if she was imagining nefarious copyright-infringing street traders taking a few moments off from shouting about the price of bananas to pop into an internet cafe, crack a router and intercept her e-mail.

However, the more I thought about it, providing a sensible reply to that question is somewhat difficult. How could I prove I was authorised to speak for the Foundation? We're a virtual organisation – we have three employees, one in Vancouver, one in Virginia and one in leafy North London, with no office or registered trading address in the UK. As far as the Mozilla part of my life goes, my entire existence is electronic.

In the end, I just had to say that the fact that I am capable of receiving and replying to e-mail addressed to licensing@mozilla.org would have to be sufficient. She would just have to take it on trust that I was not a router-cracking banana merchant. She must have done so, as I never heard from her again.

While the identity verification aspect of this incident is amusing, what is more serious is the set of assumptions her e-mails implied. It demonstrates how the free software model disrupts the old proprietary way of doing things, where copying was theft and you were guilty until proven innocent.

In a world where both types of software exist, greater discernment is required on the part of the enforcers. I hope this is the beginning of the end of any automatic assumption that sharing software with your neighbour must be a crime.

Gervase Markham says that he works for the Mozilla Foundation, a non-profit organisation dedicated to promoting choice and innovation on the internet. Of course, he may just be a banana seller. His blog is Hacking For Christ


TOPICS: Computers/Internet
KEYWORDS: firefox; mozilla; opensource
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1 posted on 02/23/2006 7:31:31 AM PST by N3WBI3
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To: N3WBI3; ShadowAce; Tribune7; frogjerk; Salo; LTCJ; Calvinist_Dark_Lord; amigatec; Fractal Trader; ..

OSS PING

If you are interested in the OSS ping list please mail me

2 posted on 02/23/2006 7:32:06 AM PST by N3WBI3 (If SCO wants to go fishing they should buy a permit and find a lake like the rest of us..)
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To: N3WBI3
I wrote back, politely explaining the principles of copyleft – that the software was free

This statement leaves me troubled about the agenda of Mozilla. I better check on my supply of tin foil.....

3 posted on 02/23/2006 7:39:33 AM PST by The_Victor (If all I want is a warm feeling, I should just wet my pants.)
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To: N3WBI3; Golden Eagle; Bush2000

Free Software... You get what you pay for!!

Where's rdb3??!!


4 posted on 02/23/2006 7:46:55 AM PST by Incorrigible (If I lead, follow me; If I pause, push me; If I retreat, kill me.)
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To: The_Victor

Don't worry. Copyleft has nothing to do with politics.


5 posted on 02/23/2006 7:51:41 AM PST by ShadowAce (Linux -- The Ultimate Windows Service Pack)
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To: ShadowAce; The_Victor

"copyleft" has everything to do with politics. Just as the article admits, it aims to turn our capitalistic society on it's head, and communist governments the world over are flocking to it.


6 posted on 02/23/2006 8:02:38 AM PST by Golden Eagle
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To: rdb3

Where's rdb3??


7 posted on 02/23/2006 8:05:43 AM PST by Incorrigible (If I lead, follow me; If I pause, push me; If I retreat, kill me.)
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To: ShadowAce
Don't worry. Copyleft has nothing to do with politics.

Not directly, but it does reflect a certain naivety that translates into stupid politics.

It also represents an unsustainable economic idea: give something away free so that somebody else can make a buck on it.

The problem is that development and maintenance of open source code involve real costs. The Open Source model assumes that those costs will always be absorbed by good-hearted programmers, for free to everybody else.

Over time, however, the desire for stability within a company's code base, coupled with divergence from Open Source as companies modify Open Source for their own needs, ends up killing the model.

Eventually, somebody simply grabs the Open Source, locks it down as a baseline, and starts selling their own modifications to all comers.

8 posted on 02/23/2006 8:05:51 AM PST by r9etb
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To: Golden Eagle
"copyleft" has everything to do with politics.

Wrong.

Just as the article admits,...

You must've read something I didn't. Where?

9 posted on 02/23/2006 8:09:57 AM PST by ShadowAce (Linux -- The Ultimate Windows Service Pack)
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To: r9etb
Eventually, somebody simply grabs the Open Source, locks it down as a baseline, and starts selling their own modifications to all comers.

And in doing so violates SOX, and Copyright law..

10 posted on 02/23/2006 8:10:41 AM PST by N3WBI3 (If SCO wants to go fishing they should buy a permit and find a lake like the rest of us..)
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To: r9etb
Eventually, somebody simply grabs the Open Source, locks it down as a baseline, and starts selling their own modifications to all comers.

Example? You're projecting based on your belief of what FLOSS, GPL, and copyleft are. With Sarbanes-Oxley, doing what you describe could actually mean prison for the offender.

11 posted on 02/23/2006 8:12:12 AM PST by ShadowAce (Linux -- The Ultimate Windows Service Pack)
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To: ShadowAce

Copyleft has alot to do with politics. Specifically the politics(policy) of how software is created, distributed, and maintained. It has little to do with politics in the general sense of national politics.

:-P


12 posted on 02/23/2006 8:15:46 AM PST by Halfmanhalfamazing (Linux, the #2 OS. Mac, the #3 OS. Apple's own numbers are hard to argue with.)
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To: ShadowAce
Example?

Hmmmm. The kerfluffle about JAVA springs immediately to mind....

13 posted on 02/23/2006 8:16:31 AM PST by r9etb
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To: N3WBI3
allow us to continue with our plan for world domination

I knew it!

14 posted on 02/23/2006 8:18:04 AM PST by stainlessbanner (Downhome Dixie)
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To: Golden Eagle

Open source is inherently more capitalistic than the business models of MS or apple.....

Besides, your argument makes zero sense.

^^^^^^^^^^^and communist governments the world over are flocking to it.^^^^^^^^^^^

Communist governments flocked to windows at one point. That didn't make windows communist then.

And now that these governments are leaving windows, that doesn't make windows less communistic now.

It's how the models are set up. Microsoft spends alot more time trying to make you dependent than the OSS crowd. Is that capitalistic or communistic? Hmmmm?


15 posted on 02/23/2006 8:18:24 AM PST by Halfmanhalfamazing (Linux, the #2 OS. Mac, the #3 OS. Apple's own numbers are hard to argue with.)
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To: r9etb
(1) Java was not opensource
(2) As a part of one it was under not under the GPL
(3) The court found against MS who was the party trying to splinter Java
16 posted on 02/23/2006 8:18:52 AM PST by N3WBI3 (If SCO wants to go fishing they should buy a permit and find a lake like the rest of us..)
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To: Halfmanhalfamazing
Specifically the politics(policy) of how software is created, distributed, and maintained.

OK. Chalk one up. I was thinking right/left national politics. :)

17 posted on 02/23/2006 8:18:58 AM PST by ShadowAce (Linux -- The Ultimate Windows Service Pack)
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To: r9etb
somebody simply grabs the Open Source, locks it down as a baseline, and starts selling their own modifications to all comers.

Violates the GPL most open source software is published under.

18 posted on 02/23/2006 8:20:14 AM PST by stainlessbanner (Downhome Dixie)
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To: Golden Eagle
"copyleft" has everything to do with politics. Just as the article admits, it aims to turn our capitalistic society on it's head, and communist governments the world over are flocking to it.

His blog is "Hacking for Christ." That kind of puts a dent in a chain of arguments seen on FR: OSS is communist, communism is anti-Christian. Well, here's an outspoken Christian leading one of the most prominent OSS projects.

19 posted on 02/23/2006 8:23:10 AM PST by antiRepublicrat
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To: ShadowAce

LOL!!! I know you were. That's why I tried to be overly clear.


20 posted on 02/23/2006 8:23:56 AM PST by Halfmanhalfamazing (Linux, the #2 OS. Mac, the #3 OS. Apple's own numbers are hard to argue with.)
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To: stainlessbanner

Perhaps. But once BobCo makes its in-house changes to its version of open-source ... which it's perfectly free to do ... then it has assumed a monetary stake in the outcome. The Open Source model does not account for that.


21 posted on 02/23/2006 8:24:22 AM PST by r9etb
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To: r9etb
The Open Source model does not account for that.

Sure it does. BobCo has a choice. Keep the mods in-house (perfectly legal), or make the changes available to the public.

If BobCo chooses the first option, they do not have to make their changes/mods available to anyone.

22 posted on 02/23/2006 8:27:11 AM PST by ShadowAce (Linux -- The Ultimate Windows Service Pack)
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To: ShadowAce
How could you have missed it?

the free software model disrupts the old proprietary way of doing things

Clearly socialist speak, degrading our capitalistic society as "the old proprietary way of doing things." Of course, this article comes from one of your favorite overseas sources as well.

23 posted on 02/23/2006 8:29:10 AM PST by Golden Eagle
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To: stainlessbanner; Golden Eagle
Violates the GPL most open source software is published under.

Why are we even talking about the GPL on this thread? Mozilla.org publishes software under the Mozilla Public License, which is a bit more commercial-friendly.

24 posted on 02/23/2006 8:29:36 AM PST by antiRepublicrat
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To: Golden Eagle

^^^^^^^^^^^^^Clearly socialist speak, degrading our capitalistic society as "the old proprietary way of doing things."^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

Not necessarily. You're assuming the new way is socialistic.

There's no dependence, and there's *ALOT* of competition.

And let's use Sun Microsystems as an example. Nobody *FORCED* them to OSS their operating system. They did it willingly.

It'd be a good idea for you to drop you pre-concieved notion and just think... even if you only think for a few minutes. Thinking would clearly do you alot of good.


25 posted on 02/23/2006 8:32:11 AM PST by Halfmanhalfamazing (Linux, the #2 OS. Mac, the #3 OS. Apple's own numbers are hard to argue with.)
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To: antiRepublicrat

The post did not refer to Mozilla products. The comment was in reference to "open source" software.


26 posted on 02/23/2006 8:34:06 AM PST by stainlessbanner (Downhome Dixie)
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To: Halfmanhalfamazing
Open source is inherently more capitalistic than the business models of MS

Completely absurd. Open Source will never produce the world's richest man, in fact they are totally obsessed with destroying the current one.

27 posted on 02/23/2006 8:34:52 AM PST by Golden Eagle
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To: antiRepublicrat

Good point AR thanks, im not too familiar with teh license could you highlight some of the ways its more friendly?


28 posted on 02/23/2006 8:35:56 AM PST by N3WBI3 (If SCO wants to go fishing they should buy a permit and find a lake like the rest of us..)
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To: Halfmanhalfamazing

Going to the personal insults already? I guess it's all you really have when you're stuck defending these foreign rags and their copyleftists.


29 posted on 02/23/2006 8:38:57 AM PST by Golden Eagle
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To: Golden Eagle

^^^^^^^^^^ I said: Open source is inherently more capitalistic than the business models of MS

Completely absurd. Open Source will never produce the world's richest man^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

LOL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! That's your gauge on the matter? Capitalism isn't only about money. It's about economic freedom. Source code is capital, and if one wishes to give away their code by their own free will that is within *THE VERY DEFINITION OF CAPITALISM*. It wasn't forced. They made that decision because it fit their business model the best according to their goals. Like Sun Microsystems did.

http://www.capitalism.org/

Even if the giving away of their source code is not done for business reasons, but rather their hobby is some game they are working on. That is still inherently capitalistic as it was not forced. They did it willingly.

^^^^^^^^^in fact they are totally obsessed with destroying the current one.^^^^^^^^^^^

That's why the OSS movement didn't take off all that much until linux came around. Linus takes a pragmatic approach, as opposed to the stallman approach.(which as far as I can tell you and I agree on stallman)


30 posted on 02/23/2006 8:43:38 AM PST by Halfmanhalfamazing (Linux, the #2 OS. Mac, the #3 OS. Apple's own numbers are hard to argue with.)
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To: Golden Eagle

There is nothing anti-capitalist about giving away your products. A free market allows for this just fine.

It seldom happens, for obvious reasons, and when it does it usually doesn't last long. But if I want to open a store and give away cheese I have every capitalistic right to do so.


31 posted on 02/23/2006 8:45:38 AM PST by Restorer
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To: Restorer
There is nothing anti-capitalist about giving away your products.

Other examples: 2-for-1, buy 1 get 1 free, rebates where the product is free, get a free tv set with a test drive......and giving IE away free : )

32 posted on 02/23/2006 8:48:33 AM PST by stainlessbanner (Downhome Dixie)
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To: N3WBI3; antiRepublicrat

Poster boys for socialism. Their motto is "give to the code and the code will give to you":

http://www.mozilla.org/banners/

I'm sure you'll contend it was taken out of context LOL.


33 posted on 02/23/2006 8:51:34 AM PST by Golden Eagle
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To: N3WBI3
Bureaucrats have no idea how to deal with an absence of bureaucracy.
34 posted on 02/23/2006 8:53:17 AM PST by Richard Kimball
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To: Golden Eagle
Im sure I could find leftist who use windows that does not mean anything. But those commies at IBM and RedHat sure do love that Linux stuff..
35 posted on 02/23/2006 8:53:46 AM PST by N3WBI3 (If SCO wants to go fishing they should buy a permit and find a lake like the rest of us..)
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To: r9etb
Eventually, somebody simply grabs the Open Source, locks it down as a baseline, and starts selling their own modifications to all comers.

Sorry; that violates a number of laws that'll get you 2-5 as the Bride of Bubba if you get caught and somebody wants to press the issue.

36 posted on 02/23/2006 8:56:39 AM PST by steve-b (A desire not to butt into other people's business is eighty percent of all human wisdom)
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To: Halfmanhalfamazing
It'd be a good idea for you to drop you pre-concieved notion and just think... even if you only think for a few minutes. Thinking would clearly do you alot of good.

hahahahahahahahaha! You're asking for the impossible. GE comes to this conservative forum for one purpose, and that is to trash open source software. You can browse through literally thousands of posts by her and find not a post to any other topic.

37 posted on 02/23/2006 8:57:59 AM PST by zeugma (This post made with the 'Xinha Here!' Firefox plugin.)
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To: zeugma

Zeg,

He has learned; now there is a token post here or there about something else..


38 posted on 02/23/2006 8:59:04 AM PST by N3WBI3 (If SCO wants to go fishing they should buy a permit and find a lake like the rest of us..)
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To: steve-b

Perhaps. We'll see.


39 posted on 02/23/2006 8:59:48 AM PST by r9etb
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To: N3WBI3
"If Mozilla permit the sale of copied versions of its software, it makes it virtually impossible for us, from a practical point of view, to enforce UK anti-piracy legislation, as it is difficult for us to give general advice to businesses over what is/is not permitted."


40 posted on 02/23/2006 9:00:36 AM PST by steve-b (A desire not to butt into other people's business is eighty percent of all human wisdom)
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To: Halfmanhalfamazing
Source code is capital, and if one wishes to give away their code by their own free will that is within *THE VERY DEFINITION OF CAPITALISM*

You get more ridiculous with every post. Capitalism is based on private ownership of property, and selling it for profit, not property owned by the government or some "community". Trying to co-opt the word "capitalism" for your so called community isn't going to work LOL.

41 posted on 02/23/2006 9:07:15 AM PST by Golden Eagle
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To: N3WBI3
could you highlight some of the ways its more friendly?

Basically, it doesn't contain Stallman's rabid anti-business philosophy. For example, you could modify some Mozilla code and integrate it into your closed-source, for-sale application, but you would only have to license your modifications to the Mozilla code under the MPL. Your own code can remain proprietary.

Going the other way, IIRC you could make a closed-source module linked to the Mozilla application and sell the whole thing under the conditions above.

42 posted on 02/23/2006 9:11:25 AM PST by antiRepublicrat
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To: antiRepublicrat
it doesn't contain Stallman's rabid anti-business philosophy.

Maybe, but most "open source" is based on Stallman's license, to the tune of 75 percent or so I'm sure you know.

43 posted on 02/23/2006 9:20:33 AM PST by Golden Eagle
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To: Golden Eagle
Capitalism is based on private ownership of property, and selling it for profit

Sorry guy; Capitalism, by definition, does not compel you to sell your private property. You can, so long as you choose to sell your private property but you may also give it away and still be a capitalist (because its *your* private property), you may also keep it to yourself (because its *your* private property).

You may also license the use of your property with conditions of your choosing (because its *your* private property). What you may not do is compel someone to do something with their private property for your or anyone else's economic benefit which is what you advocate doing..

44 posted on 02/23/2006 9:21:59 AM PST by N3WBI3 (If SCO wants to go fishing they should buy a permit and find a lake like the rest of us..)
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To: antiRepublicrat
you would only have to license your modifications to the Mozilla code under the MPL. Your own code can remain proprietary.

Souds a bit like the LGPL..

45 posted on 02/23/2006 9:23:12 AM PST by N3WBI3 (If SCO wants to go fishing they should buy a permit and find a lake like the rest of us..)
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To: zeugma

What would you propose I do instead, support the copyleftists like yourself?


46 posted on 02/23/2006 9:23:12 AM PST by Golden Eagle
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To: Golden Eagle
to the tune of 75 percent or so

Source?

47 posted on 02/23/2006 9:23:53 AM PST by N3WBI3 (If SCO wants to go fishing they should buy a permit and find a lake like the rest of us..)
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To: N3WBI3

It's not private property when you give it away for free, and private ownership is the basis of capitalism. The rest is just you spinning and distorting like usual.


48 posted on 02/23/2006 9:27:48 AM PST by Golden Eagle
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To: Golden Eagle
It's not private property when you give it away for free, and private ownership is the basis of capitalism.

Its still the intellectual property of the copyright holder and they may dictate how its used. I hear songs on the radio all the time for free, it does not give me the right to copy them and use them to make profit...

49 posted on 02/23/2006 9:31:39 AM PST by N3WBI3 (If SCO wants to go fishing they should buy a permit and find a lake like the rest of us..)
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To: N3WBI3

And when I provide it, you will do what exactly? You've never done anything before except continue your devotion to all things copyleft.


50 posted on 02/23/2006 9:32:25 AM PST by Golden Eagle
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