Skip to comments.Free software? You can't just give it away
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 email@example.com 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
If you are interested in the OSS ping list please mail me
This statement leaves me troubled about the agenda of Mozilla. I better check on my supply of tin foil.....
Free Software... You get what you pay for!!
Don't worry. Copyleft has nothing to do with politics.
"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.
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.
Just as the article admits,...
You must've read something I didn't. Where?
And in doing so violates SOX, and Copyright law..
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.
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.
Hmmmm. The kerfluffle about JAVA springs immediately to mind....
I knew it!
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?
OK. Chalk one up. I was thinking right/left national politics. :)
Violates the GPL most open source software is published under.
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.
LOL!!! I know you were. That's why I tried to be overly clear.
Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.