Open Source Against Free Software

“Open Source” is in danger of coming to mean corporations sharing source code in order to reduce their development costs for proprietary software incorporating that code and thereby removing the freedom of its users. Those corporations may share code with a “community” and hire people to “manage” that community, but any code shared will be under a non-copyleft licence and/or a copyright assignment to the corporation (rather than to a trusted third party) to protect their ability to make that code proprietary rather than respect the freedom of users to use the software that it represents.

Hackers involved with such projects often support the replacement of freedom for all by the sharing of resources between producers, or at least don’t see it as a problem. This seems to come from a belief that they are not “just” computer users, they are the producers of software and so the benefit of sharing code and deciding which mere users get to use it is their (or at least their bosses’) right. This is misguided. Hackers use software in order to write software, and with such projects use of the software in any given context can always be denied to them. Hackers must make common cause with all users of software otherwise they will end up without freedom as well.

Open Source must not come to describe a guild or camarilla of hackers and their managers that oppose their perceived economic interests to the interests they share with all users of software. Feelgood rhetoric and permissive licences don’t offset the demands for privilege and control that corporate “open source” projects make, they conceal and enable them. Ignore them and instead use copyleft to protect user freedom with all its benefits for everyone.

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One comment on “Open Source Against Free Software
  1. There are two things here that concern me.
    First is that you are right, the last few years has seen a serious dilution of the open source brand — fauxpen source, etc. One thing I recommend is, get people to hassle and lean-on the Open Source Initiative (opensource.org). Isn’t it their purview to defend the term, perhaps even to trademark it if still possible?
    Second, I’m concerned that self-described free software people are taking an “us v. them” attitude about open source. My take is, “free