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85% of Opensource is for Profit

Lots of stuff to report on this week, and maybe if I’m lucky I’ll find a moment to discuss the issues, but I absolutely have to commit a few things to my digital memory before it slips the surly bonds of Earth.

This week in my Legal Protection of Software class we had the distinct honor of hearing from Nick Tisilas, an attorney in the Microsoft Standards group. To be clear, these are the guys who validate the “embrace and extend” mentality of Microsoft and do their darnedest to defend Microsoft’s behavior as relates to standards. On a whole, Nick is a nice guy… although not nearly as academically honest as Andrew, the previous MS attorney on patents. Nick’s presentation reeked of the political jargon MS uses to push its deregulatory government agenda. Stuff like “software choice”, “governments as consumer, not arbiter”, and “IP Bleed”. It was interesting, and enjoyable to catch him on some of the dishonesty inherent in the argument.

Perhaps most shocking, in retrospect, is how he described open source software developers. You can break them down into three groups: The Good Guys, the Profit Guys, and the Freeloaders. The Good Guys, roughly 5-15%, are those who program for altruistic reasons, believe code should be free and are doing this for the goodness of the world. Interestingly he lumps Torvalds in this group, even though Linus has long renounced the crazy antics of Free Software zealots. The Profit Guys, about 70%, represent all of the people dedicated to opensource software but are trying to figure out how to make money off their efforts. I think this group includes companies like MySQL and IP indemnity insurance. The last group, apparently as much as 25%, are big corporations like Novell, IBM, and Sun. These corporations don’t actually contribute at all, they just sell services on top of Linux and avoid contributing code because of legal concerns. From what I can gather, these folks are the real problem with opensource, earning billions in sales without contributing back.

I pointed out that the opensource community would welcome Microsoft into that final category anytime it wants to join the party. If Microsoft had an interest in the continuation of opensource software, like IBM and Novell do, we would all breath a little easier at night. But all that aside, what I took away from the discussion is Microsoft’s belief that only 5-15% of us are in it for reasons other than money. Perhaps a total lack of understanding about opensource philosophy and mentality will be our greatest strength in fighting the beast.

probonogeek Uncategorized

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