☞ Competition

  • Carlo Piana (Europe's answer to Eben Moglen) once again delivers a clear analysis, this time showing how Amazon's announcement of hosted MySQL in the cloud punches a hole in Stallman's argument against the Oracle acquisition. Looking forward to hearing from Stallman both why Carlo is wrong and why dual-license is good for software freedom.
  • Finally Flickr has a serious competitior.
    (tags: Cat)
Comments:

IMHO the "lock up free software inside the cloud" isn't a really good example. As the article says: "This is bad. This a way round copyleft. This allows a new kind of proprietarization, this is what Google is frequently accused to be indulging in." So promoting this behaviour seems somewhat dubious.

The real problem with allowing one party to provide proprietary versions of free software projects seems to be one of unfair competition. It allows one party to monetize the code base in a way which isn't available to the coopetition and without a guarantee that any such monetization will increase the freedom of the users and developers. Worse, it allows such a party to create contracts that disallow someone receiving the code to contribute and cooperate with the free project and lock out other coopetitors.

So there must be a strong guarantee that any revenues from these proprietary license constructs will advance (and not impede or obstruct) the free community project. Which will make sure the coopetition is fair between all parties (users and developers) working on advancing the project.

One reasoning is that can be achieved by putting the copyrights, trademarks, etc. of such a project into "trusted hands". An entity like the FSF, make it part of the Software Freedom conservancy, OSI, or another independent party that has a charter to promote software freedom and a level playing field. But another could be creating the contributor agreements used by such a party in such a way that they come with a guarantee that they will not be abused. LWN had a good article about this recently http://lwn.net/Articles/359013/ in which they quote from the FSF assignment policy:

"The Foundation promises that all distribution of the Work, or of any work "based on the Work", that takes place under the control of the Foundation or its assignees, shall be on terms that explicitly and perpetually permit anyone possessing a copy of the work to which the terms apply, and possessing accurate notice of these terms, to redistribute copies of the work to anyone on the same terms. These terms shall not restrict which members of the public copies may be distributed to. These terms shall not require a member of the public to pay any royalty to the Foundation or to anyone else for any permitted use of the work they apply to, or to communicate with the Foundation or its agents in any way either when redistribution is performed or on any other occasion."

Another is of course making sure no one party has sole "ownership rights" over the project as a whole and make the license a strong copyleft that everybody can enforce against everybody else.

Something like that seems a much stronger guarantee that there is no unfair competition and that software freedom is always increased for users of a project than showing one can lockup a free project some other way, stripping users from their freedom in ever creative ways, and using that as a form of (short term) monetization.

Posted by Mark Wielaard on October 31, 2009 at 05:10 AM PDT #

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