please find below my personal thoughts . . . . I'm sure others on
the group will reply with relevant corrections / alternate views. (You may
want to go get a coffee before starting to read this :))
> But can anyone tell me why software can't be both open and sold like
It can, RedHat (and many others) do it.
(however in reality it can't, and they don't. - see below - it's very
difficult to answer a question like that, while being so general about "the
way Windows is sold")
> Why is it that software has to be basically given away if it's open?
Again, it doesn't . . . there are three separate issues here
Many people confuse Open source with Open licencing.
* Open licencing means that anybody can use the software, without
restriction. Anybody, as many times as they like, wherever they like for
whoever they like. In any way that they like.
* Open Source Licencing (usually) means that the software is distributed
either as or with the source code, and this source code must always be
distributed with the product so that additional features may be implemented
by the target users. Any changes made to the open sourced software may be
re-distributed, but credit for each author's work must be given to each
It is common for both licences to include a stipulation that you may not
charge for the use of the software (or derivatives of it), beyond the
acceptable costs of distribution. As you are then charging for work that is
not yours to charge for. The licence only gives permission to use the
product, it does not give ownership.
The GNU General Public Licence is a combination of both, it allows the
freedom of Open licencing while restricting a company (for arguments sake
say Nocturnal Aviation Computing Inc.) from taking an honest persons free
work and then either charging for it or creating a derivative work and
charging for that. The GNU licence allows free software developers provide
work to the community while protecting their work in such a way that nobody
can benefit directly from it (financially) in any significant way.
To clarify the point with RedHat and the other companies that sell Linux,
what they are actually selling is the documentation, media and support
agreements (their own work and efforts). The more cynical among those
outside the community would infer that companies such as RedHat are but
'filling out' the entire package with useless extras as to appear to be in
conformance with the licencing agreement. Almost the entire linux/gnu
community would disagree. Such companies make a very positive contribution
to the community and do genuinely have the interests of the community at
heart. (Besides the software component of the product is made available free
for download etc.)
> I'm not sure that anyone in Open Source has ever answered this question.
> seems to be assumed without any critical analysis.
I'm not sure that I've given a very clear answer either, I'd recommend a
visit to www.gnu.org as well as reading the GNU licence (as well as others .
. the Free BSD licence for example). If you haven't considered it yet, you
may want to contact Richard Stallman (his contact details are on
www.gnu.org) I'm sure he'd be very interested in contributing to the
> Why can't Open Source developers get a royalty percentage of the sale
price just like
> writers, recording artists or movie actors, and the product sold just like
> through traditional channels, so that the developers get paid for their
Open software developers may, but usually they will not because the licence
forbids it and they choose to operate under this licence. It's a difficult
thing to explain, being a free software developer myself.
Consider the phrase "No problem should EVER have to be solved twice".
This is one of the most important unwritten (and often unspoken, or even
unconsidered) rules of free software. If my free software were to be sold,
it would immediately cut off a proportion of people who could use it. Those
people would then have to find alternatives to solve their problem. To me I
have failed in my task, there is no point in providing a solution to 'some
people'. That's just pointless, those that are now still working on the
problem I've just solved could be doing something more productive (that may
or may not help me someday).
Another driving force to consider is that fact that many people in the
community who provide free software, do so as they feel they want to give
something back. Say in the case of linux/GNU they have been given a system
which they want to see survive and flourish, suddenly they need something
from it that doesn't currently exist, so they write it. It's a very natural
feeling to want to give it to the community so that it will make the system
more appealing to others. Two great examples of this are KDE (www.kde.org)
and gnome (www.gnome.org).
Finally (and again perhaps I'm being a little cynical here in return). The
amount of financial gains given to the "writers, recording artists or movie
actors" is trivial in comparison to the overall revenue generated by the
specific markets. Although the individual financial rewards are definitely
considerable on an absolute scale. I suppose you could say that Open Licence
developers do work in such a suggested environment (Sun's Solaris7.0 & 8.0
is available under an Open Licencing agreement for some users). Also if MS
were to 'Open Source' NT (as discussed in many media) they would then have
open source developers working in the environment suggested. However neither
of these scenarios would fully capture the spirit of open community.
I would be very interested in the finished article, if you are agreeable and
it is not too much trouble I'd appreciate a link to the article when it is
Thanks for your interest in the community.
Incidentally I'd disagree with the quote from Professor Lessig (without
having heard the quote before, or having read any of his papers). I feel the
analogy is a little to abstract and idealist to accurately reflect the
feelings of the open community (not that the open community isn't idealist
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