Open source lessons from the Sony scandal

Summary:Can we work on an open source system that will discourage mass market pirates while promoting fair use?

The Sony "rootkit scandal" is either over or just getting started. But already there are some important open source lessons coming out.

  1. Secrecy Doesn't Work -- Sony decided to secretly put this software out as long as eight months ago, but secrets don't stay secret forever. Now Sony has enormous potential liabilities.
  2. Lines Get Blurry Fast -- The difference between "goodware" and "malware" can disappear very quickly. Some think that the difference comes down to motive, do you have good intentions. Others believe it comes down to actions.
  3. PR won't solve everything -- Once a scandal gets going the ability of PR to solve it becomes minimal. Without seriously addressing a community, small actions can quickly become big scandals.
  4. Dialogue is limited -- Sony chose this route only because it felt stymied in the court of public opinion. There are bad people mass-producing unlicensed Sony DVDs and CDs, which does cost Sony money. The company's critics should be helping solve that problem.

There is a solution to all this, and let me offer it as a modest proposal. Can we work on an open source system that will discourage mass market pirates while promoting fair use? Check here and here for news. And start talking seriously to these concerns.

Topics: Open Source

About

Dana Blankenhorn has been a business journalist since 1978, and has covered technology since 1982. He launched the Interactive Age Daily, the first daily coverage of the Internet to launch with a magazine, in September 1994.

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