The commie smear against open source

Summary:Media companies have yet to adapt to the Internet economy, to the economics of abundance, to any of it. I think this gives them a political agenda, and we should be careful in consuming their propaganda to consider that may just be what it is, propaganda.

There are days on this beat when I fear I'm covering politics, not business.

It happens when the proprietary companies trot out their FUD that open source is somehow socialist, communist, as pink as its programmers' underwear.

Because proprietary companies will always spend more of their money on marketing than open source outfits, it pops up regularly in the best of places, such as at Time Magazine recently. Or Microsoft sends CEO Steve Ballmer to London, so he can rant about how his lawyers are going to make all Linux users pay Microsoft for their stuff.

It's nonsense.

This is not "the gift economy," as Justin Fox calls it in Time. This is people taking advantage of the fact that the Internet has no distribution costs, which means marketing costs can also sink to zero. No ads in Time doesn't make you a communist.

But as with political smears, the key to advocates making this stick doesn't lie in the facts, but in their willingness to keep saying the same thing, louder and louder. My history professors equated that kind of behavior with Leninism, but maybe Fox didn't take that class.

There is also something to be said for the adage that where you stand depends on where you sit. It's obvious that even ZDNet isn't making the kind of money Ziff Davis magazines made in the old Microsoft PC days. But we're getting by.

Media companies have yet to adapt to the Internet economy, to the economics of abundance, to any of it. I think this gives them a political agenda, and we should be careful in consuming their propaganda to consider that may just be what it is, propaganda.

Or perhaps Fox buried his own lede, noting at the end that Time doesn't pay people for interviews, and neither does its TV affiliate, CNN. There is a quid pro quo involved, with the subject expecting to gain value from the distribution of their message. Just as with software, where many open source programmers are making handsome livings -- just not Bill Gates handsome.

As to Ballmer's latest, he should remember that in law it's lawyers who get rich, not their clients. The SCO case is finally winding down, and he's not going to enjoy reading the result.

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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