The commie smear against open source

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.

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TOPICS: Open Source
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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.

Topic: Open Source

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15 comments
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  • Do you blame them?

    The reaction is based on fear. Open Source is a challenge to the current echo system. Many of the old school developers and programmers aren't sure how or if they can make a living in this new world. People get scared when it appears a change is coming. They will say and do anything and everything to fight it. Many time the sole purpose of their rants is to buy time to adjust. In the end reality sets in and they'll settle down to a new way of business. As far as open source being commie, thats just stupid. Its as American as apple pie and baseball.
    DemonX
  • The preamble for the GPL...

    ...reads like the communist manifesto. Really, can you blame people for placing that tag on the FLOSS community?
    toadlife
    • What about the US constitution?

      "All men are created equal"...."self evident truths"..... "government of the people, by the people and for the people"...etc, etc.

      ... reads like the communist manifesto
      bportlock
      • No it doesn't

        The constitution lays out a framework for government, not the economic system.
        toadlife
        • Well then - that shows how misleading it can be.

          The "commie" preamble you are slating says (in part) [i]"the GNU General Public License is intended to guarantee your freedom to share and change free software--to make sure the software is free for all its users ... When we speak of free software, we are referring to freedom, not price ... We protect your rights"[/i]

          Oh yeah - very commie! Enabling the individual and protecting their rights. Are you suggesting that "American freedom" or "non-commie" freedom involves the supression of rights?
          bportlock
          • The issue lies with both preamble's statement about property

            The communist manifesto states that people should give up their rights to property - that property should be 'owned by everyone'. The GPL manifesto states that people should give up their rights to intellectual property - that intellectual property should be owned by everyone.

            They are not the same, but the theme is extremely similar.
            toadlife
          • Are you reading the GPL....

            ... or some version published by Mike Cox? The preamble clearly says

            [i]"To protect your rights, we need to make restrictions that forbid anyone to deny you these rights or to ask you to surrender the rights."[/i]

            The nearest you can get to saying that the GPL asks you to [i]"give up your rights"[/i] is where it states that if you take the work of others, modify it and use it for your own benefit - including [b]making money from it[/b] - then you should allow other people to benefit from the same privileges you have just exercised.

            You do not even have to distribute copies of your modified code. Section 3(b) of the GPL says [i]"You may copy and distribute the Program ... in object code or executable form under the terms of Sections 1 and 2 above provided that you also ... Accompany it with a written offer, valid for at least three years, to give any third party, for a charge no more than your cost of physically performing source distribution, a complete machine-readable copy of the corresponding source code, to be distributed under the terms of Sections 1 and 2 above on a medium customarily used for software interchange"[/i]

            This is known as "fairness" not "communism".
            bportlock
          • LOL - "fairness"

            Yes, "fairness" - one of the key concepts in any socialists' argument.

            Life is not fair.
            toadlife
          • So, in the "Toadlife universe"...

            ... the deal is to use work provided by others and then to turn round and tell them to "F**k off suckers!".

            [i]'Yes, "fairness" - one of the key concepts in any socialists' argument'[/i]

            Two points. (1) I'm not even close to being a socialist. I regard socialism as a form of OCD. (2) Unbridled capitalism has been shown to be harmful to economic prosperity as a whole. If you doubt this then look at patent trolls and the FTC's comments on software patents.
            bportlock
          • Rights, my a--

            The Free software movement and the GPL is about eliminating intellectual property. If you think there should be no laws protecting intellectual property, then just come out and say so. Bringing out hot-button terms like "rights" and "freedom" only serve as a smokescreen.

            Do you feel you have an inalienable right to other's ideas?
            toadlife
          • Progress....

            ...depends on [b]cooperation[/b] and without it that means that we need to share ideas. This may come as a shock to you, but that's how all civilisations rise up out of the slime.

            [i]"Do you feel you have an inalienable right to other's ideas?"[/i]

            No I don't. But I know that I will make more progress by cooperating with others and getting their viewpoints on my ideas.
            bportlock
    • Anyone here read the Communist Manifesto?

      I've tried, and it put me to sleep right away. Better than Resparem, even if your dreams include Abe Lincoln and a gopher.

      The blanket condemnation of the GPL preamble's idealism as "communist" without evidence is, in my view, silly name-calling.
      DanaBlankenhorn
  • Communism: The MS Way

    Central monopoly control used to limit/deny your rights/freedom.

    I think the anti-FOSS crowd has communism confused with cooperation. There is a world of difference between communism (limiting/denying freedom for the "common good") and cooperation (people voluntarily working together to improve things and protect freedom). The latter is the FOSS way.
    Tim Patterson
  • Thanks for the truth, Dana

    First off, people do not describe open source as communist, they describe the GPL as communist. It's not FUD or smear, either, and they don't mean "Leninist".

    GNU has a very public agenda when it comes to software and the similarities to communism are unmistakable. From each according to his abilities; to each according to his needs. If such similarities strike fear into you then it's your problem, but it's not smear campaigns that produce these observations, it only takes a little thought. Communism isn't inherently evil, it's imperialist governments that have cast it as such.

    As you said though, Dana, "the key to (open source) advocates making this stick doesn't lie in the facts, but in their willingness to keep saying the same thing, louder and louder". Keep saying, louder and louder, that people who make these claims are themselves Leninists, Dana, so that the brainwashed GNU masses will continue to identify the intelligent as the enemy. Just because the association with communism is apt doesn't mean that those who make it are opposed to open source.

    I find it odd that people who wallow in the ideals of such extreme software socialism would take offense to being called communist. They should wear it as a medal of honor.

    Lastly, Dana, I seriously doubt any GNU programmer's underwear is pink.
    craig_sj
  • Control is a good thing

    The variables are complex and numerous so it's difficult to determine if open source is an overall "good thing" and that proprietary software is an overall "bad thing"<br><br>However, as long as my intellectual property is closed source I can control who may contribute to it and benefit from it. I can also control revenue and make future plans. The fact that I have control can be both a sign of responsibility as well as a sign of tyranny. It depends on my personal character.<br><br>Moreover, pigs will fly before I share my secrets with my enemies. The open-source movement either suffers from the delusion that everyone is on the same page ideologically or that ideological differences don't matter. If the former were true, every kind of conflict from bullying on up to all-out war would cease to exist. But in fact these things do exist and I think not because of any differences but because of poorly defined or non-existent boundaries between the respective parties. What boundaries does open source define? This is why I value the freedom to choose who I share my trade secrets with. This is rooted in trust and it respects my autonomy.<br><br>There are plenty of poor quality well known open-source projects inferior to their commercial counterparts. One such example is Eclipse compared with IntelliJ IDEA for Java web development. And for every open source video game there must be a thousand of proprietary source ones. The open source movement doesn't necessarily produce better software. There are more variables involved: time, talent, funding, experience, commitment, personalities, work ethic, etc.<br><br>Now although I am annoyed that Dr. Ken Perlin has patented "Perlin Noise" I respect him because he expects to be reimbursed for his toil, and that he thinks his contributions are in fact worth the price that he asks. It is a sign of self-respect.<br><br>I still find it interesting that although the world boasts that free software is the way of the future, my exceptionally talented and intelligent software colleagues will simply not share the source code of their creations with the world. These are friends of mine from high-school who were producing 3D video games in the early 90s. They indeed have become very personally attached to what they consider "their art."<br><br>I am among them. Pigs will fly before I share the source for my hydraulic erosion algorithm that can produce realistic 3D river channels in fractions of a second. And that's without GPU optimizations.<br><br>To quote Isaac Newton, a most blessed and arrogant @-hole whom I would have loved dearly:<br>"If I can see so far it is because I stand upon the shoulders of giants"<br><br>The Free Software movement loves to use that quote, but wouldn't it be ironic if it was meant as sarcasm towards his opponent Hooke?<br><br>Samuel Taylor Coleridge says it best:<br>"The dwarf sees farther than the giant, when he has the giant's shoulder to mount on."<br><br>Open source isn't a problem just so long as its proponents do not expect the rest of the world to follow suit and for all software. Stay on your side of the fence.
    Jonny505