What Obama can do for and to open source

What Obama can do for and to open source

Summary: What should the Administration be doing to enhance or degrade open source? What will he do?

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TOPICS: Open Source
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My post about the President and open source was popular, but the point was lost somewhere.

I sought to ask what the new Administration's policy may be toward open source. What resulted was a lively discussion of the President's politics and positions.

Not that there's anything wrong with that. The economy, the reputation of the nation, and the strength of its tech sector all impact open source. Any President has power in all those areas.

But what I sought to elicit was a discussion of the specific policies he may have toward open source. It's possible many commenters did not think it matters much.

It does.

There is much this President can do for, and to, the open source movement.

  1. Will he buy it? Any enterprise which fully implements open source winds up hiring programmers who contribute, in turn, to open source projects. Some contribute code, others their expertise, and the code base they develop becomes available to the community, and to businesses around the world. So how much open source the Administration uses matters.
  2. What license will he support? The Veteran Administration's VistA system predates the open source movement and was built as public record. Some projects evolved from that, like WorldVistA, use the GPL. A commercial implementation, Medsphere, uses the AGPL. If the government used Eclipse or other BSD-type licenses, companies could extend it for their own commercial benefit. Given the potential size of a government code base, that's meaningful.
  3. What about copyright? FOSS advocates, especially those at the Free Software Foundation, feel the government's attitude toward copyright is important. Turning the Constitution's copyright into a property right, they argue, could have a substantial chilling effect on open source. And the over-zealous enforcement of copyright, through DRM schemes, can also have a chilling effect.
  4. Internet Policy. All open source business models ride on the Internet. Will America's Internet highways remain wide and affordable? How will this Administration seek to enforce American laws in cyberspace? Will it support changes to the Internet architecture meant to enforce local laws -- all national laws are local laws.

It's likely I missed some important issue in the list above. Please feel free to bring it up in the talkbacks.

What I attempted to point out last week is that the President's policy in these areas remains unformed. But there have been recent hints in both directions. Many cheered the appointment of Julius Genachowski as FCC chair. The same people booed the appointment of Mignon Clyburn (above) to another FCC seat.

Similarly FOSS advocates charge that the Administration's close ties with the RIAA and MPAA threaten open source by extending copyrights forever, by seeking to make copyright payments universal for everything, and by creating a coercive enforcement regime.

We don't yet know where the broadband money in the stimulus will go. Will it go into the pocket of incumbents and be wasted, as happened to the old Gore tax? Or will we get new wireless superhighways in rural towns, and new unlicensed frequencies for WiFi and WiMAX?

Regardless of how the President and his appointees choose to come down on these questions, they will all have a powerful impact on the development of open source, or lack of it, over the next years.

So read the tea leaves. What should the Administration be doing to enhance or degrade open source? What will he do?

Topic: Open Source

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37 comments
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  • Sorry we let you down.

    It doesn't surprise me though. We are very focused on our agendas.

    The Obama Administration presents a large field of issues. The only thing I can say so far is that his choice to fill an administration position from the ranks of the RIAA seems at odds with his other choices. The RIAA is very black and white in their thinking. They are reactionary. They are not known to finesse problems, more likely to try to club them to death. That is very unObama like.

    I suspect there is a missing #5 that you left out as a kind of test. These issues are important to us but I think we are just too tied up in our little corner of computers and technology to know how to respond to a President who actually wants to hear what we think. At least I would hope he wants to hear what we think. He's the first president that I know of who is at least able to understand the issues and problems technology has created in our culture.
    kozmcrae
    • You didn't let me down

      I think it was the reverse. I was not as
      explicit or limited enough in what I wrote, and
      then I engaged those who were dealing with areas
      irrelevant to the topic of open source. Bear-
      baiting is never attractive.
      DanaBlankenhorn
  • Control and RIAA

    Obama is not about capitalism he is about socialism and total control of everything.

    You will be lucky to afford your electricity bill after he adds on 30% plus increase in taxes to pay for his 'socialized free_healthcare' that will only benefit his welfare crowd.

    Bank on this, high taxes, inflation and the destruction of the country by labelling anyone who disagrees an enemy of the state like his comrade that called Veterans coming back from Iraq as potential threats.

    I hope people like unemployment that voted for him because closing out 3000+ Auto dealerships is going to put hundreds of thousands more out of work. Yes, he is the economy destroyer and not for a free market.

    :(
    Christian_<><
    • Agree!

      I totally agree with that. Ever since Obama took office he has taken control of every major issue and through his high public rating is forcing congress to buy out public company's and put government officals on their boards and also pushing to make the strong healthy Americans that work hard for their money to pay for the weak and lazy so we can all be "equal".

      I guess work hard and earn your own keep
      doesn't apply under the Obama Administration.

      Welcome to the United Socialist States of America.
      techwiz2000@...
      • ????????? Yawn

        Yes like most of western europe is socialist and everyone is starving to death because of governments .... yawn
        jdbukis@...
        • Of course we are starving...

          ...that`s why the avarege salary in Western Europe countries is bigger than the average salary in the US, same goes for the average IQ...we are soo starving :D .

          That`s why our healthcare sistem actually works, 65 percent of our population is not formed of gigantic blobs (160KG+).
          http://www.mikexia.com/etc/wp-content/uploads/2009/01/euro_vs_america.jpg

          Our schools actually work, 60-70 percent of our population actually knows how to read and write ("the IQ thing") and isn`t a mindless fat a** zombie .

          That`s why our tech level in most cases (except for IT and millitary tech) is 5 years ahead of the US (take the car industry for exemple, compare an BMW or an Mercedes to a american car :))) )

          We`re doing sooo bad, according to Christian_<><
          Soulstorm
          • Different circimstances

            I don't know where you get (or maybe exactly what you mean about) [i]That`s why our tech level in most cases (except for IT and millitary tech) is 5 years ahead of the US[/i]

            But then again, size and scale are physical factors in deployment of everything.

            What is the population of the country you live in? Does it approach the 306,433,000 number of people the US has?

            Probally not, so that fact that the US is probally 5 years [i]ahead[/i] in terms of technolgy compared to the rest of the world, the fact that it can't be quickly rolled out to 306,433,000 as quickly as it can be rolled out to 82,062,200 people (assuming Germany is the most populated of EU member countries) does what? Places the US 5 years behind?

            I was reading Zack on these boards talking about how awful the broadband was in some areas of England

            [i]60-70 percent of our population actually knows how to read and write [/i]

            Really?? That's good? I just read that [b]86 percent[/b] of our population can read or write. You need some work there.

            You're definatelly not starving there, I'll give you that, but it sounds as though you still need some work, yourselves.


            John Zern
          • Amen brother.

            Yep! We Americans know how to talk big. I mean REALLY BIG. When you know how to talk big you don't really need to say much. Just boast a lot and toss in some bragging too and most Europeans will just run off. Sometimes it looks like their crying too. When we brag about how great we are it must give those poor old Europeans a belly ache because I see them holding their stomachs, bending up and down with a grimace on their face. Yep, it must be tough to be a European and wish you could be as great as we Americans. ;-)
            kozmcrae
          • Open source, Europe and America

            Some governments, like that of France, are
            actively supporting open source, and open source
            development. Others are not.

            Will there be any difference in their
            performance?
            DanaBlankenhorn
          • Will there be any difference in their performance?

            I'm sure there will. And I'm confident that the powers who believe they are threatened by Open Source will do all they can to obfuscate and discredit the results.
            kozmcrae
          • Funnily enough...

            ...France, so far, are one of the least affected by the "Global Economic
            Downturn" (tm)... And can you idiotic right-whingers stop with the
            "socialism" bull. If you don't understand something, shut-up. It just
            make you look even more stupid...
            SimonUK2
          • Obama/RIAA/Political quagmire....

            Europe has the great health insurance and if you got certain types of a disease they do not treat you. Now that is GREAT that is what I want.

            CHOICE people have a choice, they can work, get an education and provide for themselves.

            Socialized healthcare and taking money from my paycheck to provide for people who DO NOT work is not the answer my friend. If that is the case, then why should I work, if all of my money goes to feeding someone on drugs, welfare, alcohol and cigs why am I putting in long hours designing new infrastructure?

            When you make your own right/wrong on things we get Obama, when you work hard and want to get ahead we get a Reagan.

            Obama is so worried trying to trash Bush, his Pelosi has now got herself into trouble by saying the CIA is a bunch of liars. Way to go Obama, change we can believe in the Democrats blame Bush for everything.

            In 2 years when Obama has taxes setup on everything he can, now that is 'CHAINS' we can believe in and destroying small business by making them pay for 'free' healthcare for those who do NOT better themselves.

            NOTHING is free, if you want healthcare then get an education and get a job like the rest of us.

            Otherwise, hold on to Obama and live like a peasant with no respect for yourself and bleed the system dry.

            Christian_<><
          • I would really like to stay on topic in this thread

            The topic is what government can do to or for
            open source, and what Obama might do for or to
            open source.

            It's not about politics, either his, mine or
            yours.
            DanaBlankenhorn
          • Ok then, staying on topic...

            I<i> would really like to stay on topic in this thread</i>

            If you really want "open source" then you don't need and don't want government involvement in it.

            The fact is that whenever government gets involved in something, that something will never be what it used to be. In other words, open source will become "government controlled" source.

            If the government uses anything from the private sector, it eventually wants changes to accommodate the "government way of doing things". It would be heavily regulated and once heavy regulations come into any product or service, it ceases to be what it used to be. That's one of the big reasons that car companies failed. Heavy government regulations for low gasoline consumption, and clean exhaust, and safety, and labor laws, and many others, made the U.S. automobile industry uncompetitive and gave foreign car makers some very big advantages over out domestic makers.

            The government has many functions to perform, and ther are many functions which the private sector can perform much better than government. Remember the word "competition"? When the government gets involved in anything, the word "competition" becomes less relevant and what you have are many of the same performing like robots. I "open source" or even in "closed" or "owned" source, we get many more varieties of the same kind of product. That's where we get "Firefox" and "Opera" and "Internet Explorer" and "Safari" and "Chrome". If government were to get its fingers on those competitive products, we'd end up with heavily regulated code and functions mandated by the government. Same with the OSes and many other products.

            Besides, open source doesn't need any help from government. Let the government use whatever they wish, open source or proprietary, or even their own.

            While many here and elsewhere hate the likes of Microsoft, you would be hating even more the likes of "USSoft". And remember, USSoft would not necessarily have to design anything; all they need to do to become a software company is to "require" or "feature" changes in software.
            adornoe
          • Are you pulling our legs here?

            Just seems like you are pulling out every right-wing, jingoistic, cliche available.

            It just seems that they cannot possibly exist in one person without a gasket being blown somewhere. Or is that what we are reading?

            Does anybody really believe that a democracy can survive without its government taking some measures to look after its citizens. That is, by their nature, democracies (not dictatorships) are socialist because they have a duty of care towards their citizens. After all, that is why citizens vote - to have the government do things that support their way of life and regulate and enforce to prevent the excessive behaviour of some overunning the rest of us. It is a balancing act and it swings to and frow as we all come to grips with what is the right balance. Expecting extremes IS unbalanced.

            Also, I think it is a huge reality gap to suppose that every one who wants the government to look after all its citizens is a lazy out of work, bludger.

            Patanjali
          • that's liberal propaganda!

            The socialist western contries are on the brink!
            They have huge unemployment, with more people staying idle in month long vacations.
            Add their almost free health care and education, longer life expectancy and you have the image of disaster in the making!
            Only narrow minded europeeans that can not understand anything than their own lame metric system can't see it comming!
            Linux Geek
          • Open Source

            If we can return to the subject, how do European
            policies toward open source differ from those
            here, and how does that harm or hurt U.S. open
            source suppliers?

            More on that above.
            DanaBlankenhorn
          • Hollywood tried to make that script into a movie.

            It was discarded as being too lame. Although Roger Corman was rumored to have started a zombie flick with it. The project was shelved when it was realized that the zombie conservatives acted just like their real life counterparts.
            kozmcrae
    • Well

      The free market was the term used by Mrs Thatcher regarding her economic reforms and she put alot of people out of work (Also House prices increased and wages were reduced too), so I wouldnt be so sure on that.
      jdbukis@...
    • Can you return to the subject?

      The subject line of your response includes RIAA,
      but you make no mention of RIAA in the body. Did
      you have something relevant to add to our
      discussion? If so, please take a moment, take a
      deep breath, and post it.
      DanaBlankenhorn