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IT Giants Accused of Exploiting Open Source 511

Posted by Zonk
from the do-your-own-work dept.
An anonymous reader writes "A top European Commission official has accused major IT players such as IBM, HP and Sun of using the open source community as mere subcontractors rather than encouraging them to develop independent commercial products. Jesús Villasante, head of software technologies at the commission, said: 'The open source community today [is a] subcontractor of American multinationals. Open source communities need to take themselves seriously and realise they have contribution to themselves and society. From the moment they realise they are part of the evolution of society and try to influence it, we will be moving in the right direction.'"
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IT Giants Accused of Exploiting Open Source

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  • The Inverse (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Adrilla (830520) * on Wednesday June 01, 2005 @06:23AM (#12692311) Homepage
    But aren't they also helping Open Source by increasing it's popularity? They are huge companies that carry a lot of weight, and they can get people to adopt it who wouldn't have thought to before. Which can bring in more developers through increased recognition of the movement.
    • Re:The Inverse (Score:5, Insightful)

      by ajs (35943) <> on Wednesday June 01, 2005 @07:01AM (#12692444) Homepage Journal
      Absolutely! Open source software is not about social change or politics or multinationals or even business. It's about scratching an itch and sharing the result. Huge companies like IBM or 15 year-old kids in Mexico can both do this, and have the same access to the tools of the trade. It's the ultimate fair playing field, and everyone gets something good out of it.
      • Re:The Inverse (Score:5, Insightful)

        by zerocool^ (112121) on Wednesday June 01, 2005 @07:55AM (#12692653) Homepage Journal

        Open source is the ultimate communist and ultimate capitalist tool.

        On the one hand, successful open source development relies on the nature of man to contribute to a work without expecting a return - doing it just for the good of the community.

        On the other hand, the GPL/LGPL/etc make it plain that, while you can sell open source software, you must also make available the source code, and anyone who purchases it now has the same rights as you do, and can give it away.

        Communism: The community helping the community, for the sake of the community. Capitalism: The perpetual search for the cheapest solution.

        • Re:The Inverse (Score:4, Informative)

          by StormReaver (59959) on Wednesday June 01, 2005 @08:44AM (#12692942)
          "On the one hand, successful open source development relies on the nature of man to contribute to a work without expecting a return - doing it just for the good of the community."

          This is 100% false. Open Source relies upon the nature of markets: contributing to the market with the expectation of equal or greater returns.

          Open Source isn't about altruism. Open Source functions because I have a need for software that doesn't exist, and I write that software (or portions of it). I expect my contribution to be used and improved on by others. Those improvements commonly occur in ways I either didn't expect, couldn't do myself, or simply didn't have the time to do. Those improvements may not even take place in the program that originated the code, but rather are implemented with pieces of my code that are put in unrelated software to which I later get access. Software that I wouldn't, or couldn't, have created myself is now available to me.

          This expectation has been borne out unfailingly over the years.

          That my contributions make the world a better place is a secondary concern. It's not that I don't care about making the world a better place, but normal rules of classical economics (i.e. the Invisible Hand) ensure that outcome. Which brings me to Free Software.

          Even Free Software, which is driven by philosophy, isn't at all related to Communism. Free Software is driven by the idea that, with the unspoken assumption that software plays a central role in modern society, no one should be beholden to the providers of software. Free Software strives to make the world a better place, but it is no more Communism than the desire for political Freedom is Communism. Both Free Software and the desire for political Freedom draw from the same source (pun intended).
        • Re:The Inverse (Score:3, Insightful)

          by AhBeeDoi (686955)
          Q: What is a Communist?

          A: A fascist who thinks he's an economist.

          -Old Joke

          I'm not sure how one can compare anything as democratizing as Open Source with a system as control oriented as Communism. Propriety software is a much better fit for Communism than Open Source. The great unwashed users of proprietary software have little say or ability to alter second rate software from the unresponsive bureaucracies deep within the Kremlin of Redmond. Transparency and flexibility are traits found in free markets a
          • Re:The Inverse (Score:3, Insightful)

            by nickos (91443)
            I'm not sure how one can compare anything as democratizing as Open Source with a system as control oriented as Communism.

            Communism != Planned economies. Just because the Soviet Union and other states had planned economies it doesn't mean that you should confuse the two. Marx believed that true communism would mean that the state would eventually wither away...
    • I agree with every word you have said, but one thing still burns though. As the article stated, open source programmers are being treat more a subcontractors. In the world of America big buisness loves the idea of cheaper resources, mainly the programmers.
      • Re:The Inverse (Score:5, Informative)

        by NickFortune (613926) on Wednesday June 01, 2005 @08:49AM (#12692966) Homepage Journal
        As the article stated, open source programmers are being treat more a subcontractors

        That's right. Hardly a day goes by without IBM phoning me up, telling me what I have to write next, what coding style I must use and what format to use for the documentation. And they get really, really snotty if I blow the arbitarily short deadlines they set. I wouldn't be so bad if they didn't make me spend most of my day sitting in endless tedious meetings, and dealing with political crap that my boss can't be bothered to field because I'm only some scummy contractor...

        I've done actual, real world subcontracting. That's a little unfair to some of my employers since I've had some good bosses, but but I've also had gigs that weren't far off what I described above.

        I've written some open source software too. The experience is very different. I do what I want to do, according to my deadlines and my techniques. I write stuff that I will find useful, or in order to learn how do something. If other people find my work useful, that's how I measure the success of my labours.

        I've been a subcontractor and I've coded open source. The two experiences are very different.

  • Hmph (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Toby The Economist (811138) on Wednesday June 01, 2005 @06:26AM (#12692324)
    I think someone is taking himself - and open source - too seriously.

    People write code because they enjoy it.

    99.9% of the time what they do has no meaningful impact on 99.9% of existance.

    People who write code because they think they're going to change the world never do.

    • Bah to your 'Hmph' (Score:5, Insightful)

      by wurp (51446) on Wednesday June 01, 2005 @06:47AM (#12692395) Homepage
      People who write code because they think they're going to change the world never do.

      Richard Stallman might disagree with you.

      • by Throtex (708974) on Wednesday June 01, 2005 @07:16AM (#12692500)
        Richard Stallman might disagree with you.

        I'll take "How to know you're on the right track" for $1000, Alex.
      • by Dachannien (617929)
        Did Stallman ever write code in an attempt to change the world? Or did he write code to fill a need, saving the whole "changing the world" thing for his work on the free software movement?

      • >>People who write code because they think they're going to change the world never do.

        >Richard Stallman might disagree with you.

        Might? Richard Stallman might think he's changed the world???

        I think we can all agree that RMS believes he has changed the world.

  • by spectrokid (660550) on Wednesday June 01, 2005 @06:27AM (#12692327) Homepage
    He seems to forget a lot of OS software gets coded today by people who get a check for it. If half of the devellopers on a big project are paid by corporations, is it that difficult that the project does what the corporations want?
  • by TuataraShoes (600303) on Wednesday June 01, 2005 @06:27AM (#12692328)
    The OS community (and those who appreciate and respect it - like many on slashdot) seem to be pleased when there is some big name take-up on open source software.

    When you write software for pleasure, you like others to use it.

    When others make loads of money from it, the feeling is mixed.
  • by Mattygfunk1 (596840) on Wednesday June 01, 2005 @06:28AM (#12692330)
    Bullshit. Nobody is using anybody, and everybody is using everybody.

    Everyone who contributes to open source has their own adjenda. Private individual programmers may just love using the community software, business may just love the low price tag. Who can complain when everyone (open) wins?

    Laugh Daily funny free videos []

    • I think the point is that some developers may feel cheated if someone comes along after you've been working on something for 5 years, re-package it, re-brand it, and sell it - with source of course - and make a pile of money. Especially if that "competes" with donationware style proft stream for the developers.

      I can imagine how pissed I'd be if I were up all night coding a release, and then, suddenly, my commerical counterpart announces a new build, new features, and and an upgrade fee the next day!
      • by the_xaqster (877576) on Wednesday June 01, 2005 @07:11AM (#12692480) Homepage Journal
        ....I'd be if I were up all night coding a release, and then, suddenly, my commerical counterpart announces a new build, new features, and and an upgrade fee the next day!

        But what would stop you getting the sources, incorperating their improvements into your code, adding a new feature that people will want, but not enough people to justify the company developing it, and releasing it yourself, for free? Or even just taking the Open source code and releasing it for free, changing for support? Then the company is left changing for the same (or less featureful) product you are now giving away.

        Open source cuts both ways. They can base their commercial app on your code, but you can base your code on their commercial app.

        Swings and roundabouts really.
      • by ajs318 (655362)
        That's a big black mark against the {three-clause} BSD licence. At least if you used the GPL, or a source-only BSD licence {i.e. not allowing binary distribution} then any "competing" product based on your code can never be made closed-source. You will have the advantage that anything they do, you also can do, and probably for less money than they want for it.

        The BSD people are very aware of this, and work their collective behinds off to keep software free. But it's a trap for the unwary.

        • Remember! BSD = sharing is not theft, GPL = not sharing is theft.

          That is simply beautiful. Mind if I add it to my collection of quotes? It simply describes both licenses.
      • I think the point is that some developers may feel cheated if someone comes along after you've been working on something for 5 years, re-package it, re-brand it, and sell it - with source of course - and make a pile of money.

        In which case (sorry for stating the blindingly obvious here) perhaps those developers shouldn't release their code under a licence which explicitly allows this? Copyright exists for a reason.

  • by SimianOverlord (727643) on Wednesday June 01, 2005 @06:29AM (#12692332) Homepage Journal
    Big vendors may well presnt themselves as an open source "portal", saying "OK - you want open source; this is our IBM open source product..." but this is only slightly harmful now. I still believe the future development of open source is in the hands of individuals who are relatively uninfluenced by big business interests, focussing instead on the technology, and just making a better product. Plus, the open source community has this ingrained ethic about doing it yourself - the ability to fork at any time on a principled issue acts as a sort of safety valve.

    I guess an analogy is two fish swimming in a stream - at the moment the shark of big business is swimming alongside the remora of open source in the same direction, but should things change, both will take their gained advantages from the arrangement and swim away in different directions once more.

    However corporations package it, the community is strong to its principles and will not be subverted for capitalism. Contrary to what Villasante says, the open source community does not need to actively work to achieve social change - by its very nature any success it will accrue will do that job for it.
  • by HaydnH (877214) on Wednesday June 01, 2005 @06:29AM (#12692334)
    "The open source community today [is a] subcontractor of American multinationals."

    To be fair, although the multinationals do have a lot to thank the OSS community for, I think the OSS community has a lot to thank the multinationals for in return. Take Open Office, where would that project be without Sun buying StarDivision in 1999 and open sourcing StarOffice 5.2 in 2000?

    Personally I feel that the current relationship is symbiotic and works well. Sure in the future the OSS community should probably become less reliant on the multinationals, as long as they don't bite the hand that's fed them.
    • by m50d (797211) on Wednesday June 01, 2005 @06:45AM (#12692386) Homepage Journal
      Openoffice was only opened up after KOffice had started. I think without OOo linux office suites would actually be in a better place - koffice is cleaner, less bloated, and better documented, and if (big if, I know, but still) all the effort that went into OOo went into it instead we would see more returns.
      • That's happening anyway. No-one works on OOo except Sun employees (oh and 3 community dudes now and then). More people work on KOffice and other word processors. Of course, KOffice isn't a drop in replacement for Microsoft Office the way OOo is intended to be, and that means users of KOffice actually have to learn something and they don't like that.
      • Possibly - personally though I can't stand applications like KOffice, KPilot, rhn-applet etc etc that require either KDE/gnome (or their libs/devel libs)... why on earth would I want to tie an application to only users of kde/gnome or force people who only want to use one K' application to install tons of libs? OK with something as large as KOffice you may save enough space in the actual package that installing the libs would be irrelevant - but for smaller apps, a prime example being KPilot, why would you
        • Rather than reply to the AC, I choose to reply to a real post...

          Widget sets are something that should not be specific to a certain WM or app. Widgets should be a generic class of objects that can be hooked into by the app. That is, I think that both KDE and gnome should hook into a generic set of widget commands that an app can easily call without being tied to either.

          This means that the user can have the wm of choice, but avoid the limitations of either in terms of applications. Of course, this would
      • koffice is cleaner, less bloated, and better documented, and if (big if, I know, but still) all the effort that went into OOo went into it instead we would see more returns.

        I might be tricking myself with this, but one of the reasons I tend to stay away from koffice is that I really don't like having to load all of he kde infrastructure underneath in order to actually load it. If I was using KDE in the first place I wouldn't care as much because that runtime environment would already be loaded. I

        • So I understand that you're not using K3b, amarok, kopete, konqueror, kate, quanta or any other good kde app because you want to be stuck with Xterm?
          • So I understand that you're not using K3b, amarok, kopete, konqueror, kate, quanta or any other good kde app because you want to be stuck with Xterm?

            I'm not "stuck" with an xterm, although I use it for certain tasks and it's much more lightweight than a konsole. Recently a lot more of my interaction has been through a web browser. I load Firefox when I start and take it from there. Sometimes I run xmms, and in the past I've used Thunderbird for email although I tend to use gmail more often thes

          • I feel like answering ...
            Although I do a lot in a terminal, I'm certailny not stuck at the command line.
            • k3b - a good app, but I only use it for burning DVDs. For music CDs (copy and create) I use cdrdao or gcdmaster. I must admid, I liked gcdmaster a lot more, when it was GTK only, and not GNOME dependent. Data CDs are created with gcombust, being GTK-only it is more lightweight then K3b.
            • amarox - never tested it, since xmms is good enough for me, but I guess amarok can do a lot more.
            • konquerer - well, t
      • Openoffice was only opened up after KOffice had started. I think without OOo linux office suites would actually be in a better place - koffice is cleaner, less bloated, and better documented

        KOffice- or more specifically, KWord- crashed horribly on the few occasions I tried to use it (circa early 2002).

        To be fair, this may have been a beta version, but I doubt it. And it happened when I was changing the font on a very basic document; the kind of bug you'd think would have been caught. Irritating as hec
      • BS (Score:4, Informative)

        by WindBourne (631190) on Wednesday June 01, 2005 @08:36AM (#12692886) Journal
        Look, I code for KDE and use KDE. I truly love it. But kword had absolutely NOTHING to do with OpenOffice being created. MS makes money on 2 products (and loses on almost all the rest); Windows and Office. If not for the monopoly on those 2 products, MS would have died long ago ( their code sux, their support is horrible, they really do not have original ideas, etc. etc.).

        Sun opened StarOffice in an effort to depieve MS of their monopoly. They also supported Linux for quite some time thinking that much of the sale would be in the MS market.

        OpenOffice/StarOffice is making inroads into industry. It is obvious that this idea is working the way that Sun meant it to. The Linux route, though, has been killing Sun as well as Windows. They never thought that Linux could compete in numbers (financial or benchmarks).

        With all that said, I do use and like kword. But every so often I use OO as it gets the job done nicely.
    • If open office hadn't been open sourced, more effort probably would have gone into gnumeric and abiword and we would be at probably a similar level of functionality and similar level of cross platform capability.


  • by Uzull (16705) on Wednesday June 01, 2005 @06:31AM (#12692336) Homepage
    it boils down to "code for food, shelter, amusement"... Those open source programmers, helpers do it to earn a living, doing what they like to do, and in return get money, which allows them to live where they want to. The return for multi's is working software done by motivated workers.
    The side effect is that the code is also usable by third parties, even competitors (remember who ships samba with their unix products, or who ships linux with their hardware).
  • ...why on earth does he expect IBM, HP or Sun to encourage development of independent commercial software products - products that would compete with those offered by the IBM, for instance?
  • meh (Score:5, Funny)

    by metricmusic (766303) on Wednesday June 01, 2005 @06:35AM (#12692351) Homepage Journal
    Don't believe him. He's trying to turn us against IBM. Look at what happened to Anakin.
  • I think Red Hat's arrangement with Fedora Core is pretty good. Fedora Core - great community operating system. Every other year Red Hat stick it in a box, say ooh it's certified and offer support, and sell it.
  • Gee. If only Stallman had thought of it that way.

  • ... as long as the giants don't get exclusive ownership of the code. And if the the code was developed with their funding and remains in the public domain, it is they who are getting "exploited".
    • I agree . . . one could argue that the open source community is exploitng the multinationals by using the multinationals to market and distribute their products. As the product grows in popularity more people become attracted to the open source movement and contribute . . . If anything, the multinationals increase the popularity and success of the OS movement.

      How much popular press did Linux receive when IBM started offering Linux based solutions and investing in other open source projects? Same goes fror

  • People get paid by someone to develop open source software to solve a problem, and then the software is available to everybody. Subcontracting from companies like IBM to open source development houses is probably the best business model for open source. There is nothing wrong with that--it's the way it's supposed to work.

    Another common arrangement is where a company like IBM employs the open source developers directly.

    Companies that independently develop open source "products" generally are the weakest
    • The guy's an idiot. Everyone else on the panel felt embarassed and hoped he'd shut up as quickly as possible. Analysing anything he says is a waste of time. But hey, so is posting on Slashdot.
    • Can't just leave something alone, has to tell everyone how to live their lives and try to make them change to fit his view of the world. Or is that just all French people?

      Ah well frenchie, us liberal free wheeling, free market brits are coming to take over the EU presidency, you just keep an eye on your subsidies.

  • by pieterh (196118) on Wednesday June 01, 2005 @06:51AM (#12692410) Homepage
    (Taken from a presentation I made explaining open source as a development model for large businesses)...

    A common misconception about open source is that because it is "free" it is somehow a charity operation where programmers work bene-vola because they want "to contribute".

    This is, however, wrong. When Adam Smith said: "It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker, that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest", he was accurately describing a world in which self-interest creates mutually-beneficial structures.

    Open source contributors are attracted for different reasons, depending on how far they understand and identify with the technology at hand. We can identify the self-interest of each role, while seeing that the overall structure serves everyone:

    * "Users" will evangelise (seeking security in the company of others using the same technology).

    * "Power users" will help others who have problems (seeking the kudos that comes from helping others).

    * "Pundits" will discuss the technology in public forums (seeking the fame that comes from being able to accurately identify trends and future winners).

    * "Insiders" will take on parts of the testing process (seeking better familiarity with a technology that may become an important part of their skill set).

    * "Players" will delve into the technology itself, taking on smaller roles in the process (seeking the kudos and fame that can come from being on a winning team).

    * "Key players" will take on major roles in the project (seeking to impose their ideas, turn a small project into a major success, or otherwise earn a global reputation).

    * "Patrons" will provide financial support to the project (looking to sell services, often to the users, that require the technology to succeed and be widely used).

    The naive view of open source focuses only on the players, ignoring the wider economy of interests. A successful open source project must attract and support all these classes of people (and others, such as the "troll", who vocally attacks the project in public forums, thus stiffening the resolve of the users and pundits who defend it).

    Thus we can understand the needs of each role:

    * Users need a pleasant and impressive product so they can feel proud about showing it to others.

    * Power users need forums and mailing lists where they can answer questions.

    * Pundits need pre-packaged press releases, insider tips, and the occasional free lunch. Some controversy also helps.

    * Insiders need regular releases, frequent improvements, and forums where they can propose ideas for the project.

    * Players need extension frameworks where they can write their (often sub-standard) code without affecting the primary project.

    * Key players need badges of membership, and access to the right tools and support.

    * Patrons need a high-quality and stable product that supports their services and additional products.

    The only people working full time, and usually professionally, on an open source project are the key players. All the others will take part in the project as a side-effect of their on-going work or hobbies.

    While a traditional software company must pay everyone in this economy except the users, an open source economy must only pay the key players, who make up perhaps 2-5% of the total. Further, the key players will work for significantly less than the market rate, since they also derive a real benefit from working on successful projects, which I call the open source "payload". The most important part of a future programmer's CV is the section titled "Open Source Projects". This is the payload. It translates directly into dollars, proportional to the impact and importance of the open source projects involved.

    When compensation plus payload does not cover the cost of working on a project (in terms of loss of compensation for alternative work), the key player will suffer "burnout" after 12-18 months, more or less depending on the person's tenacity.
  • Go figure (Score:2, Flamebait)

    by 1000101 (584896)
    "The open source community today [is a] subcontractor of American multinationals"
    Big corporations getting free labor. Who would have thought they would take advantage of that? The CEOs, CTOs, etc. must be laughting their way to the bank when they see how many people are willing to do their work for free.
    • So? IBM is making money off stuff like Linux. Big deal. I'm saving a ton of money from Linux. If IBM wants to pay some programmers to make Linux better - so that IBM can make more money off it - good for them. The net result is that I save even more money by using Linux. Those who want big-name backing for their software safe money too, just not as much, and they're happy too. Everyone wins. It seems like an ideal situation.

      I rather suspect that this is more about a European distate for "American

  • Bears shit in the woods, the Pope wears a funny hat, and in Soviet Russia, Open Source Exploits IT Giants!
  • by ian rogers (760349) on Wednesday June 01, 2005 @06:56AM (#12692425)
    What, you expect me to call Jesus a liar?

    ps - funny, not troll.
  • If anything, commercial backing helps keep projects focused. One of the great things about OSS is that anyone can start a project, however far too often you end up with 10 separate understaffed projects all working on the same goal and in many cases the differences could be bridged, but everyone wants things done absolutely their way. In the end, development drags on, everything takes longer than it should and the product suffers.

    When you have a abundant resources and effective project management things ca
  • oh dear... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ladget (888292) on Wednesday June 01, 2005 @07:03AM (#12692447)
    The European Commissions worries about the Open Source Community? Stop software patents and we are fine!
  • Read the whole article and it becomes quite clear what Villasante's intentions are.

    "Villasante used his keynote speech earlier in the day to express concerns about the European software industry."

    "What I think is that Europe doesn't have a software industry today -- the only one we have today is in America. In the future we may have China or India. We should decide if we will have a European software industry in the future," he said.

    "Open source is a complete mess -- many people do lots of different
  • If we make software for commercial reasons, it is evil. If we fund open source, it is evil.
    • by NitsujTPU (19263) on Wednesday June 01, 2005 @07:34AM (#12692564)
      I'm getting sick of Americans trashing America.

      I'm also getting sick of people on Slashdot trashing America.

      I'm also sick of people on Slashdot trashing Slashdot (figure that one out).

      There really is nothing quite like sitting at dinner with an American girl explaining to her dining companions, all or almost all American, what a bunch of heathens we are, and how much we could learn from those overseas. What really bothers me is that this is intended to somehow exempt them from judgement. Americans explaining how dumb their countrymen are really do not sound any more intelligent for having done so.
      • I agree (Score:4, Insightful)

        by tjstork (137384) <> on Wednesday June 01, 2005 @09:50AM (#12693540) Homepage Journal
        Whenever something goes bad in Europe, European leaders are running around saying "America this", or "America that". It's not America's fault that Europe cannot both have a cradle to the grave welfare state with guaranteed social stability and a dynamic capitalist society at the same time. It's not America's fault that France and Germany have huge unemployment rates.

        All of our transatlantic problems are because of that simple quandry. Europe sees that America's trade policies are trashing its way of life. But Europe doesn't have to follow them. Europe doesn't have to have giant economic growth and doesn't have to try and become a unified alternative to America. Those are European decisions, not American ones. IF Europe wants to have a slower economy and fall behind economically but have more social stability, then let it.

        What I hate is blanket statements. Americans are a bunch of heathens that should be more integrated with the world. Americans don't understand foreign countries. Americans are stupider than their more civilized European counterparts. I mean, America has more people in more countries, both in businesses and in the military, then no nation in the world has ever had. America leads in many areas of research, has a robust economy, and yet, we're "stupid".

        Look at how much Europeans trash Texas. I'm no fan of that whole Southern Texas thing, but, if Texas were a country, it would be comparable to many European States in terms of economic activities. It's certainly larger!
    • He's not trashing America, he's not even trashing American companies, he's trashing *companies*.

    • by Jeff DeMaagd (2015) on Wednesday June 01, 2005 @08:18AM (#12692765) Homepage Journal
      I wonder what fraction of open source coders *really* are Americans?
  • The open source community today [is a] subcontractor of American multinationals

    Not all of us - I get paid to write (mostly) open source software by a small Danish company. Although it is "multinational" too - we have one man in England and two in USA.

  • It's funny he didn't mention the likes of Novell, which is doing the same thing. It even setup Novell Forge to get people to write software for their SuSE OS with Mono. Granted a couple cool projects have come out of it, however if you are going to throw stones at a couple companies you have throw stones at them all.

    This some more like America bashing than a ligitimate claim.
  • by MartinG (52587) on Wednesday June 01, 2005 @07:11AM (#12692479) Homepage Journal
    Nowadays we often _have_ to be "mere subcontractors" because of the ever looming threat of software patents. If the commission wants us to be more independent then create the legal framework to allow and and stop pushing for software patents.

    I don't know who in the EC wrote the directive but it certainly does NOT encourage open source developers to become more indepentent. It scares developers into only developing under the protection of their feudal lord (ie, a large company who can afford and is interested in wasting money on patents and patent litigation)
  • We know we're being used. We like being used. It brings us fame and glory and the respect of our peers.


    I know: I think all those people working for non-profits or for the European Commission should instead turn their efforts toward running a business.

    After all, those evil business people are just using the Red Cross, the universities, and the governments of the world.

  • For a while there, I almost thought we were going to run out of opinions about what the open source community is, or should be. Boy, was *THAT* close.
  • >> "From the moment they realise they are part of the evolution of society and try to influence it, we will be moving in the right direction."

    A lot of ideological assumptions are in that statement, which not everyone shares. Such as: corporations are inherently bad; small is always better than big; etc., etc.

    Whatever relationship exists between open source developers and corporations is there because those open source developers want it to be there. Have any developers been conscripted to labor for
  • by hey! (33014) on Wednesday June 01, 2005 @07:27AM (#12692541) Homepage Journal
    Suppose some guy is laboring in a factory making widgets; selling the widgets is making the factory owner rich but the people who actually make them are struggling economically.

    Let's leave aside the fact that this paradigm has always been a crappy one. You can't look at this situation in isolation. It makes a difference for example what the laws are and who, in practice, gets to make them. It makes a difference what the labor and widget markets are like, and whether the skills needed to compete really are commodity skills. It makes a difference how the boss treats the workers in general.

    Leaving aside the fact that such a paradigm pretty much leads to pointless arguments based on incompatible assumptions, the the fact that it does incite these arguments is instructive. How you react to it depends on whether you are socialist in temperment or capitalist.

    The Socialist temperment in its extreme form automatically looks for an fixates on anything smacking of inequity. The Capitalist temperment is quick to dismiss the possiblity that inequity can exist; any economic transaction is in their view tautologically fair.
  • Breaking the Code (Score:3, Interesting)

    by NickFortune (613926) on Wednesday June 01, 2005 @07:28AM (#12692545) Homepage Journal
    From TFA:

    He Said:

    "Open source communities need to take themselves seriously and realise they have contribution to themselves and society.
    He Meant:
    Open source coders need to form startups which can be bought up and crushed.
    He Said:
    From the moment they realise they are part of the evolution of society and try to influence it, we will be moving in the right direction
    He Meant:
    Open source communities have realised they are a part of the evolution of society and are influencing it but not in a direction that my paymasters find profitable
    He Said:
    Companies are using the potential of communities as subcontractors -- the open source community today [is a] subcontractor of American multinationals
    He Meant:
    Maybe if I can make them feel as if they are losing out they'll all get discouraged and do something else.
    He Said:
    What I think is that Europe doesn't have a software industry today
    He Meant:
    And it isn't going to have one tomorrow either if I have any say in the matter.
    He Said:
    Open source is a complete mess -- many people do lots of different things. There's total confusion today
    He Meant
    I really, really really don't get this open source thing. Really, I'm a clue free zone.

    Or am attributing to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity?

  • People write open source software for a number of reasons, the best being that they *need* that particular bit of kit for what they do.

    So what if someone else makes billions out of it as well, good luck to them, that just increases the popularity and encourages others to invest, look at, support and contribute, all of which help the original author do what he does.

    It also encourages others to write software in a similar manner, all of a sudden you have entire operating environments of free software, from
  • Perhaps it's just that big companies apparently seem to donate code that independant Open-Source developers enjoy working on? Surely it must be since otherwise, those independant coders simply would not work on the code.
  • by jesterzog (189797) on Wednesday June 01, 2005 @07:34AM (#12692567) Homepage Journal

    I actually went and read the article, and (surprise, surprise), Villasante is really not saying what Slashdot reports that he's saying.

    If you read the entire article, he's not specifically complaining that corporations are abusing the free coding of open source. What he is saying is that the corporations who release open source are also very responsible for lobbying for a lot of things that are later likely to inhibit open source development in the future. His working example is the European intellectual property legislation, that would ultimately inhibit open source in the wider view but is still being campaigned for by the likes of IBM and Sun.

    His point is that open source is the future of the software industry for Europe, yet by putting these laws in place that will give more power to the multi-national corportions, Europe is inhibiting its own future software industry.

    He's suggesting that open source developers are happily working with these corporations at ground level, but the same organisations might ultimately lead to a less productive open source model. This is what he means about the open source communities not taking himself seriously.

    I'm inclined to agree with him in many respects. Being able to develop in conjunction with businesses is a win-win scenario in terms of actually getting software developed, but we shouldn't necessarily ignore what else these businesses are doing just because they're cooperating in one aspect.

  • Yes, and that is the strength of it. "Many people do lots of different things". Zillions of ideas are tried out, the vast majority fails, a few bring forward the state of the art. It is evolution in action. It is how the capitalist market is supposed to work, except when we let it be subverted by private monopolies.
  • "Open source is a complete mess -- many people do lots of different things. There's total confusion today," Villasante said.

    I see this as one of the strengths of open source. Lots of people are doing lots of different things. There isn't a plan that everyone's following. That's how nature works, and that's how open source works. And it seems to work just splendidly in both cases.
    • Intelligent Design (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Morosoph (693565)
      What you're saying is both contrary to Intelligent Design and to Statism.

      How can you get anyone on the right, or the left to agree with you? ;o)

      The overarching assumption of our time is that all change is the product of, and requires intent; if the intent is not in man, it must be God's. In our post-Christian [European] era, that which is not the product of the 'will' of a corporation must be that of a state entity, or else explicitly goodwill of a collection of individuals.

      Natural selection is n

  • Yes, so what? (Score:3, Informative)

    by vrmlguy (120854) <> on Wednesday June 01, 2005 @07:44AM (#12692595) Homepage Journal
    Yes, the big companies are using open-source programmers as sub=contractors, but they are also paying them. And I don't mean the ones that get put on payroll, I mean each and every one. However, they aren't all made in money, some are paid in "intellectual property". (Yes, I hate the IP arguments as much as any of you, but I'm looking at this from the viewpoint of the big companies.)

    If I hire you as a sub-contractor, what you write isn't your property, it's mine. If, OTOH, you are an open-source programer, then what you write is shared by you and me. And if, as is normally the case, the code is made publicly available, it could be considered a charitable contribution, just as if you requested that some or all of your paychecks be sent to UNICEF or something.

    Admittedly, current accounting practices aren't set up to handle these types of values transfers, but that doesn't mean that they aren't occurring.

  • by bhima (46039) <> on Wednesday June 01, 2005 @07:44AM (#12692599) Journal
    OK, I actually read the article and he's got some good points. However the whole reason that these companies have a lot of sway with the open source community is that they are actively participating within it! I agree with him that the open source community could use some added independence and the solution is simple: the EU should increase their participation within open source community!
  • by jandersen (462034) on Wednesday June 01, 2005 @07:52AM (#12692636)
    We have had this discussion over and over in the past. Somebody should go and tell this bureaucrat to think, listen and learn before he opens his mouth. That way we will saved a nuissance and he won't have yet another reason to be embarrassed.
  • From the moment the EC realises it is part of the evolution of society and starts to give real support to FOSS, we will be moving in the right direction.
  • by WebHostingGuy (825421) on Wednesday June 01, 2005 @07:56AM (#12692659) Homepage Journal
    and they will tell you they aren't. Geez, do we just hate big corporations or what?
  • by Tsu Dho Nimh (663417) <`abacaxi' `at' `'> on Wednesday June 01, 2005 @08:31AM (#12692856)
    If you believe Rob Enderle's latest rant [], Linux is a force that makes the press, big companies and even governments tremble before us. Now Villasants is worried we're being exploited.

    Maybe Villasante should get together with Enderle and decide whose FUD to believe.

  • by redhog (15207) on Wednesday June 01, 2005 @09:23AM (#12693272) Homepage
    Sounds like he's just been listening to ESR and the like and never heard RMS. Had he, he'd noticed not everyone is just hacking for the good of the big companies but for themselves and everyone.

    Open Source was a reaction on the, from an american view-point "too business unfriendly" Free Software, to get acceptance from and win supporters among businesses and thus make the free software more popular and ubiqous.

    However in taking the descission to promote the licenses this way, one did not only distance oneseleves from the idealistic Free Software advocates, but also from the leftists, who, in the rest of the world aren't as few and unimportant as in the US. I think that one could argue that this descission was taken on a bit too US-centric arguments.
  • by iabervon (1971) on Wednesday June 01, 2005 @12:26PM (#12695269) Homepage Journal
    A mistake that many people, including this commissioner, make when thinking about open source development is to think that creating a commercial software product is essentially creating some software and then getting paid. In fact, there is a huge amount of work and even more risk in getting it from the point where it is a perfect piece of software to the point where you have money.

    Marketting, sales, accounting, payroll, tech support, and business administration are all full-time jobs that developers don't want to do, and all of them would be necessary to have a successful commercial product. Open-source developers could do all this extra work, and would either get some money or lose some money. But they could also paint houses if they wanted more money, and it would be more fun, and a less risky and faster source of income.
  • by dtfinch (661405) * on Wednesday June 01, 2005 @12:44PM (#12695506) Journal
    A lot of open source work is done for free, but I suspect that a lot of the long term maintenance isn't. If you want to be paid, you'll have to do what you're paid to do.
  • As if (Score:4, Interesting)

    by xenocide2 (231786) on Wednesday June 01, 2005 @01:25PM (#12696012) Homepage
    Just because the Open Source Movement isn't as openly communist as some socialist EU official would have liked doesn't mean it doesn't meet its goals of open software.

    If the problem is truly that IBM and the like are selling branded Open Source, and people are buying it, then the GPL will lubricate the production of competitors for 'IBM Open Source.' If this official somehow wants society to realize that IBM software isn't so different from, say, Debian software, well then I hope he's got the cash to market to the purchasing managers.

    I contend that the "Open Source Community" is taking itself seriously, which is why more and more of these programmers are becoming subcontractors. Hell, a lot of the kernel work is done by people paid by big companies to do so. If it appears to be a complete mess, its because, in part, it is so. Amatuers and professionals alike can write software; by saying something close to "you want IBM Open Source" IBM is putting its professional word behind the software. Open source is not a centrally planned economny, no matter how many people have told you that the GPL reeks of socialism and that RMS echoes the rhetoric of famous Communists.

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