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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.
  • Errmmm.... No. (Score:1, Insightful)

    by torpor (458) <jayvNO@SPAMsynth.net> on Wednesday June 01, 2005 @06:26AM (#12692322) Homepage Journal
    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

    Sorry, but no. The *real* moment OSS will be moving in the right direction, is when the OSS movement works out that source is nothing, operational hardware is everything, and getting that hardware into the hands of people who will use it is more important than any and all of the above.

    OSS means Hardware Rules.
  • 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.

    --
    Toby
  • 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 [laughdaily.com]

  • 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 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).
  • by renjipanicker (697704) on Wednesday June 01, 2005 @06:46AM (#12692387) Homepage
    ... 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".
  • 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 Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 01, 2005 @06:50AM (#12692404)
    I'm sorry, but that's just utter crap. The reason people from a university get employed is because:

    1) It shows they have the concentration to sit through several years of education, so there's less chance of them quitting within a few months

    2) It shows they have learnt basic software engineering skills that many geeks do not learn by themselves, such as UML.
  • Re:The Inverse (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 01, 2005 @06:58AM (#12692431)
    Who cares if they adopt it? Red Hat and the like maybe. Any software I develop that is going to be useful to IBM, I'm keeping to myself. Any software that is likely to be useful to some J. Random Person, or a community of interest that I happen to share, I have no problem making open source.
  • Re:The Inverse (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ajs (35943) <ajs@@@ajs...com> 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.
  • 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!
  • by HaydnH (877214) on Wednesday June 01, 2005 @07:06AM (#12692455)
    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 want to install 200MB of libs for a 1.5MB app?

    At least if the effort had gone in to KOffice there might be a windows version by now I suppose. Not that I run windows, but for any Office project to suceed it's a vital part of the market.
  • If we make software for commercial reasons, it is evil. If we fund open source, it is evil.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 01, 2005 @07:14AM (#12692492)
    Or is it easily ignored that other big companies have also started along the path of sharing the code and providing people with a free operating system and only making money on support ?

    My best example is Sun [sun.com] with their Solaris OS [sun.com]. Another example is their OpenSolaris [opensolaris.org] approach.

    Now, I only know of these two from mind because I happen to like Solaris. But there is more; like Microsoft [microsoft.com] which is considering to open some of its code.

    And all of this has been set in motion by the Open Source idea, and the way its being promoted (like Linux, *BSD, etc.).

    "Open source is a complete mess -- many people do lots of different things. There's total confusion today," Villasante said.

    But isn't that also just the beauty of it ?

  • by mad flyer (589291) on Wednesday June 01, 2005 @07:23AM (#12692524)
    1) It shows they have the concentration to sit through several years of education, so there's less chance of them quitting within a few months.

    Nice so they can safely be dead wood/office drone, they might even fit in a japanese company if they stop breathing

    2) It shows they have learnt basic software engineering skills that many geeks do not learn by themselves, such as UML.

    Yeah... it show they passed the test... not that they understood the questions
  • by bhima (46039) <Bhima.Pandava@gT ... m minus caffeine> 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!
  • Re:The Inverse (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 01, 2005 @07:51AM (#12692631)
    You can share your software with the world, but companies who modifiy it have to give that code back.

    No. Companies that distribute software built with modified code must give it back. Companies that use the code or even modifiy it and use it internally only need not give anything back.

    That's one thing that is going to change with GPL v. 3.
  • 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.
  • by Peaker (72084) <gnupeakerNO@SPAMyahoo.com> on Wednesday June 01, 2005 @07:53AM (#12692637) Homepage
    Many would agree that Richard Stallman, with his GNU manifest, has in fact initiated the Free Software movement, that later also yielded the opensource movement. He has also inspired Linus to make Linux free, if you note the fact Linus has used Richard's GPL license on Linux.

    In other words, without Richard, we'd be stuck in the 80's or early 90's where all software is commercial crap, shareware crap, and all of the power over computer users would belong to big companies - forever locking them in and controlling their computer usage.

    I'd say he changed the world more than say, a random prime minister of some country did.
  • 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.

  • by propertyistheft (869873) on Wednesday June 01, 2005 @07:56AM (#12692658)
    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 Jeff DeMaagd (2015) on Wednesday June 01, 2005 @08:18AM (#12692765) Homepage Journal
    I wonder what fraction of open source coders *really* are Americans?
  • by Tsu Dho Nimh (663417) <abacaxi@NosPAM.hotmail.com> on Wednesday June 01, 2005 @08:31AM (#12692856)
    If you believe Rob Enderle's latest rant [technewsworld.com], 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 Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 01, 2005 @08:34AM (#12692874)
    This is something X should have had from the beginning. If it had support for widgets, then all this widget-library nonsense would have been avoided. People could still have Qt widgets or GTK widgets, but they would be global and taken care of by the X server, not by individual programs. Hopefully this is something that the X developers will consider. It would also improve performance because all the widget rendering and management could be done server-side (better performance on the same machine and probably much better performance over the network).
  • Intelligent Design (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Morosoph (693565) on Wednesday June 01, 2005 @08:35AM (#12692885) Homepage Journal
    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 not part of such thinking. Emergent behaviour is perceived as the result of as-yet-unseen forces.

    The power of FOSS is the is delivers results beyond that of the intents of the participants. The commoditisation of software spreads technology further afield. The availability of soure code does wonders for software development everywhere. By increasing the availability of resources everywhere, so must more can be down, so that the comparable harm to 'incentives' becomes a joke.

    Yet the 'outcome requires intent' mentality means that the world moves steadily toward ever-stronger intellectual property regimes, and that the opposition, insofar as it comes from politicians is hopelessly idealistic, since they fail to grasp why FOSS is so very pragmatic.

  • Re:The Inverse (Score:3, Insightful)

    by AhBeeDoi (686955) on Wednesday June 01, 2005 @08:47AM (#12692954)
    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 and free software, not the Gulags of proprietary licenses.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 01, 2005 @09:31AM (#12693355)
    I think the fallacy that a lot of these people make (both europeans and americans)is that they believe that America is so evil due to some other circumstance than the amount of power it has.

    All nations are essentially corrupt and only looking out for themselves. The amount of damage that they are able to do is proportional to the amount of pull they have on the international scene.

    It's easy to look at a country like Belgium today and marvel at its high average income, its low poverty rates, etc, etc, but one doesn't have to look back very far into history to find times when Belgians commited atrocities in Central Africa (ones which most Belgians I've spoken to seem to forget about when they are lecturing me on the idiocy of American foreign policy). The fact is they didn't commit these atrocities because they were at one time a less enlightened more barbaric society; they commited them because they could, because they had the power, money and ability to lay waste to whatever lied in the path to their resources and riches.

    Yes, compared to the world the US commits more crimes via their foriegn policy, but it's only because they have the opportunities to commit them. When the US has fallen from its most-powerful-nation-on-the-Earth status even if Switzerland takes this position I guarantee they will become the biggest assholes on the planet.
  • Re:The KDE runtime (Score:3, Insightful)

    by afd8856 (700296) on Wednesday June 01, 2005 @09:34AM (#12693389) Homepage
    Why do you miss the point? That is, if the grandparent says he doesn't want to load the KDE libraries, then why would he load the gnome/gtk libraries? There's no way to have a modern really light desktop on linux. Sooner or later you'll have to load one of the two main widget toolkits.

    Personally, I enjoy my linux desktop best when I use wmaker or enlightment. But I will load Firefox and konqueror and not
  • I agree (Score:4, Insightful)

    by tjstork (137384) <todd,bandrowsky&gmail,com> 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!
  • Re:The Inverse (Score:3, Insightful)

    by nickos (91443) on Wednesday June 01, 2005 @10:48AM (#12694120)
    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...
  • Re:The Inverse (Score:3, Insightful)

    by ag0ny (59629) <javiNO@SPAMlavandeira.net> on Wednesday June 01, 2005 @10:56AM (#12694228) Homepage
    No. Companies that distribute software built with modified code must give it back. Companies that use the code or even modifiy it and use it internally only need not give anything back.

    That's one thing that is going to change with GPL v. 3.


    If that's true, all the Linux servers in the company I'm working for are going to be replaced by BSD in a matter of days.
  • Re:The Inverse (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Chris Burke (6130) on Wednesday June 01, 2005 @11:57AM (#12694937) Homepage
    Calm down; the post you replied to was full of shit. GPL 3 is aiming at better patent clauses and the web services arena where someone uses GPL software on a web server with a web interface and thus doesn't have to release code changes because they technically aren't distributing.

    Requiring payment even from for-profit uses of GPL software goes against freedoms 1 and 2 [gnu.org]. RMS is nothing if not consistent, and he has never expressed dismay at people making money off of free software before.

  • by killjoe (766577) on Wednesday June 01, 2005 @11:58AM (#12694939)
    He created the GPL and the FSF in order to change the world. I don't think anybody can argue about the impact of those things, they clearly changed the world.
  • 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.
  • Re:The Inverse (Score:2, Insightful)

    by PMoonlite (11151) on Wednesday June 01, 2005 @01:28PM (#12696051)
    capitalism and communism do not apply to information, as they are systems for distributing scarce resources, and information, once created, is not naturally scarce.

    open source is a methodology for creating information, which is an entirely different class of capital than that treated in classical economics.
  • Re:The Inverse (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 01, 2005 @02:29PM (#12696689)
    I think it's a mistake to try to mash political ideologies into open source. The interesting thing about open source is that it denies the realities of politics in the physical world.

    Funny. I like to think capitalism is denying the reality. You know it's only a theory, a mind-game, right? It's not like it's "out there in the world"..

    Open source on the other hand, and for those who practice it, is to giveth so that you can receieveth. Somebody embodied such values perfectly 2000 years ago..

    It has NOTHING to do with "markets", or Microsoft, or ideologies, or justifications, or rammifications, or even be nice! or anything! Now, that's politics.

    Even if you give more than you receieve, your faith is so that you know it's all perfect. It's just natural, and the ballgame is always changing..

  • Re:The Inverse (Score:3, Insightful)

    by budgenator (254554) on Wednesday June 01, 2005 @02:39PM (#12696843) Journal
    I would suggest that what you are really ranting about is more a derivative of feudalism than capitalism. Also the fore-runners of our unions were created to insure a degree of upward mobility to the serfs under the feudal system.

    Feudalism is better for the haves, because insures they'll always have, that why the successfull tend to gravitate back towards a feudal system. Capitalism on the other hand insures the possibility of upward mobility based on merit rather than position, so the have-not's tend to gravitate towards it.

    Feudalism tends to self-destruct, especialy when the "annoiting" runs out, just as european feudalism self-destructed when people finaly rejected the churches "annointing" of rulers as the will of god, our present industrial feudalism will self destruct as the "annointing" of government protection of patents and copyrights run out.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 01, 2005 @02:42PM (#12696896)
    Perhaps you're trying to fit this broad picture into a narrow lens? There many reasons why people do things. You can, if you like, choose to view these as an exchange of resources, or perhaps as a conversation between people, a social ordering phenomenon, or a variety of other ways. But I'd stop short of casting developers motivations as totally resource-oriented.

    If I change some programs on my Debian-installations, wouldn't it be counter-productive to:
    1) Withhold those changes to myself so that next time I do apt-get, I have to merge my changes with the main tree? Effectively having to maintain my side-fork?
    2) Potentially miss out of improvements and bug-fixes from others?

    You can always find egotistical reasons for doing good, but of course the Best is to do good just because that's natural to you. It's human and quite natural to share. We've just lost contact with our humanness if it doesn't seem so.

    You may call such protections an extension of various natural right to expression, but it takes laws and good, transparent enforcement of them to corral the market and the Invisible Hand and make OSS work.

    Not quite. The aim of copyleft (GPL) is to abolish copyright. RMS has stated this many times over, and he's right. Free software is a response to the unnatural laws of copyright which says it's bad to share information. As if somebody can own information.. When these laws go away, there's no need for copyleft, because nobody can now stop anybody from DISTRIBUTING information as they see fit. They will be free to do what is natural to humans: share and enjoy life.

    If RMS had not had many bad experiences with proprietary software, he might just have found a better job or watched TV or something. His statements are based on experience, not just airy ideas. That's partly why the Free Software movement is so successfull as it is. It has direction and power because somebody knows where we should be heading.
  • by killjoe (766577) on Wednesday June 01, 2005 @05:46PM (#12698978)
    " The GPL and FSF aren't code"

    So what? The GPL is a hack of the copyright system and a brilliant one at that.

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