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IT Giants Accused of Exploiting Open Source 511

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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  • by October_30th ( 531777 ) on Wednesday June 01, 2005 @06:33AM (#12692342) Homepage Journal
    ...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?
  • by matt me ( 850665 ) on Wednesday June 01, 2005 @06:39AM (#12692368)
    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.
  • 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.
  • 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 ) <sd_resp2.earthshod@co@uk> on Wednesday June 01, 2005 @07:22AM (#12692519)
    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.
  • 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?

  • 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.
  • by Dachannien ( 617929 ) on Wednesday June 01, 2005 @08:13AM (#12692736)
    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?

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

    by caseydk ( 203763 ) on Wednesday June 01, 2005 @08:40AM (#12692919) Homepage Journal
    That's one thing that is going to change with GPL v. 3.

    And that's why companies are going to run screaming from the GPL.

    Not sure if this is FUD, so someone more knowledgable, please step up here.

    From what I have heard ESR/RMS are considering requiring companies who derive revenue from GPL'd code (Amazon & Google for example) to provide a revenue stream back to the authors. This is a terrible idea... it sounds like a way of limiting the usage.

    If so, I think the "Free" might go out of "Free Software."
  • 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 LWATCDR ( 28044 ) on Wednesday June 01, 2005 @09:39AM (#12693438) Homepage Journal
    "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 "
    I can only guess that you where not around in the 80s. Not all software in the 80's commercial or shareware. There was also a ton of FREE SOFTWARE around before RMS started his religion. Think GCC was the first free c compiler? Look up small c sometime.

    RMS didn't change the world. The real truth is if it was not for Linux there is a very good chance that RMS and GPL would be a footnote.
  • Re:I HATE KWord (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Dogtanian ( 588974 ) on Wednesday June 01, 2005 @10:27AM (#12693900) Homepage
    LOL, you hate the software and avoid it, because it crashed for you 3 years before? How pathetic.


    I hate the software and avoid it because it crashed the first time I used it. And again. And again. It crashed whenever I wanted to change the typeface in a document. In other words, I had to conciously try to avoid the problem area every time I used the damn thing and it *still* crashed.

    That was a pretty fundamental bug to have slipped through testing. What did it say about the rest of the product? Not something I'd want to have to rely on.

    It was the equivalent of coming to a job interview with ketchup stains all over your shirt. You can change the shirt if it affects your ability to do the job, but the fact you didn't bother in the first place gives a bad overall impression of your attitude/abilities.

    You know something? If I had a good reason to, I'd probably have given it another go by now. But I have OOo, MS Word and LaTeX, and I can't be bothered. Yeah, I'm human; KWord failed me repeatedly when I didn't have time to waste, and unless there's a compelling reason to give it another go, I'm not wasting time with it.
  • I honestly believe that these companies, such as IBM, can only do good for the OSS community as a whole. There are certain issues that large corporations can deal with that the OSS community simply can't -- doesn't have the rescources to do. Of course I mean legal battles.

    With mounting pressure from M$, or SCO, or any other company that feels wronged by people "giving things away for free" they will fight against the opposing buisness model with tooth and nail. OSS simply does not have the capital to take on software patents, accusations of stolen code, etc. when they come along.

    OSS can take care of a lot of things very quickly. It's model for developing software and man-power availible is simply mind-boggling -- something no corporation could even match. There is not a company in the world that could pay to employ the amount of man-power OSS has on constant active reserve.

    But let's face it, in this day and age it's simply not the ideas you have, and the things you can do; it's the money you have. It is unfortunate, but we see it in every walk of life in first world nations: second rate products are allowed to flourish and become main-stream consumer goods due to the capital the company that produces it has (*cough* microsoft *cough*). Mean while these companies will use their capital to destroy their competitors by any means possible. OSS is an easy target because it has no ready reserves of $$. You can always insist that somewhere buried in the kernel is an offending bit of code, or that microsoft was the first to develop a certain code declaration or algorithm. Of course everyone knows that is crap -- but who has the money to back up that fact?

    When it comes right down to it, these companies like IBM, HP, and the like are absolutely needed to protect OSS from the imperfections of our own society -- so that OSS is less political and more development. The OSS model works great, but it can be eroded by capitalism on legal grounds unless somebody does something.

    With all of that said, I would like to thank all of the large companies who work with OSS to keep it alive. Companies that work for people, and not for a corperate board, are few and far between; it's always nice to see something good done with money and power.

  • 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.
  • Re:BS (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 01, 2005 @12:38PM (#12695431)
    I use OO.org at home. It rocks. I know it better than MS Office. Been using it since the first public beta (as StarOffice). Kword crashes quite frequently, (even still) so I don't even use it as a notepad.

    I have never bought ms office LOL. If my boss wants me to work on office docs at home, he better have a MS Office license and CD, unless they have no VBA in them.

    I don't install MS crap without a purchased hologram ; ) Been threatened over it too. I just bounce back a "I am calling BSA if you want to go there". My laptop has never had anything closer to microsoft on it than WineX. Wiped the hard drive clean, out of the box from dell. It's never started MS Windows on my watch.

    Needless to say I don't do much office work at home.

    Never crap where you eat.

  • 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.

"Atomic batteries to power, turbines to speed." -- Robin, The Boy Wonder