Linked by snydeq on Mon 1st Jun 2009 16:28 UTC
GNU, GPL, Open Source InfoWorld reports on the fight over open source 'leeches' -- companies that use open source technology but don't give back to the open source community. While some view such organizations as a tragedy of the commons, others view the notion of 'freeloaders' as a relic of open source's Wild West era, when coding was a higher calling and free software a religion.
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Pause...
by massa on Mon 1st Jun 2009 17:30 UTC
massa
Member since:
2005-08-22

for an "Oh, sh*t, that's why RMS invented the GPL" moment. Seriously.
People say what they say about "religion", "cult", and "fanatism" because they don't understand. Proprietary software is /bad/, and proprietary software vendors, well, they just do these kind of things.

Reply Score: 3

RE: Pause...
by daedliusswartz on Mon 1st Jun 2009 21:21 UTC in reply to "Pause..."
daedliusswartz Member since:
2007-05-28

Remind yourself of that when you're in hospital and connected to a medical device with a proprietary design and proprietary software inside, and then lets see how "bad" it really is....

Would you be willing to die if you knew the software inside that cardiac monitor wasn't open source?

"No, please doctor, that's not GPL so I don't want to use it."

Reply Score: 5

RE[2]: Pause...
by bannor99 on Tue 2nd Jun 2009 02:02 UTC in reply to "RE: Pause..."
bannor99 Member since:
2005-09-15

Remind yourself of that when you're in hospital and connected to a medical device with a proprietary design and proprietary software inside, and then lets see how "bad" it really is....

Would you be willing to die if you knew the software inside that cardiac monitor wasn't open source?

"No, please doctor, that's not GPL so I don't want to use it."



And, if you died because of a software glitch in a medical device, how would anyone ever know?

Reply Score: 4

RE[3]: Pause...
by Invincible Cow on Tue 2nd Jun 2009 18:56 UTC in reply to "RE[2]: Pause..."
Invincible Cow Member since:
2006-06-24

I guess that matters a lot when you're already dead.

Open source software has no notion of quality assurance (although the BSD community seems to be much better than the Linux/GPL community).

I wouldn't trust my nurses to be able to operate a medical device with a command line interface, no matter how much more "powerful" it may be to compared to a single push button labelled "SAVE LIFE".

Reply Score: 1

RE[4]: Pause...
by bannor99 on Wed 3rd Jun 2009 01:58 UTC in reply to "RE[3]: Pause..."
bannor99 Member since:
2005-09-15

Why would the interface be command line? Is it running DOS or Win 3.1?
Also, with 4 nurses in my family - over a century of combined experience, I can tell you that they aren't easily fazed.
All but the youngest learned nursing the old-fashioned way, where you volunteered for 1-2 years doing all the
menial work while learning the ropes from the senior sisters.

Reply Score: 1

RE[4]: Pause...
by strcpy on Wed 3rd Jun 2009 02:58 UTC in reply to "RE[3]: Pause..."
strcpy Member since:
2009-05-20

Open source software has no notion of quality assurance (although the BSD community seems to be much better than the Linux/GPL community).


Yes. Lack of QA is indeed one of the biggest problems in FOSS, generally.

I wouldn't trust my nurses to be able to operate a medical device with a command line interface, no matter how much more "powerful" it may be to compared to a single push button labelled "SAVE LIFE".


However, open source is doing well as a core in the embedded world to which medical devices would also probably belong to. Of course this does not mean that open source community would in itself develop embedded devices. No one would trust software designed for a medical device that is hosted in "github" and developed in a "bazaar", but a trusted medical device could well run a open source kernel.

Reply Score: 1

RE[5]: Pause...
by Moulinneuf on Fri 5th Jun 2009 12:13 UTC in reply to "RE[4]: Pause..."
Moulinneuf Member since:
2005-07-06

Yes. Lack of QA is indeed one of the biggest problems in FOSS, generally.


Actually QA is not a problem at all in FOSS. That's why most security related device use it.

However, open source is doing well as a core in the embedded world to which medical devices would also probably belong to


Wow , something truthfull from you must be an accident.

Of course this does not mean that open source community would in itself develop embedded devices.


Right because the same company is split in two in your magical bullshit bubble world ...

No one would trust software designed for a medical device that is hosted in "github" and developed in a "bazaar"


That's how most things are created , not exact same name but similar methods , except for "bazaar" ...

but a trusted medical device could well run a open source kernel.


They all do , that's who created the device in the first place.

Reply Score: 2

RE[4]: Pause...
by Moulinneuf on Fri 5th Jun 2009 12:06 UTC in reply to "RE[3]: Pause..."
Moulinneuf Member since:
2005-07-06

I guess that matters a lot when you're already dead


It's called murder in case you don't know , allowing a known glitch into a medical device that killed someone to go unfixed , even do you knew it existed.

Open source software has no notion of quality assurance


That's why Military , medical , space exploration all use it.

(although the BSD community seems to be much better than the Linux/GPL community).


Must be why nobody use it , as is , these days even do it's a 70's technology.

I wouldn't trust my nurses to be able to operate a medical device with a command line interface


You do know that nurse , receive training befoire hand and are trained to use no device at all to save you ...

no matter how much more "powerful" it may be to compared to a single push button labelled "SAVE LIFE".


Please do show me a real medical device with such a label ...

Reply Score: 2

RE[2]: Pause...
by Moulinneuf on Fri 5th Jun 2009 11:59 UTC in reply to "RE: Pause..."
Moulinneuf Member since:
2005-07-06

That's funny because most hospital in the world use Free and Open Source hardware ( in past recession , many company folded and hospital ended up with equipment that was made obsolete because of this , so they are not as brain dead as you are and learned there lessons ) , cardiac monitor are such a technology that the *majority* are Open Source , the rest are based on those technology similar to Closed and proprietary OS and software.

You also forget that hospital existed long before electronics come into it , so there are method of monitoring cardiac rythmia without electronics. They are also used and taught worldwide because accident happen outside hospitals. Also not every Country as the cash to give every patient a cardiac monitor.

Where your argumentation fall short is that most medical technology is Open Source and Free , since your still alive , but against Free and Open Source , I am guessing you used one of those device at one time in your life.

It's a common falacy among moron that because someone is pro Free Software and Open Source development method that in the mind of those morons we can't use anything we want when we want. We are Free people , we and not you can do as we please inside the confine of the law.

"Where are you going doctor , well you said you can't use Free and Open Source hardware or technology, Sorry to inform you that medicine is a Open Source and Free science"

Reply Score: 2

RE[3]: Pause...
by tobyv on Sat 6th Jun 2009 22:58 UTC in reply to "RE[2]: Pause..."
tobyv Member since:
2008-08-25

Sorry to inform you that medicine is a Open Source and Free science"


Better tell Pfizer to relinquish their drug patents, because Information Wants To Be Free :-)

Practicing this free science without a costly 7+ year medical degree (and AMA credentials) will land you in prison.

Reply Score: 1

RE: Pause...
by ssa2204 on Tue 2nd Jun 2009 08:14 UTC in reply to "Pause..."
ssa2204 Member since:
2006-04-22

for an "Oh, sh*t, that's why RMS invented the GPL" moment. Seriously.
People say what they say about "religion", "cult", and "fanatism" because they don't understand. Proprietary software is /bad/, and proprietary software vendors, well, they just do these kind of things.


But you just proved the counterpoint with your post. The whole notion that proprietary is evil and OSS is good is childish to say the least. Murder, rape, theft; these are moralities which society has generally created. But with OSS, we have a small base of fanatics who are pushing morality where none is either needed or wanted. This is after all just software. Should we now apply morality to areas such as media? Should CNN become immoral if they do not report on the news I want?

Companies will always have proprietary software for the sole reason that development costs, and you simply can not, nor should not impose on others. Without the proprietary model, face the facts that literally thousands of companies would not exist, and thousands of others would not invest the time or money to develop new technologies. And the same goes for the fact that literally tens of thousands of people find employment by the very fact a company CAN hire them to write software. The whole gaming industry would probably not exist if not for the fact it is proprietary, for OSS certainly has shown incapable and unqualified at producing OSS games en masse.

OSS contributes a whole hell of a lot to the technology world, but it is by no means "The Answer", nor should it ever be.

Reply Score: 4

RE: Pause...
by Soulbender on Tue 2nd Jun 2009 12:57 UTC in reply to "Pause..."
Soulbender Member since:
2005-08-18

"Oh, sh*t, that's why RMS invented the GPL" moment.


Really? Is that why the GPL does not cover it? These companies are doing exactly what is allowed by the license. granted, they're doing the absolute minimal that is required but that is still complying with the license. The GPL does not cover anything like "give back to the community", it covers the code.

People say what they say about "religion", "cult", and "fanatism" because they don't understand


Maybe the GPL shouldn't be so complicated then? Why should we need lawyers to figure it out?

Proprietary software is /bad/

Thanks for parroting the "company line".

Reply Score: 3

Comment by FunkyELF
by FunkyELF on Mon 1st Jun 2009 17:51 UTC
FunkyELF
Member since:
2006-07-26

From the article:

The Eclipse community should create peer pressure to prevent the freeloaders and parasites from getting away without punishment


That sounds like a bad idea. People would choose proprietary over that.

In general, I'm happy if proprietary software vendors use this stuff and don't give back because it makes their products cheaper for me. Look at how many people use sqlite (the most widely deployed database in the world http://www.sqlite.org/mostdeployed.html). Public domain, GPL, BSD, Dual licenced... they're all fine with me. I could care less if leeches provide their patches upstream or not. The software gets better with or without them. Without them, those leeches need to re-patch newer versions so its more work for them.

Look at what Sun/Oracle just did with Java... http://tech.slashdot.org/story/09/05/29/1711203/Java-Gets-New-Garba...

Because it was their product to begin with and wasn't originally GPL they're leeching from themselves. At least they did GPL it before infecting it with crap you have to pay for.

With things like this you need to be able to see the future and fork it before its too late, like with Azureus. It used to be great, and then it became what it is overnight. I stopped using it, switched to rtorrent and found that it really wasn't that great to begin with tho ;-)

Anyway... I'm rambling. Time to stop. I got some leeching to do.

Reply Score: 3

RE: Comment by FunkyELF
by arooaroo on Tue 2nd Jun 2009 14:40 UTC in reply to "Comment by FunkyELF"
arooaroo Member since:
2005-07-06

If the devs of sqlite choose to release their wonderful creation (and I don't mean that sarcasticly, it really is a wonderful creation) under a public domain license, and users - whether they be academics, open source devs, propriety software houses, whoever - use the code under those terms, then they are simply perfectly legitimate users, and not "leechers". That's simply unfair to call them so.

And I'm not talking about semantic technicalities of staying within the terms but not within the spirit. I do believe a lot of open source devs are happy to release their code to be used in whatever way people see fit and not expect anything in return. The devs, and of course the licenses, tend to be fairly explicit about how the code can be use. Because if they did care, they would have picked an appropriate license to defend against it.

For the record. I use a lot of OSS software, and I've released a lot of my personal code under OSS licenses. I also work for a large company and we produce some digital products that use OSS software. I don't see any moral issue in using the software under the licenses they specifically choose to release under. Speaking for myself - although I imagine it's not a minority view - I'm not ideologically aligned to the GPL philosophy of Free software. I'm more in favour to Open Source, like that of the Apache and BSD licenses: "Here's my code. It's mine - I've got the copyright. But feel free to use it in any way you wish." And in that way I've done my bit and I'm not forcing anything on anyone else.

Reply Score: 1

I don't get it
by pooo on Mon 1st Jun 2009 18:10 UTC
pooo
Member since:
2006-04-22

So what exactly should they be giving back?? If the software is gpl'ed then any additions or modifications are given back (or they get sued, harassed, etc).

If they are not releasing modifications or additions then what exactly should they be giving back? Are we talking about companies like google who do lots of modifications but don't release them? Should there be a clause in the gpl where we get to audit the code?

Anyway, 99% of Linux *desktop* users have never contributed a damn thing. So why are they not "leachers"?

That people will use the software and contribute nothing is just reality and not even a bad one.

Disclaimer: Of course I did not RTF so I could be totally misunderstanding the situation.

Reply Score: 4

OK
by pooo on Mon 1st Jun 2009 18:21 UTC
pooo
Member since:
2006-04-22

So I read the article now. And it was basically what I thought. I now have two questions:

1. Is the total number of contributors really decreasing?? Or just proportionally wrt the number of users? If the real number of developers is decreasing that isn't because of *new* end users that don't give back. Sorry. If the total contributors is decreasing there is another explanation.

2. What do you expect? The whole point of FOSS and the GPL in particular is that people that believe in and are part of the community will contribute and you can force some people who don't believe to contribute if they distribute modifications also. But these companies are not believers at all and they aren't distributing modifications. They are part of the ass hole proprietary world the gpl is meant to be an island from. So what makes you think for a second they will pay developers to "contribute"? Here is how these jerk offs brain's work: "Does it increase profit?", "No", "End of conversation". Peer pressure is not going to do jack. A smear campaign that makes their marketing department sweat, now that idea has legs.

Anyway since there is no cost to them using this software, why do you care?? This whole article seems like nothing more than a chronicle of short sighted whiners. One thing that people sometimes forget about the FOSS idea is that it is about *contributing*. Another way of saying that is giving. Giving, giving. Just give to those lame people and maybe it will sink in after a while. Otherwise, let it go.

Reply Score: 2

RE: OK
by Lennie on Mon 1st Jun 2009 18:30 UTC in reply to "OK"
Lennie Member since:
2007-09-22

1. I didn't see this directly mentioned in the article and I don't know what Amazon does with Eclipse, but if they are releasing incompatible versions and do not releasing modifications, that could be bad.

Other then that, I don't think these 'leeches' are not so bad, as long as the community and number of contributers keeps growing and they don't ask to many stupid questions.

Reply Score: 1

RE[2]: OK
by Lennie on Mon 1st Jun 2009 22:26 UTC in reply to "RE: OK"
Lennie Member since:
2007-09-22

I've put some more thought in to this and I would like to think the companies at this time are just still in a learning fase. Like many knowledgeable open source users that later on become contributers. When companies understand that when they work with others, it saves them time and money. And yes, in some cases they might be helping their competitors along as well, but doing the work yourself (as a company) and understanding the tech. is definitly a way to stay ahead.

Reply Score: 1

RE: OK
by strcpy on Tue 2nd Jun 2009 06:32 UTC in reply to "OK"
strcpy Member since:
2009-05-20


1. Is the total number of contributors really decreasing?? Or just proportionally wrt the number of users? If the real number of developers is decreasing that isn't because of *new* end users that don't give back. Sorry. If the total contributors is decreasing there is another explanation.


I think this is an interesting and important observation to debate.

If we leave out all commercial entities from the picture, could it indeed be that the gap between users and developers has widened?

With the rise of Ubuntu et. al. the "all users are hackers" -idiom is increasingly starting to be a fallacy. And it was exactly this idiom that lead to the FOSS as we know it today.

Could it be that the critical mass of developers has been already reached? Could it be -- to put this even more provocatively -- that majority of the new users coming from Windows background are not capable of giving anything back to the community, being more of an obstacle rather than an asset?

At the anecdotal level I often find myself wondering about these questions. Increasingly even simple bug reports are useless. Increasingly I see vocal demands instead of patches. Increasingly I see a trend towards something I dislike; something motivated by clueless end-users instead of old power users and developers.

Increasingly I hear people accusing me of being an elitist bastard.

Edited 2009-06-02 06:35 UTC

Reply Score: 2

Legal vs Moral
by Milo_Hoffman on Mon 1st Jun 2009 19:43 UTC
Milo_Hoffman
Member since:
2005-07-06

Really, this comes down to a 'legal' vs 'moral' argument and illustrates how they are not the same thing.


Its perfectly 'legal' for a commercial enterprise to use GPL, BSD, or other open source software for its own use and to even make money off of it.

However, it is also perfectly fine for someone to argue that its 'moral' for said enterprise to contribute back to the community from which it derived the benefits.


This is no different than any other 'community' that a commercial enterprise deals with.

Some companies choose to give a little back to the community, encourage their employees to donate a little company time to charity, community volunteering, and have policies of being 'good neighbors', and some companies have no such concepts in the way they run their business.


Why is that so hard to understand?

Reply Score: 2

how about fork-leeches?
by Kishe on Mon 1st Jun 2009 20:08 UTC
Kishe
Member since:
2006-02-16

Like the 100001 ubuntu forks where nothing else is different than default theme and the name?

Thats leeching too.

Reply Score: 2

oxygene
Member since:
2005-07-07

What's the difference in development pace and code quality of a project if it has 10 users versus 10000 users?

None.

As long as those users don't make unreasonable demands ("I'm using your app, so you have an obligation to fix all my issues FOR FREE!!!!11"), they might just not exist.

And if they make unreasonable demands, there are usually social or technical means to ignore them. And then, see the previous paragraph.

Reply Score: 1

Mostly harmless
by Delgarde on Mon 1st Jun 2009 23:04 UTC
Delgarde
Member since:
2008-08-19

If you're talking simply about users taking advantage of a free product, well, that's what happens when something is free. Similarly, if we're talking about people or companies building their own products on top of a free component, the same applies, as long as they're following the license conditions. If they contribute back, then you benefit. If they don't, no big deal - it's not like they're costing you anything.

If they're directly competing with you with a derivative product, that's somewhat of a different matter, but in practice, I can't think of many cases where a commercial derivative has been successful at competing with the product it's based on. There are plenty of Eclipse-based IDEs out there, for example, but since any point of difference can easily be put into the core project, they don't tend to hold much market share compared to Eclipse itself.

Reply Score: 1

...
by Hiev on Mon 1st Jun 2009 23:16 UTC
Hiev
Member since:
2005-09-27

Give to Caesar the things which are Caesar's.

They want the source, give it back to them, it is fair and it is what is in the license.

If don't agree with it don't use it at all.

I try to avoid GPL code and libraries and I always find a good propietary option with good support. And almost all the time the quality of the propietary libraries surpace the free ones, hell, even they give me the source to tweak it as long I don't resell it.

I think GPL libraries tend to be overrated.

Edited 2009-06-01 23:18 UTC

Reply Score: 1

I don't know WTF they expected ...
by WorknMan on Tue 2nd Jun 2009 00:04 UTC
WorknMan
Member since:
2005-11-13

If you give out something to people and say, "Here, it's free!", whether it be free software or free healthcare, you're going to have leechers. If you don't like this fact, then release your software under a different license.

Expecting people to give back 'just because' might be a reality in the Star Trek universe, but not so much in the one we live in. I'm not saying that's a good or bad thing. I'm just stating what is.

Reply Score: 3

AnyoneEB Member since:
2008-10-26

I agree. Being aggressive is just going to scare people and companies away from open source. If they want to use code internally and never give any patches or bug reports back to the community, that is their prerogative.

That said, there is nothing wrong with pushing the positive incentives for giving back -- that is, that it may be cheaper for the company and give them higher quality software to run without any actual loss. Companies not sharing code purely for the sake of not sharing code are likely to be more in need of education than unreasonable anger and demands.

It has also been pointing out that by using software, companies are, to some extent, giving the projects free advertising. A small way of giving back, but it is not nothing.

Reply Score: 1

The users owe absolutely nothing.
by massysett on Tue 2nd Jun 2009 03:48 UTC
massysett
Member since:
2007-12-04

The licenses state that the users may use and copy the Software, free of charge.

The users owe the "community" absolutely nothing. End of story.

Whiners who do not like this need to devise new licenses, or schemes to charge for services, or they can just develop proprietary software. But it is pointless for them to whine about users who are using software exactly in accordance with the license that the developers granted to the users.

Reply Score: 3

Here's the point
by fretinator on Tue 2nd Jun 2009 14:57 UTC
fretinator
Member since:
2005-07-06

There will always be two kinds of users - those who contribute back because the license FORCES you to, and those who contribute back because it is the right thing to do - even if not required to do so by the license.

Or to put it another way, Freedom is not free. There is always a cost. Think of television - there are 2 main kinds of television.

The first, and most common kind, is commercially supported TV. We pay by listening to ENDLESS hours of advertisements telling us we stink, are missing out, or are just plain too fat. But that is how we pay for the shows.

The second, less common, kind of television (or radio, etc) is listener-supported. That means every once in a while we have to listen to some old lady in wierd glasses whine on about how great the shows are and why we ought to chip in a few bucks to help the cause. No one is MAKING you pay. It's just the right thing to do if you benefit from the shows.

That's it, you have pay one way or another. No free lunches, no "free as in no cost" software. We all have to pay if we want to enjoy our "software shows".

(exit soap box)

Reply Score: 3

polaris20
Member since:
2005-07-06

I use an operating system based on its features and performance, not how "free" it is. I don't care what the pseudo religious nutjobs have to say about it. I'm not a programmer, so I can't contribute code. I don't really care to contribute any of my time otherwise.

Ubuntu is good, so I use it. It's free, so all the better, but even if it cost me $100, I'd happily pay the money and still use it.

I believe in capitalism, so the concept of paying for quality software is not offensive in the slightest.

YMMV

Reply Score: 2

james_gnz Member since:
2006-02-16

I use an operating system based on its features and performance, not how "free" it is. I don't care what the pseudo religious nutjobs have to say about it. I'm not a programmer, so I can't contribute code. I don't really care to contribute any of my time otherwise.

Ubuntu is good, so I use it. It's free, so all the better, but even if it cost me $100, I'd happily pay the money and still use it.

I believe in capitalism, so the concept of paying for quality software is not offensive in the slightest.

YMMV

I believe in capitalism too, but I'm not sure it ought to apply to ideas, and it certainly doesn't necessarily have to, since capitalism existed before the concept of 'intellectual property'.

In the sale of material goods, a company that holds 90% of the market must manufacture 90% of the products, so (underhanded tactics aside) the advantage goes to the company that performs best (i.e. creates the products people most want, at a price they can afford). Competition is based on merit. No company can rest on its laurels. And there's no risk of duplication of work--every product that someone bought was manufactured exactly once. Capitalism makes sense here.

Trying to apply it to 'intellectual property', though, is a different story. A company that holds 90% of the market share develops 1 product, and the companies that hold 9% and 1% of the market share also develop 1 product each. The company that holds 1% of the market share must be 9x more efficient than the company the holds 9% of the market share in order to compete, and the company that holds 90% of the market share can still compete even if it is only 1/10 as efficient as the company with 9% of the market share. This is not competition based on merit, this is resting on laurels. And there's 3 times more work being done than is necessary. This is not what capitalism is supposed to be about, surely.

Reply Score: 2

testers?
by renhoek on Tue 2nd Jun 2009 21:04 UTC
renhoek
Member since:
2007-04-29

Even if you don't contribute code to a project, you most likely end up a tester anyway. When bugs show up it's really likely you report them. So, leechers are actually free beta testers.

Reply Score: 2