|| ||Przemek Klosowski <przemek-AT-tux.org>|
|| ||SCO's medieval tendencies|
|| ||Mon, 1 Dec 2003 00:57:49 -0500|
Slashdot published recently more info on SCO communications related
to their Linux lawsuit. I wanted to share some thougths with you on that.
I always maintained that there is an analogy between the software
technology and scientific knowledge. Just like science is the basis
for our civilization, software underlies the expanding digital sphere
of our lives. The development model of both science and sofware can vary
between proprietary and public, and the society has to make a policy choice
about supporting the right mix.
Even though scientific and technological knowledge started as
proprietary, we as society made a historical choice, dating back to
the age of Enlightenment, to develop knowledge in a collegial, public
fashion. This model, of course, works rather well, and no one
seriously argues that it should be rolled back to some kind of
proprietary science development.
Similarly, I argue that software, whose importance tracks the growing
influence of computing on our lives, must be developed in a public
model; the Free Software is currently the closest approach, which
eventually will be augmented by some sort of peer-reviewed public
commitment, just as is the case for scientific research.
The analogy of software and science is not perfect; but I argue that,
firstly, the negative effects of closed software are almost identical
to negative effects of closed knowledge: it forces duplicate work,
creates artificial monopolies, and slows down progress. Secondly,
because software _IS_ the infrastructure of the digital age, there is
the issue of public interest, and the development model must
In this context, the strategy of SCO in their Linux lawsuit is
especially retrograde. Their position, as laid out in their
recently issued letters
seems to counter the very idea of a public stake in technical
knowledge. It occurred to me to modify their argument, substituting
'human knowledge' for 'software'. Here's what we'd get:
As you may know, the development process for public scientific
knowledge has differed substantially from the development process
for other enterprise scientific research. Commercial research is
built by carefully selected and screened teams of scientists
working to build proprietary scientific results. The process is
designed to monitor the security and ownership of intellectual
property rights associated with the knowledge.
By contrast, much of human scientific knowledge has been built
from contributions by numerous unrelated and unknown scientists,
each contributing a small scientific discovery. There is no
mechanism inherent in the public science development process to
assure that intellectual property rights, confidentiality or
security are protected. The public science process does not
prevent inclusion of knowledge that has been stolen outright, or
developed by improper use of proprietary methods and concepts.
Put this way, their argument is nonsensical, and would find no support
in anyone even a tiny bit familiar with the scientific process, which
arguably forms the basis of our civilization.
Przemek Klosowski, Ph.D. <firstname.lastname@example.org>
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