F/OSS is not a gift . . .
Posted May 30, 2004 20:54 UTC (Sun) by Kope
Parent article: Movable type and "almost free" software
A free software license represents a sort of gift from a developer to users: those users will never be deprived of the right to use, modify, and distribute the covered software.
I have to disagree wtih this statement. An open license is not a gift, it's a warranty -- and the only warranty that really counts. It warrants that the user will never ever be deprived of their right to use the software they have choosen to invest in for whatever reason, includng possible future capriciousness on the part of the developer.
To say it's a "gift" mistakes healthy cooperation and partnership with gratuity. A gift implies that the developer is doing something that is not required of them by propriety. That is not the case. A software user is entitled to the freedom to use the software into which they invest their time and money. Often customers take signficant risks in adopting software packages, the wrong choice can be ruinous to an enterprise. It is only in guaranteeing that the customer will never be deprived of their own data and the functionality to access it does software gain value. Proprietary licenses do nothing more than retain to the developer (or copyright holder) the freedom to abuse the customer. Not retaining that right is not offering a gift, it is restraining from abuse.
Further, to articulate that such licenses are 'gifts' falls into the rhetorical trap of accepting that the way to make money from software is to sell restricted licenses. It is to adopt the worldview of the Microsofts of the world over the IBM's and Redhat's. Something advocates of Linux should never do intentionally.
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