“Sun criticizes popular open-source license,” by Stephen Shankland, CNET News.com, 5 April 2005 (from Slashdot).
Corporate nonsense followed by some commentary
Sun Microsystems President Jonathan Schwartz on Tuesday proclaimed ardent support for the open-source software realm but criticized the General Public License, a widely used foundation of the programming movement.
The GPL governs Linux and countless other projects in the free and open-source software arena. But a key tenet of the license creates a situation that amounts to economic imperialism, Schwartz argued at the Open Source Business Conference here
“Economies and nations need intellectual property (IP) to pull themselves up by their own bootstraps. I’ve talked to developing nations, representatives from academia and manufacturing companies that had begun to incorporate GPL software into their products, then…found they had an obligation to deliver their IP back into the world,” Schwartz said.
The GPL purports to have freedom at its core, but it imposes on its users “a rather predatory obligation to disgorge all their IP back to the wealthiest nation in the world,” the United States, where the GPL originated, Schwartz said. “If you look at the difference between the license we elected to use and GPL, there are no obligations to economies or universities or manufacturers that take the source code and embed it in (their own) code
“Open Source” software development is a collaborative way of writing software. It finds its roots in IBM’s early philosophy towards software and is often used today. In open source, anyone can change a computer program, but then they have to share those changes with anybody. Open source products are typically free. Tivo, parts of new Apple computers, and many popular internet tools are made with open source software. In contrast, other types of software development don’t let other developers modify programs like that. Open source is not perfect, but it is a pretty good idea that has real popularity.
The GPL is a legal document that many open source projects use. It uses legal language that can stand up in court to extend the open source movement. But the important part is this…
Schwart’s statement makes no sense. Developing software requires a massive national infrastructure. Money needs to be poured into education and human capital before a country can have a significant software industry. Every country consumes software, but almost no countries produce it.
For Schwartz to say that open source is “imperialistic” is amoral, at best. Saying that free software is bad because it hurts software makers is like saying the Sun is bad because it harms lightbulb makers. Worse, saying free software is bad because it prevents the emergence of Gap software makers is like saying the Sun is bad, because one day Siemens may open a lightbulb factory in Nairobi.
Developing world economic gap must be based on real economics, not Schwartz’s neo-managed-economy dreams. End Agriwelfare to help end world poverty. Don’t turn to deluded mercantilism.
Update: Blind Man’s Eye sees Schwartz’s statement as a diversion from the bigger problem of patent reform. Did I play into Sun’s plans?