Debate: How do conservatives view the Open Source movement and software?

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How do conservatives view the Open Source movement and the software provided through open sources. Do you believe it to be a bad thing, maybe anti-capitalistic, given that it gives away products that other companies charge for? Or do you believe that it is conservative in value, given that people have taken time to develop a unique product and then freely donate that product to the world as an act of charity? Is there anything specific that has led you to this conclusion?

The Open Source movement and software is a bad thing

Hi, I am so glad Conservapedia allows for a debate like this, everywhere you go it's censorship, censorship, censorship, backed by big dollars and ideological suckers. Which is exactly what I am going into.

In the mind of its supporters, FOSS is not so much considered an act of charity you mentioned above, but rather an issue of personal freedom (their slogan is "free as in speech, not as in beer"), and there have been free/open-source products which cost money to obtain. What happens is that the licensing allows for modification and redistribution for free or for profit, and naturally deflation would be expected. The "open-source" faction came later, who applied the sales of hardware, technical support call centers, and advertising as a means of making up for this. I think open-source software really closed up opportunities by smaller companies, which had sprung up during the 1990s and were doomed when the likes of IBM and Novell started adopting the "open source" business model.

The people at the bottom become so attached to a non-ideology that they enable other people to make money at their expense. Open-source is big business, but unlike proprietary software the people at the bottom are not paid in dollars but instead in delusion. When I was involved with Wikipedia, I tried to insert a "Criticism of Linux" into the article, and was told that it was equivalent to criticizing the scientific method. I'm not kidding. Go look it up on the Talk Archives page, I was "RedBlade7" I think.

Open-source supporters consider themselves a left-wing movement, and that opposition is right-wing. However, this is far from true. Not only do the major players on both sides vary from left-wing anarchism to neoconservatism to everything in between, but we must remember what copyright law is all about.

According to the Constitution and in the early days of this country, copyright was just like a patent, it lasted for 14 years and required registration. It was not a form of property, it was a protectionist measure. Here is what the Constitution says:

"To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries;"

Copyright as a time-limited government grant rather than private property was assumed to be the case until the Berne Convention of the late 1800s was adopted by the United States in 1976. In 1998, when Disney's early copyrights were about to run out, the government extended terms to 70, 95, and 120 years depending on the situation. This was later challenged in Eldred v. Ashcroft, where the Supreme Court ruled that "limited" could mean anything.

Another law was passed in 1998 called the Digital Millenium Copyright Act. You might be familiar with the phrase or acronym "DMCA". The main thing it did was to prevent the breaking of copy protection. Sounds nice but in reality it was a Trojan horse, since anything which violates this concept becomes contraband, including what goes against the copyright holder's wishes (e.g. you can only burn the music here or back this up but not copy there, etc.) Unlike your cable splitter, high-gain wireless antenna, or 120 MPH car, you are not trusted to follow the law. This creates a major loophole. For example, backing up DVDs yourself would normally be allowed, but because they are protected by DRM ("digital rights management"), doing so is illegal and requires the use or creation of contraband. There have even been cases when academic research resulted in fines. Another more ridiculous case involved the posting or writing of a set of hexadecimal numbers which could be use to break the protection behind Blu-Ray. To make a point, pirates created the Free Speech Flag, which converted the hexadecimal numbers to HTML color codes used as stripes.

Because of these attitudes and laws, long-term copyrights have been misinterpreted as a right-wing measure when in reality it is very much anti-free-trade. And as for censorship, it's no different than anything else the left-wing establishment does. Except this time the left is pro-free-market and doesn't know it.

In conclusion, while open-source is supported by the left as an anti-capitalist tool, it is in reality a laissez faire capitalist system, and by the suckers at the bottom promoting a billion dollar pseudo-ideology they commit the censorship the left is normally famous for.

(All above by danq 18:35, 19 September 2009 (EDT))

The Open Source movement and software is a good thing

Well, hopefully most here would agree with this, given that this site runs on such software. KevinS 11:46, 16 January 2009 (EST)

True, this site runs on such software, but then, given the choice between this version of the software which is free, or say, a very similar piece of software that carries a charge (say $75.00 to purchase), which would be preferred? (given that purchasing the software would help the economy and ensure that there is capital to develop new kinds of software, but then the open source software works perfectly well and costs nothing to obtain and the use of open source software can then inspire others to develop their own open source software)--Ieuan 11:57, 16 January 2009 (EST)
One of the most prominent advocates of the open source movement is Eric S. Raymond. Eric is a very strong libertarian/conservative, and has been a vociferous supporter of the Iraq War. In fact, his politics cost him some standing in the open source community. Eric is an acquaintance of mine, and while he would personally not accept the label of conservative, preferring libertarian, his viewpoints on many issues are definitely conservative.
Also, Larry Wall, the father of the open source programming language perl, is an Evangelical Christian. I'm not sure of his personal politics, but that usually implies some degree of conservatism. ArthurA 12:12, 16 January 2009 (EST)

I don't see the value of citing whether prominent FOSS icons are politically conservative or not. Ultimately that is an appeal to authority, which fails as soon as you look at the politics of the undisputed founder of open source, Richard Stallman. That said, this is an important question which deserves a substantive response. As someone who has worked in software for hire and has used open source software for years, I offer the following observations from my personal experience in the commercial software sector:

In response to Ieuan, it is impossible to quantify how many users, sites, and businesses have adopted, extended, or been inspired by open source offerings, versus proprietary offerings, although I suspect the former easily outweighs the latter, especially when one looks at the number of attempted open source projects (which only represents what must be the relatively smaller "extended" & "inspired" categories) that release some level of working code, versus, the number of proprietary offerings. The selection available in FOSS circles is staggering in comparison. Most companies I know of are heavy adopters of FOSS.
Ultimately I agree with Eric S. Raymond that FOSS is an example of the free market in action. There is no requirement of disclosure of intellectual property that is not voluntarily accepted by the code's author. No collectivist force at work seizing the property of a unwilling owner. The author's contribution and value is preserved and protected by every one of the various FOSS licenses: Recognition and Attribution is required in all cases, and often usage limitations are imposed upon the property's adopters and extenders. Two major FOSS licenses (e.g., GPL and the LGPL) impose strict restrictions upon any project that is based upon the code. (Not exactly "to each according to their needs"). In my view this fails the hallmark of collectivist behavior, which is the taking of an individual's personal property without their consent for the benefit of "the people" who had nothing to do with the production.

Secondly, the FOSS ecosystem has every characteristic of a robust "red in tooth and claw" market sector. The extraordinary pace with which Linux evolved from it's primitive debut in 1991 to an operating system that easily swamps Windows and OSX with options, features, security and innovation is breathtaking. FOSS projects are the basis of sector dominating server products: Apache displaced AOL and IIS in the web server space, PostgreSQL exceeds most major DB vendors in advanced OODBMS technical capability, and MySQL is the only DB that offers multiple engines and table formats within the same schema (and comes very close to matching the legendary performance of Oracle). BerkleyDB and SQLite largely created and dominate the embedded database segment. Virtually every important scripting language (Perl, Python, Ruby, and PHP) are wildly successful FOSS projects, which have in turn radically changed software development practices). Indeed, the dominant "Agile" software development methodology is based on principles pioneered in FOSS projects. (These principles are explained in Eric S. Raymond's seminal work, "The Cathedral & the Bazaar".) Linux is the only major OS that is distributed by at least 20 different vendors, and comes multiple graphical interfaces that can be found on a bewildering variety of form factors.

What drives this competition, if not market forces? It's more than merely bragging rights and reputation. Plainly said, there are many individual who started wildly successful FOSS projects that probably would not have been nearly so successful in the traditional corporate environment. These people become highly sought after in the commercial industry because of the credibility they bring to those who hire them. The fact is that many of these successful FOSS projects attract significant monetary investment from educational institutions, large corporations and even governments is another indication of high monetary value that end-users place upon complete open source. In the end most adopters know that they gain far more by using code that others, including their competitors can use, than trying to recreate it from scratch, and that is not even scratching the surface of businesses that built their model around FOSS software. Mbm 15:02, 15 December 2009 (EST)