IPL as a burden

Frank LaMonica frankl at valinux.com
Tue Jan 16 00:36:38 UTC 2001

Most users of software don't consider the availability of source code in
their purchasing decisions.  Why?  Because they are not in the business of
writing software, they are simply using an application as a tool.  I suspect
that most of the people on this list do not fit into that category.  They do
care about the source code, and they are generally in a position to make good
use of it to support whatever application they are using.   Should a normal
application user care about source code?  I suggest that a published data
format is much more important to a typical end user than is the availability
of source code.  As a matter of fact, if an application doesn't have a
published data format then a prudent user should reject it completely,
regardless of how well it does the job of creating data.

An application is a program that manipulates data.  The user of any
application almost always cares more about the data created than they do
about the program used to create that data.  The reason why a normal user
should care about the open source nature of the application they choose to
use is because that guarantees them the protection they need for the data
they create.  One step below the application source code level of protection
is the data format used within the application to encode and/or store that
data.  An application typically embeds a storage methodology into itself,
which it uses to store and retrieve data.  If an application vendor only
publishes their data format, and doesn't provide the application source code,
then a non technical user might actually have a better form of protection for
their purposes - provided, of course, that the application vendor didn't lie
about the format.   In that scenario,  if an application vendor ceased to
provide a suitable application, the end user could find some way to retrieve
the data and to then use another application to continue their work.  If the
data format were only visible by virtue of the source code, first - on the
good side - it would prevent the application vendor from lying and it would
be a strong guarantee of data protection to the user, but - on the down side
- it would require that someone who wanted to continue working without the
original application, have to take the time, and have the expertise, to
reverse engineer the data format by examining the application source code in
order to have another application built that would allow the user to continue
working.   If the data is very complex, and, especially if it is created
incrementally at numerous places within the application source code, it could
be a major undertaking to understand the full extent of the data formatting.

Would you put your money into a bank that would not allow you to recover it
if the bank went out of business?  We have the FDIC to protect us in the
financial world, but what would you do if your firm found another application
that better suited its business needs, and there was no way to move your
legacy data to the new system?   Could you afford to, and would it even be
possible to recreate that data?  Open data formats would protect your
investment.  That also would greatly simplify the license issues.

Do you need to have a complex license to protect data formats or API's?  I
suggest that information of that nature should be totally free and open,
licensed with something as simple as the BSD (XFree86) style license.  We
should encourage open, standard data formats and API's.  Companies who create
their value by  writing application which create and manipulate your data
could then recover their investment by charging suitable fees for their
application.  There would be no business need to insist on open source
applications unless the vendor has been proven guilty of past deception, such
as things like having hidden API hooks in an OS to enable better performance
of their own applications.   Companies who are guilty of those type of
practices should be punished by requiring all of their source code to be
open, and all of their data formats to be accurately documented and


Manfred Schmid wrote:

> Hi Brian
> > You seem to labor under a very strange idea. That idea is that open
> > source developers are "not paid." Exactly where did this idea come from?
> > Every open source developer i know is quite well compensated and
> > generally gets paid a certain amount of their time to work exclusively
> > on their open source projects of their choice. Any consulting group will
> > set aside research and development costs to further their code base.
> > This is one of the persistent myths that non open source companies have
> > about the open source software movement ie the developers are largely
> > college students who are not paid. All the open source developers I know
> > are highly compensated professionals. Programming skills are rare and
> > highly prized. I doubt very much that there are legions of unpaid
> > starving programmers out there.
> The Open Source Movement is getting more and more commercial and is has
> to be to remain successful. Economics have their own dynamics.
> I do agree with you, that programmers do not starve in todays world but
> a lot of Open Source work is done by "normal" people, who are not being
> compensated by anybody for their contributions.
> I do agree that all the star Open Source developers are being paid
> pretty well by somebody. Economically, this "somebody" calculates
> indirect profit by enhancing the knowledge base, building up credibility
> or whatever. If this somebody wants to donate something, fine as well,
> but you cannot build an industry on donations.
> The current structure will not scale, since the ecoonomics are not
> clear. Do you think, any consulting group or other commercial entity
> would feel bad, if they had income from Open Source contributions?
> > Actually what you are stating here is categorically false. Charging
> > licence fees is not the only way to make money on your software. I know
> > what I am talking about as I was the CEO of a open source software
> > company for three years before my company's acquisition be VA. Our
> > software was/is licensed under the GPL and we sold the software neatly
> > packaged and also built a very lucratative consulting business around
> > it. Our software is an e-commerce product and was/is sold at the highest
> > levels of the enterprise. As everyone on this list knows you cannot
> > require license fees and claim your product is open source.
> As of today, I do not know of Open Source Software, that asks for
> License Fees. We are the first (to my knowledge) to do so and I think
> that we will not be the only ones. Our customers did not mind to pay
> fees for VShop 2.x (closed source) and I do not see any reason why they
> should mind to pay fees for VShop3 since we are providing added value.
> To me, the spirit of Open Source is the availablity of the source and a
> set of freedoms and rights provided along with the source to guarantee
> better software and solutions. When looking at
> http://www.opensource.org/osd.html I do see no point stating "You must
> not claim license fees for an Open Source product"
> Manfred Schmid
> --
> -----------------------------------------
> intraDAT AG
> Wilhelm-Leuschner-Strasse 7 u. 9-11
> D - 60329 Frankfurt a. M., Germany
> Tel.: +49-(0)69-25629-0
> Fax:  +49-(0)69-25629-256
> http://www.intradat.com
> -----------------------------------------
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