Subject: Re: A few here may have an opinion on this
From: chrismaeda@attbi.com
Date: Mon, 28 Oct 2002 22:27:21 +0000

I'm just using tax revenue as a proxy for value
creation / profit, since this is what gets taxed
in the US.

The real issue is how best to create value with 
software.  In the proprietary model, it's pretty 
clear how a business creates value because it shows 
up on the books as license revenue and profit,
generating tax revenue for government and equity
for shareholders.  In the OSS model, you give away
the license which means little or none of the value
of the software shows up on your books; it instead
shows up as higher profits elsewhere in the economy.

In the proprietary model, it's easy to measure
value creation, which makes it easy to get investment
capital, which means more software gets created
faster.  In the OSS model, you have mailing lists
where people try to figure out sustainable business 
models that can fund open source development.

As Stephen Turnbull has pointed out, it's impossible
to measure which model creates more value faster.
As a successful software entrepreneur, I've pretty much
voted with my feet.  I know that investors are only 
in this for the money, and it's hard enough to 
build a successful proprietary software company without 
handicapping yourself by giving away the IP.  I don't
believe the solution to this dilemma is more faith,
which is why I have asked for verifiable examples
of successful OSS businesses.

Now back to the public policy point.  I want the 
government to promote policies that increase overall 
wealth in the US.  I do not see OSS as a mechanism for 
quickly creating high value software; historically it 
has only been successful at eventually producing the 
lowest cost competitor once a market space becomes 
commoditized.  Given that, I don't think it's 
appropriate for the US government to tilt the playing
field in favor of GPL and against proprietary software.
I'm more agnostic about BSD-style licenses since it
is easier for companies to add value and actually
capture the value on their balance sheets.

Note that this analysis is unavoidably biased by
my status as a US citizen.  I can actually see 
arguments why an emerging economy would want to
take the opposite approach and bias towards OSS
since most emerging economies are non-players
in terms of creating high-margin IP.

-Chris






> > free software has been an utter failure at 
> > producing large profitable businesses that 
> > generate tax revenue.
> 
> Can you be more specific ?  Is the purpose of the economy to generate
> tax revenue.
>    In other words, you are against the GPL and more generally against
> commons because you want more money and riches collected by the
> government.
> 
>    That is the most outrageously inconsistent statement I ever heard
> on this topic: "I am against commons because they deprive the
> government"
> 
>    or maybe you meant : "I am against commons because they deprive the
> public" ...  which is even more of a contradiction.
> 
>   I probably misunderstand something ...
> 
> Bernard
> 
> On Wed, Oct 23, 2002 at 11:42:53PM +0000, chrismaeda@attbi.com wrote:
> > Maybe I'm just in a grumpy mood but
> > I think government tilting the playing field
> > against GPL is perfectly reasonable. So far, 
> > free software has been an utter failure at 
> > producing large profitable businesses that 
> > generate tax revenue.  Government legislating
> > in favor of GPL will push more of the software
> > business into the non-profit sector and make
> > us all poorer.
> > 
> > > On Wednesday, Oct 23, 2002, at 11:55 US/Pacific, Benjamin J. Tilly 
> > > wrote:
> > > 
> > > > Brian Behlendorf <brian@collab.net> wrote:
> > > >> On Wed, 23 Oct 2002, Benjamin J. Tilly  wrote:
> > > >>> http://newsvac.newsforge.com/newsvac/02/10/23/1247236.shtml?tid=4
> > > >>>
> > > >>> A Washington State senator is trying to make it government
> > > >>> policy to not support research that produces GPLed
> > > >>> software...
> > > >>
> > > >> Everyone knows my biases, but I think there's a pretty reasonable 
> > > >> point
> > > >> here.  A "university" license would, in my opinion, be the most
> > > >> appropriate license for government-funded software to be released 
> > > >> under.
> > > >>
> > > > This movement is specifically aimed at keeping the
> > > > government from distributing things like its security
> > > > enhancements for the Linux kernel.
> > > 
> > > You raise a very good point that I hadn't seen the first time around.
> > > 
> > > In general I agree with Brian's point (I prefer GPL but I'm OK with the 
> > > gov't using BSD instead).
> > > 
> > > But the gov't pays companies (Lockheed, SAIC, IBM, MS) to modify their 
> > > proprietary software for gov't requirements; those changes end up as 
> > > part of the vendor's offering (generally such changes wouldn't make 
> > > sense on their own).  Likewise the gov't needs the ability to make 
> > > changes, or contract for changes, to GPL software as with your example. 
> > >   Such changes _can't_ be released under the BSD license -- it would be 
> > > prohibited by the GPL.
> > > 
> > > So this appears to be reasonable, but really does suck.
> > > 
> > > Yet another in a furious attempt by the government to shift software 
> > > development offshore.  I guess in five years' time we'll have direct 
> > > government subsidy to the software industry, as happens in other sunset 
> > > industries like steel.
> > > 
> > > -g
> > > 
> 
> -- 
>          Non aux Brevets Logiciels  -  No to Software Patents
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> Bernard.Lang@inria.fr             ,_  /\o    \o/    Tel  +33 1 3963 5644
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