Subject: Re: A company's appeal to the community
From: <kmself@ix.netcom.com>
Date: Sun, 16 Jan 2000 12:35:05 -0800
Sun, 16 Jan 2000 12:35:05 -0800
On Sun, Jan 16, 2000 at 11:18:28AM -0500, Brian Bartholomew wrote:
> > There is also the question of ultimate motives and ends in all of
> > this, for which I'd need to have a better understanding myself of
> > what it is the company plans to do, the schedule for carrying this
> > out, and the terms under which the actions are performed.
> 
> Well, here I go getting everybody all upset again.

I knew we kept you around for something <g>.  This really is helpful.

> Imagine a hypothetical situation in an alternate universe where
> BigTech has the worst possible motives (from the point of view of the
> community).  They secretly wish to mislead the community and the press
> about their intentions, gain community goodwill they don't deserve,
> produce no product, score a big IPO on vapor of vapor.  They
> incorporate donated bug reports but not code, benefiting from
> volunteer labor but conserving their copyright ownership.  Then they
> make their product highly proprietary again, and innocently claim they
> changed their mind.  Their proprietary product is sufficiently better
> that it pushes the free one into obscurity and obsolescence.

Ok.  What would it take to prove to you otherwise?  That's basically
what I am asking.

Realize that if the company can't demonstrate cleanroom development, the
case for infringing should it accept bug reports and implement code
based on them might be made.  I have no idea how validly.

The initially released codebase, if released under most of the
OSD-certified licenses, would remain available.  That of itself would be
a major step.

> Can the community hedge against BigTech motivations that are strongly
> against their interests?  Motivations are really hard to test for
> directly.  Is there some externally-visible BigTech behavior that will
> only be present in a win-win or win-lose situation?  Detection or
> enforcement probably doesn't have to be immediate or perfect.  Even a
> statistical guarantee may be enough, as long as BigTech can observe
> it's not profitable to cheat the community.

While I see where you're getting at, I don't think free software is
something that needs to set up a morality police.  Or maybe we've
already got it in the form of vocal critics -- RMS, ESR, Bruce Perens,
and Rick Moen (if you've followed the LinuxOne issue) come to mind.  As
wll as Slashdot, for which the phrase "comes to mind" implies too much
sentient thought <g>.

The companies I've talked to about free software initiatives (not just
this one) are very concerned about community impressions.  Look at the
prospectuses and/or SEC filings for RedHat and VA for a detailing of
business risks.  The same concern is also voiced for established
companies now approaching the idea.  Moral suasion seems a powerful
force in this arena.  Interesting.

> A member of the League for Programming Freedom (LPF) http://lpf.ai.mit.edu
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> Brian Bartholomew - bb@wv.com - www.wv.com - Working Version, Cambridge, MA

-- 
Karsten M. Self (kmself@ix.netcom.com)
    What part of "Gestalt" don't you understand?

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