Fight for Free Software

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* Book: La bataille du logiciel libre. Perline and Thierry Noisette. La Decouverte, 2004



From the reading notes of Michel Bauwens, 2005:

This was actually the first book I read that was dedicated exclusively to free software, and it is meant to be a basic introduction. It starts with a history of computers and programming They then stress the innovation of the GPL license, which explicitely forbids private appropriation.

How does 'open source' differ from this ?

The GPL:

   - allows no restriction of free distribution (payment is allowed)
   - the source code must be available at no cost
   - changes must be accepted and redistributed
   - the author can request a proteced version number
   - no discrimination in usage is allowed, and it must be allowed for every activity this allows commercial usage, but also for example military usage)
   - the license cannot be program specific (to avoid concrete restrictions)
   - the license cannot be applied to other code (such as proprietary additions)
   - the license must be technology neutral (no restrictions to other operating systems or devices)

After Linus Torvalds completed Linux, the free software world was finally completely independent of the proprietary world, i.e. it achieved a qualitative step. From this was born the copyleft attitude, an extension of the free software ethos to culture such as art and music.

Chapter 2 describes the life and engagement of Richard Stallman, followed by that of the more pragmatic Linus Torvalds.

Eric Raymond, discussing the success of Linux, wrote:

   - programmers motivated by real problems work better than salarymen
   - good programmers can write; great programmers can rewrite
   - more users see more bugs
   - continuous multiple corrections hasten the development (+ version control to fall back on).
   - Linus was the first to tap into a worldwide community, using brainpower on a new scale of magnitude.

This quote summarizes the advantages:

- “Le mode même d'élaboration conduit à des logiciels beaucoup plus fiables, infiniment moins gourmands en ressources informatiques, totalement conformes aux normes d'interopérabilité, et adaptables aux besoins. Par ailleurs, ils offrent une robustesse et une sécurité beaucoup plus grande grâce au caractère publique des sources ce qui permet d’en détecter et d’en corriger les défauts" (Source: Internet et Entreprise. Jean-Claude Merlin et al. ( Yolin, 2004, p. 850

Chapter 3 discusses the economics of free software in 3 phases:

   - creation
   - diffusion
   - maintenance

It cites Raymond's Cathedral and the Bazaar as metaphor, referring to the centralisation/decentralisation polarity, stressing the superiority of the development methodology. It also shows how companies are contributing code and resources. There are now industry/government cooperatives in charge of important projects, such as the Consumer Electronics Linux Forum or the ObjectWeb Consortium.

Internet service companies such as Red Hat, MandrakeSoft and others also contribute in exchange for their usage.

The FS community is organized through platforms such as (Unix, Palm OS), sourceforge, osdn (the open source development network), thinkgeek, slashdot, etc...

Chapter 4 reviews the public inroads of FS n Israel, Brazil, and France.

Chapter 5 relates the history of the free programming community, i.e. the hackers

Chapter 6 relates the conflict between the Open Source and the Microsoft monopoly

Chapter 7 shows the intellectual property issues involved as they apply to pharmaceuticals. Showing the examples of scientific journals and AIDS drugs, the authors show how IP is used to justify the exclusion of the poor from acess to common or life-saving goods. They describe the IP culture wars and call for the defense of common cultural goods.

Chapter 8 reviews the problem surrounding software patents. It reviews the machinations to pass a European law, the many juridical problems in the US, the insufficiently strict control of patent offices, and how all this acts as a break on innovation.

Chapter 9 reviews the geopolitical implications, mainly on Europe, while

Chapter 10 examines the impact on the Global South

French concerns for security and technological independence are shown by generals supporting open source.. The South sees the financial savings and opportunities for local expertise to develop, since license capital would no longer flow outside its country. For them, free software means a mastery of their own development, associated with potential leapfrogging opportunities. The author advocates legal measures to counter commercial pressure around concrete initiatives. This movement has started with municipalities in Brazil since 2001.


Patrick T Anderson:

On the page above it is claimed for the GPL:

   - The source code must be available at no cost.
  • This is only true for those who have received the object code (often called an 'app' on a phone or a 'program' on a desktop). This distinction is crucial to understanding the potential of developing alternative Open Source Business Models that can compensate free software developers.
   - changes must be accepted and redistributed
  • Neither of these are true. No project must accept any changes to their codebase and all changes may remain private or only distributed arbitrarily by the author, for example, only to those who pay to receive them.