Open Source Exploitation
"Expecting developers to work with stress and without pay is not a sustainable model. As the open source developer community, we are allowing ourselves to be over-consumed. We need to stand up and assert our power as workers, by participating in better systems of value exchange that change the expectations away from unpaid work, more on that later.
Another major problem faced by open source developers today is our poor competitive ability to capture the value of our work. Instead, a large portion of the value we produce is captured by traditional for-profit companies.
A good example of corporate profit on the backs of open source is MakerBot. Like many for-profits, MakerBot started out as a cool company with a cool product, building open source 3d printers based on the designs of the RepRap project. However, after 3 years of capturing the consumer-level 3d printer market, every new Makerbot model is now closed. By doing so, they undermine the open source movement.
Open source is a competitive advantage used by for-profit companies. This means the moment open source is no longer an advantage, these systems will become closed source and locked down. Another example: the “open source” Android.
As open source developers, if we aren’t able to capture our value, we open the door for others to control us. By not being in control, the success of our open source work can eventually become at the expense of and detrimental to the commons. We need to take direct action to defend the ownership of our work, lest others profit from our labor. If we do not actively strive to own our value, either through open source consumerism or exploitation, others will own it for us.
So, how do we own our value? Well, it’s not enough to open source our code, we need to open source our business models. (Tiberius, of Sensorica, has a vision of Open Value Networks)
To make open source worker ownership a reality, as we must do at least the following:
- Organize into worker-centric networks.
- Use reciprocity licenses that discourage open source consumerism and encourage contributions to the commons.
- Engage in value exchange through commons-based peer production.
In order to discourage open source consumerism and encourage contributions to the commons, the next step is to adopt commons-based reciprocity licenses.
CBR licenses aim to have the following features:
- If you are using the software to build libre software: you may use it for free like a copyleft license
- If you are a not-for-profit or worker-owned business: you may use it for free like a copyfarleft license
- If you are a project member: you may use it for free like a permissive license
If you are using the software to build any non-libre software, are for-profit, and are not a project member: you must share a percentage of your revenue to the project
It’s true, a license with all of these features does not exist yet, but that’s why it’s important to push support for these forms of reciprocity."