The implications of the employment of Open Source developers is quite simple: by having "standard" employment contracts, the code and any Intellectual Property you develop is owned by the company.
this makes "the company" an easy target for litigation.
eighteen months ago i offered the Apache Software Foundation the rights to all my code i had developed in samba.
despite the fact that it had been developed BEFORE the DMCA; despite the fact that it had been developed according to guidelines in the European 1991 directive on Copyright (91/EC/250), they turned my offer down.
reason? the ASF - as a legal entity based in Delaware - could be targetted by microsoft for litigation. given that the ASF (and the FSF's) resources would be totally swamped EVEN if any such litigious attempt failed, they could not take the risk.
individuals, on the other hand, are MUCH more powerful: the biiig stuupid bullyyy company takes on the little guy - the chances of success, even in terms of publicity, are extremely remote for the corporation.
it would be much better for them to either pay you off or to have you killed, if your Open Source project becomes that much of a threat to their profits.
there are several other ways in which it is possible to ensure that you, a successful Open Source developer, fail to deliver in the areas where corporations wish to control and earn money, rather than have you do it for free.
but before i expand on that i would like to put some additional thoughts in front of you: who are these people who wish to control and earn money instead of you?
a few months or years ago, what i am about to write would definitely have been derided. now, with "The Project for a New American Cemetary^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^HCentury" a well-known gothic-horror reality (see Rory Bremner's "Who wants to be a Trillionaire" comic sketch), suddenly something as simple as faceless people wanting to control Open Source doesn't seem so far-fetched.
i don't know if you're aware of this, but if you think about it for a minute it makes perfect sense: intelligence agencies need to operate at third hand. in the corporate world, that translates into owning and running the Venture Capital companies. that way, they can finance operations, put in their own people into key positions in the companies that they own, they can specify the employment rules, right down to the wire.
and it's all legal, they're difficult to spot: there's plenty of companies, there's plenty of VCs - everything is standard, normal, so what the hell am i mentioning this for?
well, as with all reverse engineering, you have to "spot the difference". there are two ways to do that: spot the difference by provoking a reaction; spot the difference by comparing against a base-line (or several base-lines).
finding the pebble on the beach; finding the wood from the trees.
so what is the base-line?let's put that another way:
Are you employed under a standard employment contract to work on Open Source, where all Intellectual Property Rights are owned, as part of the bog-standard employment contract, by your employer?
well, think of an ordinary company. it provides goods; it provides services. it must make a profit in order to survive.
what "goods" can an open source company provide that make a profit? uh... none - the license agreement only allows them to charge for the media. plus, the same "goods" can be obtained "for free" off the internet or from their friends, if they're intelligent enough.
what "services" can an open source company provide that make a profit?
uh... maintenance? upgrades? support? training? all of these things have been attempted to be provided by various open source companies, and some of those companies have been failures, and some of them not.
strictly speaking, though, you don't _need_ to offer support for high-quality software; there's plenty of training and installation material available on the internet (else the package typically doesn't succeed if it don't ave a README an a HOWTO); there's even _support_ on the internet (mailing lists).
basically what i am saying is that IN GENERAL the concept of setting up an open source "services-style" company (rather than an open source "software development" company) is fundamentally flawed.
therefore, conclusion: any successful open source "clearing house" company has a very large orange flashing light on its head, inviting further investigation: such companies _shouldn't_ be successful; the business model just doesn't add up.
so, we therefore must come to the startling conclusion that open source "services-style" companies are being deliberately sustained. offered contracts that enable them to survive, which ensures that, because they survive, ordinary businesses may also take advantage of their services, thereby helping to provide wood and more pebbles in which to hide in the forest and on the beach.
so WHY are these companies out there? what purpose do they serve, because almost everybody who works on a major successful open source project is now working for one of these "services-style" companies (with some notable exceptions).
and their employment contracts are all, almost certainly, that their code is "owned".
and as already noted, corporations are more of a target than invididuals.
in our greed to take advantage of the dotcom boom - the IPOs - we have been suckered into giving away control of Open Source's future.
now, my question is: why the bloody hell are we, open source programmers, being so STUPID as to expose our work to such risk, and what can we do about it?
well, i presume that we, collectively, are smart; have brains and can use them.
the FIRST thing to do is to NOT kick up a fuss. carry on "as normal" - remember, employers can read too (hi! having fun yet, ya FXXXERS! :)
my advice to you is: if in doubt, TAKE THE MONEY. the madman (me) could be wrong.
the second thing to do is: get smart about money.
by taking away the need for you to become a slave [viz: employee. if you have difficulty in equating "slave" with "employee", you need to read more dilbert cartoons] you no longer have to exchange your Intellectual Property in return for cash.
read books about how to become rich: i recommend "rich dad, poor dad" which could be condensed down to about two pages but the anecdotes help you remember those two pages.
it outlines the difference between poor, middle-class and rich people, and gives some advice such as:
- "save 20% of your income, or 30% if you have debts";
- get rid of the "toys" and for most of us that means the "Uber-Geek" toys like palm-pilots, MP3 players, DVDs, propellor-head latest computers instead of 2 or more infinitely cheaper 18-month-old machines that collectively do the same job; wiring up the house and your life; mobile phones etc.
- gain assets not liabilities: most people re-mortgage their houses in order to buy toys or service their debts and their lifestyle.
- change your attitude. think creatively. make sure you EDUCATE yourself about what you intend to invest in; seek EXPERT advice from people that have DEMONSTRABLE success. for example, if you are looking to buy real-estate and need a good accountant, find an accountant who THEMSELVES owns 20 houses; they will have had a PERSONAL interest in ensuring that they give themselves good advice.
the alternative is, instead of individuals taking matters into their own hands (because the above will take some time to become effective), to set up an Open Source Guild; a Trade Union; a FreeMason House; _anything_ which carries weight as a collective group.
hey, i'd never have imagined in a million years that i'd recommend to open source developers that i'd say "the revolution is coming!". sorry. back to earth and our normal broadcast.
by the way: i DON'T recommend confrontation and hiding behind "the collective". it attracts attention and invites a fight; it can be abused / taken control of; it has the risk of abdicating responsibility of the individual to the "group".
... but a group has advantages where an individual does not, which is why, even where there are risks, Trade Unions, Guilds and FreeMasons have existed for decades and centuries.
there are additional advantages to setting up a Guild: programmer certifications and training to specific standards can be set up, and a corporation can approach anyone in the Guild knowing what to expect of its members.
you know the score, i don't have to tell you how a Guild operates: i just wanted you to plant the thought in your minds about forming one.
another alternative: join a Barter - finance group. a search for the single word "barter" on google.com shows some choices. typically you will find that the people who join Barter associations are more creative in the ways that they think about making and saving money; become self-employed, set up your own Open Source software development company.
if you believe that barter finance is small, you're wrong: a UK barter group is now a plc company with the equivalent of over $2 billion in business transactions under its belt since it began in ... 1994 (iirc).
if you don't like what i've written here, or more specifically you don't like how i came to the conclusions i have; at least consider posting here some other means by which you believe the risks to Open Source associated with software patents; ownership of intellectual property by corporations etc. may be reduced by us, collectively or individually.
without the usual diatribe, this time. if you want to write a diatribe or vilifying comment, please, instead of demonstrating your weakness in public, take out your bile in private. print a copy of this article on soft paper and install it in your toilet paper dispenser.
at least that way you will be able to express your opinion of my views in the most appropriate way possible, and also i hope that the ink from the page and the information expressed on it will at least be absorbed - somehow...
creative thinking: protection
several different lines of thought went into the article that i wrote.
the most important line is that i am very concerned about the ordinary businesses that now absolutely require certain software in order for their business to survive. total monopoly situation. and it's a monopoly situation which is being protected because such companies have staggering amounts of money and access to large numbers of creative people who think strategically about ways to continue to sustain that monopoly.
for example, by backing laws such as the DMCA; by buying it in other countries, not just the US.
the main point of the article is to make people think creatively about strategic ways by which attacks on open source can be made to be very expensive - and i don't necessarily mean expensive in direct terms of money; bad publicity would do the job.
for example, i really like graydon's link to modifications of open source licenses to get users to agree to remove all open source software from their company before taking legal action against an open source project.
that's the sort of thing that a "Trade Union" would do to protect its members: they'd go on strike.
govt source code must be public domain
elantis, thanks for responding. you've reminded me of the NSA getting so concerned about security that they patched GNU/Linux and the Linux kernel themselves to a standard where they could use it. to their credit, as you say, they honoured the GPL and the other Open Source Licenses AND their own regulations by releasing
what ensued after release was quite amusing: apparently, Microsoft contacted the US government to ask them to take SE Linux off the internet. their argument was, apparently, that it was unfair business practices that the US government be involved in competing with the poor ordinary business in the security arena.
there's probably references about, i got the above paragraph/info third hand from a friend of mine.
OFF-TOPIC FROM THIS POINT ON
There are verified instances of government support for particular technologies, companies, or product lines that the spooks don't want dropped.
fact. open your eyes and learn to live with it.
it should come as no surprise should governments invest in order to control, as best they can, open source.
with power (usually money), comes responsibility. some people act more responsibly than others. i am so very very cross with those people whom i see as having abused their privileged positions.
not everyone in a similar position to those people i am referring to has been so irresponsible.
the ethos that i abhor is the one along the lines of "what we cannot understand, we must control and restrict".
i had such an awful time in australia, you cannot imagine.
regarding your points on quality: yes, raph, i know: i made a number of mistakes in this (rather long) article, including one sentence ending up in the wrong place.
i too have implemented "draft status" on the xvl version of mod_virgule. it should be very simple to add, given that you have already "Preview". i'll take a look.
i'd also recommend that articles require to be Certified before they will appear on the front page; also that they require _more than one_ Cert (in the manner which we discussed two years ago). an additional but much simpler check could be made, namely that the article be Certified by someone OTHER than the author before it will appear on the front page.
that way, you would need at least one other responsible person to have at least read (one would hope) the article for the article to appear.
aside from that: i stand by everything that i've said; take full responsibility for what i have said, the way it was said, and for not having reviewed it properly before posting.
to be honest, i expected many more derisive comments than just the one: perhaps because the topic is a little scary, this time people are prepared to read rather than post. perhaps i am flattering myself ;)