[oclug] Linux kernel development loses BitKeeper
Stephen M. Webb
stephenw at xandros.com
Fri Apr 8 08:54:20 EDT 2005
On 07/04/05 21:16, Richard Guy Briggs wrote:
> True capitalism doesn't rely on governments to enforce. Since patents
> and copyright are being relied upon to uphold that model, that would be
> basically corporate socialism.
Capitalism is the ownership of the means of production (capital == means of
production). Since the means of production of thoughts and ideas has only a
human being as a physical manifestation, certain ethical problems arise as
would-be capitalists attempt to obtain ownership. Slavery is considered
wrong in this day and age, and in the case of the production of new ideas,
Capitalism is not a successful method of profiting from thoughts and ideas.
Communism, where all means of production are help in common, and socialism,
where all means of production are held by The State, are also inadequate and
The failure of classic models of a goods economy to apply to the production of
ideas, like computer software and music, has lead to the current craze of
attempts to enforce artificial shortage on the supply of goods produced
through intellectual capital in the hopes that a profit can be realized from
the exercise of such control. This is what patents and various other
controls are currently being used for. These models hope to manipulate the
market through central control for the profit of those who can threaten
others with the most impunity.
An alternative model is being used by people like the Free Software folk (and
their equivalent in the music scene). They recognize that, with a zero copy
cost, imposing a shakedown for the use of "intellectual property" (ie goods
produced through intellectual capital) is both immoral and unmaintainable.
Instead, they recognize that value can be found in the buying and selling of
scarce resources. In this case, the scarce resource is the use of
intellectual capital. Coming up with good ideas (programs, tunes,
performances, problem solving) is scarce, and worth a good deal. It's worth
paying for. Once the idea has been communicated, or the song sung, or the
problem fixed, control ends. No laws can really stop the tune from going
through your head (I wish), or the repaired system from running, or copies of
the program from propagating. Free Software folk recognize that, and
recognize there is legitimate and decent money to be made in the free market
from their intellectual capital.
How does this relate to BitKeeper? Well, McVoy was cashing in on his
intellectual capital by selling his time to various consumers while giving
the software for free to others. Eventually he reached a point where it did
not benefit him to maintain or support the free version of his software. He
has asserted copy rights on his source code (which he has the moral authority
to do), which means anyone wishing to do so may write and distribute software
identical to BitKeeper, but if they use his code they've done something
immoral and he has the right to demand compensation. BitKeeper was not Free
Software, and even the FSF asserts their copy rights on their software.
I guess I've rambled enough for now.
Stephen M. Webb
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