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05.18.10

Protecode is FUD and It’s Proprietary

Posted in Free/Libre Software, FUD, GNU/Linux, GPL, Microsoft at 1:32 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Protecode for fear

Summary: A company on the block warns about “Linux licences” being all scary and dangerous (and Protecode offers the ‘medicine’ to them)

THE OTHER day we mentioned a company called Protecode in a post about Microsoft’s harm to Free/open source software. Protecode is a proprietary software company which is spreading FUD about GNU/Linux and Free software for a living (it does other things too).

This company has just ‘injected’ a very long advertisement (disguised as article) into IDG (shame on IDG for collaborating). The disclosure appears only after one skips 5 pages and discovers that it’s the same trick telemarketers and snake oil marketers use. The FUD piece which names both “Linux” and “open source” licences (there is no such thing as “Linux licences”) came from Dr. Mahshad Koohgoli, the CEO of Protecode. He is trying to spread some fear after receiving ammunition from the Gartner Group (and Microsoft would probably be grinning too from afar)

Basically, this a classic business model: exaggerate problems in order to then sell a solution to those problems (usually more perceived than real). Black Duck is doing this too. It’s in the business of selling fear because wherever there is fear there is a business opportunity and if people can be misled, they will pay. Black Duck has Microsoft roots and so does OpenLogic [1, 2, 3], which does something similar. The following new article nicely classifies open-source (open minus source) companies as follows:

Recently a colleague from Apache commented to me that there are no such things as open-source companies. Instead, he identified a few types of companies that “make money out of open source”:

• via expertise in consultancy
• hoarding copyright ownership for a big sale
• providing additional value on top of open-source products
• licensing fear, uncertainty and doubt (choosing GPL to make users who fear GPL pay)

[...]

The second model where GPL is used is to protect code and force companies to buy a commercial (i.e. non-open-source) license. The logic is simple: Most companies don’t like GPL. The company that owns the copyright to a GPL codebase can re-license the code under a different license to those willing to pay.

One ought to pay careful attention to former Microsoft employees who create companies that not only spread fear of Free software but also enable those former Microsoft employees to make money in the process (win-win situation).

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3 Comments

  1. Joanne12 said,

    May 18, 2010 at 3:56 pm

    Gravatar

    I don’t get it. According to the arguments in this blog, static code analysis providers such as IBM, Coverity, Klocware and LDRA are spreading fear because they can detect bugs in code. Cisco is spreading fear because their Network Management System detects inefficiencies in network utilization. Solutions like those offered by Protecode, Blackduck, Fossology encourage use of open source. Open source is wonderful, but the spirit of open source is respecting the rules (licenses) associated with their use.

    Sorry Dr Roy, but your argument seems like a juvenile excitement-based open-source-evangelist crap from an unemployed consultant.

    Dr. Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    I don’t get it. According to the arguments in this blog, static code analysis providers such as IBM, Coverity, Klocware and LDRA are spreading fear because they can detect bugs in code.

    No. The way they market their product/s — often using misleading arguments that create fear of Free software — is what spreads fear.

    Cisco is spreading fear because their Network Management System detects inefficiencies in network utilization.

    If Cisco published entire articles warning that networking with Free software was ineffective (it would be hypocritical of course), you might label it FUD based on the circumstances.

    Solutions like those offered by Protecode, Blackduck, Fossology encourage use of open source.

    It depends on how these are marketed. It is only fair to point out the problems with proprietary software licences too. See for example:

    http://ebb.org/bkuhn/blog/2010/04/07/proprietary-licenses.html

    Open source is wonderful, but the spirit of open source is respecting the rules (licenses) associated with their use.

    Yes, but that is a red herring. I did not state otherwise.

    Sorry….

    Senseless ad hominem attacks disregarded.

    Have a nice day.

  2. Jay Godse said,

    May 19, 2010 at 1:36 am

    Gravatar

    Selling fear is not always a bad thing. That’s why we buy insurance. I think that companies such as Protecode and Black Duck are selling a form of insurance.

    And that insurance seems to be the one that protects you from the “contamination” from open-source software. Now contamination is not the real fear, nor is the cost of fixing the problem. The real fear is litigation. This is a legitimate fear for companies with unhealthy balance sheets. Protecode and Black Duck offer a lot here because their technologies and recommended business process will address the fear. (Companies with healthy balance sheets don’t fear litigation. e.g. RIM’s stock went up after they lost the $4 billion IP lawsuit against NTP).

    There are companies that should be afraid of open-source contamination. The first kind are companies that distribute software applications derived (“derived” in the sense of derivative works in copyright law) from GPL open-source applications, and have a very healthy balance sheet. That is because the open-source folks will go after them to comply with the software licenses (GPL or its close cousins) that they are violating. The second kind of company are (usually VC-backed) startups hoping to be acquired by the first kind of company. If these guys don’t have clean IP, their valuation will take a dive.

    Fortunately for many software companies, these conditions don’t apply. Many software companies run their open-source-derived works in house. No problems with GPL because they don’t distribute applications outside the company. Many other companies host software on servers. They don’t have to worry about GPL either because they are not distributing their hosted open-source-derived applications. Most large companies with healthy balance sheets that distribute software applications either “roll their own” software, or acquire it from software vendors who indemnify them from any IP-related liability; i.e. they don’t have to worry either. Also, companies who build and/or distribute applications derived from open-source software licensed under Apache2.0/MIT/BSD style licenses need not worry because none of them require distribution of the source code of either the original work, or the proprietary derived work.

    However, companies that use open-source software with GPL or GPL-like licenses, and who distribute software, and are appealing targets for lawsuits,
    should worry, because the fear of litigation is real, and a lawsuit could distract the company leadership and hurt operations as a result.

    And in that, Protecode and Black Duck are right.

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