03.13.08

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The GPL Case Against Intellectual Monopolies and Patent Agreements

Posted in Free/Libre Software, GPL, Intellectual Monopoly, Microsoft, Patents at 11:23 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Why going against the GPL is going against one’s chances of survival

Linux Magazine has published this very decent article that explains in simple terms why Microsoft might struggle to compete. The autor typically writes about high-performance computing, so naturally he uses this one area of an example.

If you are the multi-billion dollar IT industry you stick you head in the sand and just keep making cars. It is after all, not your problem. That seems to be the attitude of almost every company with a vested interest in the computing market. There was a recent announcement indicating Intel and Microsoft have put up $10 million to fund research in parallel software. Hah! I’m going to laugh harder this time HAH, HAH! Ever here the phase pissing in the ocean, well this is more like throwing a match into the sun. We need more — much more.

[...]

Second, the entire in industry must co-operate and be involved. We need everyone working on this problem. The best minds in high performance computing have been at it for quite a while and it is time to turn up the volume. Fantasies of telling your R&D guys to get on it are not enough. Trying to corral your Intellectual Property (IP) with trade secrets and patents is wishful thinking. The rocket scientists (and plenty of other smart people) have been working on this issue for a long time. You don’t have the time to waste trying to expand your IP fiefdom. Instead start thinking about what happens when the next generation of products is of absolutely no interest to your customers.

Third we need to respond quickly. There is no time for IP agreements, posturing, and NIH ego trips (Not Invented Here). We need leaders to recognize the scope and magnitude of this challenge and act. Before too long, it will not be unreasonable to have four or even eight cores in a desktop. A workstation or server may have double this amount. It would sure be nice if my software could effectively use all these cores.

[...]

Using the GPL will immediately remove issues that would normally choke such an important undertaking. First, the any IP barriers get pushed aside and everyone can cooperate openly

Remember that if virtualisation is accounted for, GNU/Linux dominates over 90% of the world’s top 500 computers. Windows domination may seem hard to deny, but only if you take into consideration desktops and laptops.

The article above praises the GPL, which various related parties — typically those which are affiliated with Microsoft — seem to be skeptics of. The GPL is by no means a case against business and money. If there are projects that illustrate this, one of them would be WordPress, with which I have been involved since 2004. Matt Mullenweg, a co-founder of the project (a b2 derivative) and the founder of Automattic, speaks about the success with the GPL, which rivals struggle to compete against.

WordPress is 100% open source, GPL.

All plugins in the official directory are GPL or compatible, 100% open source.

bbPress is 100% GPL.

WordPress MU is 100% open source, GPL, and if you wanted you could take it and build your own hosted platform like WordPress.com, like edublogs.org has with over 100,000 blogs.

There is more GPL stuff on the way, as well. :)

Could you build Typepad or Vox with Movable Type? Probably not, especially since people with more than a few blogs or posts say it grinds to a halt, as Metblogs found before they switched to WordPress.

Sam Varghese posted a hypothetical and somewhat comical news piece that echoed a similar one from Steven Vaughan last year. It asks wether Microsoft would be able to compete more successful had Windows been licensed under real Open Source terms.

But, given all the pressure that Microsoft is under these days from different quarters, what if the company decided to reveal those jewels? Would it have any impact on FOSS? Would people in the FOSS sphere really care? Would it make a difference?

As Movable Type (Six Apart) found out in the face of WordPress, going open when it’s too late is just a case of catching up. It might as well be considered a lost cause. Those who go against the GNU GPL, just as Novell did with Microsoft, take the route to nowhere. No matter the technical merits, they are unable to attract a passionate crowd of developers and enthusiastic collaborative customers. Once a week we post progress about the OpenSUSE project and it seems safe to say that it has slowed down significantly.

Remember: it’s always about the licences. IANAL.

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