Bonum Certa Men Certa

The Power of Consensus

Dana Blankenhorn has a piece regarding Microsoft's inability to understand "Open Source Politics"

For those who don't follow the tech business, Ballmer and Microsoft signed a deal with Novell in which the two sides mutually agreed not to sue one another over patent claims. Then he turned around and claimed that, unless companies were running Novell's version of Linux, Microsoft might sue them for violating its patents.

Now witness the market reaction. Novell backed away from Ballmer's claims. Other Linux distros, like Ubuntu, began using the deal in the market against Novell. They are getting a good hearing. The result could be that Novell, which signed with Microsoft because it is a financial laggard, may be destroyed by its own lifeline.

As I wrote on my other blog today, something quite similar is happening regarding attempts by vendors to add "gotchas" in open source licensing contracts. There is a community consensus on what open source means, thus a market consensus on what it means, and anyone who violates this consensus risks the rejection of its market.

Blankenhorn actually compares Microsoft's bullying tactics to those of the Bush Administration (Ouch!), saying that while Microsoft may be employing the "law", the market is refusing to go along. Silence is Acceptance, speak out and let Novell and Microsoft know that their attempt to circumvent the GPL is unacceptable - Boycott Novell.

In another article, also by Blankenhorn, he offers the following cautionary statement for Novell, Microsoft and any other Fairweather Friends of Open Source who have plans of coopting the community using legal tactics and license "gotchas":

Lawyers lay great plans, but the market and the community are the real forces of nature in open source. You violate a consensus at your peril.

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