on trusting open source companies

Dave: but you’ve hit on the head exactly why you can’t trust Sun (or Novell, or RH) any further than you can trust their licenses. I love Glynn like a brother, I like Danese, and Simon Phipps and Jon Schwartz appear to be incredibly sharp and fairly clueful, and so I’m optimistic that the company will do the right things in the future. But what if the corporate winds change? Danese is already gone (and apparently was frustrated); what if the stock slips again and Schwartz and Phipps are the sacrificial lambs? At that point, all the community has is the license, and Sun’s licensing choices… typically at best they signal that Sun is ‘first among equals’, at middling they indicate strong distrust of the community, and at worst they indicate outright attempts to block interoperability with the community. When Sun actually trusts communities, and signals as such by treating the community as equals and giving the community the power to fork (aka by putting their jewels under GPL-compatible licenses), then the community should (and I think will) trust them back. But not until then.

Re: MPL and firefox, lots of people justifiably weren’t happy until it was triple licensed (which didn’t completely resolve netscape/aol’s privileged position, but at least ameliorated the problem). I personally still don’t completely trust them (because of the trademark issues about which I’ve blogged about before) but until I or someone else comes up with a trademark license that actually respects freedom two I probably should shut up about that :) (Or maybe I mean ‘respects powerplay two… another post, I guess.)

14 thoughts on “on trusting open source companies”

  1. people, individual personalities, quirks, beliefs. While we often assign human characteristics to companies, companies don’t believe. They don’t have morals. The personality of a company can change with the board of directors. Luis Villaonce wrote“what if the corporate winds change? … At that point, all the community has is the license, and [the company]’s licensing choices … When [the company] actually trusts communities, and signals as such by treating the community as equals […] then th

  2. […] Luis, I have one point of contention to bring up about your concerns. We must remember what I think many forget. Companies, governments, organizations and individuals all make up the community. It is not the community vs. companies. What we see is that in any community (not just ours) there are good citizens and bad citizens and everything inbetween. Any entity in the community has equal potential to be pulled to either end of the spectrum. […]

  3. […] <rlove> luis: I don’t think J5 got your blog post. <luis> I haven’t had a chance to read it yet, I’m at work <luis> only the one sentence that came through wordpress moderation <luis> certainly my point was not an ‘us v. them’ dichotomy <rlove> exactly, your point was more on the power of the license <luis> right <rlove> nothing about who was good or who was bad <rlove> but that that was all made moot by the license <luis> right <luis> maybe I should s/company/aggregations of people/ in the post ;) <luis> or s/company/copyright holder/ <rlove> yes, the latter <luis> maybe s/company/joint copyright holder/ ? <rlove> or do what I do and punch people in the face with your thesis: “The license is the great equalizer” <rlove> or some snappy conclusion <luis> I’m not *quite* so cynical as to not trust you, for example, if you decided to implement lovix tomorrow, I would probably use it whatever the license <rlove> and I appreciate that <rlove> and I’d probably add features, just for you <rlove> little luis-inspired easter eggs <rlove> even with lovix, though, you have no chips without the right license <luis> what about your undying love for me? <rlove> what if I died and my estate was run by crooks? <rlove> or I declared Chapter 11? <rlove> or — god forbid — Chapter 7? <rlove> I am just saying. You want some chips. <luis> let us just post this conversation to our blogs and smite our doubters with it. […]

  4. […] Jono: totally agreed that Ubuntu’s process is generally quite transparent and an example for others. That said, the profit- what you note as ‘cheap labo[u]r’- is and must be important. Corporations get involved and stay involved because of profit. Corporations that are making money off free software are predictable and reliable (just like corporations that are locked down by licenses); corporations that are doing free software out of the goodness of their heart are not necessarily either predictable nor reliable. […]

  5. […] So, yeah. That’s really what it took them five pages to say. I think, put that way, they’ve got a fairly sound argument- clearly lots of people would want to use a GPL 2.1 that had the same focus as GPL v2, but with more refined legal safeguards. I personally would prefer a GPL v3, that prevents people from using my code to create devices whose primary purpose is to deliver DRMd content, and which protects me from the patent portfolios of companies which I may like but can’t trust. But clearly that is a difference of opinion that merely having an open comment period is not going to paper over. […]

  6. […] Some time ago I talked about trusting open source companies, with the bottom line being ‘trust them as far as their licenses and their profit motives let you, and not a bit further.’ IBM has generally been very good about supporting open source, and as steven says, they’ve been very up front about their motivations- they are doing it because they want to make money, and they think open source and open standards help them make money. […]

  7. […] stop me from helping Fedora. (Note that this implies a very high standard for governance; see my rants about not trusting ‘open source’ companies.)If one must assess companies as a whole, two suggestions (both of which are standards and not clear […]

  8. […] community-controlled copyright assignment assignees and for-profit copyright assignees. He quotes Luis Villa to make the point that companies, ultimately, aren’t the best destinations as a final home of FLOSS […]

  9. […] to entry to project wither by volunteers or other companies.  Also, he cites Luis Villa that corporates can change their position with respect to the code, because they have to answer to their stackholders, not the interests of the project or a community […]

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