[Fsf-friends] MORE: Opening the open-source debate

Frederick Noronha fred@bytesforall.org
Mon, 24 Jun 2002 08:42:59 +0530 (IST)

URL             :  http://www.linux.org/news/opinion/skoll.html

"Opening the Open-Source Debate"

   David F. Skoll, Roaring Penguin Software

   The [24]Alexis de Tocqueville Institution (AdTI) has finally published
   its  [25]white  paper  entitled  "Opening  the Open Source Debate". My
   [26]earlier   comments   were   based  on  media  reports  and  e-mail
   correspondence  with  the  paper's  author.  This document was written
   after  I  read the actual white paper. (The original link seems not to
   work;  I  managed  to  grab a copy of the paper before AdTI pulled it.
   [27]This link may work.)

   The  AdTI's  very weak and poorly-researched paper opens no debate. It
   simply   confirms   that   Microsoft   paid   AdTI  to  come  up  with
   something---anything---to  stem  the  growing  adoption of open-source
   (especially GPL'd) software by business and government.

   Let's take a look at the paper in detail.

I. In the Beginning

   Section  I,  "In  the Beginning", gives an overview of proprietary vs.
   free  software. It's reasonably accurate, although the author is given
   to  rather  ludicrous  depictions of source code as a "secret formula"
   and a "map to a buried treasure."

II. GPL Open Source: The Gift That Keeps Taking

   Section  II  is  where  Microsoft vents its anger. Take a look at this

     The  GPL is one of the most uniquely restrictive product agreements
     in the technology industry.

   Why  does  Microsoft... excuse me, the AdTI... say that? They say that

     The  GPL  requires  that  if its source code is used in any type of
     software  product  (commercial  or  non-commercial) for any reason,
     then  the entire new product (also known as the derivative) becomes
     subject to terms of the GPL open source agreement.

   This is not quite true; if you do not distribute your derived product,
   then  you  do not need to distribute the source code. But for the most
   part, the statement is accurate.

   But  so  what?  Suppose you derive a product from Microsoft Windows or
   some  other  proprietary  code.  Then  you  are  breaking all kinds of
   license  agreements. Furthermore, proprietary vendors would demand and
   get the rights to your derived product, leaving you with nothing.

   The  GPL  is  no more restrictive than the most liberal of proprietary
   licenses,   and   a   good   deal   less  restrictive  than  most.  So
   Microsoft's... excuse me, the AdTI's... complaints are groundless.

   Another quote:

     David  Wheeler,  publisher  and expert in Washington on open source
     and  proprietary source comments, without licensing the source code
     in  a  multi-license  format,  (referring  to other more permissive
     licenses),  it  is  impossible  for  GPL  to work for a proprietary
     business model.

   Perhaps  the AdTI misses the point. GPL advocates do not care if GPL'd
   software can be made to work in a proprietary business model. It's not
   our  problem.  There's  no  God-given  right  for proprietary software
   vendors  to  make money; they have to compete. And if the rules of the
   marketplace   suddenly   change   and  make  it  difficult  for  them,
   well---tough. Adapt or die. Don't moan.

III. The Myth of a Public Software Community

   Section  III  attempts  to  debunk  the  "myth"  of  a public software

   The  AdTI  hints  that  open-source advocates abandon their principles
   when they smell money:

     Widespread  support  for GPL open source lies in the IT community's
     frustration  with  competitive, closed proprietary software. But in
     fact,  it  is  quite  common  that programmers experiment with open
     source until they see an opportunity to capitalize on an idea, then
     embrace  proprietary standards. One could joke that open source has
     been  a  bridesmaid but never a bride. The story of the web browser
     is an example of this reality.

   AdTI  uses  the  story  of  Netscape "killing" the open-source Mosaic.
   Well, Mosaic was never GPL'd. If it had been, Netscape would have been
   unable to kill it. Furthermore, AdTI says of Mosaic:

     Through a commercial partner, Spyglass, NCSA began widely licensing
     Mosaic to computer companies including IBM, DEC, AT&T, and NEC.

   Conspicuously  absent from AdTI's list is another licensee: Microsoft.
   Yes,  Spyglass's  browser  formed the basis for Internet Explorer. And
   revealed  here  is  Microsoft's reason to fear the GPL: It cannot make
   use  of  the  work  of  thousands  of  dedicated programmers for free,
   locking  the  work up in a proprietary product. It did that with early
   versions  of its TCP/IP stack, derived from the Berkeley stack. But as
   more  free software is GPL'd, Microsoft's cherry-picking opportunities
   diminish. Isn't it sad?

   The  AdTI  never  quite  gets  around  to  saying  why the open-source
   community  is  a "myth". Apparently, the hundreds of collaborators who
   gave  the world the Linux kernel are mythical. Perhaps the outstanding
   KDE desktop environment was written by unicorns. And one supposes that
   GNOME, another outstanding desktop environment, was produced by, well,
   gnomes. Apache---it's a myth. PHP---doesn't exist. Mozilla---pshaw.

   Even  in  my  own  modest software development, I've had contributions
   from  dozens  of people around the world to my software packages. I've
   had  suggestions,  fixes, enhancements and pieces of wisdom donated to
   me  which  would  never  have  happened  in  a proprietary development

IV. The Government and the GPL

   This is where politicking gets into high gear.

     However,  the use of the GPL has the potential to radically alter a
     very successful model for partnership, particularly when most large
     commercial entities do not readily embrace the GPL.

   Once  again,  the  white  paper  is  worried  about  "large commercial
   entities."  Well,  some large commercial entities like HP/Compaq, IBM,
   Dell and Sun are quite willing to use, produce and/or distribute GPL'd
   software.  To  those  large commercial entities who wish to stop GPL'd
   software, I say:"Tough. Adapt or die."

     Needless  to  say,  the  government could not depend on patches for
     software  glitches  to  wander  in  from  the public. Likewise, the
     government   could   only  use  open  source  code  that  it  could
     independently  service  in  case  of an emergency. Agencies without
     extensive  staff  to maintain its internal operations cannot afford
     to  use  hapless  and  untested  software  without  accountability,
     warranties or liability.

   This  is  a  complete  red herring. Patches don't "wander in" from the
   public  for  open-source products. Rather, they come straight from the
   authors,  or sometimes from distributors such as Red Hat. Furthermore,
   they  tend  to  come  in  with  a  lot  more  alacrity than fixes from
   commercial vendors.

   With  open-source, the government at least has an option to be able to
   "independently  service"  the  software  in  case  of  emergency. With
   proprietary  software,  the government does not even have this choice.
   Therefore, the AdTI's objections on this ground are spurious.

     Another  consideration  for  the U.S. government is that all source
     code  developed  under  the GPL could have mirrored availability to
     the public. This poses unlimited security issues.

   AdTI  loves  this  refrain,  but  has yet to prove it. In my [28]other
   article, I debunked the myth that source code availability necessarily
   introduces  security  issues,  and  demonstrated  that in fact, it can
   often  enhance  security. I was interviewed by AdTI for my opinions on
   the matter; they neglected to include my comments in the paper.

     For  example,  if  the  Federal  Aviation Agency were to develop an
     application  (derived from open source) which controlled 747 flight
     patterns,  a  number  of  issues  easily  become  national security
     questions  such as: Would it be prudent for the FAA to use software
     that  thousands  of  unknown programmers have intimate knowledge of
     for  something  this  critical?  Could the FAA take the chance that
     these   unknown   programmers  have  not  shared  the  source  code
     accidentally  with  the  wrong parties? Would the FAA's decision to
     use  software  in  the  public  domain invite computer hackers more
     readily than proprietary products?

   Again,  a  ludicrous  example.  No-one simply sits down and "develops"
   such  an  application  by starting with free software. Even if the FAA
   did  develop  an  open-source flight-control application, AdTI has not
   demonstrated   at  all  that  it  would  have  significantly-different
   security  issues  than a closed-source one. Sure, AdTI asks a bunch of
   rhetorical  questions.  But  that's  not  how  one  conducts a logical
   argument.  So  let's  answer the rhetorical questions with some of our

     Would  it  be prudent for the FAA to use software that thousands of
     unknown  programmers  have intimate knowledge of for something this

   Is  it prudent for any federal agency to use Microsoft software, given
   that  it  is  a  matter  of  [29]public  record  that  Russian hackers
   illegally  broke  into  Microsoft's  network  and had access to source
   code?  Is  it  prudent for any federal agency to use software which is
   not  freely-available  for  peer review? Is it prudent for any federal
   agency  to  take the word of a proprietary vendor that its software is
   secure, given that the vendor is attempting to make a sale?

     Could  the  FAA take the chance that these unknown programmers have
     not shared the source code accidentally with the wrong parties?

   Will  the  FAA  ban  the use of Microsoft software, given that it is a
   certainty  that  Microsoft  source  code has been shared "accidentally
   with the wrong parties"?

     Would  the  FAA's  decision  to  use  software in the public domain
     invite computer hackers more readily than proprietary products?

   Will  the  AdTI  comment  on  why  proprietary  Web servers seem to be
   cracked  [30]far  more  often  than open-source ones, even though they
   have smaller market share?

Reverse Engineering

     Experts  differ  on  whether  the primary focus for security should
     source  code  or  binary code. Andrew Sibre, a programmer with over
     twenty years of experiences insists, "Having a license for binaries
     only  gives  you  a  black box : you don't know what it's doing, or
     how,  unless  you  want  to go insane trying to reverse-engineer it
     with  a  debugger (illegal under the term of most licenses)" Having
     the  source  lets  you  see  what  it's  doing, how it does it, and
     permits  you  to  modify  it  to  meet your particular requirements
     (including  security  related  ones).  To  this  extent, government
     officials  should  be  concerned  that  threat  may  not just be an
     adversary   cracking  their  system,  but  inadvertently  educating
     adversaries   about   their   security  systems.  Sibre  continues,
     "Depending on code without the source is quite similar to depending
     on a complex mechanical or electronic system without the benefit of
     shop and parts manuals."

   Naturally,  having  access  to  source code eases reverse-engineering.
   However,  the  vast  majority  of  security exploits are found without
   access  to the source code. As I wrote to Ken Brown, the author of the

   The entire premise of computer security and encryption is as follows:

   A  security  system must be resistant to attack *even if* the attacker
   has all the details about how it works. I refer you to:

   "Applied Cryptography", Bruce Schneier, John Wiley and Sons, Inc, page

   "All  of  the  security  in  these  algorithms is based on the key (or
   keys);  none is based in the details of the algorithm. This means that
   the  algorithm  can  be  published  and  analyzed.  Products using the
   algorithm  can  be mass-produced. It doesn't matter if an eavesdropper
   knows  your  algorithm;  if  she doesn't know your particular key, she
   can't read your messages."

   I refer you also to:

   "Practical  UNIX  and  Internet  Security",  Simson Garfinkel and Gene
   Spafford, O'Reilly and Associates, pages 40-45:

   "...  This  is especially true if you should find yourself basing your
   security  on  the  fact  that  something  technical is unknown to your
   attackers. This concept can even hurt your security."

   I  refer  you  to  an  Internet  draft  on security through obscurity:

   A few more links on why security through obscurity does not work:






Is Reverse-Engineering That Hard?

   Before   I   started  Roaring  Penguin  Software  Inc.,  I  worked  at
   [37]Chipworks,  a company which does reverse-engineering for a living.
   From first-hand experience, I know that hardware and software security
   can  be  broken  more  easily than most vendors believe, and much more
   cheaply, too.


   Ken Brown raises the old back-door bogeyman:

     Another  security  concern is that the primary distribution channel
     for  GPL  open  source  is  the Internet. As opposed to proprietary
     vendors, open source is freely downloaded. However, software in the
     public  domain  could  contain  a  critical  problem, a backdoor or
     worse, a dangerous virus.

   The  following material is taken straight from my other article, where
   I  already  covered the back-door issue: In fact, there have been some
   trojans  placed  in  open-source  software.  They  have  usually  been
   discovered  and  neutralized  very quickly. By contrast, closed-source
   products  have  a  sad  history of [38]spyware, [39]"Easter eggs", and
   [40]questionable material, placed by people who have (presumably) been
   "screened."  In  fact,  one  of  Microsoft's  own security updates was
   [41]infected with a virus, something which (to my knowledge) has never
   happened in the open-source world.

   An   interesting   back-door   was   one  in  Borland's  closed-source
   [42]Interbase  product.  This  back-door lay undetected for years, but
   was revealed within weeks of the product being open-sourced.

   And  another interesting little "easter egg" is on the AdTI's [43]very
   own Web site.

   [44]Questionable material in Microsoft software may have helped spur a
   Peruvian  bill  to  promote free software in government. The author of
   the   bill  [45]says  that  open-source  software  provides  a  better
   guarantee  of  "security  of  the State and citizens" than proprietary
   software,  an analysis which is 180 degrees out of phase with the AdTI

The real "victims" of the GPL

     The  government's  productive  alliance  with private enterprise is
     also relevant particularly when its decision to use GPL source code
     would  inherently  turn  away  many  of  its  traditional partners.
     Security,  as  well  as other impracticalities make GPL open source
     very   unattractive   to  companies  concerned  about  intellectual
     property rights. In effect, the government's use of GPL source code
     could inevitably shut out the intellectual property based sector.

   The  Government must choose software to maximize national security and
   minimize  government  expenditure.  It  owes absolutely nothing to the
   "IP-based sector" or any other corporation. What was it I said before?
   Oh, yes: "Tough. Adapt or die."

     This has a number of ramifications. Immediately, it would limit the
     number of qualified vendors to choose from to deliver products.

   Tough. Adapt or die.

     The  GPL's  wording  also  prevents  the  equal  use of software by
     members of the IP community and the GPL open source community.

   This  is  a lie. If the "IP community" (whatever that is) respects the
   terms  and  conditions  of the GPL, it's as free as anyone else to use
   and  distribute  GPL'd  software.  If it doesn't like the terms of the
   GPL, that's the "IP community's" problem, not the GPL's problem.

     A worse consideration is that use of GPL could inadvertently create
     legal   problems.   IP  community  members  could  argue  that  the
     government's  choice  of  open  source  is restrictive and excludes
     taxpaying firms from taxpayer-funded projects. Adverse impact would
     include   a   discontinued   flow   of   technology  transfer  from
     government-funded research to the technology sector. Without value,
     it becomes highly likely that government funding for research would
     slow as well.

   Here, AdTI is delivering a veiled threat on behalf of Microsoft. First
   of all, if "IP community members" could argue that, they already would
   have.  They  have  not  made  the  argument  because  they  know it is
   specious.  In  fact,  there's  a  very good argument for requiring the
   fruits  of government-funded research to be GPL'd so that all citizens
   can benefit.

   Furthermore, the "IP community members" have benefited from government
   research  as  much  as  (or  more  than) government has benefited from
   private  research.  So  to  pull out of government partnerships out of
   pique  over software licensing would only hurt proprietary vendors and
   no-one else.

V. Intellectual Property Left

   This  is  a rewording of "Free Software is Communism" and merits about
   the same amount of serious attention.

     U.S.  intellectual  property  (IP)  statutes have been a beacon for
     inventors   around  the  world.  The  U.S.  model  for  motivating,
     compensating  and  protecting  innovators  has  been successful for
     almost  200  years.  GPL  source  code  directly  competes with the
     intellectual property restrictions, thus it is vital to analyze its

   The GPL does not in any way "compete" with U.S. copyright law. It uses
   U.S. copyright law in a perfectly legitimate and reasonable way.

     There  are  two  groups  of programmers that contribute to the open
     source  community. The first group consists of professionally hired
     programmers  by  day,  who freely contribute code. The second group
     consists of original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) that are hiring
     open  source  programmers  for their products. However, open source
     principally  perpetuates  itself  because  there is an avid pool of
     experts  and  enthusiasts  willing  to  spend  their  spare time to
     provide  fixes  and  modifications  to  open-source  software. This
     volunteer  system  works  well  as  an academic model, but not as a
     business one.

   Who  cares  about  business  models?  We  have Linux, Apache, Mozilla,
   Gnome,  KDE, Perl, Python, PHP, FreeBSD, OpenBSD, NetBSD, and so on in
   spite  of  the  supposed lack of a business model. What we see here is
   more  whining  from  proprietary  vendors  about  how free software is
   hurting their business model. Let's hear the refrain: "Tough. Adapt or

     As  mentioned  earlier, open source code is not guaranteed nor does
     it come with a warranty.

   Neither  does  most proprietary software, so this is a red herring. If
   you want a warranty, most open-source vendors will be happy to provide
   one if you pay for it.

     Open   source  products  are  often  distributed  without  manuals,
     instructions or technical information. While a commercial developer
     is obligated to produce manuals, diagrams and information detailing
     the  functionality  of  their products, open source programmers are
     not.  In  addition,  open  source  developers cannot be expected to
     create  software  manuals  with the vigor of private firms that are
     obligated  to  produce them. Producing technical specifications (in
     soft or hard copy format) is time-intensive and expensive. But this
     is not just a customer service issue.

   Some  open-source  software  comes  with poor documentation, just like
   some  proprietary  software.  Other free software comes with excellent
   documentation.  It's a matter of customer choice: Choose software that
   has what you need.

   All of my free software products come with complete manual pages. Most
   serious developers do not consider software finished until the manuals
   are finished.

     Innumerable   questions  surround  the  distribution  of  technical
     information  in  the copyleft environment, particularly because the
     Free   Software   Foundation   has   a  copyleft  license  for  its
     documentation as well. Issues include: Who should have the right to
     alter  software  manuals?  Who is the final editor or is there one?
     How  should  changes  be regulated? Are manuals copyright protected
     documents?  What  is  the  process  for  making  changes? What body
     regulates  these  changes?  How  can  organizations  guarantee that
     information in manuals is always accurate?

   More  rhetorical  questions. With proprietary software, if the manuals
   are  inaccurate,  you're out of luck. With free software, you at least
   have a chance to correct them.

   Again, we see the unease of the proprietary vendors who want bodies to
   "regulate" changes. They are unable to wrap their minds around the new
   reality of free software. Rather than changing their ways, they dig in
   their heels. They may need another reminder: Tough. Adapt or die.

     Today,  software  impacts  a firm's financial health in an intimate
     fashion.  It  becomes  unrealistic for a firm to depend too much on
     the  trust of an anonymous community that does not have anything at
     stake financially to keep important technical documents current.

   On  the contrary, it is imperative that businesses rely solely on free
   software for access to critical information. Only in this way can they
   guarantee access to their data, and not be held hostage by proprietary
   file  formats  and  proprietary  vendors.  To  quote  Dr.  Edgar David
   Villanueva Nunez, a Peruvian legislator:

     To  guarantee the free access of citizens to public information, it
     is  indispensable that the encoding of data is not tied to a single
     provider. The use of standard and open formats gives a guarantee of
     this  free  access, if necessary through the creation of compatible
     free software.

     To  guarantee  the  permanence of public data, it is necessary that
     the  usability  and  maintenance of the software does not depend on
     the  goodwill  of  the  suppliers,  or  on  the monopoly conditions
     imposed  by  them.  For  this  reason  the  State needs systems the
     development  of  which can be guaranteed due to the availability of
     the source code.

     To  guarantee national security or the security of the State, it is
     indispensable  to be able to rely on systems without elements which
     allow  control  from  a  distance  or the undesired transmission of
     information  to  third  parties.  Systems  with  source code freely
     accessible  to the public are required to allow their inspection by
     the  State  itself,  by  the  citizens,  and  by  a large number of
     independent  experts  throughout  the  world.  Our  proposal brings
     further  security,  since  the  knowledge  of  the source code will
     eliminate the growing number of programs with *spy code*.

     In  the  same  way,  our  proposal  strengthens the security of the
     citizens,  both  in  their role as legitimate owners of information
     managed  by  the  state,  and  in  their role as consumers. In this
     second case, by allowing the growth of a widespread availability of
     free software not containing *spy code* able to put at risk privacy
     and individual freedoms.

   In  fact,  Villanueva's  [46]eloquent  and well-written letter handily
   demolishes  most of AdTI's premises and conclusions; it's well worth a

More on Reverse Engineering

     The  reliance on reverse engineering is probably one of the biggest
     conflicts between the IP and the GPL open source community. To keep
     GPL  products  relevant  and  up  to  date,  GPL  enthusiasts  must
     perpetually reverse engineer intellectual property.

   Reverse-engineering  is  required  only if hardware manufacturers keep
   the  details  of  their  software/hardware interfaces secret. The vast
   majority of hardware manufacturers do not keep them secret. Some which
   do  keep  them  secret provide (binary-only) drivers for free software
   systems.  Reverse-engineering is necessary only for the small minority
   of hardware devices which are secret.

     Reverse  engineering  has a number of implications. It harbors very
     close  to  IP  infringement  because  and  has  staggering economic

   Reverse-engineering  is  perfectly  legal. In fact, the European Union
   has  a  law  guaranteeing  the legality of reverse-engineering for the
   purpose  of creating compatible software or devices. AdTI implies that
   reverse-engineering  is "close to IP infringement", but they never say
   why (and their sentence doesn't even parse.)

     If  software is freely re-engineered, it will inevitably impact the
     value  of  software  on  the  market.  If  the price of software is
     adversely  impacted, salaries and inevitably employment of software
     programmers would be negatively affected as well.

   This  is  correct.  If  software  is freely re-engineered, it destroys
   monopolies  and  brings  back  a sense of free market to the industry.
   Yes, software prices go down. And yes, consumers benefit.

   The  whole  paragraph is simply a thinly-hidden Microsoft lament about
   the  success  of  products  like  Samba  which enable companies to run
   Microsoft-compatible   file   sharing   without  exorbitant  Microsoft
   licensing fees.

VI. Is the GPL Cost-Beneficial?

   This is a restatement of the tired old "TCO" straw-man.

     Discussing  the economic implications of open source, Andre Carter,
     President  of  Irimi  Corporation,  a technology consulting firm in
     Washington  comments,  "The  question  of open source code is about
     whether the software developer wants to make available to the world
     the  blueprint  of  what  they built or simply the benefits of what
     they  built.  The  notion of open source software has nothing to do
     with free software. The purchase price of computer software is only
     a fraction of the total cost of ownership. So even if the price tag
     reads  free  , it can end up being more expensive than software you
     buy.  This  is  especially  true  for  the  typical consumer. If it
     requires  technical  know-how  to  operate,  doesn't offer built-in
     support,  and  demands  constant  attention, it won't feel free for
     very long."

   Lot's  of  "if's"  and weasel-words in there. If it requires technical
   know-how  to  operate,  etc,  etc.  Nowhere  does Carter say that free
   software  does  in  fact  require  any  more  technical  know-how than
   proprietary  software.  Furthermore,  proprietary  software  often has
   [47]hidden costs which can come back later to haunt you.

     The  success  of  an  A-Z  open source environment would expectedly
     impact  the  software  sector  as  a  viable entity. If software is
     freely  available,  but  PC  s, servers and hardware maintain their
     value,  we  can  only  predict that the value of software companies
     will  plummet. Hardware will come with more and more free software.
     Second,  we  can  only  expect  that  the revenues and value of the
     software  sector will transfer to the hardware sector. Although the
     software   sector   has  seen  growth  almost  every  year,  it  is
     questionable  whether  the  GPL  model  will  enable  the  software
     industry  to  continue its exceptional growth particularly when the
     growth  in  the  software  sector  is tied to proprietary products,
     something the GPL is anxious to eliminate.

   In  the  1800's,  black-smithing  was a pretty good profession. In the
   1960's  and 1970's, 8-track tapes did a pretty good business. The fact
   is  that the black-smith industry and the 8-track tape industry failed
   to  heed  the  iron rule of the market: Adapt or die. If free software
   means  the  death of proprietary software vendors, it will be on those
   vendors heads who fail to adapt.

     Businesses  must  be concerned about the perception of the GPL. For
     example,  experts  assess  the  value of intellectual property when
     completing  valuations  of firms. Because GPL open source literally
     erases  the  proprietary and trade secret value of software, it can
     be  expected  that  firms  concerned  about valuations will be very
     concerned about using GPL open source.

   This is only of concern to firms producing software. The vast majority
   of  firms consume software, and for them, in-house software production
   is  a cost, not a revenue source. For the vast majority of firms, free
   software will save them lots of money. For those few firms planning on
   building  a business model around proprietary software, I offer my old
   refrain: Adapt or die. What's good for proprietary software vendors is
   not necessarily good for the citizen.

     There  are  all  types  of  consumers  with  ranges  of  needs  and
     abilities.  The  guys in the lab at MIT don't need install wizards,
     plug  and  play  drivers,  voice  based  technical  support and big
     picture  manuals  as  part  of their software. However, the elderly
     couple  e-mailing  their  grandkids  or  the mother of two managing
     accounts on a PC in the kitchen does.

   Carter  clearly  has  a  stereotyped  view  of  consumers.  My elderly
   parents,  who enjoy e-mailing their grandkids, use only free software.
   They  are  quite  happy  to  use  Linux and Netscape. Furthermore, the
   choice  of  free  software eases my support burden: If my parents need
   help,  I  can  SSH into their machine and fix it remotely. With all of
   Microsoft's  "wizards" and other gimmicks, they still do not provide a
   convenient  means  for  remote  administration on their consumer-level

   People believe free software is hard to use because they've never used
   it.  Just  as  the AdTI showed that people who've actually worked with
   MCSE's  have  a higher opinion of them than people who haven't, people
   who've actually bothered to use free software have a higher opinion of
   it than people who haven't.

VII. GPL Open Source and the Courts

     Once  GPL  code  is  combined with another type of source code, the
     entire  product  is  GPL.  Subsequently,  this  change  could occur
     deliberately,  but  it  could  also  occur  accidentally. There are
     unlimited  scenarios  for  accidents to occur, the license could be
     lost  in the source code's distribution, or maybe unreadable due to
     a  glitch  in  its  electronic  distribution.  Another  potentially
     litigious  issue is whether the use of GPL tools used to manipulate
     code  subject  software to the GPL. Theoretically, a GPL tool could
     subject  new software to GPL restrictions. This too will have to be
     interpreted  by  a  judge. Regardless, unknowing users of GPL might
     have  one  intention for use of the license and find out later that
     it  inadvertently  infringed  upon  copyright protected work. Legal
     questions  relevant  to such an event intersect the legal arenas of
     intellectual property rights, contract law and liability.

   AdTI  is  very  good  at  offering  up red herrings. Let's suppose you
   "accidentally" included part of Microsoft Windows in a product. Do you
   suppose  Microsoft  would be easier on you than copyright holders of a
   GPL'd product?

   The  fact  is that any software license has terms and conditions which
   must be obeyed. The GPL is no different; if you do not like its terms,
   don't use GPL'd software. Microsoft's agenda is transparent here.

   The  proprietary  software  industry  entreats you to diligently track
   licenses,  and  offers [48]harsh retribution against those who violate
   their  licenses.  Most  GPL violations are settled amicably, and those
   which  result  from an accident are usually settled merely by removing
   the offending code from distribution.

   The  rest  of  Section  VII  is  simply speculation and not even worth
   commenting on.

VIII Conclusion

     Open  source  as  a  development  model  is helpful to the software
     industry.  For  example, software distributed under the BSD license
     is   very  popular.  The  BSD  license  (see  Appendix  9)  enables
     companies,  independent  developers  and  the academic community to
     fluidly exchange software source code.

   English  translation:  The  BSD  license  is  good  because  it allows
   corporations to benefit from other people's work without offering them
   any compensation, and without having to allow third parties to benefit
   from derived work.

     The  GPL's  resistance  to  commonplace exchange of open source and
     proprietary has the potential to negatively impact the research and
     development budgets of companies.

   English translation: The GPL doesn't let corporations benefit for free
   from others' work.

     The  GPL  has  many  risks,  but  the greatest is its threat to the
     cooperation  between  different  parties who collaborate and create
     new   technologies.   Today,   government,  commercial  enterprise,
     academicians,  etc.  have a system to converge. Conversely, the GPL
     represents    divergence;   proposing   to   remove   the   current
     infrastructure   of   intellectual   property  rights,  enforceable
     protection and economic incentive.

   English translation: The GPL threatens Microsoft's business model. You
   know my response by now: Tough. Adapt or die.

     While  GPL  advocates  are  quite  active  in  their  promotion  of
     copyleft,  few  would  disagree  that its widespread adoption would
     present  a  radical  change  to  an industry sector responsible for
     almost  350  billion  dollars  in  sales  annually  worldwide  (see
     Appendix 10).

   Few would disagree that the automobile all but wiped out blacksmithing
   as  a  profession.  Few could argue that cassettes didn't decimate the
   8-track market. Few would be surprised at my response: Tough. Adapt or

AdTI's Numbered Points and my Counterpoints

     1-  Engineering  software  has  become considerably complicated and
     rigorous.  It  is  not  unusual for software to include millions of
     lines  of  source  code.  If  the  incentive to develop software is
     changed,  we  can subsequently expect the quality and efficiency of
     software to change.

   Yes,  with  luck,  we'd  expect  the  quality to improve. The security
   records  of  systems  like  OpenBSD,  Linux,  and  FreeBSD  are vastly
   superior  to  that of Windows. While there is no real cause-and-effect
   relationship, empirical evidence suggests that open-source software is
   more  reliable  and  of  higher  quality  than  most  commercial-grade
   proprietary software.

     2-  There  remains  considerable  differences  within  the GPL open
     source  community.  It  is  questionable  whether these groups will
     continue to be proponents of the GPL in its current form or opt for
     changes in the immediate future.

   Even  if  true,  this  point  is  irrelevant.  Once  software has been
   licensed  under  the GPL, the license cannot be retracted. Your rights
   cannot  be  withdrawn  retroactively (unless you violate the license),
   unlike some proprietary software licenses.

     3-  Open source has successfully been used in proprietary software.
     In  addition, academic and government projects have been successful
     particularly  because  of  commercial  interest. Private enterprise
     offers  unique  efficiencies  for  the success of government funded

   Simply  another  attack  on the GPL. Nothing worth reading; let's move

     4- Open source GPL use by government agencies could easily become a
     national security concern. Government use of software in the public
     domain is exceptionally risky.

   A bold assertion, and totally unproven. This assertion is contradicted
   by  empirical evidence. Also, the NSA seems quite [49]comfortable with
   the security of GPL'd software.

     5-  Reverse  engineering,  perpetuated by GPL proponents, threatens
     not only the owners of intellectual property, but also the software
     industry itself.

   This  is  an  out-and-out lie. Reverse-engineering is critical for the
   continuation  of  a  healthy  software  industry.  Without  legitimate
   reverse-engineering,  there  would  be  no market forces to oppose the
   development  and  maintenance  of  monopolies, and the software market
   would become even more unfair than it is today.

   Attempts  to  ban reverse-engineering are simply money-grabs by greedy
   monopolies who wish to hang on to their power.

     6- Use of GPL open source creates a number of economic concerns for
     firms.  For  example,  the valuation of a software company could be
     significantly  effected  if  it uses source code licensed under the
     GPL for the development of its products.

   If  that  is  of  concern  (and  it  is  not  for the vast majority of
   corporations), then the corporation is perfectly free not to use GPL'd

   Using  proprietary  software  for  development  of  products  can also
   significantly  lower a company's valuation, especially if the owner of
   the  original proprietary software demands royalties or part-ownership
   of the resulting IP.

     7-  The  courts have yet to weigh in on the General Public License.
     Without  legal interpretation, the use of the GPL could be perilous
     to users in a number of scenarios.

   If  corporations have concerns about legal interpretations of the GPL,
   they should consult qualified lawyers. IBM, for example, has a massive
   and top-notch legal team, and they seem to have no qualms about using,
   creating  and  distributing  GPL'd software. If the AdTI would give us
   concrete  examples of legal concerns, we could discuss them, but as it
   is, all we are given is conjecture, hand-waving and supposition.

Roaring Penguin's Conclusions

   The AdTI claimed that the GPL is "acquisitive", yet fails to note that
   even  the most liberal of proprietary licenses is far more restrictive
   and places far more encumbrances on derived products than the GPL (if,
   in fact, it even permits derived products in the first place.)

   The  AdTI says that the free software community is a "myth", but fails
   to explain the tens of millions of lines of high-quality code produced
   by this mythical community.

   The  AdTI  promised  to  show  how using GPL'd software could threaten
   security,  but  failed to deliver. Rather, Microsoft's own Jim Allchin
   admitted  under  oath  that flaws in Microsoft software, if disclosed,
   could [50]endanger national security.

   The  AdTI  claims  that  free  software  damages  members  of  the "IP
   community"  (by which it means proprietary software vendors), but then
   fails  to  show  how  such  damage  occurs. Even if free software does
   damage  proprietary software vendors, AdTI fails to show why that is a
   bad thing for citizens in general.

   AdTI  raises  the  hoary old "Total Cost of Ownership" issue, but does
   not demonstrate that proprietary software is more cost effective. AdTI
   ignores  studies  like  the  one  from [51]CyberSource or even Roaring
   Penguin's own case studies in [52]Free Software in the Real World.

   The  entire AdTI study is a commercial funded by Microsoft, whose sole
   aim  is  to counter the growing adoption of GPL'd software. The report
   contains nothing constructive or useful. It is a sham.

   Other press, commentary and related links:
     * [53]MS-funded   think   tank   propagates  open-source  lies,  The
     * [54]Dispelling Myths About the GPL and Free Software by John Viega
       and  Bob Fleck. A somewhat more dispassionate rebuttal of the AdTI
     * [55]A  Business  Case  Study  of  Open  Source Software by Carolyn
       Kenwood, The Mitre Corporation.
     * [56]Analysis:  Microsoft  vs.  open  source battle gets political,
     * [57]Windows NT Cripples US Navy Cruiser, INFOsec.com

   Article Copyright  2002 David F. Skoll
   The  original  article  can  be  found  at  Roaring Penguin's website:


   Maintained by: [59]Webmaster, Linux Online Inc.
   Last modified: 13-Jun-2002 08:10AM.
   Views since 16-Aug-2000: 2646.

   Material copyright [60]Linux Online Inc.
   Design and compilation copyright 1994-2002 [61]Linux Online Inc.
   All rights reserved.



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