Tuesday, August 03, 2004

Cringely : Does Sveasoft (Or Anyone Else) Have the Right to Make a Living From Open Source Software?

Answer : anyone has the right to make a living out of free-software, as long as they don't violate the rights of users that were explicitly intended by the original authors.

Have Sveasoft violated the letter of the GPL? Maybe not.

Have they violated the spirit of the GPL?

Yes, if $50 for a CD is unreasonable for a copy.

I'd say it's unreasonable. Not because that's unreasonable for a CD, but because they are obviously running a server from which you can download older versions of the code. And there's no obvious reason they couldn't put the new version on the same server, except that they are trying to restrict distribution.

This is the most egregious point : What people don't like is ... the restriction that you can't continue to use your $20 subscription rights once you have ... violated the development group rules by giving away beta code to those who aren't qualified to receive

This is a blatant attempt to prevent you from giving away the beta. Now the restriction isn't in the license for the software, as that would certainly be in violation of the GPL. Putting it elsewhere in a bundled service may be a legal loophole but it's absolutely bad faith.

Cringely asks, in wide-eyed innocence : The question that is being neither asked nor answered here is how can one make an acceptable living from Open Source?

To which the correct answer is that it's not being asked because it's not relevant. Open Source is first about protecting my rights. And if you can make a living while respecting my rights, I support you. If you can't, then bad luck. But violating my rights in order to get paid isn't an option I have any intention of respecting.

Nor do I respect Cringely's plaintive : Those who are upset with James Ewing and Sveasoft don't generally begrudge him the right to make a living, they just wish he wasn't doing it this way. At the same time, they don't want the progress that his work has created to end. You can't have it both ways.

I absolutely can have it both ways. If people don't want the progress Sveasoft are creating to end, they can make donations to Sveasoft. If they aren't willing to, perhaps they don't want the progress that much. But Sveasoft is presumably deriving it's "progress" from someone else who explicitly asked that their work would be available with these rights. If Sveasoft didn't want that, it was their choice to write from scratch under a different license.

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