MFA Thesis – Excerpt 21

“Nevertheless, the open source community has a currency economy. Many of these projects, like Blender 3D, have systems of donations from consumers as well as corporate sponsorships that provide a minimum monetary incentive to  development. Sponsorships do not, however, entitle the donors to “own” any part of the code. Sponsorships also remove incentives for unethical behavior that competition encourages*, as they are not trying to dismantle the market by pushing out competing developers. In general, pride of contribution is the reward the developers pursue.

The article Against the ‘Networked Information Economy’: Rethinking Decentralization, Community, and Free Software Development contains a concise explanation of the two major forms of “free” software license parameters: the FLOSS (Free/Libre Open Source Software) and the GNU Public License (or GPL).** Both ensure the openness of source code. The difference between FLOSS and GNU/GPL is philosophical as Richard Stallman, founder of GNU and the Free Software Foundation explains in the article mentioned above. “The free software movement is for justice to the user, and the open source movement refuses to see the justice part of it and concentrates only on the practical part of sharing the code.”***

Mr. Stallman founded the Free Software Foundation based on his social justice views. He argues that the source code of software should be free, shared and openly distributed. A contrary, but similar approach was taken by Eric Raymond who was interested mostly in the sharing of the source code. Raymond was pleasantly surprised by the development of Linux. In his words:

Linux overturned much of what I thought I knew. . . . [T]he Linux community seemed to resemble a great babbling bazaar of differing agendas and approaches. . . out of which a coherent and stable system could seemingly emerge only by a succession of miracles. The fact that this bazaar style seemed to work, and work well, came as a distinct shock. . . . [T]he Linux world not only didn’t fly apart in confusion but seemed to go from strength to strength at a speed barely imaginable to cathedral-builders [i.e. traditional software developers]****

Communication networks can democratize and eliminate oppressive barriers like the need to raise large amounts of start-up capital to access and contribute to projects, the necessity of being in a centralized location where work is being done, and the need to belong to a particular social group that dominates the market. Writers, such as David M. Berry, see in free software “a form of collective decision-making through a democratization of technology”**** and attribute to FLOSS the possible elimination of discrimination towards those without monetary means.”

_____

* – Jordana Cepelewicz, “How Winning Leads to Cheating,” Scientific American, February 2, 2016, http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/how-winning-leads-to-cheating/#.

** – Roberts. “Against the ‘Networked Economy,’ 386.

*** – Richard Stallman, “FLOSS and FOSS – GNU Project – Free Software Foundation,” Accessed April 25, 2016, http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/floss-and-foss.en.html.

**** – Roberts. “Against the ‘Networked Economy,’ 390.

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