Open Source Session Closed Down


Under heavy pressure from software industry trade groups flush with Microsoft macrobucks, the State Department and U.S. Patent Office have leaned on the World Intellectual Property Organization to call off a proposed meeting on open source software. The groups were apparently alarmed by the mere suggestion, voiced by a WIPO official, that it was worth discussing whether open source might tend to promote the Progress of Science and Useful Arts more effectively than proprietarian alternatives.

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  1. While it’s always worth discussing these things, there are two points worth making:

    1. Before the antitrust suit there were no Microsoft “macrobucks” in politics. If the feds had left Gates & co. alone then, we probably would not be seeing this sort of officious interference now.

    2. Science I can see open source contributing, but useful arts, at least in the most common computer sense — i.e. games, have been pretty lacking in the open source community. The most advanced open source games are pure ripoffs or ports of previous commercial products (FreeCiv, FreeAlpha, etc.).

  2. There is an excellent documentary film on Open Source called “Revolution O/S” which I recommend to anyone interested in the subject.

  3. On #1 above – it does seem to me that Gates and Co. seemed to stay totally out of politics, giving nary a donation to anyone, if I recall correctly…until all the anti-trust happenings. It would seem that they have learned the lesson that to do business in America, you had better to pay the appropriate toll to the powers that be…before one of your enemies do.

    It is so hard to stay away from governmental politics, because governmental politics has a tendency to come to you.

    Or, to sum it up in a single technical Economics phrase: rent-seeking

    Terribly annoying, but for a rational businessman it seems inevitable – that it is to say, you must do it, or at least doing it is more profitable than not (because not doing it will not bloody likely stop your enemies from doing it).

    In other words, “There is nothing so destructive as a rational policy in an irrational world.”

    So it’s pretty much business as usual, then.

  4. Gates started lobbying the state heavily only AFTER the antitrust action, because BEFORE then it had been serving him just fine. Kind of like the joke about the kid who spoke for the first time at age 9 to tell his parents the peas were undercooked: “Until now, everything’s been OK!”

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