Week 3 – Open versus Free Software

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This topic contains 11 replies, has 12 voices, and was last updated by  justas 2 years, 6 months ago.

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    Should all knowledge be free? Does patent law still make sense? Who do patents protect?

    Just starting this discussion as it doesn’t seem to have been posted yet.

    I think ideally knowledge should be shared so as to benefit all humans but I think that is a somewhat simplistic view on the matter. To generate knowledge someone (individual, group etc) has used their experience, skills and knowledge of the topic as a whole to generate this new knowledge. Often there is a cost of both time and money to be able to do that. So I think it depends on the situation – all publicly funded generation of knowledge should definitely be free but I think it is hard to dictate that knowledge generated by private individuals/funding should be free. I think there is a lot to be gained by those who share knowledge for themselves which can in turn generate revenue for them through, for example, public speaking etc. but those types of opportunities revenue generation might not be available to everyone who shares knowledge.

    With regards patents, I think they do still make sense to be available to use but they may not make sense to be used in every situation. They are expensive and can be very tedious to get right but they do give some protection for information shared. Anything that is a protection under law will always be ripe for abuse and those with financial means will always have the upper hand. Patents may not offer much benefit in the technology sector, for example, where things move so quickly – unless you are a very large company who has the means to register patents with ease. I think patents have the potentially to protect everyone but like with most things – those with financial means will find it easier to use (and abuse) the system.



    While I agree with Noel that all knowledge certainly has a value, human nature tends to kick in with most of us most of the time whenever we are given the opportunity to, for example, donate money to a piece of software that we use to make our lives easier.

    Expertise and knowledge I think are separate. While knowledge can be shared for free by those who expect to also gain knowledge for free, expertise is what should be paid for. Using a program such as the one mentioned above would fall under expertise I would think and so in theory should be paid for. As should downloading an album or film. This can be classed as expertise in the same way that you pay for going to see a doctor, but you don’t pay for the opinion of your knowledgeable friend.

    So in my opinion not all knowledge should be paid for, but all expertise should – in theory at least.



    In my opinion, all information is free anyway, its just a question of when or how you come across it.
    Knowledge on the other hand is information used in a unique way by the individual. It is the individual that turns the cords into music or code into a programme. The cords and code are there for everyone to use but the way in which they are used comes down to the individual and this in turn crosses the boundary of free software to license software.
    In my opinion, individuals work in this respect should be protected by patent laws.



    I wasn’t too up to date with this topic but after some reading my understanding of open v free would be that although they are closely linked together, open source seem to be less radical than the free software ideology. The emphasis that free software foundation has, with making software freely available to prevent some sort of educational apocalypse where the willingness to learn would be dependent on the size of your bank balance, although they do contradict themselves in a way by saying that they are okay with selling free software… ““Free software” does not mean “noncommercial”. A free program must be available for commercial use, commercial development, and commercial distribution. Commercial development of free software is no longer unusual; such free commercial software is very important. You may have paid money to get copies of free software, or you may have obtained copies at no charge. But regardless of how you got your copies, you always have the freedom to copy and change the software, even to sell copies.”

    It does beg the question that if the business aspect of the IT realm were to go completely “free” they would have drastically rethink their business models mainly due to the fact that people working in the industry have to survive somehow.

    • This reply was modified 2 years, 8 months ago by  forde1208.
    • This reply was modified 2 years, 8 months ago by  forde1208.


    When we write a proprietary software, we write specifications,requirements while managing resources as well as design phases. There is a goal of making moneyor creating something of value.
    What value will you put on a free or open software.Does the person or organisation starts it have a clear vision as to what they want. How do they make sure people devote their time to the project?Opening up means arranging the code to be comprehensible to complete strangers.
    Agreed we all like free but what is the value(I am not talking about monetary value solely) we can put on something which is free?
    A global patent can cost thousands of euros. Whether that represents good value or not depends, ultimately, on the commercial value of the patent – whether it protects an invention that has commercial value, and whether the inventors have the expertise and resources to realise that value. Also, what does the inventor want to achieve? It depends on his vision. Does he want a legacy left behind, is it for a social cause or does he want to be financially successful. We do have to protect and cherish a person’s creativeness and hard work.


    John Kilkelly

    I’d have to disagree with Noel on a couple of points. Rather than been a simplistic view that knowledge should be shared, I think Capitalism has shaped an industry model that makes knowledge sharing appear illogical or even unnatural. Knowledge like everything else is a commodity in the capitalist markets and as we’ve seen in Diana’s class if a buck can be made, it will not be giving away for free. By controlling knowledge the main industry players have made a lot of money and will go to great lengths to protect this model. A change in mind-set and business structure is required, social computing may be a tool in bringing about these changes but we have already seen the powers that be will put up much resistance.

    Rather than being a matter of dictating to someone that they should share their information, it’s a matter of making channels available to individuals to make direct profit from sharing their own wares. To create knowledge an individual has to invest their experience, skills and knowledge…..but essentially the average developer (or developer working for apple/Microsoft anyway) hands the control of this knowledge over to their employer in return for a monthly wage and a level of security that is not, or perceived not to be available via freeware business models. I’m no expert in patent laws but I’d assume there are set up to support the capitalist model and an important tool in controlling knowledge.



    In response to Noel’s first point, there are quite a number of sites and forums for users to share their knowledge for free on specific topics. The owners of these sites and forums can generate revenue using Google Ads, etc. Users of the forums can also direct people to other sites and thus share knowledge on specific topics.
    I like the blog aspect of sharing knowledge as it is more personal but these can go a little off topic and the owner/writer can share their own moans along with the knowledge.
    With regards to the patents part, I believe that if you have an invention then you should apply for a patent. However, I don’t think patents for software are as relevant.



    It seems that the only difference between Open vs Free is the ideologies of both governing bodies to the philosophies. Open is a little less restrictive with regard to the licenses it enters into. Free seems to be the liberal idea of information is power, free to all.

    It’s easy to see why Open was redefined so as to nullify the decreasing number of Business’ gravitating to the resource. Liberal ideals and corporate business are not two things that sit well together!

    With regards to patents, i’d tend to echo what byrne16 has mentioned. The need to apply for such if you indeed have a specific invention but the relevance being diminished within the Software realm, due to the ever increasing speed of evolution!



    It really must be pointed out that, whatever your feelings about open source and protection of intellectual property, Open Source is not going away. It’s won the war. I heard a few comments last week about big companies like Microsoft being opposed to Open Source. Whilst this may’ve been true before, its certainly not true now. You need look no further than these customer facing blogs by MS employees. http://blogs.msdn.com/b/dpenorway/archive/2015/10/19/how-microsoft-is-using-open-source-software.aspx For example of where MS are using OSS. Additionally, there are dozens of ms developers (officially) sharing their company developed tech up on GitHub.

    I mention this mostly to make the point that times are a changing. if as individuals we are worried about protecting our IP we need to rethink, and to a certain extent get with the program: sharing and collaboration is the future. (apologies for the series of clichéd phrases~!1 🙂


    Diarmuid Kiernan

    While I like the idea of free software which saves you the expense of getting into nasty yearly licence fees one has to wonder about the quality and the reliability of the product your downloading for free. Let’s not forget the big software companies are creating employment and paying taxes.

    As for the difference between free and Open it seems to be as clear as mud if you forgive the expression. But from what I can make of it Free gives you the freedom to do anything you want to it even change the code to make it fit for purpose and pass it on in it’s original or modified state.

    Open source lets you look at the source code but may have restrictions as to what you can do with it due to licences.


    Barry Quirke

    I believe that patents do have a role in protecting intellectual property in the future, but whereas they provide a level of legal protection to the patent holder (who may or may not be the innovator), they also impose a burden, a financial cost to file the patent in the first place, and ongoing resourcing to develop and support the product to which the patent relates.

    In an ideal world, all knowledge should be free, as Noel has pointed out, but it should also be permissible for expertise or experience to be paid for, as there is a cost involved (time, money etc.) in gaining such insights (organisational learning, personal education and experience etc.). Provided that people attach sufficient value to your expertise that they are willing to pay for it, of course. You could decide to waive your rights and provide services for free, ultimately it really does depend on the business model adopted and what each party in information/expertise exchange is getting out of the transaction (direct revenue, a future revenue opportunity or enhanced professional profile).

    The rights protected by the patent need to be adequately resourced and this factor can be a significant hindrance to innovation, even where there is a strong desire on the part of the patent holder to develop the product. The business model is changing, and the realisation that crowd-sourcing can be leveraged to alleviate resource constraints means that open source development is the way of the future, as Patrick has mentioned.



    Scientia potentia est (Knowledge is power). If that’s the case, then knowledge can command obedience. As John mentioned before “By controlling knowledge the main industry players have made a lot of money and will go to great lengths to protect this model.” Knowledge is what brings people closer to wisdom and there are forces in the world that want to stop that at all costs. “I don’t want a nation of thinkers. I want a nation of workers.” is a quote by John D Rockefeller and it explains a lot. Those who are in power want to stay in power and they will do anything to make sure that it happens. The capitalist economy is based on this specific train of thought. If all knowledge suddenly became free and people would get access to it, then there would be a huge power shift in the world. I believe it would rock the foundations of our society in a sense. But realistically I don’t see that happening any time soon.

    As far as patents go, I see them as a necessary evil. As long as there are companies or people that want to protect their IP and earn money while doing so, patents will exist.

    So to sum up, we need to get rid of money/capital, change the way societies are governed altogether and live in a utopian world for everything to be free and freely accessible by all.

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