Week 3 – Free versus Open

Action Items this Week

  • Visit the forum and respond to the question for week 3 – discuss amongst yourselves on social media as well – great activity there.
  • Keep working on those journal article reviews.
  • For our next class please take a read of: Sam Palmisano, The Globally Integrated Enterprise (2006). This in prep of the next discussion around open innovation.


Here is a copy of the lecture slide deck for 3 – 22 Oct 2015 Open versus Free Software.

Let’s think about the concept of ‘free’ software and open source – both in terms of a development strategy, but additionally and more broadly as a philosophical set of principles.

Please take a look at this video from Richard Stallman – Free vs Open (2009)

richard_stallmanRichard Stallman is an American software freedom activist and computer programmer. He campaigns for the freedom to use, study, distribute and modify software; software that ensures these freedoms legally (via its license) is termed free software. Stallman opposes proprietary software. In September 1983, Stallman launched the GNU Project to create a Unix-like computer operating system composed entirely of free software.Stallman pioneered the concept of copyleft, which uses the principles of copyright law as a contract to preserve the right to use, modify and distribute free software, and is the main author of free software licenses which describe those terms, most notably the GNU General Public License (GPL), the most widely used free software license.In October 1985 he founded the Free Software Foundation. In 1989 he co-founded the League for Programming Freedom.Since the mid-1990s, Stallman has spent most of his time advocating for free software, as well as campaigning against software patents, digital rights management, and what he sees as excessive extension of copyright laws.

YochaiBenklerWe will also meet friend Yokai Bekler later on, but in the immediate term you may find it interesting to watch this short video “The New Open Source Economics” through which he explains the motivations and benefits in an Open Source approach in nice simple terms. It’s a great watch.

Yochai Benkler (born 1964) is an Israeli-American author and the Berkman Professor of Entrepreneurial Legal Studies at Harvard Law School. He is also a faculty co-director of the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University.

The last video (which we may find a chance to watch during lecture, but will post here nonetheless, follows on the blog post I made about Jimmy Wales and Wikipedia. He presented a (dated) TED talk about the founding of Wikipedia (5 years prior to this talk) and shares some interesting aspects about the working behind the platform and his thoughts about where it will go in the future (or as we now have time to judge this remarks – may not go). A good view nonetheless, Jimmy Wales: The Birth of Wikipedia.

For our next lecture please take a browse of : 

Sam Palmisano, The Globally Integrated Enterprise (2006).

What does it means to be globally integrated? How does it change pre-existing business models around revenue germination and intellectual property? What’s the big deal with Innovation2.0?

Forum Question3 – 22 Oct 2015 Open versus Free Software

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

15 thoughts on “Week 3 – Free versus Open”

  1. I found this really interesting. I had heard of Richard Stallman and the GNU project before but I never really understood the philosophy of the Free Software Movement. I think perhaps Richard is an extremely honest and honorable man and he assumes the same standard of the rest of us. He believes that all music sharing should be free and that all media players could have a button to donate $1 to the artist. It seems logical to him that this system would be successful. Enough people would donate by choice to support the artists work, if they like it, and that this could be promoted in a positive way instead of associating sharing with piracy. I love the idea but I have my doubts if it would truly be successful. How well would the honours system work when no one is watching. Would enough people donate a dollar voluntarily when their is no incentive other than supporting the muscian? I think it could be successful, but I’m not as certain as Richard is.

  2. He is very interesting, has very strong views, but the poor guy is awful paranoid. All the stuff about not having a mobile phone, they are spying on us, eek. But I love the idea of free software. It was great that he clearly defined the difference between Non Free – proprietary software vs free software. That is not related to money – that proprietary software can be given for free non gratis eg Flash and people can charge for programmes made with free software. I love it when our modules cross over and I enjoyed the reference that free software movement can exist in Capitalist economy. I doubt many capitalists would agree with him. I’m glad I watched this as he seems like a very important person, and I’m sure i’ll see his name referenced everywhere now.

  3. That was a tough 1hr and 40mins! Started off pretty good but I must admit he lost me a few times. The differentiation between Free software and gratis was good, and I think that reiterating that might have sorted out the ‘how will developers get paid’ question. What struck home most to me was the eBooks piece about the motivation for the production/sale of these. I know that eBooks are very popular these days, and they really do make reading more accessible for people (no more chunky books). But the truth in that the eBook model conditions people to accept the loss of their rights regarding sharing, re-selling and loaning books is quite shocking, and yet I just feel like a bit of a fool for not noticing it. Richard does seem to be very anti-corporations, and I don’t blame him, the culture these days is constant selling and marketing, this is the age of ‘you must have’, products are no longer built to last and we are all aware of that, you don’t buy the new iPhone because its and investment, it’s not it’s built to be replaced in 12months time by a shinier version. I know that people are hesitant about how free Software can work, but as Richard says, it does work and it is working now. I don’t believe that he is being idealistic when he says that people could donate a dollar to musicians when they listen to their music, because this is a popular approach for artists now (especially up and coming musicians). I think that there is great potential for free software to become the norm as we now have access to the tools we need to make it work, we just need to change our attitudes and have a positive outlook on what can be achieved.

  4. I also found this piece very interesting and I am all for software freedom. Im watching the video on the most popular player, VlC media player which most people would not know has a GNU public licence. He has some strong views especially around DRM on music,
    but he was obviously right about this as now all of the major record companies and Apple have dropped it on their music. It has been proven that DRM on media has not reduced piracy. Microsoft and Sony pushed for it for years restricting people on how they could play their personal media and there ended up been a backlash from the public and a big push from the Free Software Movement. The idea to have a button on a site to donate $1 to band is a great idea and one which is starting to take off. I am not sure about making the sharing of music totally legal it would make it very hard for artists and record companies to make any money at all. No one would bother to pay for a record at all its bad enough already. Music streaming is a much better option we get it for free and only have to put up with some adverts on the screen.
    I also never thought about the whole ebooks business and how big book publishers have been promoting it, but it does make sense that they would want their books in ebook format and apply drm It can give publishers total control over what happens to the distributing and lending of their books. There is now a new movement of people self-publishing books that has taken off.

  5. Have just managed to get through this in its entirety. Richard Stallman is one controversial fella! I’m most interested in his standpoint on free music sharing. According to the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) Spotify is the second largest source of digital music revenue for labels in Europe. But what about the artists, the composers and the musicians who have created the music? Surely free music puts the power (and the revenue) in the hands of the labels? I did a bit of research and found this: http://www.informationisbeautiful.net/2010/how-much-do-music-artists-earn-online/ For a solo artist to earn a US minimum wage of $1,160 they would need to have over 4million plays in a month on Spotify…. To me, that is an artistic turn off and a worrying statistic. If free music means all the money is going into the larger record labels most of whom churn out ‘X-Factor groups’ what will happen to the real talent? I think there are benefits of sharing in terms of recognition and profile raising for a musician but I also think that at some point a value needs to be put on their creation. I don’t think this argument is black or white but can understand the need for controversy in terms of raising the larger issues, and subsequently his own profile!

  6. Good video. Makes me think realisticly… Is there anything for free today (legally free 🙂 ) We have to pay for everything and let`s be honest who will be donating any money to anything if it`s for free? Today is about who has new, who has better and who has more. Maybe he is right about ree software and how it should work but I think it is a bit to late for implementing it.

  7. Stallman has radical ideas regarding free and open and he has been often criticised by corporations because these ideals endanger their bottom lines. However Stallman has also been criticized by his peer Linus Torvolds (Linux OS) who said that Stallman is too “Black and White.” Common sense should dictate that their is common ground between free and open and proprietary software but how would the boundaries be set and who would set them?

    If the way Stallman lives his life is any indication of how this world would become if we embraced his ideals regarding free and open then I am not completely sold that it is our best move. It is widely known that Stallman lives like a student and does not want money to dictate his life. I am grateful for his contribution to society but I certainly cannot live on compliments and donations. I feel that if someone spends a lot of time developing a program that they should see a reward for their labour and if Stallman wants his rewards in the form of thank you(s) and donations then I will commend him highly much like I commend at my Aunties who were rewarded with”Thank You(s)” and the occasional donation for years baking cakes, babysitting, or just helping people.

    I think that there is a balance and a strong connection between the likes of Bill Gates and Stallman and indeed my Aunties but I feel the advantage leans heavily toward big business so we need someone like Stallman to bring balance to the force. (Forgive me for the Star Wars references but I kind of imagine Stallman as a portly Ben (Obi-Wan) Kenobi and Gates as a wimpy Darth Vader). Without the likes of Stallman we would be paying for everything and the division of wealth would lean more toward the Dark Side.

    1. I agree with you Tony on the point that Stallman is too idealistic and this can alienate certain people and organisations. Also, if he didn’t look like a kook more people may take him seriously.

  8. Very interesting, there were a few points I really liked in this
    video. Richard really comes across as very passionate about this issue
    and approaches this topic an alternative way. He highlights that most of
    the copyright system is out of date with today’s society and needs to
    be reviewed a thought occurred to me. Revising this system to fit in
    with today’s technology and culture may take a lot of effort. But when
    this effort is compared the the technology arms race by large
    corporations who are developing new ways of restricting media, could
    this effort not be redirected into fixing the system instead of trying
    to enforce it? When you look at some new services available like
    Spotify, you can see some changes are happening right now. Although not
    everyone agrees that these are good for the music industry.


    the way Richard describes copyright as restricting most creators of
    works in favour of the corporations who hold the rights, and that the
    current system only really protects the top earners is very eye opening.
    I have a number of friends who are in bands and one group have recently
    launched their album, I’m not sure how they would react to some of
    these ideas but might make for an interesting chat next time we are in
    the pub.

    Also feel free to check out the band, they are pretty awesome!!!


  9. I finally managed to watch this thought-provoking video despite all the technical issues!

    Needless to say I find the whole area of Copyright and Intellectual Property extremely interesting and worryingly controversial. How do you draw the line between getting
    inspired by something and copying it? Or, why in the software example, if I sell you a product I should force you to use it exclusively with other (often sold by me) specific products? At the same time, if I invested in the creation of a product, shouldn’t I maximise the (monetary) reward for my work? It’s not so simple to answer those questions and perhaps when it comes to copyright there is a difference depending on the industry i.e. software as opposite to music.

    I partially agree with what Richard advocates in this video (I am one of those that didn’t get an iPhone because I didn’t want to be obliged to have an iTunes account). Perhaps his approach is a bit too extreme and his believes utopian, however for example in terms of reducing the duration of copyright to 10 years, well I think this is practical enough and it is perfect common sense. Again, this depends on the industry and for areas in which research is highly expensive 10 years might not be enough. Also, I found very interesting the part in the video about the introduction of copyright law in the US and how its purpose was so different from todays.

    All together the video has been an inspiration for me to want to find out more about free software and the copyright law implications.

    1. I completely agree with you on the copyright term thing Deborah. I think that that are defined now are completely ludicrous. I think that all patent and copyright terms should be around the 15-20 year mark. If an inventor/company can not make back on their invention in this time period then it should be released to the public domain.

      In my opinion on of the main reasons the terms should be slashed is the fact that there is so much collaboration now with the internet that innovation is being stifled by corporations trying to squeeze every last cent from dead artists work (just look at Disney and the The Mickey Mouse Protection Act, ha!).

  10. The world needs more people like Richard Stallman. His ideas to me seem fairly radical but very thought provoking. The journey he makes starting with a single step might just bring us to a midpoint that is so much more beneficial to all. I’d like to think so. It got me wondering about the viability of an universal internet reward system. Something of an alternative economy. Points for buying, points for participating, points for open source software development and more points for the amounts of times it is used. The list goes on and it would make donating to the likes of Wikipedia so much more regular. This may be a completely ridiculous suggestion with a million reasons why it would be unworkable and undesirable. Maybe it’s already there but I am unaware of it but I did say universal!

  11. I think that Stallman does make some good points, but that he has a very idealogical view to the way it should be and it’s basically free and open or GTFO! I do think that we need more people like Richard fighting for the rights of us as consumers though. If you look at the recent happenings with regards the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement. Have a look at this HuffPo article on it: http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2013/11/13/tpp-canada-trans-pacific-partnership_n_4266866.html

    Also, I do believe that there should be a balance between open and free and pay-for content/software/etc. but recently corporations and governments want to impose there DRM and walled gardens everywhere. It seems to be gradually creeping in more and more, but I think that at some stage people will not own the things they buy digitially (or even physical hardware, look at the Apple jalibreaking case).

    If any of you have a minute read this short story Richard Stallman has written. I had read this before and I do think that if people do not stand up to corporations and governments while they try to infringe our freedoms, this is where we will end up. Internet licenses, constant tracking and logging, certain software being illegal (this is already the case, or so says the DCMA).

    Anyway, here is the story: http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/right-to-read.html

  12. Richards philology on the free software was thought provoking and really churned up some provocative dialogue with his audience with radical views on business models, copyright and patents not having their place in software development.
    On points his views were somewhat idealistic but opened grounds for debate ie. donations to musicians being a feasible future business model in the music industry. Although saying that it is refreshing to listen to people like Richard stand up to the corporations such as Microsoft who have a unethical standpoint on software development and suffocating monopoly in the market. The GNU Project and Free Software movement need to be supported if innovation in development can flourish.

  13. Just getting back to this one. I watched this video a few months back, but for whatever reason didn’t comment. Having read a bit on intellectual property law in the interim gives me, I feel, a somewhat better perspective.

    Despite what Stallman says, copyright as an idea is ancient. There was a famous copyright case adjudicated in Ireland in the sixth century, over the copying of a book. The High King of Ireland, Diarmait mac Cerbhiall adjudicated in this instance:

    Le gach boin a boinin, le gach lebhur a leabrán
    To every cow belongs its calf; to every book its copy

    The situation that Stallman describes regarding the earliest forms of copyright, as espoused by the American Founding Fathers matches very closely to the system of patents as they currently exists. The reasoning is the same (that creators can be compensated for their works), as well as the limited term, but patents as a system were largely ignored in this talk.

    The only thing that matters here seems to be that the content is created, and that it’s all available for free use and adaptation.

    I agree with him with regards to the idea of copyright terms extending many years past the death of the author being excessive. However, I disagree thqat those terms shold necessarily run out after 10 years. There are, for me, enough examples of artists either gaining a following later in life, or soon following death, to justify extending copyright terms for the artists’ lifetimes, or a short period (say 10 years) following their death.

    Stallman refers to the works of Shakespeare as being an example of content which we would be denied had copyright existed in the 16th century. Maybe Shakespeare copied the plots – it’s not the plots that made him memorable, it’s the language and dialogue. In other circumstances, who’s to say he wouldn’t have written his own plots, or adapted the works of others?

    I feel that the idea that authors and content creators are gaining freedom through the expiry of their own copyright to be a straw man argument. Copyright, under the terms of Irish law and international conventions, is inherently granted to the author on creation of a work. The fact that record companies and publishers hold copyrights is due to their being sold to them by the authors. The issue of whether copyright should revert to an author when a work goes out of print, or for any other reason, is, for me, a matter for contracts. If the contract sucks, and the creator loses control over their works, then this isn’t an issue for copyright per se. At the same time, the author only loses control over their own copyright on signing a contract with a publisher – of they never sign this contract in the first place, then theyt are entitled to all of the freedoms (and many more, because they’re protected by copyright!) that Stallman espouses.

    With regards to the idea that record companies only pay the bigger artists – ok, the proportion of money paid out to artists should likely be higher, but saying that artists never make back their advance through sales, yet recieve advances in the first place, is being highly disingenuous. Look at the situation at the moment – the highest earning groups on the planet are the likes of the Rolling Stones, U2, Madonna and Bon Jovi. Prehistoric dinosaurs. This is what the industry looks like post-copyright, when no-one pays for music. At least under the old system, the artists received their advances, even if they didn’t sell a whole lot of records, and even though the terms might have been bad. Fergal Sharkey has a great line in an interview with Andrew Orlowski of the Register, where he describes the real issue:

    There’s been all this play about FairTrade coffee and FairTrade sugar – but what about FairTrade bloody music?

    To finish up, and I never thought I’d be so old and conservative: copyright and patents are good, they protect content creators, so long as they don’t sign away their rights. Don’t let someone take them away from you again in the name of freedom.

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