Open Source Business Models

Proprietary closed-source software solutions have the dubious honor of providing little or no advancement in the state of the art for computer technology. In fact, open software designs are the principal reason for the the success of the Internet. Without open source, we would not have electronic mail, web browsers, word processors, desktop publishing, or any of a myriad of modern computing applications.

The Government should not be making offers to purchase closed-source commercial software solutions when an open source alternative already exists. In fact, this unnecessary expense will only incur further expenses when these products require migration to new platforms and emerging technologies.

With open source, we can become self-sufficient using modern software technologies on any platform for which there is a compiler. When new generation 64 bit CPU’s become available, the selection of open source ensures there will not be a new licensing requirement for a new kind of processor. This is, in fact, one of the primary factors that currently stifle innovation in the commercial sector and will continue to adversely affect the chip manufacturing industry.

There are many proven business models for companies selling open source solutions, including Cygnus, Redhat, Novell, and IBM. As the international recognition for open source continues to grow, it is even more important that the United States take advantage of this platform.

When Unisys enforced a patent on a common algorithm (LZW), an unreasonable burden was placed on the open source community. A similar debate emerged when the authors of the DeCSS algorithm were taken to court, it has effectively been deemed illegal to reverse engineer common application protocols. There is an unacceptable level of restriction on the open source development community, while it is reasonable to prohibit entire application subsystems from being stolen it is unreasonable to provide protection for small segments of code or algorithms that can be reverse engineered.

The baseless claims furnished by SCO to the Linux community are capricious, there is no proof that Linux authors have stolen intellectual property from SCO. They have provided no material evidence for specific segments of improper code, and even when they do the open source nature of Linux implies that any such impropriety could be easily remedied. Commercial software does not provide any level of credibility, if there is stolen code in a closed-source application then it is virtually impossible to discover.

Clearly SCO has been using ongoing litigation to spread fear in the computing industry. Many professionals are afraid to use Linux and other open source solutions; therefore, it is imperative the government indemnify not-for-profit open source authors from these kinds of liabilities. SCO should not be allowed to proceed with this smearing campaign any further, let’s send them the message that open source software really does matter.