[Original source: http://www.opentheory.org/linux-worthless/text.phtml]

»GNU/Linux is not a thing of value -- and that is fine!«

By Stefan Meretz

You understand how something is, if you understand how it had come into existence. Therefore I start with a short review of (pre-) history of free software. In the second chapter I discuss the question how free software fits into our economical system of capitalism. From that I gain criteria for an examination of apparently contrary positions of E. S. Raymond and R. M. Stallman -- both standing for prominent movements of free software. I finish with a view on individual action possibilities and the role free software can play with them.

1. A Short History of Free Software

There is free software, because there is unfree software. Unfree software is »proprietary software«, which means, it is software that is owned by someone[1]. That would not be bad so far, if the fact of this private property on software would not lead to the exclusion of others. The software owner prevents others from using the software, in order to create a scarce good. To turn software into a scarce good is relatively simple, you just have to hold back the source code of the program. Only scarce goods are of monetary value, so that money can be made. This is the operational principle of capitalism[2]. I will come back to this, later.

Unfree and free software yet does not exist long, even once approx. 20 years. One understands the emergence of unfree and free software, if one looks into prehistory. In cold war, we are in the 50's, the USA and the Soviet Union stubborn struggled for the economic supremacy. At that time supremacy had a military and a symbolic component, often both intertwined. So it was an enormous event, when Soviet Union 1957 succeeded to shoot the Sputnik into the earth orbit. Not until 1969 USA mentally recovered from this shock, when they were it who brought first humans to the moon.

The Sputnik was experienced as technological defeat. Immediately, hectic activities started, in order to catch up the alleged arrears. In 1958, the ARPA (Advanced Research Projects Agency) was created in order to coordinate and finance the research activities. In a climate of frankness and innovation joy numerous revolutionary products have been created during the next years. I would like to point out two of them, because they have got a special meaning for the free software: the internet and the operating system UNIX (both 1969). In this phase of the nationally financed and coordinated research, also numerous standards have been set, which are still valid, today[3].

The national interest in strong standards was complemented with small interest of the computer industry in software. Computer industry was hardware industry, software were trimmings to the hardware sales. This situation changed at the end of the seventies when computers performance increases and software started to be independently put on market. To the same extend as software begun to be a profitable commodity, the state withdrew themselve from innovations. In order to be able to make profit from software, the source code[4] had to remain hidden from the competitor and also from the user. Software was only profitable as proprietary software. With open sources Microsoft, for example, never would have established itself as monopoly-like Moloch. However, state withdrawal and privatisation of software also indicated a softening of standards. Thus, as a consequence a lot of less compatible or incompatible Unix versions (AT&T, BSD, Sun, HP, DEC, IBM, Siemens etc.) were created.

The consequences for research work at universities were devastating. Where in former times free exchange of ideas prevailed, researching and instruction were forced to reduce cooperations or omit them completely. Software as a result of research activities could not be documented any more, as it was coupled to companies or patents via proprietary software or it was intended for patenting itself respectively. Richard Stallman describes the situation this way:

1.1. The First Stroke of Genious

As a reaction Stallman founded the GNU project[5]. The goal of Free Software Foundation (FSF), founded in 1985, was the development of a free operating system. Hundreds of components for a free operating system had been developed. However, the real brilliant idea of the GNU project was the creation of a special license, the GNU General Public License (GPL) -- also known as »Copyleft«. The License contains four principles:

These rights are guaranteed by stipulating via GNU GPL that

The most important strength of the GNU GPL lies in its prohibition of the use of GPL'ed code in proprietary software. For this reason nobody can assume ownership of free software and distribute derivative works in binary form as their own product. Thus free software cannot be reprivatised, its freedom remains guaranteed. The main strength of the GPL, the prevention of reprivatisation, is from the viewpoint of the business community its biggest disadvantage. Because of this, numerous licences (see table 1) were developed which relax the strict rules of the GPL, in order to make free software commercially acceptable. I will come back to this issue later.

Zero price Free distribution Unlimited use Source code available Source code may be modified All derivatives have to be free No use by proprietary software
Commercial (»Microsoft«)
Trial software, Shareware (X) X
Freeware (»Pegasus-Mail«) X X X
License-free libraries X X X X
Free software (BSD, NPL, ...) X X X X X
Free software (LGPL) X X X X X X
Free software (GPL) X X X X X X X

Table 1: Comparison of license types

1.2. The Second Stroke of Genious

The GNU project developed an almost complete operating system -- except for one small, but important piece: the kernel. Despite having been planned from the outset of the GNU project on, efforts to implement a GNU kernel were unsuccessful. In 1991, the unfortunate situation changed all of a sudden when Linus Torvalds released version 0.01 of a free Unix -- called »Linux«. Development was fast, success was overwhelming -- so overwhelming in fact that today, it is often overlooked and remains unmentioned how big the GNU project's share in the creation of the free operating system was and is.

But why did a finnish student succeed, where a full grown project such as GNU did not had success? The answer is not so obvious and simple: The reason was the different development model. Stallman and the GNU people followed the classical conception that a complex program like a kernel could only be developed by a small sworn team, since otherwise overview and control would be lost. This view was intuitively turned »on the head« by Torvalds. A snippet from the Tanenbaum-Torvalds debate[7] -- entered history meanwhile -- clarifies that. Tanenbaum writes:

Torvalds answers:

Torvalds published early and released often. More and more similarly structured free software projects were founded. Existing projects were re-structured following the lead of Linux. Maintainer, single persons, or groups, take responsibility for a project's coordination. Project members join and leave, develop and debug code and discuss the direction of development. There are no laws about the way things have to work, and so the rules and approaches differ between the free software projects. Still, in a self-organized process, all of them find their way, the way appropriate to the goals they have set for themselves. The simple regulating principle is: What works, works! The starting point are one's own needs, desires and ideas -- that's important for comparing free to commercial software projects.

1.3. Conclusion in between

Surprisingly the historical achievement of Richard Stallman and Linus Torvalds was not the development of useful software modules. That they have done too, however, the real historical ingenious act of both was realized so to speak »incidentally«. Stallman created the GNU GPL, which is the license without free software is unthinkable. It is the license of Torvalds' Linux[8] and it is the license, which heavyly lays in the stomach of capitalism as we will see immediately.

Torvalds has intuitively broken with the old hierarchical type of development of commercial software. To him the money-driven manner of »I have to keep control« was too stupid. Being a pragmatic and chaotic person he released energies from which free software lives: the self-development [Selbstentfaltung] of the individual and the self-organization of projects.

2. Capitalism and Free Software

There is a well known comic-like picture of capitalism. On top there are those with the black top hats being provided with capital and means of production. At the bottom there are those with blue overalls sweating under the thumb of the black top hat persons, due to not having means of production and therefore have to sell their work-force. As to personal preference one complains, that it is unjust, that the above exploit the below, or that exploition is in nature of entrepreneurship.

This comic doesn't fit with reality, even not, if one wants to understand free software. Another picture has to come. One can understand capitalism as a cybernetic machine meaning a machine which drives »itself«. This includes that there are no subjects which are »outside« at the controls, but that the machine is subjectless regulating itself. The central regulator is the (exchange-) value[9] in a double manner: for the side of production and of consumption.

2.1. The Production Cycle

In production work is done. It is called concrete if the result is a product which meets a consumers needs. It is called abstract, because it is irrelevant what is produced -- the main point is only, that (economic) value is produced. The value is the amount of work time which was sticked into a product. If products are exchanged on market, then these values respectively the work times are compared. Between the direct product exchange generally steps money having no other sense then representing economic value.

What happens if one product contains less work time than another when exchanging them? Then the producer of the product with »higher« value goes bankrupt in the long run, because he did not get the »full value« for his product but lesser. Who exchanges five hours with three hours gives away two. This does not work well in the long run, because the constructors of the products, the workers and employees, want to get paid for the full work time. Thus, the exchange organizer, the capitalist, must try to reduce the work time being neccessary for the production of the product. Generally this is done in the way of rationalization, the substitute of living work through dead work (= machines).

What one is able to do, can be done by the competitor too. Important and essential is: It does not depend on the will of the competitors to reduce the product values, but it is the law of value of the cybernetic machine which they are executing. The core principle of the law of value is to make more money from money. The persons are as unimportant as the products, the law of value beats the time. Or in the words of the top official of excutors of the value-law, Hans-Olaf Henkel (former president of industry union):

2.2. The Consumption Cycle

The market or value law also determines those, who only can sell their work force, in order to obtain money necessary for life. Without money nothing happens. Also work force has a value, which is the amount being necessary to re-establish itself. This re-establishing is mainly done via consuming, for which money is needed, which again requires selling work force. This control circuit also has gone independent, because our society has rarely other possibilities to exist outside the paid labour-consuming cycle.

Both control circuits -- production cycle and consumption cycle -- reach into another, they are mutually conditional. And it is not a seldom case anymore, that both occur united in one person. The universal lubricant and goal of every action is money. Again it has to be stressed: The necessity to obtain money for consuming or to make more money from money in competition with others, is not a personal defect or a great feat, but nothing more then following an objective law individually, the law of value. An important consequence of this discovery is the fact, that our social live is not organized by individuals following own social criteria, but structured by an objective cybernetic control circuit. This does not mean, that humans do not act by individual will, but they do it objectively following the instructions of the cybernetic context. Like being a scroller in a gear.

2.3. Scarcity and Value

For the machine of value to run, goods have to be scarce. What all have or are able to get can not be turned into money. Air isn't a scarce good, yet, but already trade with emissions is discussed: clean air is becoming scarce. Many things we could take for granted are made scarce in order to exploit them. The prominent example of interest here is software. Software as a product contains work, like many other products do, too[10]. As we have seen in our excursion into history, software was freely available as long as it did not appear to be exploitable. Software was given away as an add-on to the much more valuable hardware. With the increasing power and decreasing value substance of hardware (observable on decreasing prices), the importance of software rose -- it started to be interesting for exploitation.

To make software exploitable, scarcity has to be created. This is mainly archieved by:

As with every product, the usefulness of commercial software is completely uninteresting for the producer. If a »quick-and-dirty operating system« (QDOS)[11] can be sold, it is sold. If a competitor's product is more successful, the own product is improved. The use value is just a waste product -- as we know well enough from commercial software products.

Thus, it will not come as a surprise that software developers, like other employees, merely deliver their abstract labour. In hardly any other sector there are as many failed commercial projects as in the software industry[12]. When they turn 40, developers are already considered too old. The business newbies' happy optimism fades quickly. Anybody who's seen good ideas shot down with reference to a project's deadline knows what I mean. What started out as a vision ends as a traumatic experience.

2.4. Free Software Liberates

With free software, that's different. The first driving force of free software is its usability. The first consumer is the producer. There's no money or exchange, only the question: Does the software do what I want it to do? As human needs aren't arbitrary, free software projects are formed. They, too, are not about money but about the product. There is no stronger driving force than the individual interest in my good and useful product and the individual self-development [Selbstentfaltung]. The executor of the value-law knows this, too, and therefore having fun and being interested in the product plays an important role in money-driven production, too. But abstract labour always comes first. In the end, what counts is the result -- money.

Abstract labour is plain tedious. Someone who says they like their abstract labour is lying -- or deluding themselves to make it endurable. Abstract labour is less productive than voluntary activities -- so why should I commit myself to something I'm not really interested in? So again, one has to bait me with money. In this regard, computer scientists are currently lucky, but the (German) Green Card is re-adjusting that as well. And then there is the potental threat: »If you don't work well, you're out.« If you feel threatened, you neither feel nor work well. Carrot and stick, the methods of ancient Rome. And Rome has fallen.

Free will and meaningful doing cannot be bought, at least not for a long time. Self-development [Selbstentfaltung] only works outside the self-contained feedback machine of value. GNU/Linux could only develop outside the exploitation context. Only outside the turning-money-into-more-money-no-matter-how, the power of individual self-development [Selbstentfaltung] could show.

2.5. But What About the Money Makers?

Let's be clear about this. Where money can be made, money is made, if necessary with a wrapping around free software. These are those on the gravy train, and it's not without reason that all of them are represented at Linux expositions. I don't condemn that, I merely point it out without emotions. Machines have the advantage that you can analyze their behavior pretty unemotionally. That's how I look at capitalism.

If I understand the capitalist machine of value, I have useful criteria at hand -- for my own activities and for the evaluation of many aspects of free software. I would like to address both issues now.

3. OSI und GNU – brothers and sisters at daggers drawn

In early 1998 Eric. S. Raymond and Bruce Perens found the Open Source Initiative (OSI). Declared aim is the marketing of free software, the inclusion of free software in normal commercial cycles of software. To this end the marketing term »open source« was chosen. Only with a new name the economy should be won. The term »freedom« would be problematic for economy, it sounds to much like »priceless« and »no profit«[13]. Besides this one has the same goals as the adherents of free software, however, one takes a more »pragmatic« way and leaves away the »ideological ballast«.

Richard Stallman, founder of the GNU project, accuses the open source advocates of blurring the lines between free and proprietary software with their pragmatism. The term »open source« opens the gates for abuse of the idea of free software through software companies developing and marketing proprietary software, says Stallman. Besides, he says he isn't against profits and commercial use, but »freedom« must be protected.

3.1. The economic liberalism of ESR

After turning away of OSI-founder Bruce Perens from OSI due to a too big toady to commerce, it is not a mistake to only look after positions of Eric. S. Raymond (ESR). In the three articles »The Cathedral and the Bazaar«, »Homesteading the Noosphere« and »The Magic Cauldron« he develops a compatibility concept for the connection of free software with capitalism[14].

With free software commercialists are in a fix. Free software is a public good and not scarce. The work sticked into free software is simply given away. One can not longer make it a value added thing, it is not a thing of value. ESR's efforts go towards reintegrating free software -- being cutted off from value cycles -- into the mill of the cybernetic value machine by combing free software with »unfree products«. The proposals he develops in »The Magic Cauldron« called »indirect sale-value models« are examined in the following.

»Loss-Leader«: Free software is given away for no price, in order to position non-free software at the market. As an example ESR takes Netscape with the Mozilla project -- a project, with was multiple times short before fail[15]. What happens here? A company throws its failed browser to the feet of free software developers and calls: »Save our profits in the server market!« At the same time they reserve the »right« to make free results to non-free software.

»Widget Frosting«: Non-free hardware (peripherals, slot cards, complete systems) will be casted with some free software, in order to sell the hardware better than without the cast. While it was neccesary for the hardware company to develop hardware driver, configuration software, or operating systems, now one let this be done by the free software community. How practical, it is priceless! Uncompensated acquiration of working results of others -- isn't that named theft? No, the thiefs will answer, the results are free!

»Restaurant method«: In analogy to a restaurant which only uses free recipes but sells meals and services, here, the free software is bundeled and sold together with service. The own effort is the complilation of programs, the creation of installation programs, and the offer of service. Unpaid downloads or cloning of own results by other distributors is accepted as enlargement of the common market. Often good hackers are employed by distributors, the border between paid and unpaid work is fluid. Of course, the business practices of distributors are different. While the non-commercial Debian project commited themselfs in keeping standards and supporting free software by giving themself a social contract[16], for others the pure end in itself of conquering markets is in the foreground (e.g. SuSE or other cloners).

»Accessorizing«: This point includes publishers of documentations or other works about free software, and other producers of accessories surfing on the free software wave (e.g. the producers of soft penguins). Exclusive licenses (based on copyright) hindering the distribution of written works are problematic. The german Linuxtag itself had become a victim of this exclusion of the public. Publishing houses bringing out the texts of the last Linuxtag took care, that exactly these texts had to be removed from the Linuxtag website. Only scarce products can be a commodity!

»Marketing models«: Utilizing the popularity of free software different marketing tricks are used, in order to put better images to proprietarian software and take care for good selling chances. This does not yet address cheats sticking the label »open source« or »free software« on their proprietarian products, but forms like

It should become clear, that alle these »models of indirekt commodity value« are used to re-incorporate the field of free software back again into market economy, into the cycle of the self-esteem value machine. Due to capitalist expoitation being based on scarcity and exclusion of the public and free software representing exactly the opposite, fire and water had to be coerced in »peaceful co-existence«. But as it is with fire and water it is with free software and exploitation, too: Only one can prevail.

Consequently inside ESR's neoliberal model of free software there are no essential differences between various »free« software licenses. Probably he only had put the GPL to the list of »OSI certified« licenses despite the proscription of privatisation, because GPL can not be ignored. Except the »restaurant method« -- the commercial distribution of free software -- no method described above is conformable with letters and spirit of the GPL[17]. The GPL excludes artificial scarcity and privatisation of code and largely hinders exploitation of software.

3.2. The civil rights liberalism of RMS

The economic liberalism of ESR is opposed by the civil rights liberalism of RMS. RMS argues (1994), that private ownership of software leads to developments which are against the societal demands. The society needs

These are the reasons, why free software is a question of »freedom« and not of »price«. Well known is this sentence by RMS: »Think of 'free speech', not of 'free beer'«.

The GNU GPL is made following these criteria. It ensures, that software remains steady free or in economic terms: It withdrawls software from exploitation. Nevertheless, RMS is not against selling free software (1996). Even the GPL itself allows for lifting a fee for the distribution of free software.

RMS formulates his vision of social living together in the GNU-manifesto of 1984 this way: »In the long run, making programs free is a step toward the post-scarcity world, where nobody will have to work very hard just to make a living. People will be free to devote themselves to activities that are fun, such as programming, after spending the necessary ten hours a week on required tasks such as legislation, family counseling, robot repair and asteroid prospecting. There will be no need to be able to make a living from programming.« (Stallman 1984).

A nice vision which I can share with no hesitation. But: Believing this vision to come true under the circumstances of the cybernetic exploitation machine named capitalism is an illusion. The single purpose of the value machine is to make more money from money -- anyway how and with what. Freedom of shortage, leisure, happiness, and hacking for fun is not stipulated.

The open source wave initiated by ESR beside others presents this like a textbook. It is not about societal freedom at all, which only can be the freedom of all, but it is about the question, how to make money from something free of value, how to make money from the joy of hackers, how to transform the self-development [Selbstentfaltung] of people into abstract dead work. Using »freedom first« RMS can hardly oppose this powerful wave. Probably ESR would answer: Of course freedom first -- the economic freedom!

Taking this it becomes clear, that liberalism has two sides: economic liberalism and civil rights liberalism. In his impressive book »Blackbook of Capitalism« (1999, german) Robert Kurz extracts the common roots in ancient liberalism[18]. He shows, that also the civil rights liberalism only has the goal, to deliver humans as food for the cybernetic exploitation machine. Who doesn't want to talk about capitalism should be silent on freedom.

4. Free Software for Free People

We should push forward! We should confess to the anticapitalist contents of the GPL! We can say »GNU/Linux is not a thing of value -- and this is fine!«. Freedom is only outside the exploitation machine. It was an historic act to haul out free software from there. Now, it is about to keep it outside and pull more fields out step by step. There are a lot of approaches sketched by Stefan Merten in his presentation »GNU/Linux -- Milestone on the Way to a GPL-society«.

How can I work this out, you surely will ask. One can not go out of the exploitation relations where we are all in -- how shall I make my living? These are justified and coercive questions. I think, the goal is not to go immediately and for 100% out of any exploitations. The goal must be to get a clear view for the coercive mechanism of the cybernetic exploitation machine, to adapt individual acting. I want to give some examples.

Concrete and abstract labour: If I have to sell my work force for my individual reproduction, then I should not try to find fulfillment in it. Of course, it would be nice if working is fun sometimes. But working for money means abstract labour, and doing this my desires are unimportant, there are only external goals that count. Self-development [Selbstentfaltung] is only available outside e.g. in free software projects. If I don't have expectations concerning the work for money, it is more easy to limit them. And limitation is strongly necessary due to the endless pressure in software projects.

Founding a firm: Someones think they can escape from alienated work by founding their own firm. This is the almost biggest illusion one can have. As firm owner I am directly confronted with the value laws of the cybernetic machine. The own decision left is only how to execute these laws, which market segment I occupy, which competitor I kick out of the game etc. I am in it with skin and hair, and I permanently have to justify my acting against all. Keeping a distance is much more harder then in alienated work for money.

Exploited development: The individual self-development [Selbstentfaltung] is the last unexploited resource of the development of productive forces (Meretz 1999c). Also the executors of the value law know it, and they want to subordinate the self-development [Selbstentfaltung] to exploitation. They deconstruct hierarchies, give us more decision possibilities and flexibilty during our working time. The check clocks will be removed, because no one need them any more -- everybody is working longer voluntarily following the motto: »Do what you want, the main thing is, you are profitable«. The conversion of both, the role of the work force seller and the role of the value law executor in one person is the (not so) new trick. Don't go into that trap! The »new independence« can become the hell[19], because self-exploitation and self-development [Selbstentfaltung] are contradicting.

Self-development [Selbstentfaltung]: The unrestricted development of the personal individuality, doing what I really want to, is only possible outside the exploitation machine. Not accidentally it was the field of computer sciences, where value-free goods are created. It is relatively easy for us to secure our own life. We are paid good and find new jobs fast. Developing free software is no »must be«, it is a desire. We are interested in cooperation, not in suppression. The development of free software is an example for a self-organized space beyond measures of exploitation. Only in this space self-development [Selbstentfaltung] is possible.

Giving these examples I want to pledge for soberness, clearness, and openness -- in relationships to others and one self. For me this also implies to talk about the societal big picture, because we should not leave it to the economic- or civil rights liberal interpreters. Capitalism is nothing daemonic, you can understand it and adapt your actions. Then free software will have a chance as software being not a thing of value.

5. Meta-Text

5.1. History of Versions

5.2. Literature

DiBona, C., Ockman, S., Stone, M. (1999), Open Sources: Voices from the Open Source Revolution, Sebastopol/CA: O’Reilly; online verfügbar unter http://www.oreilly.com/catalog/opensources/book/toc.html

Fischbach, R. (1999), Frei und/oder offen? From Pentagon Source to Open Source and beyond, in: FIFF-Kommunikation 3/99, S. 21-26.

Glißmann, W. (1999), Die neue Selbständigkeit in der Arbeit und Mechanismen sozialer Ausgrenzung, in: Herkommer, S. (Hrsg., 1999), Soziale Ausgrenzungen. Gesichter des neuen Kapitalismus, Hamburg: VSA

Kurz, R. (1999), Schwarzbuch Kapitalismus: Ein Abgesang auf die Marktwirtschaft, Frankfurt/Main: Eichborn.

Lohoff, E. (1998), Zur Dialektik von Mangel und Überfluß, in: Krisis, Beiträge zur Kritik der Warengesellschaft 21/22, Bad Honnef: Horlemann.

Meretz, S. (1999a), Die doppelte algorithmische Revolution des Kapitalismus – oder: Von der Anarchie des Marktes zur selbstgeplanten Wirtschaft. Internet: http://www.kritische-informatik.de/algorev.htm

Meretz, S. (1999b), Linux – Software-Guerilla oder mehr? Die Linux-Story als Beispiel für eine gesellschaftliche Alternative. In: FIFF-Kommunikation 3/99, S. 12-21. Internet: http://www.kritische-informatik.de/linuxsw.htm

Meretz, S. (1999c), Produktivkraftentwicklung und Subjektivität. Vom eindimensionalen Menschen und unbeschränkt entfalteten Individualität, Internet: http://www.kritische-informatik.de/pksubj.htm

O'Reilly & Associates Inc. (1999), Open Source, kurz und gut, Köln: O'Reilly.

Raymond, E. S. (1997), The Cathedral and the Bazaar, http://www.tuxedo.org/~esr/writings/homesteading/cathedral-bazaar/ , deutsche Übersetzung: Die Kathedrale und der Basar, http://www.linux-magazin.de/ausgabe/1997/08/Basar/basar.html

Raymond, E. S. (1998), Homesteading the Nooshpere, http://www.tuxedo.org/~esr/writings/homesteading/homesteading/ , deutsche Übersetzung: http://www.phone-soft.com/raymondhomesteading/htn_g.0.html

Raymond, E. S. (1999), The Magic Cauldron, http://www.tuxedo.org/~esr/writings/homesteading/magic-cauldron/ , deutsche Übersetzung: Der verzauberte Kessel, http://www.phone-soft.com/raymondcauldron/cauldron.g.01.html

Stallman, R.M. (1984), The GNU Manifesto, http://www.gnu.org/gnu/manifesto.html , deutsche Übersetzung: Das GNU-Manifest, http://www.gnu.de/mani-ger.html

Stallman, R.M. (1994), Why Software Should Not Have Owners, http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/why-free.html

Stallman, R.M. (1996), Selling Free Software, http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/selling.html

Stallman, R. (1999), »Software muß frei sein!« Interview des Online-Magazins Telepolis, http://www.heise.de/tp/deutsch/inhalt/te/2860/1.html

5.3. Remarks

[1] The »proprietor« is the »owner,« and »proprietary« as an adjective means as much as »belonging to an owner«. The meaning of the term has been lessened to »closed interfaces and formats«. However, these are only a small number of the means to ensure the exclusiveness of property (along with strangling licenses, patents etc.) -- only to artificially make a product scarce which is available abundantly because it's easy to copy.

[2] That said, the »perversions« of capitalism become explicable: Even though in many sectors, enough goods to supply humankind would be available, there is poverty. Only where scarcity rules, exchange value can be realized. Money is the regulating force -- where there is no money, there's poverty.

[3] These standards are published in informal documents entitled Request for Comments (RFC). Their binding character is a result of their openness (contrary to a patent, say) and of the process based on broad consensus.

[4] Source code means the human-readable and human-editable form of a program. The form that can be executed by a machine, on the other hand, is called the binary code.

[5] GNU is a recursive acronym and means GNU's Not Unix. It expresses that the free GNU system is the functional equivalent of the proprietary Unix operating systems, but a free, not a proprietary one.

[6] In order to be able to use free software libraries in non-free software as well, the GNU Library GPL was created, allowing this combination (for example, with the GNU C library). In version 2.1, it was renamed the GNU Lesser GPL, c.f. http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/lesser.html

[7] Tannenbaum, a professor from Amsterdam, published his »Mini-UNIX,« called MINIX, as early as 1986, targeted for educational purposes. Due to a restrictive license and due to Tannenbaum being the only developer, MINIX never succeeded outside the classroom. Documented in e.g. DiBona, C., Ockman, S., Stone, M. (1999) in Appendix A or online at http://www.lh.umu.se/~bjorn/mhonarc-files/obsolete/

[8] Linus Torvalds in an interview with the Tokyo Linux Users Group: »Making Linux GPL'd was definitely the best thing I ever did.« (O'Reilly & Associates Inc. 1999, 35) [this text from: http://www.webreview.com/1998/04_10/developers/04_10_98_4.shtml ].

[9] I abstain from a differenciated presentation of a »correct« analysis of value forms.

[10] Every creation of a product contains an algorithmic-constructive and an operational-materializing aspect. In case of software the part of the second aspect tends against zero. More on the topic of algorithms in Meretz 1999a.

[11] Bill Gates bought QDOS for $50,000 and marketed it as MS-DOS. This was the beginning of Microsoft's success story.

[12] According to the Standish-Group's 'Chaos Report' ( http://standishgroup.com/visitor/chaos.htm ), only one quarter of all projects are completed successfully. The rest fails entirely or is completed 200% behind schedule or over budget.

[13] It is pretty funny, when »freedom« as an former fighting term against »unfree« socialism know become a threat in the own house. It seems, that here we have again brothers and sisters at daggers drawn -- with a letal end for one of them.

[14] I can not discuss the economic categories of ESR as well as his speculations about the motivations of the hackers (»gift economy«). Especially the economic categories presented by ESR are haarsträubend. He changes use value and (exchange) value, and value and price nach Belieben. However, this does not reduce the eloquence of his pledge for the re-integration of free software into the cybernetic exploitation machine. On the topic of »present economy« c.f. Fischbach 1999.

[15] C.f. Jamie Zawinski, resignation and postmortem, http://www.jwz.org/gruntle/nomo.html

[16] The Debian Social Contract: http://www.debian.org/social_contract

[17] Of course, there could be loss-leaders on the basis of GPL, but the public would understand such tricks very fast, witch would damage the image of the company. Thus, the Netscape license NPL is more ehrlich saying that Netscape can privatize the public code at any time.

[18] C.f. the reviews in ZEIT http://www.archiv.zeit.de/daten/pages/199951.p-kurz_.html (PRO) and http://www.archiv.zeit.de/daten/pages//199951.p-kurz-contra_.html (CONTRA) or at Telepolis: http://www.heise.de/tp/deutsch/inhalt/co/5659/1.html

[19] Those who are simply not believing this, I recommend reading of the experience report of the workers' council of IBM Duesseldorf (Glißmann 1999).

Oekonux/TranslationProjects/LinuxWorthless/LinuxWorthless (last edited 2007-10-04 15:24:20 by StefanMeretz)

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