They are at it again...


Paw Prints: Writings of the maddog

Jul 18, 2011 GMT
Jon maddog Hall

They are at it again. The closed source companies are attacking open source, using similar tactics that they always use.

This time they are using “associations of professionals” (sometimes called "lobbyists") to declare that Open Source is a failure in the software marketplace. They started in Brazil, and are now making the same claims in other countries. They claim that the governments of these countries are “fostering” open source and use statistics to show a lack of “growth” in the “computer industry” due to this "fostering".

The companies behind this attack use the same tactics used before by hiring a well known research firm to do research and then having the firm publish the results. Of course the research was tailored to show only what the funding companies wanted to show. It is an old trick. I do not blame the research firm for this. When you are hired by a company and given parameters for the research, you do the research according to those parameters, which of course tends to show the customer's twisted view of the world.

In this case, the twisted view was that Free Software was hurting a country's abilities to create a software industry. The “associations view” (and I put that in quotes, since I feel that this was a view influenced by a few, large closed-source companies who heavily funded the “association”) that after ten years of Free Software in Brazil and other countries that Free Software had failed to achieve above a particular amount of revenue as opposed to the revenues associated with closed-source companies. The associations attacked the government for favoring open-source code over closed-source code, and “hurting the software industry”.

The attacks ran the gambit of telling how FOSS was sometimes more expensive than closed-source (which seems to run against the revenue-creation claim) but did not make the software revenues that closed-source companies did in these countries.

The reports did not take into account the value offered to the customer as a result of selecting FOSS. The reports also did not take into account the availability of FOSS products to other industries to help them do their work better.

For example, the report did not cover the value to the Brazilian lottery system of reducing the amount of time it takes to develop a new game from ten months to three weeks, a feature attributed to moving to FOSS from a proprietary system.

Nor did the report talk about the increase in ridership that the Sao Paulo subway system incurred when they used Open Office to write their letters, and redirected the funds for buying Microsoft Office to hiring subway cleaners. “No one ever complimented me on how good my letters were....but they liked the fact the subway was cleaner,” said the person in charge of the subway.

The report did not take into account the stability given to a Brazilian national car rental company, and how much money they made by having their systems always available.

Nor did the report explain that the use of FOSS gives a service provider in St. Petersburg, Russia the ability to change his solution overnight to meet the needs of his customer, while his competitors using closed-source proprietary software have to wait a month to deliver the same changes to their customers.

The report did not mention that Brazil pirates a lot of their software. Piracy works against the acceptance of Free Software, as many end users never pay the royalties required. If they did, the price of a non-free solution would increase dramatically, and a lot, if not most, of this money would flow out of Brazil to other countries. With FOSS, the revenues generated tend to stay local to the economy paying local programmers, which fosters more money for local food, local housing and to pay local taxes.

Of course, if the companies that are part of these associations really wanted to stop software piracy, all they would have to do is to turn on their anti-piracy features. But they do not want to stop piracy, because they are afraid that more people would then chose free software, and their businesses would be in jeopardy. So they wait until the people using pirated software start to make money, then they send in another “association” to do an audit and take the “pirate” to jail.

There are many successful business models for Free Software. Companies like Red Hat and IBM as well as many smaller companies are building successful businesses in supporting FOSS. There are even companies that have taken their closed-source products and made them open source who now make more money then when their products were closed source. But the report did not mention them.

The people behind these latest “reports” are something like the horse and buggy manufacturers going to the government to complain about automobiles putting them out of business because they were unwilling or unable to change their businesses.

There are many more things not covered in this report, features that FOSS lends to the equation of goodness for the country. Issues of national security, ROI to the customer, control of the customer over their software business, and much, much more. I have discussed all of them in the fifteen years that I have been writing and speaking about the values of FOSS over closed-source, proprietary software.

It is too bad for the closed source companies that the governments have been listening to FOSS advocates like me for these past fifteen years, and look upon financed “reports” with a jaundiced eye.


  • "This too, shall pass..."

    Whenever I hear of some huge corporation voicing their opinion, through the media, by way of some paid
    lobbyist or promoter, I say to myself "this too, shall pass". The negative viewpoints espoused in media diatribes against Open Source are doomed to fail in the light of community knowledge found in real practice.

    "Why is that so?", you might say. Well, many reasons are extant. Here are some. Proprietary closed source creators have a finite lifetime. They soon tire of the demands of their customers, and the many lawsuits from other proprietary vendors who are trying to bring down the competition. Everyone retires,
    sooner or later. Users tire, eventually, of false promises of "New, Improved" snake oil.

    With a finite limited number of authors for a closed source product, and the human proclivity for sleep, and a normal social life, they are doomed to restricted hours to produce a viable product. In other words, they are beaten down by the laws of nature.

    Open Source is created by whole schools of free swimmers, around the world, and around the clock, who work their magic in a passion of artistic inspiration. Though they will receive much remuneration, eventually, their driving force is personal accomplishment and the accolades of peers and users.

    Passion always trumps drudgery. History has proven that passionate inspiration is the mother of invention, and common sense prevails over advertising hype.

    All my friends and family, and I, run GNU/Linux, and BSD, on our Apple/Mac hardware, and on Personal Computer hardware donated to us, and distributed to over a thousand happy folks over the past few years.

    Our systems, printers, networks, are older, salvaged, repaired hardware, vintage as old as 1992, saved from industry's short term of duty, and re-purposed in a joyful endeavor of recycling, education, and entertainment. Even our county library distributes over 300 GNU/Linux systems each year.

    Viva Libre GNU/Linux, BSD, and Open Source Software!
  • The `broken window' fallacy?


    The classics never get old, do they? ☺

    Also cf.:
  • Strong rebuttal to that type of FUD

    There is an excellent article, which refutes those types of changes against open source software. It is written by Adrien Lamothe at He puts all of that to rest. The article was written 11 years ago.

  • Difficult writing conditions

    I have been meaning to write this article for the past couple of weeks, but I have also been attending Campus Party, Spain and Campus Party Mexico.

    The article was written between requests of interviews for newspapers, requests for pictures, and presentations. Or I could have waited another two or three weeks to write it.

  • Partially agree

    Yeah, I think Mad Dog could have cleaned this article up a bit better.
    He makes good, strong points and the article is well-worth spreading around.
    Making this better organized would only enhance the effect!!
  • Those crazy computer thingies


    Thanks for the "heads up". Yes, I write my articles offline and then copy them to the web-based publishing software. Apparently my shaky hand hit the "paste" button one too many times.

  • Weird double-posting?

    It looks like paragraphs are randomly repeated in this version -- dunno what happened, but you might want to look into that.
comments powered by Disqus