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2010-08-15 Free Software Is Beyond Companies

Chardon bleu (Echinops Ritro)

Free Software Is Beyond Companies

After the recent Oracle to dismiss their free software strategies, there is always this discussion about free software and its viability in large corporation. But I strongly believe that the question is not there. The question is not the compatibility of free software with large corporations or some business practices. What is so inherently different in free software is the ability to provide free/convivial1 "tools" (as described by Ivan Illich) for everyone including large corporation.

In the recent GNOME Census, a lot of news articles, show the large or small contribution of various companies. But the majority of contributions are still done by volunteers and some are paid by small or large corporation. This doesn't mean that the company behind the funding of the author is always informed of the contribution and that the company is doing that for the inner purpose of free software.

Another interesting fact is free software authors always tend to keep "their" free software with them when moving from one company to another one. Free software authors often use companies as a funding scheme for their free software interest. Obviously companies enjoyed that because they found a way to attract talented people to contribute directly/indirectly to the company interests. But when the mutual interest is going away, authors and companies are separating. It's usually when you see forks appearing or/and corporations playing different strategies (e.g. jumping into aggressive licensing or stopping their open technological strategy).

Is that bad or good for free software? I don't know but this generates a lot of vitality into the free ecosystem. Meaning that free software is still well alive and contributors keep working. But this clearly show the importance of copyright assignment (or independent author copyright) and to be sure that the assignment is always linked with the interest of the free society to keep the software free.

Associated reading (EN) : Ivan Illich, Tools For Conviviality

Lecture pour en savoir plus (FR) : La convivialité, Ivan Illich (ISBN 978-2020042598)



1. Convivial is used in the sense of tools that you have access and can use by yourself independently. For more information, Ivan Illich, Tools For Conviviality