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Re: Protecting developer benefits in an open source project


From: Bernd Jendrissek
Subject: Re: Protecting developer benefits in an open source project
Date: Fri, 11 Nov 2005 09:16:30 +0000 (UTC)
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In article <address@hidden>
address@hidden wrote:
>How could the original founder of an open source project, protect and
>keep his project as his own, and prevent other external factors ( a
>company or group of developers) from getting his source, invest a lot
>of money on the base project, start their own businness out of it, and
>leave the original developer out of the way?

Said founder could find a way to out-develop said evil company.  Better
yet, said founder could celebrate that somebody else is incurring the
cost of maintaining said project.

>It may well happen that, a promising open source project is abandoned
>due to the fact that some company just has enough money to raise the
>leverage on the project and claim his own *branch*, make it effectively
>better than the original *base* and attract all open source developers
>to this branch, who would otherwise continue developing on the *base*.

So either out-develop that branch, or let go of the egotistic belief in
the moral superiority of the "base" and take advantage of all this work
being done by others, even if you no longer have ultimate authority over
the project.  It isn't as if GCC is spontaneously going to turn into a
window manager, is it?

>A second issue is, how could copyrights prevent this problem, if at
>all?

Is it a problem?

>Would it be unethical, or inappropriate to say, "this project is mine,
>and no entity can start a project with the same purpose, using my
>sources", at least temporarily until the project gets enough leverage
>that no external factor can interfere?

Please define "interfere", making clear if necessary, why it is harmful,
and to whom.

Nobody forces you to release a work whose copyright you own.  Keep your
trade secret... secret.

>Perhaps even doing so, since your sources are publicly accessed, one
>could easily grasp your novel idea and rewrite it from scratch, having
>had the financial resources that you don't, and "raise above the water
>like olive oil" (is what Turks say for this).

There are few truly novel ideas.

Why rewrite your "idea" from scratch if your sources are publicly
available (and presumably Free Software, considering this thread is in
gnu.misc.discuss)?  If the sources are complete enough to embody the
idea of the solution to be gleaned and reimplemented, then I suspect
your sources are close enough to completion that rewriting from scratch
would be a sunk cost.  Why bother incurring it?

If you're concerned about proprietary reimplementation, well, I guess
you have a marketing problem: convincing people that your FREE solution
provides them with more value than somebody else's PROPRIETARY solution.
It's amazing how many people metaphorically prefer to buy a car with the
hood welded shut, rather than taking a gratis one with a hinged hood.

If your idea really is so novel, maybe you can find money yourself.

>Or maybe this is the fact of life, and projects should continue by
>tough, natural selection?  Maybe if it's a really novel idea, get
>patents for it, not to put it as an obstacle to others but just to be
>in control of what you've started.  How does/should it work?

It "should" work like this: non-free (speech) information doesn't exist.
Then you wouldn't have to be concerned about piracy.
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