Arrrggg: Open Source Users Are Pirates

Posted on in Categories GNU/Open source, Linux last updated February 24, 2010

US lobby group is trying to get the US government to consider open source as the equivalent to piracy i.e. if you use open source software you are a pirate and that makes you an enemy of the state.

However, US goverment does use FOSS based solutions. The SELinux can be traced to several earlier projects by the U.S. National Security Agency, The drupal powers many US government sites including Obama administration Drupal based website. Hollywood use Linux to create eye catching 3D movies. American companies such as Sun, Redhat, Oracle, IBM, Google, and many others profits handsomely using FOSS. From the guardian blog (via slashdot):

US government to basically consider open source as the equivalent of piracy – or even worse.

What?

It turns out that the International Intellectual Property Alliance, an umbrella group for organisations including the MPAA and RIAA, has requested with the US Trade Representative to consider countries like Indonesia, Brazil and India for its “Special 301 watchlist” because they use open source software.

What’s Special 301? It’s a report that examines the “adequacy and effectiveness of intellectual property rights” around the planet – effectively the list of countries that the US government considers enemies of capitalism.

Well, this is shocking! What do you think?

Posted by: Vivek Gite

The author is the creator of nixCraft and a seasoned sysadmin and a trainer for the Linux operating system/Unix shell scripting. He has worked with global clients and in various industries, including IT, education, defense and space research, and the nonprofit sector. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+.

52 comment

  1. Well, at first glance I’d say that this is another case of the US (or rather its government and the politicians) using double-standards when deploying FOSS solutions themselves but berating others for so also.. As I am not a legal expert on intellectual property rights I don’t really see how open & free software infringes on proprietary software. I’m not quite sure what being put on the Special 301 Watch List entails as consequences, couldn’t find a precise explanation on the web right away. Presumably it is not much more serious than diplomatic disapproval, though having strained relations with the United States is no small issue in international relations. But you can argue that Washington definitively does not want to complicate diplomatic ties with such emerging economies like Indonesia, Brazil and India over such a minor matter in regards to international trade. Even some big software firm from Redmond, WA does not have the lobbying power to influence US foreign policy to such a degree.
    Still the slight possibility of what I regard as false claims of property infringement hijacking international relations and trade policy is quite disturbing.

  2. I’m saddened by this news. I thought the Obama administration was going to bring in a new era of transparency and reasonable governing. I wasn’t exactly happy with the Bush administration and there handling of airport security, privacy, and freedom during the last few years, however, I’m not surprised by this administration.

    Anyways, I’ve always looked at Open Source as Free speech. I’ve been an avid user of Ubuntu Linux for my business and personal life. I’m always interested in seeing new things people are creating, and very shortly, I’m positioning myself to be able to support open source, by making some things for the public as well. I don’t like it that my rights are being stripped by this administration or any other. I don’t care that a bunch of people downloaded Britney Spears songs, a few thousand times. Linux, and other open source software is NOT piracy! Stupid government.

  3. Seems to be this is like a bubbles in water but I don’t think US government really ban open source as their organization like NSA also do experiment and invention on open source projects. Also FOSS really revolutionized the IT of the world.

    Regards
    Charanjit Singh Cheema

  4. Let’s parse this:
    A lobby group, that is, a small group unconnected to the US government but is paid to advance their special interest, is lobbying that is, providing unsolicited requests to a government official to advance their special interests, which, in this case, is about protecting intellectual property.

    Clearly, if charged with promoting a singular interest, the interested party will try to grab as much as possible within a single request, that’s their job.

    This article shows no evidence that the US uses double standards, that the Obama administration has failed, or that Americans wish to own the world.

  5. When Benjamin Franklin invented a highly efficient wood burning stove he turned down the offer of a patent. In fact, he didn’t patent any of his inventions saying, “As we enjoy great advantages from the inventions of others, we should be glad of an opportunity to serve others by any invention of ours; and this we should do freely and generously.”

    In many ways, the Open Source community continues this old American tradition. Anyone fighting that tradition simply doesn’t get the concepts of freedom and generosity. Oh, and let’s add to the list the right to develop new ways to compete in an open market. After all, there is a lot of money to be made by the Open Source movement and that’s the real reason large corporations are afraid.

    Open Source should be allowed to continue unfettered. If there method wins, great. If not, so be it. But trying to make an end-run around the legal system in order to stop another business model? Now that should be illegal.

  6. Wait a minute here… this article says nothing about this originating with the US Government. Lobby groups are not the government. They are special interest groups that petition the government to create law to benefit the lobby group’s interest. I can lobby the government to make a 2 day work week the law of the land… it doesn’t mean it’s a government initiative.

    Having said that count me in on open source and more transparency.

  7. It is ironic that the American government should equate users of open source with “enemies of capitalism”. By the same token, European nations–who are strongly embracing open source software, would also have to be included on that list. And if that were true, then it would only be fair that the European Union put America on a special “watchlist” because America would now be labled as “enemies of freedom”.

    How’s that for turnabout? All joking aside, it is instructive for people to remember that capitalism and democracy are not automatically married. Democracy (remembering that strictly speaking, America is not a democracy, but a republic) is actually antithetical to pure capitalism, which claims only the marketplace as a regulator and eschews public regulation. Pure capitalism has it’s best political marriage with fascism, in which the power of the state is used to protect and promote selected industries/businesses. And this is something to be feared in my opinion. All we have to do is look at the current mess we’re in to notice that unregulated, rampant greed in the housing and banking sectors, aided and abetted by a political system too timid to regulate, has resulted in pain that will last for years to come.

    Oh, and as an aside, Microsoft is still threatening companies with lawsuits if they don’t pay up the “protection racket” money for using open source software–specifically Linux. Amazon is the latest victim. In a way, they are doing their part to use the system to enforce the same thing that is discussed in the article above.

    1. Please do not call America a Democracy. It is a Republic with limited Democratic controls. The Founding Fathers described Government as a necessary evil for society. The only role of a General Government or “Federal Government” is to serve the States, protect the people’s individual Liberties and provide a small and controlled defense. This idea seems to have been lost with time. Democracies are not free societies. Individual liberty is freedom. Would you rather die at the hand of a terrorist or live as a slave in a “secure” Democracy? I’ll take my chances and have liberty!

  8. @Pirate Mike, I’ve never really understood why people equate open source software with some sort of economic “ism”, whether it be socialism, capitalism, or otherwise. It wasn’t born with that ideal (it was born with freedom in mind, actually), and it works just fine in either situation. In fact, that’s the reason why I want to publish some open source software, is TO MAKE MONEY! I guess the losers just complain that it’s socialism, and the winners PROFIT. I’ve even heard that open source has privacy issues involved with it. That’s absurd as well, because there’s thousands upon thousands of people who look at the code! I don’t think people have a firm grasp on why people open software up to the masses. But I digress.

  9. @Pirate Dave and Pirate Mike:

    Cool, users already started to call themselves as pirate 🙂

    US has a long history of double standards and big corporations do twists arm of Government to make favorable decisions. I just spent some time reading 301 recommendation PDF and it is way over rated with suggestions.

  10. harrharr, then that lobby grrroup shall rrreceive the prrroperr punishment of a pirrrate’s hand. Upon my oath, a rrreal pirrrate um, I mean OS supporting human awaits the rrreaction the goverrrnorrr um, I mean gouverrrment. Then some pirrracy action seems to be in orrrderrr.

  11. If you guys have watched Discovery Channel documentary of ” The Great Global Warming Swindle “, you must be surely aware of the USA’s intentions.
    This is also another capitalist conspiracy but i’m not afraid cuz democracy persist here in india.

  12. @hakmn. It’s not a capitalist conspiracy! It’s a Democrat conspiracy, spearheaded by Al Gore, to take control of the US Economy. The Discovery Channel has been pandering to the Global Warming fools for years! Also, it’s the intentions of SOME Americans, not the US. I assure you.

  13. A bit out of topic, but I don’t like Discovery Channel anymore because they don’t broadcast anything about applied science anymore, it’s just disappointing. BTW, it seems that saying Open Source is some kind of piracy is somehow absurd and disturbing, and this kind of lobbying, might be suspiciously linked with that big redmond corporation’s anti-competitive activities. I’m still thinking that this is another attempt to make plausible their commitments.

    The progressing technologies should not be stopped because of demented people trying to support monopolistic corporations.

    Sorry for my bad English.

  14. Hmmmm. Is this not just a case of government idioits talking about something they don’t know anything about? I fail to see how software that is licenced to be freely distrubuted pertains to piracy in anyway. Isn’t the act of piracy itself, the act of stealing from someone else? You know, like those blokes with eye-patches and peg-legs used to do? So if I make something to give away as I like, I am a pirate? I guess in that case we’re screwed seeing as most of the internet runs on LAMP environments, those ignorant American politicians will have to pull down MOST of the internet. That’s like Lord Mandelson in the UK making decsions on the government’s Digital Britain project. Lets take a man (who is essentially a criminal from his past history), who knows next to fuck all about the internet/computers/social media etc, and let him make decisions about a country’s future regarding these issues. Srsly, my gran knows more than him. To me this looks like one of those things people make a noise about, then have to go and hide their face of embarassment when they finally understand and see that what they were doing was utterly ridiculous.

  15. the open source users lead the programming community, and without them none of the smashing developing we see today could happen.
    as i always say to my friends, and i also printed it on the back of my laptop:
    OPEN SOURCE = OPEN MIND

  16. Whomever Will is, your an idiot. To assign this situation to one political party is pure ignorance. The Republicans have been the leaders of greed since the Ronald Reagan era. This type of movement is purely greed-based and, as usual, designed to protect our poor penniless corporations and further reduce the once cherished ideals of individuality, imagination and the 4th and 5th amendments.

  17. It is sad how many dumb and greedy asses there is in these lobby groups and in MPAA and in RIAA. This is scary too, because these dumb asses have money and power. I hope that there are smart and sophisticated people in the government that would not allow such nonsence.

  18. I just don’t believe this… it’s incredible how some organizations are so ignorant to not
    understand the concept of Open Source.
    I bet these people are not even able to distinguish “a notebook from the… the bigger one” ( this comes from IT Crowd, u guys have to watch it )

    @PirateDave thanks for sharing the anecdote on Benjamin Franklin, it was awesome

    Matt from Kernel.net

  19. very sorry to read this, they should CHANGE this kind of thinking, we are the well wisher, secure and stable, :), most of all poor’s dream of becoming I.T. experts.

  20. I think, if you actually read the documents, they present a valid argument. The governments have basically mandated that all software in use on government computers must be open source. Sounds great except it violates in place free trade agreements for one thing and second, it does nothing to stem the flagrant and endemic pirate culture that has developed and they try to avoid the problem with a mandate. Removing billions of dollars worth of pirated software and replacing it with open source software only, without even the possibility of allowing legitimate ‘for profit’ software makers the opportunity to compete so they can recoup some fraction of the money they have been screwed out of due to government sanctioned theft for decades, is seriously unfair in their eyes.

  21. Nice try, honey.. Open Source’s gonna be the future development model for software..
    And the future is here!
    We should have been able to dig deep to software creation and improvement if we have this open source idea of software from the beginning.. It should have been outstandingly developed much like our open information of scientific ideas that we see today..

  22. In reply to Kathmandu, you really are trying hard with this argument. If you were right, even Microsoft and Apple would have to give up some of their profits to the open source code they use in their applications – and they do. IBM does this outright (take a look at the Eclipse project). So, when you say legitimate, you’re really not defining the word or the entities in that space (which I believe is fast becoming a neglible number).

    As for open source, what better model can you have than world-wide contribution to tenology improvement and development? I support this as everyone wins – including those making money from the software. Google, Apple (where do you suppose the OS comes from?). So, I believe a further analysis should be conducted.

    Thoughts?

  23. There’s ALWAYS someone somewhere “trying to convince” the government to outlaw something or other. Like new proposed law in the House, it can usually be safely ignored.

    Since the first software was open-source (and open-source was certainly the way we treated things in academia in the 60’s & 70’s,) making it the equivalent of piracy is laughable.

    What we NEED is for the Judicial branch to review bills passed into law before they go into effect–rather than waiting generations to get rid of unconstitutional law after the fact.

    Then censure or bar those who voted for or signed too many unconstitutional bills.

  24. Suggest you read the documents properly. It not about open source but rather about violations of intellectual property law such as patent and copyright. Even Canada is on the watchlist because its copyright laws are considered sub-standard.

    So use Open Office as much as you want, but for MS Office you have to buy it legitimately.

  25. Open Source means free to distribute and free to see codings and free to alter. This is good always good as there is no company even microsoft cant offer this much of cheap highly secure and standard operating system. It cannot stop open source because 97% of worlds super computers are working with linux as its prominent operating system,,Kindly post me any blue screen error came while using linux as OS. This is good example for its reliability.

  26. We have lobby groups that want to ban Cow Milk and replace it with human breast milk. Just because someone is lobbying for some silly cause doesn’t mean anyone actually pays attention to them.

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