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Re: Protecting developer benefits in an open source project

From: Per Abrahamsen
Subject: Re: Protecting developer benefits in an open source project
Date: Mon, 21 Nov 2005 15:12:13 +0100
User-agent: Gnus/5.110003 (No Gnus v0.3) Emacs/21.4 (gnu/linux) writes:

> 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?

By doing such a great job managing the project that nobody would even
think of forking the code.

> 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*.

Then the project isn't really abandoned, it just shifted management.

This is perhaps the single most important feature of free software, it
is impossible for bad project management to kill of the project for
ever, once it has reached a critical mass of developers.

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

What problem?  Oh, you mean the inability of management that is
insensitive to market demands to run a project into the ground.

Copyright can handle that easily enough, just don't release it under a
free software license.

> 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? 

If you are convinced of your own inability to do proper project
management, and you yet insist on being the project manager, I really
don't think free software is for you.

> 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).

Another option is to go a step backwards.  It your purpose with
software of the project to gain personal power and prestige?  Or is to
solve a problem?  If the former, a non-free license is probably more
appropriate.  If the later, why not be happy that someone with more
resources than you solve the problem?  

> Or maybe this is the fact of life, and projects should continue by
> tough, natural selection?

That is the rules of the free market.  A free market tend in general
to produce better result than a government mandated monopoly, which is
what traditional software licenses amount to.

>  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?

If you goal is the accumulation of power and control, patents are
definitely the way to go.  Your government granted monopoly is then not
just the expression of the idea, but on the very idea itself!  That
is a true power trip, the ability to to prevent others from expressing
particular ideas.

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