Monday, February 27, 2006

Proprietary software

The orientation of proprietary software is to create good software. It?s that simple. Its techniques, from a philosophical point of view, are similarly banal, involving various development methodologies and the application of copyright to both protect the software from outside interference and to protect the financial interests of the authors.

The logic behind this technique is, its proponents tell us, in the spirit of copyright: to reward the authors, and to promote future creativity. However, since propietary software may be released for free (freeware), the reward isn?t necessary. Given that both the free and open source approaches also allow for rewards, we have to discount this as being philosophically distinct to the proprietary approach (though it is an open question for economists). Rather, the distinctive quality of proprietary software is that the source code is closed, making creation and modification the exclusive preserve of those to whom the owner gives access.

Free and open source approaches to software development may be identical, but their philosophies are radically different

Open source software

The orientation of open source software is described by the Open Source Initiative as producing good software. The definition of open source software is given in relation to proprietary software, comparing the techniques in terms of development methodologies and copyright licensing terms. It is the techniques that set the two approaches apart, not least because open source software rejects the main premise of proprietary software licensing?that it is better to restrict access to the source code. The logic for this difference, according to the OSI, is that ?when programmers can read, redistribute, and modify the source code for a piece of software, the software evolves. People improve it, people adapt it, people fix bugs. And this can happen at a speed that, if one is used to the slow pace of conventional software development, seems astonishing.? (OSI, 2004a)

Open source shares the philosophical orientation of the proprietary approach, but rejects its techniques

Free software

The orientation of free software is to create good software that provides certain socially useful freedoms. It is defined in terms of ?liberty not price?, a frame of reference entirely absent from both the proprietary and open source approaches. And crucially it is defined as an ethical orientation, not a pragmatic orientation (Stallman, 1992, 1994). According to the Free Software Foundation, the orientation is related to four kinds of freedom (FSF, 2004a):

  • The freedom to run the program, for any purpose (freedom 0).

  • The freedom to study how the program works, and adapt it to your needs (freedom 1). Access to the source code is a precondition for this.

  • The freedom to redistribute copies so you can help your neighbour (freedom 2).

  • The freedom to improve the program, and release your improvements to the public, so that the whole community benefits (freedom 3). Access to the source code is a precondition for this.

Free software advocates reject the orientation and logic of both proprietary and open source approaches

read full article at FreeSoftwareMagazine

[tags] freesoftware, OpenSource, proprietary, Philosophical, difference, software, licensing, copyright [/tags]

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