A Reply To Jeff Geerling, How to Make FOSS-Enterprise Fair?

 In recent months, open-source companies started to show a face many people don't like. The biggest example of this is with RedHat practically killing CentOS in search of  profits, even if they gave us a deceitful and honestly abhorrent "16 free instances of RHEL." Now, to run over this quickly, as this article is not JUST to bash RedHat, but the 16 free instances of RHEL gives me the same feeling as I get to Windows 10 being TECHNICALLY FREE, it's basically just a marketing ploy. But let's not worry about that any further.

Now, this is a response to this video by Jeff Geerling

Now, just in case something with the Blogger embeds screws up WHEN the video is supposed to start, here is a link to the part I plan on replying to. I want to answer the questions he poses. 

First, how can we make sure developers who build open-source software are compensated for their work in a just way? Well, there are a LOT of amazing options out there. We aren't the only people who have solutions to this either. elementary's team has, of course, built the AppCenter (the pay-what-you-want app store) which is one of the greatest innovations to come to the open-source community. Another form is grants and donations, which is where Fivnex fits into this. We need more companies who are willing to spend their profit on benefiting the open-source projects we all care about. We also need fewer buyouts, more non-profits, and visibility in the open-source market. We also need to drop respect for companies and even people who push the boundaries of freedom and open-source.

How can we hold both giant corporations and billion-dollar venture-backed startups accountable for riding the coattails of free and open-source software, without giving back proportionately? This is a much more difficult question to answer. Companies that piggy-back off the success of open-source software do abuse the four essential freedoms of open-source software, as set by GNU. For those who do not know, the four essential freedoms of open-source software (or as GNU calls it, free software) are as follows: The freedom to run the program as you wish, for any purpose (including commercially), the freedom to study a program and change the program, the freedom to redistribute copies to help others, the freedom to redistribute modified versions to others. Now, it will be like getting blood from a stone. To best do this would be taking how the GPL Licenses handle things.

Now if you look at the conditions, it says to include the same license, and disclose the source. How I interpret this is the idea that a forked/modified version of the software has to disclose WHERE they got the software from. What we could POSSIBLY do is include a condition that also requires all commercial distributions to donate back to the original project, but this is debatable IF it falls into the GNU's essential four freedoms or not. This is something we will NEED to debate, as open-source will not survive if big corporations can freely abuse open-source software like this.

How can I mitigate against software and services that I use and love changing licenses and causing headaches for me? Well, to put it simply, do as best as we can to support and donate to these open-source projects. These projects don't change licenses out of greed, most of the time, but these projects do need a source of income to continue. Project developers don't WANT to work for free, but they do anyway because they have a good soul. The least we can do for them is to give back to these projects, and other similar projects - or projects that could benefit from a partnership with another project - could partner up and work with each other to boost each other. Fivnex is another example here, and probably where we best fit in. Fivnex benefits from open-source areas like WebKit, SASS, GTK, various Linux operating systems like Linux Mint and elementaryOS, as well as our friends at Alles, whom we plan on working with to help build a more private and fair internet in many ways. Also, just try and avoid forking new projects wherever possible. Yes, it is our GNU given right to fork, but it's like free speech in America, you have it as an absolute right but SOMETIMES it is best not to say anything. Another point Jeff Geerling himself provides are copyleft licenses, which are amazing in their own ways, but as any solution, is flawed.

If I want to earn a living or build a company around open-source, what are my options? This is something I still have debates with myself, and soon my own team with. As an open-source tech startup, Fivnex has a lot of issues to face, and we want to figure out what to do. One goal of ours is to have a grant program inside of Fivnex, where we give small yearly grants to new open-source tech startups, developers, and projects. Now, we WILL have to be extraordinarily strict on how we approach this idea, as we don't want abuse of our generosity. Another idea we have is a site to promote and partner with open-source projects, as well as contribute to projects that need help. Like a mix of LinkedIn, StackOverflow, GitHub, and Twitter in many senses. I actually proposed this idea to GNOME for one of their contest things around last year. As we near my third year in the open-source community, and as I learn more about how to build these projects, it seems more and more possible to host a platform like this.

What are your thoughts on the situation? How can we best implement the best of both copyleft and true open-source? What can the community and the corporations do differently to be more open, yet be profitable and make money from their work? I would love to hear any and all thoughts in the comment section of this article!


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