james g wrote:
How about this, source doesn't have to be disclosed during the term of the commercial copyright (5 years), but then it either: is disclosed, or is subject to 80% tax.
Edison Carter linked to an article by RMS earlier on that advocated for a position much like this. I'd rather see immediate disclosure though, because this would allow people to work on interoperability, which I think is important too, and, e.g. third parties could develop add-ons. Also I have some concerns about the practicality of delayed disclosure. If source disclosure is delayed, the company could go bankrupt in the meantime, or the source code could be lost (or perhaps just parts of it, that for some reason were developed separately), or there could be unforeseen legal issues that come up and prevent the company from being able to release the source. In general, I just feel that the only way to be sure that we will actually get the source is to have it disclosed at the time.
Archiving documents for 5 years is a standard legal requirement, if a company goes bankrupt a buyer can be found. In any case, 80% tax is a strong incentive to release source after 5 years, which is an optimal time to disclose recent source, in fact it should help users with older hardware if their systems get renewed support after the original programmers have moved onto a new version with higher system requirements.
Alternatively, it could be argued that if source disclosure is required immediately, then there is little chance for the original programmer to profit before multinational software corporations plagiarise it and sell it without any compensation to the original programmer.
james g wrote:
If this argument were valid, then exactly the same argument would apply to people who write books, or songs, or any kind of copyrightable works which people can make derivatives of, which is virtually any except software, and yet such works get written. Copyright law is effective enough at preventing copying that works get made. Hiding source just isn't necessary for this.
A better solution would be a subscription to an innovation company that releases source to the public domain upon enough funds raised, I could see a case for setting code to an app free if a target is met.
Say for example, I make a better search engine than google, (wouldn't be hard to do), if I had to disclose the source immediately, then you can be sure that google, microsoft, yahoo & apple would all rip off my source and put it in their search programs overnight without compensation.
james g wrote:
If you wrote a search engine, you could make a business model out of have people use it from a server. You wouldn't have to publish it, so you wouldn't need to disclose the source. If you decided to make a business model out of publishing it, Google, Microsoft, etc. wouldn't be able to use a derived work to compete with you, because they'd have to disclose their source to do that. Also, even by publishing it without releasing the source, Google, Microsoft, etc. would already be able to use it as a back-end without telling you, they wouldn't strictly need source for that.
The model I have in mind would run off the user's hardware as a p2p network, so keeping the source hidden from competitors for a while is important as I'd like to use this decade's technology without it turning up in Bing unpaid for. (Lookup the google sting on bing with false search terms going through explorer getting results in bing.)
That would defeat progress, as I would not be rewarded for my contribution to innovation. Where you would get progress in terms of feature bloat in corporate software, like ms office or itunes.
You would not see independent programmers contributing their innovation for profit, we'd see a drying up of innovation in favour of bloatware, and we all might as well be using windows.
james g wrote:
If you don't release the source, what are you really contributing to progress anyway? Progress is made by 'standing on the shoulders of giants'--by taking what has gone before and improving on it. If you don't release the source, it is not possible to build upon it. Your work is just a dead end, so what real progress has been made?
Well, I think a source bounty system would be an acceptable reward for contributing to the public domain. But I would require that any contributions to the source be made available to the original developer, so innovation can be spread evenly.