Theft of free software
Open-source software doesn’t mean that it is free. Free software is free as in ‘free speech’, not necessarily as ‘free beer’. However, I am going to write about theft of a free software, not as in ‘free speech’, but free as in ‘free beer‘. So, can free software, that costs nothing, be stolen? In my point of view, yes, it can.
We, humans, like free stuff. We don’t give anything and in return we get something. Pretty good deal. But is it politically or emotionally correct? Not quite, and we know it. That’s why we think of it as a gift. Gifts are nice.
In Linux world, vast majority of software is free of cost, free in both ways, as a ‘free speech’ and as a ‘free beer’.
So, why we get stuff for free, as a gift? Why have developers worked hard on something and just gave it away? If a motivation wasn’t a money, what could it be?
Then most of us comes to the conclusion that developers wants glory. Yes, names to be recognized, so that users can say “oh, that was the guy that made it”. Well, that conclusion is (mostly) wrong.
Real scenario is somewhat different from what most of us expect. Usually, we have some problem that we need to resolve, and we can’t find ready solution for exactly what we need. If person is a developer or hobby programmer, it tries to make it. Problem can be simple as making some ‘to do’ list that can be shared between home and work computer, making a driver for daughter’s camera or anything else you can imagine. Then after it’s working, it’s just made public. In addition to that, someone else may like the code, upgrade it etc.
Other scenario is that developer(s) have an idea, think that might be useful or that there is a lack of program like that, writes the code, and publish it.
Whatever scenario you think of, probably exists. Most of the free software developers already work for some closed-source company, and free code is made in a free time. Some of them are students, learning to code, others do it for fun.
So, if this is a situation, how come that free software can be stolen?
Simply, just taking the program without giving anything back, is emotional theft.
All people likes to feel useful. Developing program without any later feedback feels like wasted time. Doesn’t do good for motivation either.
How can you ‘buy’ free software that you use and like?
Well, simple e-mail to the developer “dude, I like your proggy” is often quite enough.
But there are better ways to give something back. Ways which will benefit more then just one individual.
Here is what you can do, if you like the program:
- Send bug reports, suggestions and wishlist to the developer(s)
- Write a review
- Write small “How to” at Wikipedia, blog or some forum.
- Make a donation, or buy their t-shirt
If you can do anything else that will benefit users or developers of application, and that is not written there, please do.
In open-source / free-software communities, any help is welcome.