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Une Société de Développeur GPL ?

Posté le vendredi 10 octobre 2003 par Bruno Mery
Date: Sat, 26 Aug 2000 20:51:53 EDT
Subject: free developers / free company discussion
X-Mailer: AOL 4.0 for Windows 95 sub 112

I am a securities attorney in the Internet and online services group at the
Securities and Exchange Commission in Washington, DC and published author on
Internet and free/open software issues. I have started a discussion area on
the formation of a democratic entity for the development of free/open
software. We discuss a free company to be formed that will be owned and run
by all developers worldwide, democratically. All the software will be
licensed under the GPL. And the free company will pay developers to develop
free software.

The discussion on the free company was started with Richard Stallman some
months ago and the emails over 22 days between us are posted there to start
the community thinking about the ideas. Some highlights from the emails are
included below.

If you are interested in these issues, join the dialogue at Subscribe by sending an email to to receive and post without having to
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some information].

Best regards,

Tony Stanco


Highlights from the Stallman/Stanco email discussions on the formation of a
business entity by free developers, of free developers, for a free world.

The series talks about how to pay free developers, what kind of free
institution is appropriate for free developers, and how to defeat



I think we've achieved the outlines of the basic strategy. Let's recap where
I think we are after all these emails. If I have something wrong, please
correct me.

1. Proprietary code is the enemy. It must be destroyed for developers and the
world to be free. Open source is an ally.

2. Developers can be paid salaries and/or stock options to work on free code
without violating the core principles of free code.

3. Mergers and acquisitions of proprietary companies are not objectionable in
defeating proprietary.

4. A company of free developers, by free developers, for free developers is
an acceptable vehicle to achieve the ends of free code.

5. A requirement in the certificate of incorporation that all code owned by
the company is licensed under GPL or other tying to FSF is appropriate to
ensure that the core principles of free software are observed going forward
and to protect from slipping back to proprietary.

6. A democratic, free developer run corporation does not require special
safeguards to protect ordinary world citizens.



So I don't think that we should give up on everyone who is not a total
idealist.  Many people can become partly idealists, if we show them
the reason to be, and they can do a tremendous amount of good.



   What does FSF think of direct developer
compensation in the form of salaries and stock options? I think there is a
growing consensus among my respondents that this is OK.


I see nothing wrong about it.



In general, all else being equal, I think it is good for programmers
who develop free software to get paid, to have more money rather than
less.  I practiced a couple of kinds of free software business in the
1980s because I think it is a good thing if I have money, and what is
legitimate for me is legitimate for other people.



The Free Software Movement and the Open Source Movement have
completely different political and philosophical views.  On that
ground, they are our rivals.  We can and do work with them on some
practical projects, but our focus is on building the demand for
freedom--something which they ridicule.

This is not one battle, it is a long war.  So it is crucial for the
long haul to remember what we are fighting for: freedom to cooperate.
Right now the community is tending to forget this goal--because only
the Free Software Movement and the GNU Project talk about it.  The
Open Source Movement does not recognize this goal.

In order to talk about it, we must distinguish ourselves from
the Open Source Movement.  If we are lumped in with them, people
will assume we agree with them, and we will fail to get our
message across.



In the end, I think to really win the war we have to break the business model
of proprietary. The support of business and investors will be needed for that
battle so they must be made allies and not alienated.

As I have suggested before, I think uniting and paying the developers (both
free and proprietary) is the way to defeat proprietary. Developers are the
important piece in software development, not the companies. Without
developers, companies cannot create software. Companies keep code secret to
divide developers and keep them weak and dependent. However, developers need
to be paid to support their families, so they acquiesce to the companies
treatment. In being paid by the company, they have some allegiance to the
company even while they resent being enslaved by it. If we pay developers to
produce free software, they will repudiate their old masters. If they
repudiate proprietary companies, proprietary companies die.

In my opinion, the only obstacle for free to defeat proprietary is that free
must pay developers. This shouldn't sound like a radical statement. People
need to be paid for their work, since they need money to support their

Since proprietary software is currently only a necessary evil that divides
and enslaves developers, what developer would work for proprietary, if he is
paid to be free?

The walls of proprietary come tumbling down if we achieve this one feat. That
is why I keep pressing for a new free company, which will pay developers to
produce free software. I don't understand why you have a resistance to it?
You said that you have no objection to developers being paid. And the current
open companies don't really pay the developers, they just piggy-back on their
unpaid work. Also, the current open companies are not philosophically
committed to free software. The current open companies just want to replace
the current proprietary companies and are using unpaid labor of the
developers to do so.

If you want free to success without paying developers, I think you are
expecting too much from them. They may be good people, but you can't expect
them to give up the livelihood that supports their families. That is just
expecting each one to be a martyr and that's expecting too much.

Ironically, to business/investors, not paying developers just seems nuts.
They don't understand it and that adversely impacts their acceptance of free
software needlessly.

Somehow this money thing has become the obstacle to achieving the goals of
free software and I don't think it needs to be that way.


What do you think of this...?

Imagine free developers united to acquire
proprietary companies, freeing the code and
absorbing proprietary coders into their ranks
with each acquisition.

Imagine them going from proprietary
company to proprietary company across the
landscape continually freeing code and coder
alike, until all code and hackers are free,

Imagine also developers paid to hack free

That's my vision of Hackers-Go-A-Borgin'.

Seriously, I beginning to wonder if the
fastest and surest way to defeat proprietary
wouldn't be by merger and acquisition of
proprietary companies. Taking control of
proprietary companies and re-licensing their
software under GPL will free the code. Once
it is free, it cannot be un-freed. Freeing
proprietary code allows free developers to
improve and integrate it with other GPL
code. Also, the developers of the proprietary
companies could be voluntarily liberated into
free's ranks, if they are paid. Who would
work for proprietary, if they are paid in free?

It's a bold move, but hollowing proprietary
by taking its code and developers should be
considered, I think. If it can work, it would
break the business models of proprietary, so
they will have a difficult time to compete
against it.



I am not sure we talked about how the company would receive revenues to pay
salaries to free developers. My thoughts are that governments, industry
associations, large companies, hardware companies and
service/support/maintenance companies would be willing to provide R&D or
other funds for paying free developers, because of the superior attributes of
free code in their operations. All these entities resent proprietary code and
would welcome an alternative. Since software should be a social good, like
roads for example, rather than a competitive advantage, they understand it is
better as free software, because proprietary code only benefits proprietary



The existing companies have 2 major shortcomings in my mind. The first is how
I got into going hard core on all of this to begin with: there is fundamental
injustice between the free developers doing the work, and the companies,
their management and their investors that disproportionately profit. The
current situation in my mind is exploitative of the developers. The
developers are lead by high ideals by the leaders, while the leaders are
disproportionately benefited. It is what drove me to write my first article
on open source. I see in the rhetoric that developers should give to the
community, but I don't see the leaders living by the same terms. I don't see
them giving up their vast accumulation of wealth that is built on what the
developers do, for the good of the community, which they should do to be
consistent I think. They then use some more rhetoric to justify the
difference between how they live and how the developers live (i.e., they need
to do it so investors/business will support open source). It is a little too
convenient an argument for me. My first article dealt with that and compared
it to the Marxist leaders, who used the same maneuvers. It took the Russian
people 4 generations to catch on. This is the hypocrite argument I made in
the article that incorporated your "poverty" as a foil, to which you

The second shortcoming results from the education I got at your hand. I
originally thought open was better than free. Partly because I misunderstood
what you meant by free (i.e., I thought you were anti-property rights) which
fed into the same argument about the failed Russian Marxist experiment.
Partly because I didn't fully understand what open was in fact doing. Open is
partly free, partly proprietary. My guess is that they will go completely
proprietary once they are successful enough to do so. While I think they are
a useful ally against proprietary now. There will have to be a second battle
with them to ensure that they do not try to replace the current proprietary
with their own. Their corporate structure is set-up to do that. They will
have a hard time resisting that, because of fiduciary duties to their
shareholders to do what is in the best interests of their shareholders even
if that harms free software. That is why I think the corporate charter has to
state from the beginning that the software owned by the company has to be
licensed under GPL. Placing that in the charter cuts-off the fiduciary duties
of management to close the code for the benefit of shareholders. You should
understand that any company has only one constituency and that is to serve
the company's shareholders. That is corporate law. I think the current
companies will use that as a rhetorical argument to make free software
eventually proprietary.

I have a different view from the current companies. I think that free
developers can join together to create their own company. They will own the
company. They will be the shareholders to which the fiduciary duties are
owed. They will benefit from the work they do. While the current companies
have the developers on the side as they milk them like beasts of burden, I
would place them squarely in the center of the company.



Strategically right now it seems, proprietary has the
advantage, because they are the only ones that pay
for full time developers. That's a huge advantage.
To displace that, free needs to offer that on top
of what it offers to developers now. As I've said
before, who would work for proprietary if they
are paid in free? Proprietary empowers the
companies, while it divides and disenfranchises
the developers. The developers only by necessity
accept that condition.



The whole world is watching to see if a hero will appear to
be a Microsoft slayer. The Justice Department, the
government, the French, the Chinese, the press, the users,
the companies, the developers, the students, the academics,
all want to see a revolution. They will support a revolution
now. Why do you think open source received such a
thunderous reception? This is the time to strike, when the
whole world's attention is on the perniciousness of
proprietary. Once the world's spotlight moves on and
Microsoft regains its footing, it may be another 20 years
before free software will get another opening, if it ever does
again. If we don't strike now, I don't know when we will get
as good a chance. I think the press will play it as a popular
revolution--free developers against a tyrant. A new storming
of the Bastille. Isn't that what you've been saying along.
That developers must be free? The rest of the world has
finally caught up with you and now you have second

By the way, who do you think will be against us? The only
ones who want to perpetuate the hegemonies are the
proprietary companies themselves. The rest of the world is
rightfully afraid of their growing power. Academics in
particular now see the light. Big business is especially afraid
of secret code running their core activities, since Y2K. If we
give them a model that they can understand, we will have all
the support we'll need.

Also, if we free proprietaries' developers, how does
proprietary compete? That is the reason why I was so
adamant that free developers have to be paid. The
proprietary companies are the only ones that want to keep
this going as it is, and if they lose their developers they will
be hollowed from within and they won't have the power to
maintain their evil empires.

Let's turn our energies to manifesting the destiny.

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