Why Are Some Open Source Advocates Hypocrites?

Posted by Justin Carmony on July 18th, 2008

Edit: This article was intended to specifically address certain types of of open source advocates, as stated in the title. This article is not intended to label all open source advocates as hypocrites. See comments by the author below.

Today, and almost every day, I’ll read an article about a proprietary computer company (Microsoft, Apple, etc) and “open source” technologies and communities. Every time I read them I see a large percentage of “user participants” in comments, responses, etc. that make me cringe.

Today’s example was ZDNet’s article “Open source should support Apple over Psystar“. I thought it was a great, simple article:

I have been wracking my brain all day for an angle on this Apple-Psystar story (great work by Adrian Kingsley-Hughes) and I can’t come up with one.

Save this. Open source should be supporting Apple here.

The writer goes on to basically say that the Open Source world relies on users respecting the licenses and agreements made by the people who download their software. Apple has a EULA and Psystar is basically breaking that agreement. She admits that Apple’s EULA is nasty and removes any rights for a user, but that user by choice bought an Apple product.

However, what kind of comments show up?

If you accept Apple EULA you give your soul to the devil (and all your possession must be Apple approved, you cannot use the software to its full potential: like on a REAL computer, you surrender all freedom and you are sucked down into the whorst artificial monopoly ever witness by mankind)

However their kernel choice is an open source kernel, and if this is the part that is being modified then the issue is moot.

Apple doesn’t support Open Source. Where’s my version of iTunes for Linux? Glad to see they were able to take KHTML and make Safari out of it. Where’s the love in return?

There isn’t any. Recompiling iTunes for another *nix kernel would be trivial. It’s missing because they don’t think the open source community matters to them.

I say let ‘em swing in the wind.

hell no open source should not support apple over psystar. i have download the os 10.5 patch myself along with a copy of os 10.5. why would i pay apple 2400 dollars for a computer that is not as fast as the one i am using, that i built for less than 1500 dollars(including xp). as far as the eula is concerned it means nothing to me. i signature is not their. as i have stated before once i buy a piece of software i will do whatever i want with it.

Here is the problem in a nutshell: Proprietary Companies (Microsoft, IBM, etc) have legally fought Open Source to snuff out competition. Open Source people fought back for their rights and defend them. They declared that open source “is about choice!” Its allowing people to choose different software than the typical proprietary solutions. These open source projects have adopted licenses to prevent people abusing their Intellectual Property. While Open Source people might scream at me for saying that, in essence that is what all of these open source projects are: intellectual property that is owned by the public, instead of by a person or corporation.

So open source advocates scream and yell when people violate the intellectual property of the public. However, when it is the intellectual property of a company, especially someone like Microsoft or Apple, that it doesn’t matter because they are “evil.” Regardless of the hundreds, thousands, millions, and billions of dollars they have invested into their IP, its okay to disregard that due to the fact their “business principles don’t line up with mine.”

It is a double standard that thousands and thousands of Open Source users are taking. It is a total crime for a business to abuse open source licenses, however its okay to for users to abuse business’s licenses. When companies mess with open source, open source users run to the law for protection. Yet when the roles are reversed, open source users say “screw the law” and go with their own ‘moral compass’.

My question to these people are: what about my choice?

I’m willing to pay for my copy of windows. I support Microsoft in their endeavor to make better products. I enjoy programming in .NET because it saves me time. That is my choice. I love my MacBook Pro. I like the quickness and responsiveness I get from it. It is my choice to buy from a company whose value is in their Quality Control.

But hypocritical open source advocates tell me I’m wrong and evil because I’m making the “wrong” choice. I’ve seen a serious trend with open source users that instead of arguing for choice, are arguing what I should choose. Yes! By all means you can choose whatever you want to do. If you want to run only on open source technologies, more power to you. But don’t call me “evil” for being willing to pay for software that makes my life easier.

I support open source. I love what it is doing to the technology industry. However, there are many open source users that I cannot stand. Stand up for choice, but stop being hypocrites when telling me that my choices are wrong, because thats not choice at all.

About Justin Carmony

Justin is the Sr. Director of Engineering for the Deseret News and Deseret Digital Media, Previous President of the Utah PHP Usergroup, and frequently works with the Utah Open Source Foundation which organizes the OpenWest Conference. Justin loves just about anything with web technologies from PHP, JavaScript, Node.js, Salt, and managing engineering teams.

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