Query: Do "Open Source" Proponents Themselves Work for Free, or Hypocritically Accept Paychecks From Their Employers?
There is a growing worldwide campaign referred to as the "Open Source" movement, of which many Americans haven't yet heard. If successful, however, the consequences of this movement would be catastrophic for consumers in America and across the globe.
This week, exactly twenty years to the day since President Reagan thundered his legendary "tear down this wall" speech in Berlin, the Memorial to the Victims of Communism was dedicated in Washington, D.C. Casual observers will be forgiven for assuming that Marxist doctrine has long been buried.
Unfortunately, the worldwide assault upon property rights continues, albeit under more innocuous-sounding names.
Prominent among these is the so-called "Open Source" campaign, a narcissistic movement that explicitly aims to eradicate intellectual property (IP) rights such as software patents and copyrights. If these modern-day Marxists get their way, companies such as Microsoft and Apple, which have revolutionized the way that we enjoy our lives and improved the way that we work, would simply cease to exist.
According to Open Source advocates, software innovations are somehow different than other forms of private property, and should be redistributed to the general public free of IP restrictions. In other words, software in their view should not be the basis for profit-making in any form. But don't take our word for it. The following appears on their own website:
The Free Software Foundation (FSF) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization ... to carry out our worldwide mission to preserve, protect and promote the freedom to use, study, copy, modify, and redistribute computer software, and to defend the rights of all free software users.
Predictably, the FSF targets Microsoft in particular, apparently believing that Microsoft's popularity among consumers derives not from free choice, but rather some sinister monopolistic plot foisted upon unwitting, helpless dupes like you and me.
Apparently, adherents of this movement never received news of Communism's downfall. Alternatively, perhaps they are among those who believe that Marxist disregard of property rights can finally work if we just allow them to give it one more college try.
What they fail to realize, however, is the lesson re-established time after time throughout history - that respect for property rights constitutes the backbone of human advancement and progress.
At its core, IP is what enables people to recover the enormous amounts of money, time and effort that they expended in creating technological inventions. Without this right to profit from one's blood, sweat and tears, there is simply no incentive to create in the first place.
For example, would Thomas Edison or Alexander Graham Bell have toiled for countless hours if they had no prospect of prospering from their efforts? Would each of us head to work every morning without the prospect of earning compensation for our work? Of course not.
Intellectual property also prevents free riders from misappropriating other people's creations, essentially constituting theft. After being created, IP can subsequently be sold, bought, leased, applied in new inventions, licensed or utilized in other products for sale. In this way, it is no different than other forms of physical property, such as mechanical inventions, land, buildings and products.
Intellectual property rights are thus important because they preserve incentives to create, and lead to ever-increasing amounts of human innovation, such as computers, entertainment, software and other forms of art.
To hear Open Source advocates tell it, however, IP rights are somehow inapplicable to technology. They believe that IP rights somehow impede, rather than inspire, technological growth. They further view software innovations as some sort of "community property" that anyone can appropriate for their own revision and redistribution.
How these activists explain the remarkable amount of technological advancement over the past decade, let alone the past century, is a good question.
At first glance, this issue may strike everyday Americans as an issue to be resolved amongst techies. Consumers are disinterested in philosophical battles over IP rights, and prefer to go about their lives utilizing the technological wonders made available to them on the free market.
Unfortunately, these very technological advancements are jeopardized by attacks against intellectual property rights in the critical field of software. It is therefore critical that the U.S. government and American consumers protect robust intellectual property rights across the world.June 15, 2007
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