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Open Source Software Vs. Microsoft Empire

3381 words - 14 pages

Open Source Software vs. Microsoft Empire

Introduction

“I think that to try to own knowledge, to try to control whether people are allowed to use it, or to try to stop other people from sharing it, is sabotage. It is an activity that benefits the person that does it at the cost of impoverishing all of society. One person gains one dollars by destroying two dollars’ worth of wealth. I think a person with a conscience wouldn’t do that sort of thing except perhaps if he would otherwise die.”
-- Richard Stallman[1]

Richard Stallman, the best-known figure of free software movement professes an absolute refusal of any notion of commercial software. His idea is revolutionary but straightforward: software should be free, period.

Background Information

In 1970s, the software was firstly subjected as intellectual property. Stallman felt if the software-based computing idea was treated as an intellectual property and controlled as proprietary, then he as a hacker[2] no longer could read the source code, find the problem, and fix the problem in the MIT lab community. It would be a major drawback to the freedom in technology from social and moral perspective. So Stallman quit the job in MIT and found Free Software Foundation[3] in 1984 as a nonprofit organization that provides various types of software such as: GCC compiler and Emacs editor. He created the General Public License (GPL)[4] as a legal document to prevent free software from being turned into proprietary. GPL is also known as copyleft[5]. To most of Stallman’s supporters and open source hackers, “non-free software is a social problem and free software is the solution.”[6]. The main theme of free software is the moral freedom – the cultural and legal freedom to access and modify the source code in order to produce better quality software and redistribute them freely.

Stallman’s ideology in free software sharing inverts the mainstream commercial software industry, which consider source code and underlying instructions are companies’ private properties. These properties are usually guarded strictly and rarely shared under licensing terms. The most typical example of such software companies is the software giant, Microsoft. It sells users the right of using its software in terms of number of copies. In other words, it requires a separate license for each Microsoft Windows that is installed on each computer. The company originally designed the software owns the source code. All bug fixes to the software require a long and ineffective reporting process. In addition, you have to pay a separate fee for any upgrades to the software year after year.

Raise the ethical issue

As a result, there are overwhelming criticisms against Microsoft. People view Microsoft as an unethical business entity by creating “monopoly” and using unfair tactics to control the software market as a whole. Although it is important to realize that even Microsoft does not technically fit the definition of...

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