Open Source and the Big Bad Wolf Prashant Iyengar Alternative Law Forum Bangalore, India Presentation Outline • Modes of Software Production/Distribution – Proprietary – Open Source – Free Software – Freeware and Piracy Commons based peer production • 4 Critiques of Open Source Basic Propositions • Information underlies the very possibility of individual self-direction. • How we make information, how we get it, how we speak to others, and how others speak to us are core components of the shape of freedom in any society • Emerging models of information and cultural production, radically decentralized and based on emergent patterns of cooperation and sharing, but also of simple coordinate existence are beginning to take on an ever larger role in how we produce meaning in the networked information economy. • Individuals are using their newly expanded practical freedom to act and cooperate with others in ways that improve the practiced experience of democracy, justice and development, a critical culture and community. Basic Propositions • The belief that it is possible to make something valuable happen in the world, and the practice of actually acting on that belief, represent a qualitative improvement in the condition of individual freedom. They mark the emergence of new practices of self-directed agency as a lived experience going beyond mere formal permissibility and theoretical possibility. • The Internet as a technology, and the networked information economy as an organisational and social model of information and cultural production promise the emergence of a substantial alternative platform for the public sphere (which was never, until now, distributed, or independent) • “Code is law” - as computers are becoming increasingly embedded in our world, what the code does, allows, and prohibits, controls what we may or may not do in a powerful way. • Open Networked communications are intrinsic rather than merely instrumental to development. Modes of Software Distribution/Production • Proprietary/Closed Software – Produces and sells ‘canned’ software – eg. Microsoft Windows. (About two-thirds of US industry revenues in software development comes from activities that the Economic Census describes as (1) Customizing, modifying, testing, supporting software (2) onsite maintenance and (3) professional and technical computer related advice and computer training) – Impossible/Impermissible to view the “Source code” (human readable version of software which enables study/modification). (Online Policy Group v. Diebold) – Impermissible/Illegal to redistribute freely. – Produced on industrial model of information production Modes of Software Distribution/Production • Free Software (a social movement) – Richard Stallman and the GNU Project • Early days (till mid 70s) computer programs habitually shared among developers. Gradually started being closed) • Richard Stallman, a researcher at the MIT Artificial Intelligence Lab, found this closing of software source code intolerable. • In 1984 he started the GNU (Gnu’s Not Unix) project to develop a complete Unix-like operating system which would be Free Software. • In 1985, Stallman established the Free Software Foundation (FSF) to work to preserve, protect and promote Free Software; the FSF then became the primary organizational sponsor of the GNU Project. The GNU project developed many important software programs, including the GNU C compiler (gcc) and the text editor emacs.. Modes of Software Distribution/Production • Free Software (contd.) – Definition • • • • Freedom to run program Freedom to Study and Adapt Freedom to redistribute copies to 'help neighbour' Freedom to improve the program (facilitates distributed development.) – Refers to Liberty not price – Non-free software is a social problem Modes of Software Distribution/Production • Open Source – Non OS software is a suboptimal solution – Definition (Open Source Initiative) • Free Redistribution – Free as in Speech, not beer – Right to sell as a part of a larger package • Access to Source Code (Freedom to tinker) – Must be in a form that enables a programmer to modify • Must permit derived works • Must not discriminate against any persons • Must not restrict to a field of endeavour • Technology neutral etc. Modes of Software Distribution/Production • Examples – Firefox Browser – Apache – (Server for 60% websites on the internet) – MySQL – One of the most popular databases – GNU/Linux is the #1 server OS on the public Internet – PHP is the web’s #1 Server-side Scripting Language – Google, Amazon.com and CNN.com run their web servers on GNU/Linux – Sourceforge.net – website that is the most popular hosting-meeting place for such projects has close to 100,000 registered projects. • Benefits – Quality – Support (Bugs fixed faster) – Cost - OSS/FS costs 24-35% less to initially acquire, upgrade – Security – Politically ‘neutral’ – Users not dictated by agenda of producers • Motives – 78 percent of developers join the free software community "to learn and develop new skills – 30 percent participate in the free software community to "improve job opportunities" – 30 percent derive income directly from this participation and a further 18 percent derive indirect income Open Source Paradigm • “Commons Based Peer Production” – Radical decentralization of intelligence in our communications network and the centrality of information to advanced economic activity are leading to a new stage of the information economy – the networked information economy. – Free software offers a glimpse at a more basic and radical change. It suggests that the networked environment makes possible a new modality of organizing production: radically decentralized, collaborative, and nonproprietary; based on sharing resources and outputs and among widely distributed, loosely connected individuals who cooperate with each other without relying on either market signals or managerial commands. Open Source Paradigm • “Commons based” – Not built around the asymmetric exclusion typical of property – Inputs and outputs shared freely or conditionally in an institutional form that leaves them equally available for all to use as they chose. • “Peer Production” – Production systems that depend on individual action that is selfselected and decetralized rather than hierarchically assigned. – Collaboration is not managed by any one manager, but is the outcome of all contributors reading the same Internet based forum or using the same software. – Not entirely new: Science involves people contributing incrementally, independently deciding what to research, bringing their collaboration together and creating science. Open Source Paradigm - Examples • NASA Clickworkers – Experiment to see if public volunteers each working for a few minutes can do do some routine science analysis that would normally be done by a scientist or graduate student working for months on end – Users could mark craters on maps of Mars and classify craters. – First six months more than 85,000 users visited. – 1.9 million entries. – Analysis showed that the quality was “virtually indistinguishable from imputs of a geologist with years of experience” • Wikipedia – – – – • Slashdot – – • Users forward articles which they rate. Peer-produced accreditation system for technology related content. Project Gutenberg – – • Enables anyone to edit any page. All version stored making changes easily visible and reversion easy. By June 2005, almost 630,000 articles in English. (1.6 million in all languages) Vandalism corrected within minutes. Nearly 13000 texts of books made available fo free. Volunteers submit scanned version which are then collaboratively proofread. Open Source Beer Open Source Paradigm • Networked information economy makes individuals better able to do things for and by themselves, and makes them less susceptible to manipulation by others. • Increases the relative role that each individual is able to play in authoring his or her life. Increases the range and diversity of things that individuals can do by themselves. • Proviedes non-proprietary alternative sources of communications capacity and information alongside proprietary sources. Reduces reliance on and control by mass-media. • Increases range and diversity of information available to individuals by enabling mainstream and fringe producers to “publish”. This diversity provides a richer basis for individuals to form critical judgments about how to live their lives. Caveats • Openness can be discussed as a liberal principle. As an intention it is the dogma of our times. However what happens once we’ve passed the point of good intentions that openness is the better way to go? Who are the losers and gainers of this concept? • It is not hard to read the celebrations of inclusion as rhetoric that hides actual existing exclusion mechanisms. It is not hard to sum up the complaints. Open Access only exists for those who have made it to the machine and are literate enough to login. The freedom of free software is only for those who have the technical skills to write computer code. – Geert Lovink Caveats • Open Systems are really ‘isolated’ systems where the tendency is to maximum disorder for those inside them. • In physics entropy is understood as an indicator of the randomness of molecules in an isolated system; and randomness, according to the 2nd law of thermodynamics, always increases, never decreases. In other words, an isolated system will always tend towards maximum disorder – the greatest homogeneity known. • As much as the internet and the blogosphere appear to be ‘open‘ spaces with infinite possibilities, we must always be aware that they have the capacity to be quite the opposite; vast isolated (and isolating) mechanized systems, which in addition to facilitating powerful operations of identification and control, also obfuscate optimism, progress and order by alienating people from each other, from their tendency to be open in the everyday world. – Kenneth Werbin Caveats • Software needs to be cheap. While ‘clean’ software addresses the imbalance of power between the developer and the user, cheap software allows more social groups to use that power than simply those with money. • At the centers of technological development this is not such an important point because the connection between knowledge and money is more direct. • The situation is different in developing countries where knowledge is more abundant than money. Open Source software because it is cheaper, allows more peole to use the amplifying power in computers. Here, however it has to compete with pirated commercial software which is also very cheap. Pirate Aesthetics • In most cases the reason for the fall in price of electronic goods, computers, great access to material, increase in photocopiers is not caused in any manner through any radical revolution such as free software or open content, but really through the easier availability of standard mainstream commodities like Microsoft and Hollywood. • In a country like India where censorship still prevails, the grey market emerges as the domain in which free speech can circulate without restriction. Some of the biggest clients of the grey market are renowned filmmakers who have started to look beyond Hollywood. Pirate Aesthetics • • Piracy as a faciliatator of infrastructure in conditions of scarcity. “Piracy is not simply parasitic but generative, it doesn't simply corrupt but builds and is not merely a neutral conduit of traffic but is a mediating force” Brian Larkin. Pirate Aesthetics • Piracy rates in Asia – India – 70% – Indonesia – 84% • Recalling Amartya Sen – Development is a process of expanding the real freedoms that people enjoy. Development requires the removal of major sources of unfreedom. – Freedoms of different kinds strengthen one another. • Political freedoms (in the form of free speech/elections) help to promote economic security. • Economic facilities can help to generate general abundance as well as public resources for social facilities. – With adequate social opportunities individuals can actively shape their own destiny without being passive recipients of cunning development programs. – There is a strong rationale for recognizing the positive role of free and sustainable agency and even constructive impatience. Conclusions • Open doesn’t mean chaotic let alone democratic. How can we read openness as a new power modality and not merely as an idealistic posture? • Whereas production of open source code in India is still at the low end, should not shy us away from putting associated issues on the agenda for instance open access to documents. • The link between pleasure, desire, aspiration and trespass has always been a complicated one, and the closer that the transgressive act is to the domain of pleasure the more difficult it seems for it to be redeemed socially. Thus while the question of medicie and textbooks are far easier to deal with, movies, music and software get characterised as being outside of the moral economy of development. The demand for low costs entertainment commodities is seen to be one which is normatively more difficult to sustain.