Every once in a while I connect with my inner geek and read through Slashdot. I often see some interesting arguments by people that understand technical issues. However, this comment, made in response to news that Apple purchased the rights to the Common Unix Printing System (CUPS), provoked me:
The real lesson here is that the idea that the developers should pool their copyrights into one person is flawed. That person can then cash out. The get all the profits for everyone else’s work. The other developers lose out on both getting a piece of the pie if they would have wanted that, and they lose out in the moral sense in that if they didn’t want their code to suddenly become part of a closed source project, they have no say in it anymore.
It seems to me that nothing wrong occurred when Apple purchased this code. CUPS, which is used for printing by many Linux distributions and in the Mac OS X, was an open source project created by Michael Sweet. Sweet presumably owned the copyright to the code, so the code was legally his to sell. Sweet should be rewarded for his labor — throw him a buck or two in the tip cup!
But wait…what about the other developers that contributed code to CUPS? Or — forget the tip cup, did Sweet profit from the entire give-a-penny, take-a-penny tray? Have no fear, as CUPS will continue to be an open-source project under a GPL2/LGPL2 license. So there’s no downside and no moral turpitude — developers that chose to contribute code will still see that code available as free software, and can take and add to it as they wish.
What seems to burn the Slashdot commenter is the fact that there’s an upside. Someone actually made money! It’s a shame that when a technology creator/owner like Sweet gets his reward, and doesn’t infringe on the rights of others to do so, he still draws fire. Oh well, in a world where people often materialistically prize money above all, there are also those who wrongly lust over other people’s money.