In the past years some commercial enterprises saw that their proprietary business models were endangered by Open Source development methodologies and Free Software licenses. To fight both they purposly started to produce and spread FUD (Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt) about the quality, legal integrity, performance, functionality, origin, future development, liabilities and most every other property that can or cannot be attributed to Free and Open Source Software. This has been ongoing, sometimes as large scale ad campaigns to damage the reputation of Free and Open Source Software as it seemed to be the only way to get rid of it. This did not work out but we all still suffer from the damage that has been done.
Examples of Wrong Terminology and Wording
- Commercial Software as opposed to Free Software
- Free Software can and is used in commercial activites. Even the (commonly referred to as) most restricted GNU GPL explicitly states that commercial use of the software is legal and even very much encouraged. The reference here is to price not liberty.
- Reference to Open Source as "unlicensed" software
- Software can only be termed as Open Source if it has explicitly been licensed as such. Therefore saying Open Source is unlicensed software is simply wrong.
Conflicting Commercial Interests
Nowadays a healthy Business ecology has grown around Free and Open Source Software. These have a vital interest in promoting Free Software licensing models and Open Source development methodologies. Other industries and businesses rely on proprietary licensing models and closed source development methodologies. Both business models are based on legal valid interests, one on open development methodologies and granting freedom of access the other on nondisclosure and restricted access.
Nondisclosure makes software development a secretive job. The idea is to keep the knowledge of how things can be done most efficiently or performing to a closed in-group in the hope that the large out-group will pay for the priviledge to use this know how (usually in a boxed, closed form). To enforce nondisclosure (secrecy) legal enforcement (public laws) are put to use that have been designed to protect material property against theft. This especially weird as it is virtually impossible to steal software because it can always be duplicated (copied) without loss of the original information. Something that is practically not possible with physical things.
Open Development Methodology
Open development methodologies work the other way round. By opening access to everybody (all who are interested), maximum possible feedback (peer review) is generated. The result is heavily tested software and a wealth of practical functionality with minimal fancy overhead.
Licensed and Unlicensed Software
The copyright of a software defines who claims to have the rights. The license of a software defines its distribution terms. All proprietary software is obviously copyrighted. Users can acquire limited and restricted usage licenses for a fee.
All software that claims to be Open Source or Free Software is also licensed software. It inherits that status by applying a Free and Open Source Software license. Therefore it is not correct to compare proprietary software and unlicensed software. The only virtually license free software is in the Public Domain, which is a regional legal definition that does not apply in many parts of the world.