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IS: On the importance of an open internet [[WAS: On the importance of Open Source software]]

December 28, 2011

So… in various ways, I’ve been at the edges of the Open Source Software phenomena for awhile.  I cut my teeth as a software engineer compiling linux code and drivers from source while learning about the history  of “unix”, “the internet”, and all that cool stuff; this was in tandem with writing my own open source software “for fun”.  My first industry trade-show was a Linux World, and I have had thoughts about intellectual property, software, the interwebs, and all that, for some time now, since before that first trade-show…since before an email I wrote to a CEO at a company I worked for changed the path of my career back towards “technologist” and away from sales…

A few weeks ago, realizing that I had been running silent, starting a new job, etc.. I came across people that actually did not “get” open source software.  Not that they disagreed with the concept on principle, and not that they were non-programmer types (who are simply ‘less likely’ to get it–not a slight..people who don’t deal with computers in terms of “source code” have no frame of reference for “open source code”), but a person or two who *should* know what the conversation is actually about, and don’t.  That was when I committed myself (okay, really, I didn’t, as that draft sat for another 3-4 weeks, and now this one is being written in its stead), to writing something about it.  Something all of my readers could “grok” (yeah, that term came to public usage, coined by Heinlein, via the internet hacker (read: programmer) culture), despite whatever background they came from…

“On the importance of open source” was to be a writing experiment and a chance to post some new insights, were I to come up with them.  Find a pulpit, and hopefully not preach to the choir.   It is still an awesome topic.  The gist is, the source code of a computer program can be made available to other programmers, the net result being more people (eyeballs) looking at and improving the source code (recipe) that makes the programs on our computers work.  I have a lot more to say about that, but something else is in the wind.

(HR:3261) Stop Online Piracy Act:

You see, open source is an important ingredient that lead to the creation of the internet as we know it.   An incredible medium for communication, speech, commerce and thought, the internet something the hackers built.  With open source tools.  You see .. it ties in.  But as has been warned, the “free and open” internet would only be free for so long.  For so long as it could defy and route around interventions that would restrict its reach and capabilities.

Since this new place that defied jurisdiction came to the scene, there have been people interested in curtailing it.   “Intellectual Property” rights holders and “content manufacturers” (of all sorts) feared what this place would do to their business model.  The model is based on “closed”.  It is based on creating artificial scarcity, and marketing that as product.   On the surface, this bill goes up against the big bad pirates, and protects the starving artists from their rapiers and steel.  What it really does is give broad capabilities to “take down” websites from the internet without legal justification.  You can take down a site just by *claiming* their is infringing material (material that infringes a copyright, not even sure if it has to be your own).  This broad reaching censorship made law is  a true strike against the open internet, and a strike from the hand of free society at the very heart of free society.  For that, it is time to (call, email, show up at the office of, tweet, facebook message, google+ post, fax …) your senators and representatives– before doing any (or all) of these things is also no longer protected speech and redress 😉


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