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    This is probably illegal, and definitely evil. Maybe you can afford to live off savings, but you’re undercutting people who can’t.

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      That’s kind of a downer. Somebody wrote a program because they wanted to and that makes them evil? Sign me up for the evil league of evil.

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        Yeah… I see the point about undercutting, but emotionally I sympathize a lot with the author. Would you have the same feelings if they’d done this work without Apple’s resources, and released it as open-source? It’s not as though Apple asked them to, and nobody else was going to be hired to do it, since it was a cancelled project.

        I’d draw an analogy to independent artists and writers who are still learning to charge what their work is worth, while facing pressure from “employers” who are constantly talking about the alleged value of working for exposure.

        It’s a horrible, unjust situation, but blaming the people who are working for free (or cheap) isn’t the right way forward. Absolutely, encourage people to charge for their work, but don’t put the world’s problems on them.

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          I don’t want to pin the world’s problems on them, but such people do need to be told that their actions are hurting their compatriots. Compare the way this is formalised by unions (e.g. musicians, actors) that set minimum pay rates and require their members to not work for free (and explain why).

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          It’s really important that people not be allowed to volunteer to do tasks that are indistinguishable from paid jobs, because otherwise pretty soon they’ll be “volunteer"ing.

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            That’s it. Ban all the volunteers from contributing to llvm and webkit. From now on, Apple employees only.

            None of the open source work I do is distinguishable from paid work. In fact, sometimes I get paid and sometimes I “volunteer”.

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              The volunteers who contribute to open source projects are trivially distinguishable from “volunteers” who contribute to Apple’s products by all of the following:

              1. They, rather than Apple, own the code they contribute. (This point is just one good reason that CLAs are a very bad idea.)
              2. The project in question is open-source and freely available to the general public, rather than a proprietary Apple product.
              3. They’re not generally working in Apple’s offices using Apple’s resources. (Obviously there are more exceptions to this one.)

              In general, if you don’t own whatever you’re creating, you should get paid to create it, because @lmm is right: it sets extraordinarily bad precedents (and is generally illegal) for corporations to get free work out of people under the guise of “volunteering”, no matter how actually voluntary it may be.

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                So, uh, who owns the code to graphing calculator?

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                  Fascinating question which had me re-reading the article carefully. The postscript in small print answers it:

                  Postscript: After the events described, we made everything retroactively legitimate by licensing the software to Apple for distribution. Pacific Tech started a few years later, and continued to develop Graphing Calculator, both in new free versions that Apple bundled with Mac OS 8 and Mac OS 9, and commercial releases. Visit here to download the software.

                  So it sounds like the creators owned it, at least initially. This doesn’t answer whether Apple paid for that license, and perhaps the story is better that way.

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                    They may not have: those who used the Graphing Calculator on Classic Mac OS will remember that it was actually a restricted version that could only graph quite simple equations (probably acceptable for secondary education), and if you tried to do anything more complex it would prompt you to buy a full licence from Pacific Tech.

                    Since Apple was only shipping this cut-down version, Pacific Tech may well have just seen it as free advertising.

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                      I remember, as a highschool student, deriving the equation for a torus so I could see it in that program. :) I never ran into the restrictions. That may have been a while after they started shipping it, though.

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                  Re CLAs, it’s my understanding that signing a CLA does not transfer ownership of the code. You are merely signing a license agreement, giving them a license to use your code.

                  What other objections do you have to CLAs? I havent looked very much into them.

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                    You are exactly correct (by my understanding, anyway, which is certainly not comprehensive). The problem is that it blurs the line about who owns the code. If you “own” it but some other entity has a no-rights-reserved license to do whatever they want with it, how meaningful is your ownership?

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                      Sure. But if it’s open source under a non-restrictive license, making the idea of ownership not apply to it is part of the point. I feel like talking about who legally holds copyright on open-source projects isn’t relevant to a discussion of the externalities of them.

                      That still leaves the “in Apple’s offices, using Apple’s resources” distinction, and I think that’s a good one. But I think @tedu said it well on the other half of this thread, that Apple clearly didn’t ask for or expect this to happen. We’re allowed to look at specific cases and find ways that general rules don’t apply to them. :)

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                So all open source work is undercutting paid employees and is therefore evil?

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                  There is a strong case to be made that this so. How would you try to argue in support of that, just for funsies?

                  As I get older this line of rhetoric becomes more interesting.

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                    I refer you to objectivism. Altruism is immoral.

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                      Nah, with respect, that’s the general case.

                      What’s the specific harm done to us as developers by those (perhaps even including ourselves!) developing open-source software?

                      How can those harms be mitigated?

                      What are the externalities foisted upon the consumer for those mitigations?

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                        Ah. I’m not sure. If you start with a position that everybody has a right to work, then by doing free work, you deprive somebody of that right. Don’t personally agree, and it leads to some weird conclusions. I should litter in the park so that more groundskeepers can be hired?

                        There is another angle wherein a company exploits workers. If Apple had said, “it’s a shame that calculator won’t ship, but maybe if you finished it up in your free time…” That would be quite different. But if there’s a bait and switch in this story, it’s the other. “I made this calculator, it would be a shame for you not to ship it.”

                        Along those lines, I dislike the “github is your resume” battle cry. Working for free in the hopes that some company will pick your framework of the week and start paying you is a deleterious means of organizing a workforce.

                        This harms consumers by creating a lot of product churn. There are tons of causes for that, of course, and this is just one. Resume padding is as old as resumes, but it creates an incentive to spend more effort on the open source components your company uses instead of the product it creates. Then you can get a higher paid job doing the same at another company, and so forth, while never creating consumer facing value.

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                      In support of open source, or against it?

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                        Against open source–see my sibling reply to tedu for a better prompt.

            Stories with similar links:

            1. Graphing Calculator Story (2004) via calvin 1 year ago | 10 points | 1 comment