The Original Sin of Free Software

Our very own @dgoldsmith posted this very worthwhile blog post:

I actually took the time to write him an e-mail, without even noticing it’s the same D. Goldsmith here on the forum!

@dgoldsmith, while I have you: Is you blog open source? Would like a PR adding in Twitter and OpenGraph metadata, so links will “onebox” nicely here on the forum and elsewhere?


Ooh, that’s a very nice post. I’ve got a quarter of a blog post called “Not ‘Any Purpose’” waiting for me to finish writing it; I should probably dust that off and finish it at some point.


If you’re trying to quit blogging, this is not the place to hang out!


Great read. The link for the cooperative software license is not working. Any chance someone has a link to it?

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I believe it’s

Welcome to the forum! ;-D

@kemitchell thank you a lot. I actually just emailed the creator behind that project on the original link. Naturally was diversifying my likelihood of success.

Big fan of your writings, which ultimately led me here as I am doing research how to license new development I am doing. Thanks for, indirectly and directly, teaching the technical sorts of “us” how to better prepare and protect our collective intellectual interest in today’s economy.


The only difference between you and me is a few years geeking out on law instead of programming. I was a latchkey kid in a single-parent family, raised by a public school teacher, in a town of 500 in rural Texas. I learned to program computers from badly used O’Reilly books, and eventually got a dial-up connection. Now I’m here.

There’s nothing lawyers know about law and software that you couldn’t learn in a weekend. But I’m not sure how many weekends you want to give it. :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:

Are the resources on Blue Oak Council’s website your go-to recommendations for software developers too?

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That’s a really good question. At least in my mind, most of the BOC stuff has been for organizations, like nonprofits, and lawyers looking to study into the field.

Others’ Writing

Van Lindberg’s book Intellectual Property and Open Source was written specifically for a coder audience. It’s a little out of date, but still worth the read. Especially if you can find a cheap used copy.

For history and broader context, I’m a big fan of Kelty’s Two Bits, which is available free online. Especially Part II of the book. Skip the big academic part at the front situating in the literature, which runs about 100 pages. As Chris told me, “the first 100 pages got me tenure, whereas the middle and last part of the book are the heart of the research and the story”.

Kelty’s most valuable if you’re already familiar with some of the propaganda/philosophy for mass hacker consumption circa 2000. The FSF “philosophy” pages. Eric Raymond’s writings. That sort of thing.

My Stuff

I’ve also done some standalone writing for general and technical audiences: (Give this link a few minutes. I’m moving off of GitHub Pages.)

I probably recommend Heather Meeker’s books more than any others. But those are books by a technical person written for businesspeople. The first chapter of her latest is actually a “just enough software” chapter for non-technies stepping into the subject.

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Thanks, that’s really helpful! I’ve been thinking of reading Heather’s books. I’ll start by reading your work, and later the other books too :slight_smile:

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Don’t sleep on Van Lindberg. As active as I’ve been in Node.js and Ruby, he’s been all over Python. Another coder turned lawyer type.

Here’s one of his talks, from my reading list:


Great talk. Please share more of this kind of stuff.

Could you share some more reading material on the concept? I am not sure I followed your comments completely but they seemed to make a super important point.

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so listening to:


I believe all proprietary software to be an evolutionary dead end. Maybe it’ll take 50 or 100 years, but what happens, just like what happened fairly quickly with Encyclopedia Britannica and other encyclopedias and Wikipedia is that the thing which is open to all and gets everyone working together if it truly gets that humanity working together on the same shared resource, you get the opposite of the tragedy of the commons, versus the field being overrun, each person operating in their own self-interest kills the environment or kills the shared thing, and in digital world, we can do that because we have economics of abundancy versus economics of scarcity. That’s why open source will eventually win every market it’s in.

It seems this is a very different attitude than Goldsmith’s article. Why the difference? Is it the difference between those who strike it big with an OSS project, and those who pour man-years into OSS without much coming back?

It also seems there are two types of projects:

  1. projects where most of it is authored by one company or one organization
  2. projects that develop a community much larger than any company interested in the project

Can #2 be attained with something like the Prosperity license?

(I’ve not thought through these issues much – so more just thinking out loud)


This is an interesting listening. Thanks for sharing.

People in formal work attire smile at the camera and broadcast the idea that ‘preserving software freedom’ is ‘parallel’ with ‘corporations freedom to operate’. That ought to be telling us much more about the social and political structures they have internalized than it does about the subject matter under consideration. I think that’s the difference between propaganda and education right there.