Re: On illegal software in an academic assignment ...

Subject: Re: On illegal software in an academic assignment ...
From: Michael Gogins (
Date: Sun Nov 13 2005 - 11:29:40 EST

I develop music software (contribute to Csound, author of Silence and CsoundVST).

I started out trying to sell my software as shareware. This brought two problems: I didn't actually make much money, and I needed to use proprietary libraries that I couldn't afford, such as compression and math.

I switched to contributing to Csound, which had for many years an ambiguous license (anyone could get the sources, but only a few people were permitted to redistribute them). I and others lobbied to change the Csound license to true open source, which happened.

I now find that Csound has improved in quality thanks to Istvan Varga, Victor Lazzarini, Steven Yi, of course John ffitch, others, and myself. This in no small part is because we have access to other third-party software such as libsndfile that we do not need to pay for.

It's too simple to say that either open source is always better or commercial is always better. I know (having used both) that Microsoft Office is superior to OpenOffice. I know that Python, PHP, MySQL, and Apache are excellent because I have used them (and I have also used the Microsoft .NET platform and Internet Information Server). I suppose it is true that Max/MSP is better than PD, though I've only used PD.

However if one's goal is simply to write software, open source is a better way to go because one can leverage all other open source software without cost. This is a positive feedback situation. I think in the long run open source will displace much proprietary software, especially in research, artistic, and nonprofit situations.

The intellectual property situation is a conundrum. I do not approve unlicensed copying of any files, software or music or whatever. One reason I worked for a change in the Csound license is because I did not approve what I myself and others were doing, redistributing Csound sources without permission.

If we as a society wish to reward innovators and foster innovation (the stated legal justification for both patent and copyright law), then we need to deal with a situation that has radically changed thanks to the perfection of digital copies. We are not doing this, but we need to. The solution is NOT just to let anyone copy anything unless we as a society agree that is the way to go, otherwise we are just tolerating theft on a massive scale, which will have a corrupting effect on us all.


-----Original Message-----
From: Richard Wentk <>
Sent: Nov 13, 2005 9:49 AM
Subject: Re: On illegal software in an academic assignment ...

At 11:31 13/11/2005, you wrote:
>Absolutely - as far as software is concerned, open-source is invaribly the
>better way, both ethically and pragmatically.

Except that open source is mostly just a synonym for a collection of
programmer's sand pits that are rarely even half as good as the
professionally produced products they're supposed to be replacing.

PD is an excellent case in point. It offers about 25% of Max/MSP. The
'free' part is nice, but really - you're missing out on a lot by not
getting the real thing.

Besides, a rather frightening number of OpenSource projects do what PD did,
which is stall once the original designer and innovator loses interest in
them. Also the 'free' ethic has contributed in a significant way to beliefs
about how software and IP should be 'liberated' from huge corporations.
Which is nonsensical, because for a project like Max/MSP, the only
'corporation' that's suffering is a small one that's more a labour of love
than a headline business with some lumbering moron as a CEO.

So while I'm no fan of huge corporations, I've yet to see any evidence that
OpenSource projects offer *users* - not programmers or web geeks, but end
users - a realistic alternative on the desktop. If there is an ethical and
pragmatic alternative, OpenSource doesn't seem to be it.


This archive was generated by hypermail 2b27 : Sat Dec 22 2007 - 01:46:14 EST