There has been some interesting discussion on my last post, and I wanted to address some of the new criticisms that were brought up there and elsewhere.
A matter of choice
I’ve now seen it suggested, both here and on other blogs, that Canonical’s decision was wrong because it doesn’t offer the end user an easy way to choose where the sales commission goes. The problem with this criticism is that Banshee didn’t offer any such functionality either, so the lack of choice criticism falls just as much on them as it does on Canonical. Now I’m sure there are some philosophically consistent people who do level this criticism equally on both, but the vast majority (and all of the ones I’ve seen in writing) seem to once again go back to this notion that the Banshee developers had some moral “right” to not give them a choice, while Canonical did not. This takes us right back to the original problem we face where we try to keep our open source code morally closed to undesired modification.
Setting them straight
There is also a strong line of thought that this criticism of Canonical is necessary to make them good community citizens. Again, though, this is based on the notion that they did something unethical, that the Banshee code was morally closed, and Canonical violated that. The point I was hoping to convey in my first post is that we need to start thinking of our code as morally open, not just legally open. If Banshee’s code is morally open, then we should all be happy that Canonical was able to modify it and use it for their own benefit, because that’s what “open” is all about.
Show some respect
A rather surprising number of people are suggesting that we should all respect a developer’s desired restrictions on their open source code. While I’m all in favor of respecting people who contribute their time and talents to things that make my life better, voluntarily giving up on of the one of the four essential freedoms is taking it a step too far. Calls for Canonical to “respect” the Banshee developers are implying that we should all restrict ourselves to only make those modifications that the original developers want made. Imagine if Canonical asked the community not to make or distribute derivative distros, even though they’re legally allowed, how many people would call on the community to respect Canonical’s desire?