The Situation Now (2019)

Sam opened his eyes to the sun shining in his window, birds chirping outside, and the smell of a fresh summer breeze.  It was a glorious day, perfect for the launch of the campaign.  Sam got himself ready, grabbed a bite to eat, and jumped on the bus on his way to his job at the Proprietary Software Foundation.

Sam loved his job at the PSF.  He joined right when it was founded in 2014, in response to the Global Crash of 2012.  Since the crash, everyone began to falsely associate proprietary software with insane amounts of centralized control, DRM, and restrictions, just because of a single coding bug.  This bug in the way Windows handled time, found in Windows 95 through Windows 7, caused a crash that resulted in random data being written directly to all of the root filesystems at midnight on December 1, 2012.  People had wrongly accused Microsoft and the nature of proprietary software for the resulting crash of the global economy, when in reality, the only person at fault was the developer who made the error.  The PSF was founded by Sam and some fellow Novell employees to right this wrong misconception.  Free Software was getting its dirty hands on the world’s devastated (formally proprietary) computers, so the PSF had to work quickly as to ensure the world’s technology system was not rebuilt using Free Software.

This particular day was very important for Sam and the PSF, though.  It was the day they launched their “GNU/Linux Lies” campaign in downtown Seattle, explaining to passer-byers why proprietary software is more ethical than Free Software.  The PSF had been facing greater difficulties ever since 2016, when the Closed Source Initiative was founded.  This organization focused only on the practical benefits of proprietary software.  Their stance was less powerful because it wasn’t based on ethics and philosophy, yet it gained so much more momentum.  Instead of fighting for essential developer rights, the Closed Source Initiative advocated that companies cannot free their source code, because doing so loses them some business opportunities.  While closed source campaigns still helped the cause of the PSF, they defeated the point that developers should be able to do whatever they want with the software they create.

Unfortunately, though the cause was ethical, Sam and the PSF could not seem to get much traction.  Any traction that was made for proprietary software was made by the closed source movement, not the proprietary software movement.  It seemed that ethics didn’t matter anymore.  The world was using this unethical “Free Software” with no regards whatsoever for the rights of the developers.

The only thing Sam found useful about the Free Software Movement was its historical value.  Since the Free Software advocates had based their arguments on values instead of practical benefits, as Sam understood it, they gained momentum after the Global Crash.  He thus concluded that, while closed source software was making some strides, only the principled approach that the PSF took would ever lead to mass acceptance.

The demonstration in downtown Seattle would help show the public these principles.  Parents with young children could come down and have their kids color one of many pictures, including happy spring days, smiley faces, and baby bunnies, with the promise that they would be prominently displayed throughout the city and in the PSF offices.  Once the child finished, the PSF volunteers would gently take the picture from the child, congratulate him/her on doing such a great job, and then spit on it, tear it up, and burn what was left in full view of the parent and the child.  Then, they would be asked how it felt to have their work destroyed, and why they would ever encourage that sort of behavior by using Free Software.  Sam thought it would be a great presentation, and demonstrate the principles of proprietary software well.  (For those without young children, he also had coloring sheets of a bearded man waving a red flag with the caption “Richard Stalin at work”.  These are the pictures that would really be displayed throughout the city.)

The day didn’t turn out so well for Sam.  Even with the colorful metaphor he engineered, people still didn’t seem to understand the concept of enforcing developers’ rights.  In fact, to Sam’s surprise, it even infuriated some people, and turned them against the values of proprietary software.

After hours of failure, he finally gave up. People just didn’t seem to understand the point.  Maybe his metaphor wasn’t elaborate enough.  He went back to the office and booted up his computer to check some emails before going home.  Sure, the software it used was very old, however all of the newer versions of the same software used a free license.  Even Microsoft, which used to be the proprietary software giant, started licensing all of its products under a Free Software license.  Sam refused to use Free Software, so he had to make some sacrifices.  While some companies were starting to make proprietary software again, most did not, forcing him to use older versions of certain pieces of software.

“It just isn’t fair,” Sam thought.  “Why does the Free Software Foundation get a multi-million dollar advertising budget, endorsement from large corporations, and tens of millions of supporters, while the Proprietary Software Foundation only has a small niche of support?”  He knew, though, that there used to be others just like him fighting for the opposite cause.  However, there were more, many more, than the three guys sitting around the table at the PSF.  He thought of the Proprietary Software Movement as more of a fan club in comparison to what the Free Software Movement was.  Back then, though, they had so many supporters in comparison to those who supported proprietary software.  Sam knew that if that many people supported proprietary software, it would be so much more common, and developers wouldn’t be practically required to freely license their code in order to compete.  Who on earth would use a proprietary alternative to a Free Software application?  Sometimes he found it frustrating, but he knew that he would probably spend his whole life fighting for the values behind proprietary software.  And he thought to himself, as he walked off to the bus stop, that a life advocating for proprietary software would be a life well spent.

Published in: on October 10, 2009 at 5:10 pm  Comments (10)