Original: http://dailynews.yahoo.com/h/zd/20001108/tc/open_source_software_is_not_free__1.html

Wednesday November 08 11:22 AM EST
Open source software is NOT free! Open source software is NOT free!

By Rick Lehrbaum, Linux

Open source software does not come free of cost, and those who pay for it with their own sweat and effort are the ones who own it.

"Open source software" -- also known as "free software" -- is NOT free.

After all, it doesn't simply grow on trees. Lots of individuals and companies invest lots of hours -- and sweat -- in creating, testing, and maintaining that so-called "free" software.

So free software is not cost free. In that case, who pays for it? And who owns it?

The free software community pays, in a manner of speaking, for the development of free software. And, it's the free software community who owns the result.

Who belongs to this "free software community"? It's simple: everyone who develops or uses free software becomes part of the free software community. While the developer part of that statement is obvious, the user part may appear a bit less so. But the fact is, when you make the decision to use free software, you take ownership of that software, so you become a vested member of the free software community.

When your company decides to use free software as an alternative to purchasing proprietary software, you should also plan to contribute some amount -- either financially, or through resources -- to the development and maintenance of the free software pool. It simply makes sense -- good business sense -- to do so. Not as charity, or moral obligation, but as a pragmatic business strategy. After all, if your company was somehow the fortunate recipient of golden eggs laid by a magical goose, wouldn't it make good business sense to keep that valuable goose healthy?

What are some ways you or your company can help keep the free software goose (penguin?) well fed and healthy? Here are a few possibilities . . .

Consider how much your company is saving by taking advantage of free software, and allocate some percentage of that amount as an investment in free software. No matter what form or amount you decide is right, the main thing is to realize that, ultimately, open source software is NOT free.

It simply makes good sense to keep the magical goose (penguin!) of open source software healthy. Good common sense. Good business sense.

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