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Linux and Main: Lock In Software

Apr 24, 2003, 10:00 (6 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Brendan Scott)


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"In July last year the author wrote a paper which argued that the total cost of ownership of free software would, in the long run, always be lower than that of equivalent software created under different models. One of the problems we grappled with when writing that paper was how to name those different models. At the time we adopted a term which appeared to be used widely, that of 'proprietary software.' We now believe our (and others') use of that term is not only inaccurate, but plain wrong and ought to be changed. In this paper we set out reasons and propose an alternative, more appropriate, term--'lock in software.' Other terms, including hostageware, are identified, but not adopted.

"In the free software debate there appear to be three terms which set demarcation boundaries within the software pantheon. Those terms are 'free software,' 'open source software' and 'proprietary software.' Of each of these the terms both 'free software' and 'open source software' have clear, defined meanings. However the term 'proprietary software' seems to be defined by exclusion--it is commonly used to apply to software which isn't free and isn't open source. The concept of property stands on hallowed ground in most western political systems. By implication the terminology as currently used allows vendors threatened by market competition from free software to cloud the issues by painting their competitors as somehow being anti-property, and therefore evil..."

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