osOpinion: Who owns you?

[ Thanks to Kelly
for this link. ]

It’s every hacker’s dream, and thankfully, it’s getting
more common every day: being paid to work on your favourite piece
of free software. But it’s also pretty fraught with controversy,
and especially if you happen to be the maintainer of the
: accusations will fly over conflicts of interest,
political manipulation, and all kinds of other dirty whisperings.
It’s hard – if not impossible – to keep on the right side of
everyone, and so the most important thing to do is keep yourself
honest. So how do you take that dream job without losing your

“First, though, let’s have a look at why they’re doing it: the
reasons why companies are employing people to hack on free
software. Surprisingly, it’s more than just mere self-interest.
Sure, it’s good to have an in-house expert on your side. And there
is, of course, a big prestige advantage in having the big names in
a project working for you: to take a random example, Red Hat
employs Alan Cox and Dave Miller – these guys know Linux, and this
naturally improves Red Hat’s credibility as well. There’s also the
importance of showing that you’re serious about free software – the
best way to do so is to pour money into it, and arguably the best
way to do that is to employ someone to work on it.”

“But there’s also the fact that some companies really do employ
free software hackers primarily because they love the software – as
another random example, O’Reilly employ Larry Wall not just because
Perl is a big part of their business, but also because Perl is just
darned cool. In reality, I’d say most of the free software hiring
that goes on happens for a mixture of the above reasons.
(Incidentally, I’ve singled out Red Hat and ORA as examples of some
of the reasons, but that doesn’t mean that the reasons I picked are
the only reasons for employing Larry and Dave and Alan.)”


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