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U.S. Representatives Torpedo UN Information Summit 490

Posted by michael
from the for-the-good-of-all-mankind dept.
StoneLion writes "The United Nations World Summit on Information Society was established to 'harness the potential of knowledge and technology' and to 'find effective and innovative ways to put this potential at the service of development for all.' You'd think open source software would be a natural for many UN member countries. But NewsForge's Joe Barr discovered that the US is driving policy for the organization, and its official position is that 'using free software to achieve the WSIS goals might get in the way of an intellectual property owner's ability to make a profit'; in other words, they want to make the world safe for capitalism." We've mentioned WSIS before. Newsforge and Slashdot are both part of OSDN.
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U.S. Representatives Torpedo UN Information Summit

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  • by Doesn't_Comment_Code (692510) on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @05:52PM (#8309606)
    U.S. Representatives Torpedo UN Information Summit

    That sounds oftly violent. Why didn't they just try to screw up all the meetings using their influence?
    • by Shisha (145964) on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @06:04PM (#8309761) Homepage
      I know adoption of free software could help a lot of people in a lot of ways, but let's face it: the US has a _lot_ of misguided foreign policies (e.g the way they deal with countries producing illegal drugs in South America, not even getting into the whole war on terror thing).

      On the other hand I'm not sure that UN has the position or moral authority free software want's to be associate with. Take for example that only last year Jan Kavan (former Czech foreign minister) used to be the chairman of UN. Mr Kavan was convinced of lying by a British court of justice. He also work for STB (Czech equiv. of KGB) and spied on people who fled to the UK from the communist Czechoslovakia.

      My point is that just the fact that US has a misguided policy does not mean that what UN is doing would be in the best interest of everyone. Dodgy people who are mainly intrested in driving their agenda are involved in the UN. The enemy of your enemy is not necessarily your friend.
      • Convicted of lying! Oh my, not at all like any US Presidents. Worked for the STB? Not like any US Presidents were ever head of the CIA. Spied on people? Give me a break.

        Watch out for your implicit double standards: The US is every bit as dodgy as the rest of the world.

        • by Skye16 (685048)
          He's just pointing out that they're shady creatures of dubious nature. He wasn't saying the U.N. was any worse than the U.S., but that they both lack any true grounding in any respectable morality.
        • by Shisha (145964)
          The US is every bit as dodgy as the rest of the world.

          That's a dangerous and blatantly wrong statemnet. It shows that you probably have never seen the darker side of a totalitarian regime. Don't get me wrong, I'm not trying to say that the US are any good (read the parent post, first paragraph). I'm just saying that there are much worse and less humane governments around (North Korea anybody? Cuba?).

          Comparing CIA to Czech STB is laughable. Has CIA ever run concentration camps? Where people worked in uran
          • by plalonde2 (527372) on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @07:06PM (#8310540)
            I agree, the degree is not as exteme as in Czech. But the slippery slope has been well embarked on by the current (and somewhat by the preceeding) regime, yet americans continue to be in denial about this state.

            Remember: the last president, son of the former head of the secret police, was appointed by judges appointed by his father, after an election whose results and (mis)management was widely contested. Saying "it can't happen here" doesn't make it not happen.

          • by rodgerd (402) on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @09:16PM (#8311694) Homepage
            The CIA? Perhaps you could look up the School of the Americas, and see how many people in South and Central America have been exterminated by the CIA's pet dictators. Heck, here's a giggle: go to Chile and start telling people the CIA are a swell bunch in no way comparable to, say, the KGB. If you're lucky, you'll just get a verbal reality check, not a punch in the mouth.
      • by Drishmung (458368) on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @07:04PM (#8310522)
        In other words, to quote Woody Allen:
        More than any other time in history, mankind faces a crossroads. One path leads to despair and utter hopelessness. The other, to total extinction. Let us pray we have the wisdom to choose correctly.
      • by vandan (151516)
        Correct.

        But to take your point a step further, don't forget that the UN really is just an extensin of US foreign policy. The US has ( and uses regularly ) its right to veto any motion that doesn't suit their 'national interests'. Of course a select few other countries also have a right to veto motions, but:

        a) it only takes one veto-happy country to ruin it
        b) all countries with veto rights are right behind US foreign policy.

        Do a google search on the number of resolutions calling for the Israelis to back o
  • by grub (11606) <slashdot@grub.net> on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @05:52PM (#8309607) Homepage Journal

    "The U.S. view is that we don't want to see government, or in this case, the World Summit, advocate one type of software over another." -Sally Shipman

    When you get down to the nut and bolts all software is just 1s and 0s: there aren't different "types" at that level.

    I think what Sally Shipman really means is "We want our large US software firms to continue to reap Huge profits: Open Source threatens that."

    That's fine, after all it's a US delegation and they're supposed to look out for their countrymen. Now, why can't they word it that bluntly? Simple: because Open Source doesn't contribute millions to election campaigns.
    • I think what Sally Shipman really means is "We want our large US software firms to continue to reap Huge profits: Open Source threatens that."

      I'm sure those of us work for those corporations reaping huge profits would appreciate this position. For a lot of people, free as in freedom/free as in free trade are great ideas as long as it's not their ox that's being gored.

      Disclaimer: I don't work for the aforementioned corporations.

      • by grub (11606) <slashdot@grub.net> on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @06:01PM (#8309735) Homepage Journal

        Shouldn't Open Source just be considered competition? After all, it's just code. The automakers in Detroit seem to be doing fairly well, even with cheap foreign competition.

        The software companies have gotten fat and lazy. Open Source came at them from left field and they still can't figure out how to honestly fight it. That's why they go crying to the politicians after contributing money to their campaigns.
        • by andy1307 (656570) * on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @06:17PM (#8309954)
          I actually followed the remark in your sig and read the article :)

          and an abiding insistence that the WSIS not say or do anything that might prevent profiteering on the needs of the disadvantaged, now or in the future. Nowhere in the WSIS documents was it deemed permissible to state the obvious: that free/open source software is the logical choice in achieving affordable solutions.

          English isn't my first language, but this is how i read it: The US position is that WSIS shouldn't do anything to prevent profiteering and the solution that delivers the most bang for the buck should be used. i.e. non-Open source software shouldn't be excluded. The author thinks open source software is the logical choice for the most affordable solution but that's just his opinion.

          • Saying that open source software of any kind may be considered an action "that might prevent profiteering," by Microsoft, IBM, Oracle or any number of other companies. If you were to propose a solution that allowed them to reuse existing PCs with newer software (such as *BSD or Linux), it may be considered an action "that might prevent profiteering" by Dell, Gateway, IBM (again) or any number of other companies.

            These restrictions do effectively prevent any suggestion of free software, as it may prevent an

        • by 4of12 (97621) on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @06:29PM (#8310095) Homepage Journal

          Absolutely.

          FOSS only commoditises what really ought to be commoditised.

          Software companies can still make money by creating true value added onto that base of cheap hardware and cheap software.

          We're talking about new software, or support, tuning, customization of software systems that users might not want to manage themselves.

        • by macshune (628296) on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @06:37PM (#8310192) Journal
          "The software companies have gotten fat and lazy. Open Source came at them from left field and they still can't figure out how to honestly fight it. That's why they go crying to the politicians after contributing money to their campaigns.

          This is a good point. I think it reflects the general laziness on the part of behemoth corporations with establish streams of revenue. Take Disney for instance. Every time the Mouse's copyright (Steam Boat Willy for goodness sakes!) almost comes up for expiry, another copyright extention gets past. Disney knows it's in hot water, especially lately because it hasn't had a mega-hit since the Lion King.

          But it's not just Disney. If Linux really, and I mean really became a threat to Microsoft it would come down to either Microsoft ceasing to exist as it does now or Linux being made illegal (or tied up in the courts 'till forever). My guess is on the latter. Few people seem to point out (that I see, anyhow) that all this talk about innovation is total crap. Established corporations don't really want to innovate, because that costs money! Why innovate when you can just throw lawyers at threats to your revenue stream? This has been going on since (at least) Edison when he forced all the movie producers to move out to California to evade patents on motion picture equipment.

          Linux will just have to do what it does best and no one else really wants to do -- innovate. Innovate damn well, too. Microsoft's $250-something billion market cap. is one heck of a freight train to derail.
          • by jesterzog (189797) on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @07:35PM (#8310833) Homepage Journal

            Every time the Mouse's copyright (Steam Boat Willy for goodness sakes!) almost comes up for expiry, another copyright extention gets past. Disney knows it's in hot water, especially lately because it hasn't had a mega-hit since the Lion King.

            What confuses me is the seeming inability for administrations to resort to more rational compromises instead of steamrolling everything.

            In the Disney/copyright case, it would have made much more sense to tinker with the copyright renewal process than to extend all copyrights accross the board, including the ones that nobody cares about anymore. There used to be a perfectly good copyright renewal process, described here [gutenberg.net], that was amended to provide "automatic renewal", probably to cut down on administration costs as much as everything else.

            For whatever reason everyone's now decided to focus on simply extending the copyright term for everything instead of requiring those who actually still want to enforce their copyright to actively say so. This means that lots of derelict and abandoned work is simply disappearing because projects such as Project Gutenberg aren't allowed to save them.

        • by ThisIsFred (705426) on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @06:38PM (#8310209) Journal
          I don't know about you guys, but when I see a single company which controls 96% of the desktop market, about 50% of the low- to mid-end server market, and has an awful security record (from the standpoint of evidence, not design) I don't see a wonderful example of capitalism in action.

          And if you work for a closed-source vendor, you'd better be looking out for your "ox", because if you don't work in Redmond, chances are US Representitives didn't have your employer in mind.

          They've already eliminated the open source option. That's a pretty good sign that they've already got a policy of exclusion in place.
          • by Gadzinka (256729) <rrw@hell.pl> on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @07:41PM (#8310880) Journal
            I don't know about you guys, but when I see a single company which controls 96% of the desktop market, about 50% of the low- to mid-end server market, and has an awful security record (from the standpoint of evidence, not design) I don't see a wonderful example of capitalism in action.

            On the contrary, it's great example of capitalism in action. The purpose of capitalism isn't to produce great, working, innovative products. The purpose of capitalism is to generate (suprise!) capital. Coincidentally sometimes this also means producing great, working, innovative products, but that's just a byproduct.

            Most of the time on stagnant market w/o any scientific/technological breakthroughs on the horizon, entrenched monopolies/oligopolies extort huge money for crappy products, paying politicians/rulers/kings/whatever to mandate their products and seeking other ways to change their business model to de facto or de jure taxes. Why work to get the money when you can pay someone to order people to pay you for nothing.

            Robert
            • ...paying politicians/rulers/kings/whatever to mandate their products...

              But see, that's the problem - as soon as you allow that kind of thing to happen, you no longer have a free market. It starts to sound a lot less like capitalism, and a lot more like central planning. So you can't really blame the social and economic ills that result on capitalism.

              I bring this up because the first step in solving a problem is correctly understanding what the problem is. Capitalism and the free market unquetionably ha

    • Here AGAIN we see IP working as intended. It's shame that almost nobody realizes that the whole idea of IP is truly evil. But there's money to be made, so carry on.
      • by Bull999999 (652264) on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @06:51PM (#8310370) Journal
        But isn't GPL also about protecting IP? Otherwise, companies like Microsoft can steal all they want from open-source softwares like Linux and don't give anything back.
        • Without IP, Microsoft wouldn't have any more protection than GPL. We would all be on level ground. It is because of the existance of IP that we need GPL.
          • But non-existance of IP would hurt more than help. Besides, copyrights have been around for a while but the world didn't blow up due to it. What we need is a good protected IP rights such as GPL to keep certain ideas free while allowing others to gain from their IP.
            • But non-existance of IP would hurt more than help.

              That's the going theory, but we'll never know until we try.

              Besides, copyrights have been around for a while but the world didn't blow up due to it.

              That's because IP was never so easy to "violate". It seems that some are willing to "blow up" the world(go to war) in order to protect their IP. It is sickening to think that we might actually kill people for this.(If we haven't already)

              What we need is a good protected IP rights such as GPL to keep certai
  • You say that like it's a bad thing. Without the efficient, industrial base proided by capitalism there would be no computers or internet to create free software with/on/for.

    Sounds like another goon who isn't good enough to get a job.
    • by B'Trey (111263) on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @06:21PM (#8310010)
      In the sense that it's used here, making things "safe for capitalism" is a bad thing. When the government gets involved and uses it's might to shift or sway the market playing field, it's almost always a bad thing. Open source software exists and functions quite well in a free market. If it beats out more traditional software companies, it's because it out competed them in terms of value given per cost demanded.

      Open source is not inherently communistic, nor is it a threat to capitalism. It's simply a threat to particular companies, just as new innovations are always a threat to older companies. Even if particular companies die, the market itself will hum along just fine.
  • Funny World... (Score:2, Flamebait)

    by netsharc (195805)
    But the US is the new evil; its actions are unilateral and goes against the wishes of the international community and it's only making things worse for its citizen and the rest of the world.

    In the Soviet Russian point of view, USA is the baddie! Well I guess we're living in a joke now.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @05:55PM (#8309649)
    When a government, let alone a metanational body, intervenes to affect the market that is not capitalism, it is a mixed economy.
  • by jwthompson2 (749521) * <james@NOSpAM.plainprograms.com> on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @05:55PM (#8309651) Homepage
    I find it mildly amusing that protecting capitalism is linked to this seeing as how our capitalist economy here in the U.S. has more than its fair share of open source development houses and they are doing just fine. I think capitalism is less to blame than big money IP special interests, they might be a better, more specific target than a particular economic system. Of course identifying the particular interests would go a long ways too....
    • by Frymaster (171343) on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @06:02PM (#8309740) Homepage Journal
      I find it mildly amusing that protecting capitalism is linked to this seeing as how our capitalist economy here in the U.S. has more than its fair share of open source development houses

      oss is the product of democtratic freedoms of expression, publishing and association, not capitalism. while liberal democracies and capitalism tend to co-exist in the western world, they are not dependent on one another - lots of brutal dictatorships are capitalist by nature.

      i, for one, find the reference to the billy bragg song "making the world safe for capitalism" quite apt:

      We help the multi-nationals
      When they cry out protect us
      The locals scream and shout a bit
      But we don't let that affect us
      We're here to lend a helping hand
      In case they don't elect us
      How dare they buy our products
      Yet still they don't respect us


      We're making the world safe for capitalism

      • liberal democracies and capitalism tend to co-exist in the western world, they are not dependent on one another - lots of brutal dictatorships are capitalist by nature.

        That is true. You're not seeing the whole relation IMHO. Can you name one liberal democracy, that has other than capitalist system to run trade and production?

        (capitalism in the vague sense, e.g. France, China count, but not, say North Korea).

        (as for the term liberal democracy I assume we take that in a weak sense, so that say US and UK
    • I think that your confusing capitalism with capitalism. Or maby capitalism. See This [wikipedia.org]

      Capitalism is a vauge term, and as such it really does not mean much, unless in context. Are you talking about free markets? or are you talking about private ownership of capital goods?(things you need to produce stuff). The wage system definition does not seem to fit your use here, so that is probably not it.

      The sense that the US UN rep is using the term is catital goods ownership, or in other words keeping a certai
  • ugh (Score:3, Insightful)

    by SHEENmaster (581283) <.travis. .at. .utk.edu.> on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @05:56PM (#8309664) Homepage Journal
    Why must we constantly focus on profits? I suggest that the UN torpedo Microsoft for interfering with the profits of Apple, Sun, IBM, and other companies.
  • Capitalism (Score:5, Insightful)

    by headkase (533448) on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @05:58PM (#8309689)
    make the world safe for capitalism.
    When will the US gov't realize that open source is capitalistic - it reduces your costs allowing you to make greater profits.
    • When will the US gov't realize that open source is capitalistic - it reduces your costs allowing you to make greater profits.

      They will 'learn' this about the same time you 'learn' that a Slashdot summary of an article that is already itself quite biased is not exactly the best way to obtain an accurate viewpoint of any subject.
    • Re:Capitalism (Score:2, Insightful)

      by sfjoe (470510)

      All the more reason it must be stopped at all costs. If unfettered capitalism were allowed in the USA, government-funded bailouts and taxpayer-subsidized salaries for the CEO would be a thing of the past. This cannot be allowed to happen.

    • Re:Capitalism (Score:5, Informative)

      by andy1307 (656570) * on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @06:22PM (#8310022)
      From the article

      The United States position, formed at the behest of the Business Software Alliance, CompTIA, and other organizations dedicated to maintaining the status quo and curtailing the growth of free software, is that no software development methodology -- closed and proprietary versus open source -- be recommended over any other.

      Choice is capitalistic. Excluding non-OS software is limiting choice.

    • Re:Capitalism (Score:3, Interesting)

      by wobblie (191824)
      open source is capitalistic - it reduces your costs allowing you to make greater profits

      That has nothing to do with capitalism, which has to do with ownership of capital - in the case of software, source code. The GPL socializes software, and could possibly be described as capitalistic in any sense. Profits don't really have anything to do with capitalism per se.

  • by Bobdoer (727516) on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @05:58PM (#8309693) Homepage Journal
    "Using free software to achieve the WSIS goals might get in the way of an intellectual property owner's ability to make a profit"
    Thank you Captain Obvious! Using free software keeps companies that sell software from making a profit on software they don't get to sell. This guy's got to be an economics major...
  • consensus? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by grasshoppa (657393) *
    Good lord, they operate by consensus?

    With all the nations on the glode, with so many widely different opinions, why it god's name would they even try to operate by consensus?

    The motivation behind this decision is either a) Extreme optimism or b) Extreme Stupidity. Likely, it is both.

    Although, I suppose we could consider a third if you felt like breaking out the tin foil hates.
  • by Bendebecker (633126) on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @06:00PM (#8309712) Journal
    "the UN is driving policy" and instantly reread it cause they it was wrong. Nevertheless, I am forced to agree with the opponents of the current US government and say that thier policy of intellectual protectionism to the point of intellectual imperialism is not the way to go. Japan went isolationist for a century and what did that get them? The same here, only instead of just isolating ourselves from the innovations of the rest of the world we are isolating ourselves and arresting the progres of our own innovation. There is a darwinism to nations and policies that clearly shows that nations that create policies (no matter how justified they may seem) if those current policies retard that nations sucess either those policy must go or that nations will. Laws that don't work either will collapse themselves or bring down those who attempt to enforce them. You cannot control innovation. If you try, you will fail. That is why the concept of intellectual property will colaapse. Either we must abandon are perceptions of it or face the growing threat of those who will ignore such absurd laws. Just as we can innobvate so can they and saying that we own one thought will just be laughed at by those who do not follow our laws and realize that just becuase you are the first to have a thought does not by nature give you the sole and exlcusive oweneship of that thought.
  • Capitalism Bad? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by buzzoff (744687) on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @06:00PM (#8309720)
    "in other words, they want to make the world safe for capitalism." I must have missed your point. Why is this a bad thing?
    • They're putting the "right" of a select few to maintain dictatorship(s) over a section of the world economy that is greater than the GDP of many nations ahead of the right of people to acquire and use free software. (Microsoft's profits rival and exceed the GDP of many countries and apparently the US cares more about this than freedom). In other words, the US is promoting the limitation of freedom in favor of dictatorships over vast areas of the technology sector. They care more about the power of a priv
  • by Rawley (746902) on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @06:01PM (#8309726)
    Sweet Don Quixote, why can't they get it through their heads that higher quality is more important than higher profit?
  • by dilvie (713915) on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @06:01PM (#8309728) Homepage Journal

    First of all, I don't think that open-source software is really going to stand in the way of making a profit. By some estimates, software licenses account for only 8% of revenues in the software industry.

    Second -- why is profit at the top of the list of priorities for this particular initiative? I believe that an open democracy is possible.

    I don't believe in forced sharing, but I do believe that we should be allowed to share if we so desire. The wording here seems to suggest that sharing is a significant threat to selling, and that as such, it should be disallowed entirely. I realize that hasn't been said, but it's not a big stretch from his current position... I don't want to see the world start down that slippery slope.

  • There was some counter-summit stuff done in Geneva last December at the same time as the WSIS conference, the two sites that were used were the Hub Project [hubproject.org] open publishing site and the Geneva03.net [geneva03.net] wiki.

    The level of police repression was fairly unbelievable -- the planned polymedia lab (like a hack meet thing) was shut down by riot police... Following this it got another venue and worked out OK in the end. I helped a few people get their laptops booting into Linux :-)

    There were some cool things done lik

  • Slight Omission: (Score:5, Insightful)

    by burgburgburg (574866) <{moc.liame} {ta} {60neksilps}> on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @06:02PM (#8309736)
    The first is the United States' position that profit -- or even the potential for profit -- is more important than the goals of the WSIS.

    should have read:

    The first is the United States' position that profit -- or even the potential for profit -- by major corporate donors to the current administration is more important than anything else.

    • Yes, that's my complaint about the NewsForge article as well. The author wasn't biased enough TOWARDS open source, and did not misrepresent position statements blatantly enough.

      The official view, from the mouth of a senior policy advisor, is quoted several paragraphs down in the story: "The U.S. view is that we don't want to see government, or in this case, the World Summit, advocate one type of software over another."

      Isn't it better to have more choices than less?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @06:02PM (#8309738)
    Interesting that when this U.N. summit was first proposed, eveyone laughed at how stupid it sounded and how pie-in-the-sky politician-makes-you-feel-good wishy-washy etc. it sounded. Now that the US torpedos it, you blame "evil capitalists and BUSH". Good riddance, open source doesn't need the U.N.
  • by mekkab (133181) * on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @06:03PM (#8309755) Homepage Journal
    Ignoring the "Let IBM/Microsoft/DELL solve the worlds problems and give us cash!" angle, the US' stance does make some sense;

    You might be threatening your burgeouning software industry/IP industry by promoting open source. Thats great if your goal for information technology is to make your companies money.

    But how many countries are in the same position as the US? And how many more would actually like to leverage cheap costs of open source for immediate tangible benefit?

    If the US was a third world nation, it would change its tune. IN the mean time, its business as usual.
  • Me first then you. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @06:04PM (#8309760)
    Until we stop having this survival of the fittest idealogy, I will not be supprised by the actions of those who are top dog. Anything will be done to protect that position.
    Others are of no consequence.

  • by 3Suns (250606) on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @06:04PM (#8309766) Homepage
    I guess I missed the memo.

    using free software to achieve the WSIS goals might get in the way of an intellectual property owner's ability to make a profit


    Using proprietary software might also get in the way of an intellectual property owner's ability to make a profit, i.e. another company. That's what happens when you make a choice between one product or another. So what are they saying, that they should only buy software if there were no competing products? That they should only buy from monopolies? Please tell us, oh wise and corrupt US representatives...
  • U.S. Policy (Score:4, Funny)

    by chill (34294) on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @06:04PM (#8309772) Journal
    All Your `cat \usr\share\dict\words` Belong To U.S.!

    -chill
  • the UN has been trying to control the internet for some time now. The US doesnt want that. What's the problem? If you want open source, then just use it: we dont have to all bend over for the UN.
  • by bluprint (557000) on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @06:06PM (#8309795) Homepage
    in other words, they want to make the world safe for capitalism

    Capitalism is an economy in which sources of production are controlled by private entities(instead of by the public/government). This shouldn't be confused with things like intellectual property rights, which isn't even a source of production, and really has little to do with wether you have a capitalist economy.
    • by fatboy (6851) * on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @06:20PM (#8309989)
      Capitalism is an economy in which sources of production are controlled by private entities(instead of by the public/government). This shouldn't be confused with things like intellectual property rights, which isn't even a source of production, and really has little to do with wether you have a capitalist economy.

      This correct. 'Intellectual Property Rights' are government sanctioned monopolies. The exact opposite of capitalism.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @06:06PM (#8309799)
    Each government member is supposed to bring its own opinionto the table.

    The U.S. government is entitled to think commercialware should be the only ware out there.

    Fine. Other countries, if so inclined, can argue otherwise.

    On the other hand, it is up to any interested U.S. citizen to disabuse his government of this lunatic option, if the citizen is so inclined. If the citizen does not care, the government will go with the easiest thing to do, which is to follow lobbyst advice.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @06:07PM (#8309806)
    ... Shipman told me, "The U.S. view is that we don't want to see government, or in this case, the World Summit, advocate one type of software over another." ... It offends the sensibilities of corporate lobbyists whose moral compass points at nothing but the bottom line.

    This is merely a continuation of the point that the USA's representatives do not want to turn control of the base portions of the Internet over to another closed international organization. As the process stands right now, the current controllers happen to be capitalist, but they also happen to exist in a free enough society that we can bitch about their behaviors and impose change through democratic processes (or semi-democratic, if you include getting a congress-person to impose some new regulation that dictates how things should be). There is no such guarantee once control leaves our borders.

    Furthermore, there are a handful of governments who are turning from the IBM AIX/Microsoft Windows proprietary software systems to the open source models that Sourceforge and Slashdot staff seem to champion. But, that in no way implies once the WSIS takes over, the open-source methods would be adopted either. The danger expressed by the representatives is that a 3rd party such as the UN will be in control to dictate connectivity, and that the majority of members of that UN body are not interested in the free flow of information in the form that the USA embrases it. We see nations like China filtering content into their space, nations in the Mid-East who would be even more harsh on content flow, and would these nations be in the majority on the WSIS board, it would spell an end for the freedom of content that we have enjoyed this last decade.

    It doesn't matter if the firewall is closed source or open source, I don't want a firewall blocking a nation from my content.
  • No surprises here... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by amplt1337 (707922) on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @06:07PM (#8309810) Journal
    the US is doing the same thing it's always done in the UN -- attempt to provide token participation in a body that is sometimes useful for achieving otherwise-difficult ends, but that can be easily bogged down or otherwise rendered useless when it tries to do something that we don't care for.

    I would even go so far as to say this isn't about maintaining capitalist dominance or corporate dominance per se, so much as it is derailing something that could potentially be highly disruptive to the US position as a technological leader and controlling force on third-world technological innovation. Open Source would drastically lower the barrier to entry for pretty much any country looking to develop an information technology regime, which puts countries on a much more even footing to do things the US doesn't like (organize, provide information to people, utilize cryptography, and heavens! even provide a means for impoverished people to have true democracy), let alone making governments more effective. Strict politics-of-power thinking would suggest that other countries having strong, independent governments is not in the US' interests, because such governments and countries (and ultimately, populations) are much harder to manipulate...
  • Capitalism != The best economic system possible.

    It is the best economic system SO FAR, but that doesn't mean it will keep us alive and thriving in the coming decades. We should do all we can to make sure that Capitalists don't put a stranglehold onto developing countries, and force them to become the developed world's slaves.
  • by Performer Guy (69820) on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @06:10PM (#8309859)
    Open Source Intellectual Property (in the form of Copyright works) has owners too and they have the right to make a profit. Unfairly excluding their work from use restricts their ability to make a profit from their work, for example by selling consulting services, or add ons or their skills and services in general. Let's not pretend that OSS is anti-capitalist or in any way incompatible with capitalism. It is another component in what should be a free market where EVERYONE including free software authors should be allowed to compete on a level playing field. If the U.S. government has forgotten this or has sold out to lobbyists representing vested interests then we need to make the case for Open Source and Free Software clearly without muddying the watters with silly statements about making the world safe for capitalism.
  • Having lived in both Capitalist and non-Capitalist countries, I've experienced these glaring +ve/-ve aspects of capitalism:

    +ve:
    ====
    People forget differences in the race for money. Good thing. I'd rather have people try to cheat others out of money, rather than kill others over race/religion.

    -ve:
    ====
    Loss of belief in basic human "goodness" and willingness to donate time for the common good. I can't believe the amount of scorn/opposition that Open Source is getting in the US, while the goodness behind

  • by argoff (142580) on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @06:11PM (#8309874)
    Well, first off, when the government grants a person an unnatural monopoly on copying things, it is anything but free market. But second off, this really touches on something that has been bothering me about America lately. The path to wealth comes about by making freedom an end in itself, not greed.
    If I pointed a gun to your head, took 10K, invested it, made 20K, and then gave it back to all your friends and took the credit for it - then technically speaking the group would better off financially, but they wouldn't be better off overall because they would have lost controll over their own destinies in the process. IMHO, this is what is happening to the USA. We have lost our financial freedom even though technically speaking we are wealthier than ever.
  • by barspin (585641) on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @06:12PM (#8309882)
    Free (as in libre) software is not mutually exclusive with capitalism. Ask RedHat. Or IBM. Or any number of companies that develop free (again, libre) software and make a profit (or, at least get a return in dollars) while operating in a capitalist system. The opponent here isn't capitalism. It's closed software and closed development methods. Of course the US (and a number of other countries, I assume) wants to promote capitalism. But it can do that and also promote free software.
  • by leoaugust (665240) <leoaugust@@@gmail...com> on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @06:19PM (#8309978) Journal
    might get in the way of an intellectual property owner's ability to make a profit

    I know this assertion is attributed to the US Govt, but sounds like Darl from good ole' SCO could have said the exact same thing too!

  • by Archangel Michael (180766) on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @06:19PM (#8309983) Journal
    Capitalism is not a guarantee to make a profit. I find Open Source just as Capitalistic as Closed Source is. Open Source projects, for the most part, lose MONEY in developement, and expect no profits, as a direct source of selling said projects.

    Instead, projects are developed and funded by people to USE those projects to create profits as a SIDE benifit, and those profits are not tied directly to the developement or use of those products.

    Let us take a big corporation that spends $$ on an "Office" product. They do so, not because "Office" makes them money directly, but because it helps them make money. Big Corporation realizes that it can take a percentage of $$ money spend on licenses, and apply it to an "Open source" project and even direct the project to include features not found in "Office" and end up with a product that is immeasurably better than the original "Office".

    Big Company #2, #3 etc all start to realize the same thing, it becomes CHEAPER and BETTER than the original "Office", and each contribute. It actually because Cheaper in the long run to fund Open Source than it does to pay licenses for each new version of "Office".

    The company who originally created "Office" (copied actually) complains about "Anti competitive behaviour" and "profits" are only trying to protect that which is not rightfully theirs (the right to profit).

    To me, protectionism doesn't work. It is trying to protect the buggy and whip industries as cars start becoming ubiquitous.

    I am all for monopolies, as they create other opportunities for innovation. Microsoft is a monopoly and I don't have a problem with it, because THAT is exactly what fostered Open Source.

    If STANDARD OIL wasn't broken up, we might actually have ALTERNATIVES to hydrocarbon fuels today. In a free and open society, Monopolies are short lived, because people find OTHER WAYS of doing the same thing.
  • by dada21 (163177) <adam.dada@gmail.com> on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @06:22PM (#8310024) Homepage Journal
    This isn't helping capitalism any... Open Source is part of capitalism, government is not. When government tries to protect any entity, be it a corporation or a sector, its no longer capitalism, its the American System of Mercantilism [lewrockwell.com] has established by Henry Clay (and furthered into the US by Abraham Lincoln [lewrockwell.com]).

    Remember, Open Source is free market driven as well. The customer may pay nothing, but they also may want to pay for closed software so they receive some sort of guaranteed support or whatever it is they want. Just because software is free doesn't mean that there is no cost to run it.

    Government picking closed source over open source really doesn't help capitalism any. In a truly capitalist society (The US is NOT capitalist in any way), open source can compete freely with closed source. Indian programmers can compete with American ones.
  • by Thinkit4 (745166) * on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @06:25PM (#8310049)
    Government mandated monopolies do not make capitalism safe.
  • by GunFodder (208805) on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @06:29PM (#8310097)
    If the US pushes an agenda that the rest of the world disagrees with then they will be ignored. No one is going to buy the recommendations of a committee that is obviously in the pocket of the US commercial software industry.

    If in the worst case this committee secures funding for enforcement and UN troops start showing up with BSA agents to perform audits then that will most likely just accelerate a shift to open-source.

  • by md17 (68506) <james.jamesward@org> on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @06:34PM (#8310153) Homepage
    Both open source and closed source can happily live in a capitalistic society. However I do think that closed source and closed standards lead to a monopolistic capitalism, while open source and open standards lead to a free market capitalism. I personally would rather have the free market capitalism, but I don't think we can force a free market to be free, it must free itself. In technology this is what seems to be happening. I hope it continues.
  • Quotes? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Monkeyman334 (205694) on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @06:36PM (#8310190)
    But NewsForge's Joe Barr discovered that the US is driving policy for the organization, and its official position is that 'using free software to achieve the WSIS goals might get in the way of an intellectual property owner's ability to make a profit'; in other words, they want to make the world safe for capitalism."

    Where does it say that it's the offical position of the US that 'using free software to achieve the WSIS goals might get in the way of an intellectual property owner's ability to make a profit'? It's Joe Barr's interpretation, and the second half of that is the posters interpretation of Joe Barr's quote. I would like to see more quotes and references. The article is a lot like ... a slashdot post.
  • Hey, do you mind (Score:3, Insightful)

    by cyril3 (522783) on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @06:42PM (#8310254)
    and its official position is that 'using free software to achieve the WSIS goals might get in the way of an intellectual property owner's ability to make a profit'; in other words, they want to make the world safe for capitalism."

    That is not what the official position of the organization is. It is the article writer interpretation of the position. The quotes do not surround anything the official said but are part of a sentence in the article where the writer gives his interpretation of the official position.

    Ann Coulter would be proud of your effort. But I'm going to hold /. to a slightly better standard than that.

    I agree with the article but don't see the value in bad arguments.

  • by fw3 (523647) * on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @06:46PM (#8310302) Homepage Journal
    And both of them, 'principles' and 'action plan' include language along these lines:

    Access to information and knowledge can be promoted by increasing awareness among all stakeholders of the possibilities offered by different software models, including proprietary, open-source and free software, in order to increase competition, access by users, diversity of choice, and to enable all users to develop solutions which best meet their requirements. Affordable access to software should be considered as an important component of a truly inclusive Information Society
    _

    Now that looks to me like oss/free software is in there. and personally I guess I'm inclined to be pleased that it's there at all, rather than bitching that it's not how 'we' might like it.

    And then declaring the entire ting to be a failure.

    Which is why I don't rely on 'pundits' such as Barr, Perens or FSF to do my thinking for me.

    Anyone who's expecting oss/free to be some major plank in a guidance document under the auspices of the UN is either dreaming or stupid.

    As for what the US position might or might not be frankly I don't care. Foreign policy is an arcane art at best, and if the US doesn't often fairly represent *my* views in FP, well I don't think many nations' FP's come much closer.

    So for my $0.02 (yes, US) I'm glad to call this a (limited) win and go back to doing what I do which is software and engineering and occasionally bitching out / voting out the pols who can't figure out their ass from a hole in the ground. but ultimately they don't matter I do, I do stuff I make stuff, I write stuff and I'm happy enough to leave the politicing to others.

  • by 4of12 (97621) on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @06:49PM (#8310346) Homepage Journal

    Why should software be any different from sugar?

    U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson wants more time for conclusive scientific study as the United States recommendations [thestar.com] to the World Health Organization, which has the temerity to come out with outlandish and controversal dietary recommendations such as eating less sugar and more fruits and vegetables.

    Other sugar-producing nations in the Americas are falling into line with this policy view. (Although I can't understand that they're very happy with the US subsidies to its domestic sugar producers.)

    For those old enough to remember, this "needs more scientific study of direct causal relationship" was trotted out by the tobacco industry for a long time to combat U.S. governmental efforts to label cigarette packs.

  • by ssclift (97988) on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @06:57PM (#8310439)

    There are three ways to get wealth: inherit it, marry it, or steal it.

    Given that most of the wealthy nations of the world got that way through theft of some kind or another: colonial resources, natural (many would say aboriginal) resources, intellectual property (North America in the 19th century, witness China doing the same today) or labour (slavery or equivalents). I suspect the third world may take note of the precedent in their drive to get out of poverty.

    We in the west are a little too comfy, I think, with the idea that our priveleges are entirely a product of our own innocently industrious natures. I think we are in for a painful readjustment. Even now countries like China are gathering the capability to put our currencies in the toilet. I am personally hoping it only takes stolen "intellectual" property to get the third world out of poverty.

  • Capitalism & OSS (Score:4, Insightful)

    by chunkwhite86 (593696) on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @08:09PM (#8311130)
    But NewsForge's Joe Barr discovered that the US is driving policy for the organization, and its official position is that 'using free software to achieve the WSIS goals might get in the way of an intellectual property owner's ability to make a profit'; in other words, they want to make the world safe for capitalism."

    Obviously, Capitalism is the economic system which works the best i.e. it provides the best chance for a given nation to operate on it's production possibilities curve (yeah...econ101) and therefore provide the highest standard of living for the people.

    I, like most /.ers, disagree with the statement that OSS gets in the way of profits. OSS certainly requires a different business model to generate revenue, (duh) but from an economic perspective, it isn't any better or worse than proprietary software.

    I do not however like the negative spin that you are putting on Capitalism. Achieving a decent standard of living with plentiful food, medical care, and economic and political stability cannot be achieved as well with any other system; Capitalism has emerged as the clear winner. Degrading this most efficient system because it's not always associated with your views on software licensing is just foolish.
    • Re:Capitalism & OSS (Score:3, Informative)

      by bhima (46039)
      I wouldn't call capitalism a 'clear' winner.

      The 2002 per capita murder rate of New York City is 200 times that of Vienna. Plenty of other systems work very well at achieving a different balance of priorities in their civil societies.

      It just the USians that say 'Our way is best' and run all over the world forcing capitalist democracies on various unfortunate countries. This in light of their own inability to conduct free, fair and accurate elections is quite ironic. (No disrespect to Jimmy Carter, he's a

  • by roman_mir (125474) on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @09:34PM (#8311819) Homepage Journal
    This is not capitalist vs socialist or communist. This is about the public money being spent on something that cannot be controled by the public. Even Microsoft can be made to understand that when a public office buys a software product, the public buys a service that must be public for the good of the public. The government should not spend more money than absolutely necessary (that's a laugh) this means that if a PDF reader is bought from Adobe, there must be a way to read PDF files even if Adobe goes under and the software becomes unavailable for the new machines, possibly for a different OS in a few years. PDF should be an open standard, at minimum, at best Adobe would give the government the source code for the sold software.

    In a government, where it is everyone's money, these money must not be wasted, and many times buying closed source software could become a waste.

    So, get with the program, you, proprietary corporations, if you want to sell to governments - sell open source software.

    This is not about communism vs capitalism, this is about your money.

  • by vik (17857) on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @10:17PM (#8312104) Homepage Journal
    They should talk directly to the Open Source community, not the US Government Corporate. We don't need Government permission.

    Vik :v)
  • by tabdelgawad (590061) on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @12:00AM (#8312795) Homepage
    You know, I went one step beyond RTFA and clicked the link to the actual WSIS declaration of principles here:

    http://www.itu.int/wsis/documents/doc_multi-en-1 16 1|1160.asp

    I think the article by Barr misrepresents what the WSIS declaration says. At best, he's confusing what the declaration actually says with what the US representatives may have wanted it to say (or at least what *he* thinks they wanted it to say!). The declaration includes plain language about

    1. The importance of public domain: "A rich public domain is an essential element for the growth of the Information Society, creating multiple benefits such as an educated public, new jobs, innovation, business opportunities, and the advancement of sciences. Information in the public domain should be easily accessible to support the Information Society, and protected from misappropriation."

    2. The role of open source: "Access to information and knowledge can be promoted by increasing awareness among all stakeholders of the possibilities offered by different software models, including proprietary, opensource and free software, in order to increase competition, access by users, diversity of choice, and to enable all users to develop solutions which best meet their requirements."

    3. The only mention of Intellectual Property in the declaration is followed by noting the importance of knowledge dissemination: "Intellectual Property protection is important to encourage innovation and creativity in the Information Society; similarly, the wide dissemination, diffusion, and sharing of knowledge is important to encourage innovation and creativity."

    But who am I to spoil the fun of everyone straw-manning the declaration?

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