March 19, 2001, 9:58 AM —
I had the privilege of moderating a panel at November's Linux Business Expo in Las Vegas. Such greats as Linus Torvalds, Linux International's Jon "maddog" Hall, Dirk Hohndel of SuSE, Miguel de Icaza of Helix Code, and Peter Beckman of TurboLabs sat on the panel. The topic was the international impact of Linux, but we quickly got side-tracked by economic issues.
The tangent really started from a devil's advocate question I had asked. Someone suggested that open source is spreading throughout non-Western countries because it lowers the barrier to break into the software market with original software. I wondered out loud if that phenomenon was really a motivator, since you can't make much money off open source software. In fact, open source might be more advantageous in countries where our copyright laws aren't well respected, as people can simply steal GPL code and use it to produce proprietary software.
I don't really suspect that software developers in non-Western countries will abuse the GPL for profits. My challenges along this line were simply meant to stimulate the conversation, since it was obvious we had hit a hot button. But I found it interesting that -- except for some comments maddog made about Linux stocks -- nobody could make a solid case that it is more profitable to write open source than proprietary software.