Allchin claims that "Open source is an intellectual-property destroyer". Is this FUD? Hardly, GNU/Linux was founded on the idea that software should have no owners. To suggest that those at the forefront of Linux and GNU are anti-IP is fairly accurate (unless you are talking about their own IP).
Well, you're right on one part. RMS is pretty much against copyrights. (for software at the very least) But he's against copyrights in general, and one of the points of the GPL is to use copyright as a weapon against itself. Were he given the choice between no copyrights whatsoever, and copyrights only for the FSF, I have no doubt that he'd take the former option. The GPL is only useful in a world with copyrights. Should his dream come true and there is no copyright on software, it's really pointless. Overall you're trying to characterize Free Software proponents as blackguards, but virtually any actual study reveals that this is untrue.
Many in the US and the wider world feel that they should be able to use their creations (whether tangible or intellectual) to make money. They feel they should be able to own intellectual property like any other property. And why shouldn't they? The effort required to create a CD or a novel is no less worthy than the effort required to build a house or sculpt a statue. The fact that music, books and software can easily be duplicated is no reason to suggest that these things can't be owned.
Ah? You believe that it's possible to own content, or that it can be considered property?
Well, as I'm fond of pointing out, the best (and incidentally legal) definition of property is that it is anything which meets three criteria. That it first, must be capable of being used and enjoyed by the owner. That it second, must be capable of being used by others only at the sufferance of the owner. And that third it must be capable of being disposed of by the owner.
The first is true of content. If you write a book, you can read the book, rewrite it, incorporate it in whole or in part in other works. You can go wild.
The second is not true. When I read the book, the words in the book do not get transferred into my brain. Rather, a copy is made, much in the same way that a computer program stored on disk is copied into various other memories (RAM, VM, cache, CPU registers...) on the computer. The trick is, the copy that's in my head is entirely seperate from the book. If you own the book, it's a tangible thing regardless of the information in it, and you do own it. But you don't own my memories, regardless of what they're of. And you don't get to get them back. I can make full use of these memories as well; remember passages, the overall plot, bits of characterization. Certainly enough to be considered infringement if I printed and sold it. And there are people, like one of my grandfathers, who have photographic memories and get the whole thing.
The third is not true either. Because not only can you not sell or destroy other people's copies of the work (which you'd have to be able to do for this to qualify), the master copy is in your head. You copied it out to paper, because of the permanence and ability to show it to others. But nevertheless you did indeed copy it, and you're stuck with the original again keeping it out of the realm of property.
Furthermore, because of the nature of information, and that it's not property and can never be, there is no natural copyright either. Consider copyright's opposite, free speech. Nature endows us with free speech. If the governments of the world vanished overnight, people could say what they wanted to say. No inherent force of the universe prevents them. Unfortunately, you could still get assaulted for it, and that's one of the reasons that we bother with governments anyway; to prevent the assault yet not infringe on our God-given right to free speech. (and I mean that as literally God-given, btw)
If copyright were a natural right, people would be inexplicably unable to infringe on it. People would truly own words. They don't. Copyright clearly doesn't exist unless we make it exist. It's a positive right, regardless of whether or not it would be desirable for it to be a natural right. This means that unless the government both has the power to grant copyright and finds it desirable to do so, there isn't any. Congress could turn around tomorrow and say, "Sorry Microsoft, you don't get your copyrights, patents or trademarks anymore." It's probably even doubtful as to whether it would even qualify as a Fifth Amendment taking. It was a government-granted right after all, and not a limitless one.
Also, here in the US anyway, the limits on the Copyright power of Congress (which is the only one there is here; state copyrights were abolished as they ratified or became subject to the Constitution) are utilitarian in nature. We have copyright to achieve certain goals. These goals are clearly stated: to promote progress of the sciences and the useful arts. Copyright laws that are enacted and serve, by accident or design, other purposes, no matter how benign, are unconstitutional. There are futher limits as well: copyrights must exist only for a limited time; copyrights must be assigned to the author. These limits are conspiciously absent in the realm of real property. You can own a book forever. You cannot hold a copyright on the contents of the book forever. Again, copyright is an entirely different animal from property. There are all kinds of ways in which this is true. The doctrines of Fair Use, First Sale, copyright abuse, refusal of a grant of copyright on unpublished works.... It's not an insignificant list.
While you should be able to use and enjoy the fruits of your labors, and use them to make money, it's just not property, never has been, never can be. That things can not only be duplicated so easily, but are of no use unless duplicated by the process of a human interacting with them is a very good reason why they can't be property.
(Copyrights themselves, however, are property. This I think is what causes a lot of confusion.)
While many would argue that it is possible to make money from open source software, it's certainly true to say that most of the more successful software companies have been solely or mostly based on proprietary software. If you consider that part of "the American Way" is "Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness", certainly success in business would be part of that. And if you want success in business, why not emulate the business model used by America's richest man?
I agree. Most of the more successful (in a monetary sense) software houses rely on proprietary software. This does not mean that they are necessarily worth emulating. Every successful nation by the end of the 18th century had been ruled by kings, with the exception of the Roman Republic. (Democratic Athens didn't last all that long, though it has had great effect comparatively recently) This did not prevent a shift away from kings en masse by the peoples of the world, which is still ongoing. Also, in case you hadn't heard, Microsoft is in serious trouble for having acquired their power and wealth illegally. Do you suggest that in order to achieve Life, Liberty and Happiness (notably changed from Property by Jefferson, who wasn't confident about that one) that we all adopt criminal behavior?
Open source is clearly a threat to this business model.
Business models are not protected by the government. They may rely on other things which are (e.g. newspapers: the guarantee that they have freedom of the press; builders: the guarantee that their property will not be taken without due compensation) but the models themselves are not. The government is perfectly free to regulate commerce, provided that it does not represent an infringement on more fundemental rights.
Whether a large scale uptake of open source would threaten innovation is another story. There certainly have been innovations in the open source arena. However it would certainly reduce the incentive for software companies to invest in research, it is more likely that any innovation in open source would have to come from academia.
This is already true. A very large number of innovations have stemmed from pure research and applied but undirected research. Many large companies are known for funding laboratories which are effectively academic in nature. (e.g. PARC, Bell Labs) Furthermore, it would be a highly unconstitutional* act for government to prohibit research into virtually any field, especially in order to permit businesses the luxury of researching it independently.
And it's also probably unhealthy to assume that corporations just are. They, like copyright, are created by government fiat. And IIRC must serve specific purposes as well to avoid being dechartered and nonexistant. Even if that penalty is not employed as often as it probably should be, and even though we lately have allowed businesses freer reign than in the past, that doesn't mean that they have natural rights to exist.
*(Unconstitutional under the freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom to assemble and copyright clause is my instantaneous impression. I'll bet that at least that many more could be added to the list with a bit of thought)
Anyway, Allchin's comments were very ill-conceived. If not even on the above flaws, than that it promotes the idea that government should be able to closely regulate software itself. Which would put MS and the commercial software industry into just as precarious a position as it aims to place Free Software into, not to mention our natural freedoms in general. Remember why we protect the freedom of speech as much as we do: to protect not only popular opinions but unpopular ones. Regulation or prohibition of Free Software would be letting the camel in, nose, hump and tail.
All my posts including this one are in the public domain. I am a lawyer. I am not your lawyer, and this is not legal advice.