NYT on the politics of open source

I’m glad that the NYT is covering the trend toward the use of open source software in politics.
Unfortunately, the article embraces the “spin” of the content industry, repeating the canard that advocates of open source and the cultural commons are anti-intellectual property.
“Many of them propose rewriting intellectual property laws worldwide to limit their scope and duration.”
The fact is, the content industries have presided over unprecedented expansion of intellectual property control. Activists are trying to roll back the power grab to a reasonable balance between ownership and the exchange of ideas that enables cultural growth and technical innovation.
Also, the article focuses on the collective and “free as in beer” side of open source. They describe open source technology for politics as a cash-free, collective technofarm. This misses the economic structure of open source deployment.
Some of the development for Dean and other grassroots activism has been volunteer work — this is opening brand new channels for grass roots organizing, using volunteer labor and open source tools.
Meanwhile, the development for mainstream campaigns is done by paid consultants using open source and proprietary tools. Campaigns continue to pay money for development, support, and service accountability.
By using open source software, and contributing changes to the community, they save money on software license fees. Software license fees are typically only 25% to 30% of the total price of software deployment.
I’m glad they’re covering the story, but this article misses the point.

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