Open source: The stealth stimulus package

O'Reilly report suggests small and medium-size businesses benefit hugely in the unseen economy from open source

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Defending the source of wealth
No one much cares that energy is used by clothes dried in the sun. So why should we care about all the revenues stimulated in the economy by open source?

That's precisely the problem we face: The value is invisible. Legislators don't protect this important economic stimulator because it doesn't show up their fiscal measures. Nobody is reporting the value of, or the value from, the open source software they use. For some, it's even the source of their otherwise inexplicable ability to turn computers into wealth via Web services -- yet it still goes unreported.

As a consequence, legislators fail to account for the health of open source. While there may be tax breaks for a wide range of topics that interest corporate lobbyists, there are no tax breaks for supporting open source. Software patents may present a higher risk to open source than to the rest of the software industry, yet legislators are slow to reform them. The list goes on and on. Worse, new legislation has no lobbyists intervening in the interests of open source, so there's a severe risk of bad legislation harming this crucial source of American wealth and opportunity -- as SOPA nearly did recently.

It's time to change this. Open source has moved from being disruptive to the default, and legislators need to recognize that. Making this happen will be a slow process, but the tools are already at our disposal. We have the Electronic Frontier Foundation, whose support for Declaration of Internet Freedom characterizes its general defence of the rights essential for open source to exist. I suggest you support the group.

We also have the Open Source Initiative (OSI), of which I am now honored to be president, and at OSCON, we launched Individual Membership for the first time. It's my hope that OSI can also become a powerful voice for open source, just as it's been an important steward of the definition of open source over the last 14 years. You'd expect me to say this, but I hope you'll join OSI too.

This article, "Open source: The stealth stimulus package," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Read more of the Open Sources blog and follow the latest developments in open source at InfoWorld.com. For the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.

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