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MIT Press Book On Open Source Now Free

kdawson posted about 7 years ago | from the as-in-beer dept.

Books 51

eaglemoon writes "MIT Press has released its book Perspectives on Free and Open Source Software as a free PDF download. The book is a collection of research essays covering topics such as open source motivation, economics, business models, software development process and tools, law, and community. Sort of like 'Open Sources' from academics. David Parnas, Larry Lessig, Eric von Hippel, and Clay Shirky are among the contributors."

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51 comments

Free? (4, Interesting)

omeomi (675045) | about 7 years ago | (#18417483)

So, is anybody going to argue that it's not "free" because you can't edit and redistribute it yourself?

Re:Free? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18417645)

So, is anybody going to argue that it's not "free" because you can't edit and redistribute it yourself?


Define free.

Re:Free? (1)

bcrowell (177657) | about 7 years ago | (#18420767)

>>So, is anybody going to argue that it's not "free" because you can't edit and redistribute it yourself?

>Define free.

Free (as in freedom) would mean you can edit and redistribute it yourself.

I maintain a catalog of books that are free as in beer, or free as in speech. (See my sig.) Currently I have 111 books in the catalog that are under free-as-in-speech licenses such as the GFDL or CC-BY-SA. Not many of those books are actually about free information, but a few are (e.g., Free as in Freedom: Richard Stallman's Crusade for Free Software, by Sam Williams). There are another 1022 books in the catalog that are free as in beer, but not free as in speech.

The beer/speech definition has very little to do with the format of the book. Of the 111 free-as-in-speech books, quite a few are distributed only in pdf format, which may make it a hassle to use their contents in creative ways to make derived works, but it doesn't make it illegal. It would be illegal to do so with the 1022 free-as-in-beer books. In the case of the books I've written, I distribute them in three different formats (pdf, html, latex); this is analogous to distributing a program both in binary and source form. (The GFDL does have a clause that says you can't modify and redistribute the licensed work in an "opaque" format, without making it available in a "transparent" format as well. The CC-BY-SA license has no such restriction.)

It may seem ungrateful to complain that the authors of this book haven't made it available under a copyleft license, but what they're doing does seem to contradict the ideology the book is trying to push. For instance, if someone wants to include a chapter in a course pack for a university course, they can't legally do that without claiming fair use (and most bookstores these days are very suspicious of that kind of free use claim by instructors). It's true that licenses like GFDL and CC-BY-SA, which are modeled after the GPL, may not be completely appropriate for a work that expresses opinions, but then the solution would be to use something like CC-BY-ND. Likewise, they could set the noncommercial (NC) bit, if MIT Press is scared of losing money because somebody else comes out with an edition. (But again, that would be kind of ironic, since the whole philosophy of the open source movement, which is being pushed by the book, is to renounce of the traditional monopoly on publishing rights granted by copyright law.)

Re:Free? (1)

choongiri (840652) | about 7 years ago | (#18417807)

Yes:

© 2005 Massachusetts Institute of Technology

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form by any electronic or mechanical means (including photocopying, recording, or information storage and retrieval) without permission in writing from the publisher.

Re:Free? (4, Funny)

omeomi (675045) | about 7 years ago | (#18417847)

Oh goody! I, for one, can't wait until people start arguing that free beer isn't free, because you can't open, modify, and then redistribute it legally. That will make the whole "free as in beer" argument so much more exciting.

Re:Free? (1)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | about 7 years ago | (#18418067)

But, you actually can open, modify and redistribute free beer legally if you're a restaurant with a beer and wine license, provided you pour it in a glass first and your redistribution area doesn't extend beyond the property line.

Re:Free? (1)

omeomi (675045) | about 7 years ago | (#18418261)

provided you pour it in a glass first and your redistribution area doesn't extend beyond the property line.

Well, that doesn't sound very free, then, does it?

Re:Free? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18418167)

"free" does not mean also "open".

free means just that you can take it without having requrements (money or else)
open means you can take it and modify it.

so it's right, it's free

Re:Free? (1)

AeroIllini (726211) | about 7 years ago | (#18419017)

Why would this not be free? PDF is a fully open, documented standard; Adobe licenses their patents on it royalty-free.

There's no reason to be stuck with Adobe Acrobat Reader(tm). Go get a real PDF editor [wisc.edu] and modify away! Dump the whole thing to text or LaTeX if you want.

Re:Free? (1)

omeomi (675045) | about 7 years ago | (#18419103)

Why would this not be free? PDF is a fully open, documented standard; Adobe licenses their patents on it royalty-free.

I think you're confusing the medium and the message. The openness of the PDF standard (the medium) has nothing to do with the openness of the content (the message).

Re:Free? (1)

AeroIllini (726211) | about 7 years ago | (#18420323)

I think you're confusing the medium and the message.
Not really, I was just being an ass.

This is no different than music... someone owns the copyright and you're not allowed to modify or redistribute without permission, even if the format is open and Free (ogg/flac/etc.). You're allowed to remix or cite under Fair Use, but not distribute.

Just because the book discusses open source doesn't mean the book IS open source.

Re:Free? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18432659)

I think that means it's "free as in beer" but not "open".

License information (1)

ksd1337 (1029386) | about 7 years ago | (#18417579)

What is the license used to distribute the book? Does it even have a license?

Re:License information (1)

cultrhetor (961872) | about 7 years ago | (#18425447)

MIT, as the owner of the copyright, has decided to distribute the book for NO COST. This does not mean that you can redistribute it, as you do not own the copyright. If you do, you are subject to copyright infringement as your redistribution has infringed on MIT's sole right to decide what to do with the damn thing: they might want to make it "for profit" once again and remove the "free download."

Suggestion (2, Interesting)

truthsearch (249536) | about 7 years ago | (#18417659)

I haven't checked it out yet, but this sounds like the sort of thing that should handed around to managers at Windows-only shops. I spent 10 years in development teams that only worked on Windows (and Microsoft development tools) and management had no comprehension of what open source was really about. They ignored it because they didn't understand it. I wish I had something like this back then.

Re:Suggestion (0, Flamebait)

malevolentjelly (1057140) | about 7 years ago | (#18417761)

...Yeah, because the Ivory Tower has a lot to teach managers and business leaders about what's profitable and what works. :P

Re:Suggestion (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18417961)

Why do people think that Windows is the antithesis of Open Source? Almost all Open Source software runs under Windows rather well. If fact, large OSS packages like Mozilla, Apache and OpenOffice all run under Windows. Many OSS programmers develop their software on Windows. Microsoft also releases open source software under their own open source license. I would say that Microsoft is one of the largest producers of open source software in fact!

Re:Suggestion (1)

fotbr (855184) | about 7 years ago | (#18418061)

Because most people have the incorrect assumption that Open Source == Linux. Including fanboys of Open Source, Linux, and Microsoft. Also, Microsoft has a history of their spokespeople declaring war on "Open Source" when they mean "Linux".

Re:Suggestion (1)

exp(pi*sqrt(163)) (613870) | about 7 years ago | (#18421265)

They ignored it because they didn't understand it.
And speaking as an ex-manager at a Windows only shop that made heavy use of Python, Perl and cygwin, you clearly don't understand it either.

Re:Suggestion (1)

truthsearch (249536) | about 7 years ago | (#18421495)

If you don't know that Python, Perl, and cygwin aren't Microsoft development tools (or didn't bother to read that part of my post), then there's really nothing for you to say at all.

not to nitpick but... (4, Insightful)

east coast (590680) | about 7 years ago | (#18417753)

MIT has made a ton of stuff free to the unwashed masses. Is this a big deal simply because it involves open source or is this a really noteworthy book like "Design Patterns" or "Code Complete"?

Re:not to nitpick but... (2, Informative)

garcia (6573) | about 7 years ago | (#18417987)

IMHO, it's certainly not nearly important as them offering OpenCourseWare [mit.edu] to the masses for free.

Re:not to nitpick but... (3, Informative)

morgret (1072856) | about 7 years ago | (#18418183)

MIT isn't the only one offering their courses to the masses for free. Many institutions, both K12 and higher ed, have their courses online now. Of those, many have the Creative Commons licenses that can allow for remixing the content. http://www.oercommons.org/oer/oer-providers [oercommons.org] has everything from Free High School Science Texts from South Africa to webcasts from UC Berkeley to MIT's OpenCourseWare, as well as dozens of other sources.

Re:not to nitpick but... (1)

Nazlfrag (1035012) | about 7 years ago | (#18426329)

That is incredibly amazing. The EE/CS part seems particularly enjoyable. Well, I'm off to study some photonics. And then tell everyone I studied at MIT!

Re:not to nitpick but... (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | about 7 years ago | (#18420605)

I printed out a few chapters for the commute home[1], but I left them at work. But from the bits I quickly scanned, it looks more like a collection of essays - background reading, you could say.

[1] Don't panic, I take the train.

Re:not to nitpick but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18421181)

... or is this a really noteworthy book like "Design Patterns" or "Code Complete"?


There it is again.

Another reference to "Code Complete" that doesn't end with: "A truly awful book that was obviously produces on the doller per page model"

Did you all read the same book I did? (Actually, I never made it through to the end. Is there some secret at the end like: "Re-read the book, ignoring every other word and then you will get the good stuff?")

I really want to know, because there seem to be an awful lot of folks out there who didn't realize the enormous suckitude of that book.

RFTB? (1)

deviceb (958415) | about 7 years ago | (#18418507)

anybody read this, i have no time to read a whole book right now

Re:RFTB? (1)

Patrik_AKA_RedX (624423) | about 7 years ago | (#18425979)

Since you don't have time to read it:
The butler did it and miss Green knew it but tried to frame Mr Rogers, who had a secret relation with Mr Green. Inspector McMacsome figured it out, because Mr Rogers doesn't smoke and the butler used lipstick. The horse in the closet was a death give away, who else but the butler would use a gattling gun to murder Mr Rich? Ofcourse in the end it gets clear that Mr Rich was involved with bike smuggle operations and tree abuse and the butler was an undercover secret Ecopolice agent.

MIT and Openness (4, Informative)

wile_e_wonka (934864) | about 7 years ago | (#18419035)

MIT publishes a magazine called Technology Review [technologyreview.com], which I have been a reader of for some time now. There came a time a few years back when they required a subscription to view online material, much like Scientific American and many other magazines do. This was after the school had begun their OpenCourseWare program, and I thought it seemed contrary to where the school was headed. I emailed the magazine and told them essentially that. I have no idea if my email played a part (I'm sure it was one of many similar emails--Technology Review really is a great magazine (one I'd be willing to pay for if I wasn't so darn poor...I'm a student)). But anyway, within a few days, the content was all freely accessable again.

Re:MIT and Openness (1)

tsalaroth (798327) | about 7 years ago | (#18420855)

You weren't the only person who sent them an email, I know myself and at least one other colleague did. Though, I'm sure numbers always help. :)

Re:MIT and Openness (1)

wile_e_wonka (934864) | about 7 years ago | (#18421077)

I'm hoping someone on the Technology Review staff will respond to my comment. Maybe people like us made a difference, or maybe just very few people subscribed and they make more money as an ad-supported magazine (meaning it was all about "the benjamins" and our emails served little purpose).

Re:MIT and Openness (1)

Acer500 (846698) | about 7 years ago | (#18434131)

Thanks! I always liked Technology Review since my university had a subscription (which they didn't renew, sadly), and when I tried to access it online I found out I couldn't...

I had no idea it had switched to open access, good news that. (BTW, I'd like to subscribe but I'm probably even poorer than you... 3rd world student :) )

This is an excellent book... (3, Informative)

cursorx (954743) | about 7 years ago | (#18419575)

I bought this a while back when it was fresh. Some of the articles are very, very good. But a considerable part of the content was already free back then, only not as a part of the book (i.e. the authors themselves had made some of the articles freely available before publication).

firsT (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18422937)

new core is going Nigger Association to0, can be a Hobby. It was all Be fun. It used

Best Course at MIT... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18423403)

The best course at MIT is the one called "How to make millions by getting idiots to do your work for you... for free!!!"

I hear some of the class alumni have gone on to successful careers at AOL's Netscape, Novell's SUSE, and IBM (just about anything). When your labor costs are close to nothing and your support product support either non-existant or you charge heavily for it... your profit is near infinite!

von Hippel's other books (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18432953)

Prof. von Hippel wrote a couple other books. Both of which are available for "free as in beer" downloads under a CC Attribution-no Commercial-no Derivs licence. "Sources of Innovation" and "Democratizing Innovation" are both really good reads. You can download PDFs at von Hippel's site at http://web.mit.edu/evhippel/www/books.htm [mit.edu].
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