You Don’t Deserve Free Software

This is going to be short, but it’s something that I have been seeing in increasing frequency and I’m sick and tired of it.

You Don’t Deserve Free Software
Photo by Markus Spiske / Unsplash

We all benefit from free and open source (FOSS) software. The backbone of the internet is built on it, services and apps you use on a daily basis are built on it; no one is going to argue that FOSS isn’t valuable or not an integral part of today’s technology landscape. Sites like GitHub, GitLab, and others have been pivotal in providing a space for developers to share and collaborate on some truly remarkable pieces of code that have literally changed the world. This has become the norm today — a developer has an idea for a library or an application, they push some code to GitHub, and if there’s a demand for it they’ll get some collaborators to contribute to the project while companies and users pull the code down and use it in their own projects. FOSS has gained such ubiquity in modern development that we’ve mistaken its availability as a birthright. But the truth of the matter, and the one that no one really wants to admit, is that you and I don’t deserve open source software; we are entitled to nothing, we are owed nothing, and every line of code we use that was written by someone else is a privilege granted by the author. Yet, on a regular basis, we find individuals within the development world calling for boycotts of for-profit companies, cloud providers, and anyone else who falls outside their scope of acceptability because they refuse to play by the rules we think they should. No one is obliged to release their source nor is anyone entitled to it other than its author; to demonize a company or product owner for not releasing their intellectual property to the world for free is an act of extreme arrogance.