More Moralizing on Open Source Software

Yesterday’s post ended with a question: am I robbing a man if I accept from him what he insists on giving me in exchange or nothing? After a night’s rest, I think I have an answer.

No, I am not robbing him. He has his own motives for giving it away. If I reject what he offers because I think he is robbing himself, I am inposing my moral code on him, and denying him the opportunity live by his own. He has chosen to work for free to his own detriment (as I see it), but his welfare is his own concern, not mine.

If he chooses to offer me his work free-of-charge, the criteria for accepting it should be that of any other transaction: is the value of what he offers worth the price that he is asking? On such a basis, I need only refuse his offer if his work is worthless to me, or I can find more value for my money elsewhere.

So it seems to be alright to use Open Source Software. I can go back to using Vim.

Morality of Using Open Source Software

I’ve been giving some thought to whether it is right to use Open Source Software. On the one hand, by using OSS I contribute to an unjust system, where undeserving free-riders can benefit from the work of unrewarded developers. On the other hand, these unrewarded developers — the altruists who create valuable software with no intention of collecting payment for their work — I have to assume are intelligent people. Their decision to work for free, as self-destructive as it seems to me, is one I can only assume they made of their own conscious free will. They must expect some untangible reward for the work they do. So am I robbing a man if I accept from him what he insists on giving me in exchange for nothing?