Koha ILS

KohaCon10: Sharing is Good

François Marier was up next to tell us how to convince our bosses (well library bosses) that sharing is good!

Before talking about software freedom, let’s take a look at non-free software. Fran√ßois started with an example from Amazon in July 2009. Amazon realized that they had some books in their Kindle library that they didn’t have the rights to sell. They removed those books from the catalog, but people had already bought these books, so Amazon went into people’s kindles and deleted the book. If this happened in the physical world it would be against the law, but because it was digital it was a bit more complicated.

Proprietary software is full of anti-features. The examples of which François provided were:

  • software that gets installed without your permission (spyware, keyloggers, etc)
  • price discrimination (windows 7 has a bunch of different editions, each price point gets you more features – fewer anti-features)
  • I missed the heading for this next one, but the example was the chip on batteries that tells the phone if the battery is a third party device – if so then the phone will drain the battery faster
  • protecting copyrights (DRM is an example of this – which isn’t really about managing rights, but taking them away)

The solution to all of this is free software! Free software gives you 4 freedoms

  • Freedom of use
  • Freedom to copy
  • Freedom to modify
  • Freedom to contribute

You need all four of these freedoms to have free software – and all of these are outlined in the license. Proprietary software licenses are not this easy to read – in fact, reading them is pointless because you won’t understand them. Free software licenses though were written for non-lawyers. Also, while there are different licenses for open source, most free software uses the GPL so if you know that license you know what you can do with other free software. The license also says you have to extend the same freedoms to others – this is called copyleft. Another type of license is a ‘permissive license’ – this type of license allows developers to take freedoms away from the users.

This does not mean that Koha is a ‘free for all’ – that anyone can write anything. To get your code into Koha it has to go through a process of checks and balances that are in place. Each free software community has different checks and balances, but for Koha, that patch goes to the QA manager and the release manager and is tested before it makes it into the final release.

Ultimately if we want to share and preserve knowledge we need an open data society – the way to achieve this is through free software.

I have to add here that Fran√ßois’s talk is awesome and will surely convince your boss to use free software – or at least make him/her think – i hope!


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