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Re: Mostly free software...

In linux.debian.devel, you wrote:
>It would be cool if the state of the art were free, and you can't do
>that in your spare time.  Universities seem to be one place that can
>produce really good free software, but they are not really profit
>oriented institutions...

   Unfortunately, with the budget crunch many universities are feeling
($1,000,000 blowout in my local school, hiring freeze and probably 10
jobs to go..) this is under threat.  People who "bring in outside
money" get more lab space, instrument time, more staff positions,
tenure, ... Software often gets spun off into external companies that
the university maintains a share in until bought out.  Commercial money
always has proprietary strings attached.
   I personally don't think anything produced by taxpayer-funded
research (even partially funded) should be covered by copyright or
patent, but I don't have the political clout to change the situation. 
All I can do is help destroy the scientific software market by
packaging free and gratis code for Debian.  With the market destroyed
perhaps they'll give up proprietizing publicly funded research.  If it
really is commercially viable, they ought to do it on their own money
instead of leaching on the limited basic research budget.
   Curiously, libraries are also being squeezed and are starting to
rebel.  Scientific journal subscriptions (with publicly funded content)
are going through the roof.  The libraries are seeking alternate
distribution means, cancelling the most offensively priced journals,
switching (where available) to lower-cost electronic distribution, and
requesting scientists not publish in some heavily commercialized
journals.  There are many similarities with the free software movement.


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