Define Irony: Microsoft Acquires Open Source Icon Github

One of my favourite lines from contemporary Hollywood is from Steve Buscemi in Con Air (speaking of Lynyrd Skynyrd):

Define Irony: A bunch of idiots dancing on a plane to a song made famous by a band that died in a plane crash

The phrase leaps to mind when the news of Microsoft’s $7,5 Billion acquisition of Github. Git-what? Github is a space where programmers share pieces of software code with one another. Instead of each programmer solving every problem on their own, they can often find somebody else’s solution on Github and adjust it to their needs. Beautiful stuff, saves a lot of time and energy. The foundation is open source rules and a spirit of sharing.

OK but what’s the irony? Pirate MEP Julia Reda has made Github the poster child of her criticism of the “value gap” proposal in the DSM-directive’s Article 13. The idea that platform providers must put measures in place to make certain that user uploaded content does not violate copyright has been met with the usual “the internet will be destroyed”-refrain that has played so many times now it’s weird you can read this blog at all. There are many holes in that argument (upload filters are not the only way to comply, Github users upload code they wrote themselves and so on). But the main confusion is the idea that open source is some alternative to copyright and that sharing platforms are idealists in any way.

Open source is based on copyright, when you use open source-software, you agree to terms and conditions – it’s just a form of licensing. It is perfectly compatible with copyright law, in fact it exists within the current copyright law and would be difficult to imagine without it. There are both advantages and disadvantages for the user when comparing open source to other licensing forms. This blog is published using an open source tool – WordPress. Had it been a proprietary software tool, it would not be free but on the other hand there would be a supplier to turn to in case of problems. The choice is for the user to make. How great that there are different options available!

It’s not the first time the pirates have been let down by their prodigies. The Pirate Bay was sold for 60 Million SEK (circa 6 Million Euros) in a deal that was never completed but forever proved it was a commercial operation, far from the grassroots idealism it had been broadcast as. (Github cannot be compared to TPB of course, in contrast most of its stuff is legit.)

The double irony of course is that Microsoft used to be the anti-open software champion and are regarded as the main adversary by many open source enthusiasts.

I don’t mean to gloat (okay, I do mean to gloat), but the Pirates will need to find a better poster child.