Comment on Bill Gates' statement to free software

Jacob Dawid jacob.dawid at
Fr Jul 26 10:40:50 UTC 2013

Hello folks,

I found it important to comment on Bill Gates's statement to free 
software. Here is the entire blogpost as a copy. If you like it, you are 
free to share it.

Thank God for commercial software. It actually funds salaries, gives 
people jobs. And thank God for free software, it lets people get things 
out there, you can play around, build on. The two work very well in an 
- Bill Gates

What a pile of fraudulent praise.

The problem here is that Mr. Gates is making a difference between 
commercial and free software, as if the advantages of free software 
could be justified on an economic scale. In fact, most free software is 
available gratis today, which is the consequence of a market where the 
duplication cost (copying) is almost zero*.

So, does Mr. Gates conciously lie to you? Kind of, because as soon as 
you read between the lines he is making a third, hidden statement 
through his opposition - a clever stroke to say something while you're 
not actually saying it. Each of his statements is absolutely valid: 
Commercial software funds salaries and gives people jobs. Meanwhile, it 
is also true that free software lets people play around and build on.

There are two more truths: There is also a yet substantial and growing 
amount of free software developed and used in commercial fields, which 
also funds salaries and gives jobs. Plus, people can also play around 
and build on proprietary software, which is difficult but not impossible 
for software for which the developers did not release the source code, 
but more realistically in cases where developers released their source 
code under a non-free license. So while you technically can play around 
and build on that kind of software, you are committing illegal action 
(as regarded by law) as soon as you start to enhance or run it as you 
like - or whatever silly restriction there may be.

Hence, Mr. Gates' statement is extremely harmful to free software, not 
only because he is omitting the nasty truth, but at the same time he is 
implicitly giving people the false impression that commercial success is 
unconditionally bound to be a feature to proprietary software.

* Well, it is not exactly zero. If you buy free software on CD, making 
a copy requires you to pay the physical medium and the cost of actually 
making a copy. If you get your copy over the internet, you have to pay 
for an internet connection and eventually someone has to pay for the 
server, both the server itself and the running expenses of that server."




"Wer für alles offen ist, kann nicht ganz dicht sein."

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