Talk:Proprietary software/Archive 1

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Archive 1 Archive 2

Mentioning the FSF in the intro paragraph

Um... as an advocate of free software, I hate to say it, but this article reads kind of funny, in a POV sort of way. Imagine if our article on car looked like this:

A car is any motorized vehicle which fundamentally means that the user does not use pedals. The National Bicycle Association defines it as an expensive, gas guzzling device that destroys the environment and kills thousands of people every year.
For more information on cars, see:
Richard Stallman's Bicycle Shop
National Bicycle Association's Disadvantages of Owning a Car

Except that it's apples and oranges. When it's some groups of people who call these things this way, rather than the entire relevant population, then those groups should be named. --Joy [shallot]

Named, yes, but I agree with the original poster that it shouldn't be in the introductory paragraph. That being said, I think a simple line break will solve the problem. I'll implement it for now - if anyone disagrees, let's discuss it here. I'd also like to figure out a way to explain why the FSF's view is worthwhile. I know why it is, but I can't come up with an encyclopedic way to say it. Any thoughts? -Unknownwarrior33 03:12, 13 August 2006 (UTC)

The article has improved greatly since the date the comment was originally posted[1] -- 14:20, 13 August 2006 (UTC)

I'm with the first poster here. This article is certainly NOT POV. As it is currently written is little more than a mouthpiece for the FSF. If people want a discussion on that, they should read about in appropriate articles. Andacar 19:25, 3 April 2007 (UTC)

On removing pejorative

Why is it a "pejorative" term? It is a very objective term to me. The word proprietary doesn't mean anything bad. --Minghong 15:20, 3 Mar 2005 (UTC)

Pejorative is a rather pejorative term itself. Superm401 23:18, Apr 20, 2005 (UTC)

That doesn't answer the question. Dragon 280 (talk) 18:43, 18 December 2007 (UTC)

Stringbean1's edit

Stringbean1's edit changes the definition to describe "proprietary software" not in the FSF's sense of non-free software (which is by far the most familiar sense to me) but as a name for what the FSF calls "private software" or "custom software". See Categories of Free and Non-free Software -- Private Software.

One important difference between these two from the FSF's point of view is that the FSF considers proprietary software to be immoral (related to the question of whether the term proprietary is a pejorative term) but considers private software to be legitimate.

If many people use the term "proprietary software" the way Stringbean1's edit does, it might be useful to have two different sections of this article -- "Proprietary software as described by the free and open source software communities" and "Proprietary software as described by (someone else)". -- Schoen 21:25, 11 July 2005 (UTC)

This is very little correct information in this article

I first wanted to fix the first line, then the first paragraph, but now I see that the whole article needs fixing. Vague talk of "intellectual property", incorrect information about public domain still being proprietary, incorrect implications that Microsoft's Shared Source program puts software in the public domain, "proprietary software" having a defining characteristic that it's usually built to a specfication...

A lot of the information is also irrelevent. This is not a fixable article, it just has to be started again. I will do that now. My rewrite can be reverted of course, and my rewrite will not be perfect, but I hope it will be used to start a-fresh. Gronky 00:00, 18 October 2005 (UTC)

Actually, I've surpassed my expectations and I think the new page I've made is pretty good. It's also not shorter than the previous one. Gronky 01:05, 18 October 2005 (UTC)
  • May we all surpass the expectations of ourselves. 04:39, 18 October 2005 (UTC)

Merging the old stuff into the new article

Many old innaccuracies have been brought back, and the article doesn't make much sense in places.

"the commercial version of SSH"? there are loads of commercial versions of SSH, and some are free software and some are proprietary software.

"Many types of software that are offered with zero price are proprietary"? This will be true for any criteria which is completely unrelated. Many types of software that are offered with spell checking functionaliry are also proprietary. And many are free software. Saying that some people confuse freeware with non-proprietary software would be noteworthy, but to say that: say that.

"This is because the source code in those distribution schemes are" ...and the sentence continues by listing a cut down rewording of what was already stated to define proprietary software. Imperfect duplication will lead readers to compare the two definition wordings to see what's special about zero-cost software that gives it a different definition of "proprietary". And a perfect duplication is redundant by definition.

I'll try to clean this again when I get time, but can reasons be given if duplicate and contradictory information is to be re-added? Gronky 17:58, 26 October 2005 (UTC)

Thanks for you clean-ups, Gronky. I don't think there's any reason to add editorializations of what people get confused. Just state the facts. I think its important to explicitly explain why abandonware, freeware and shareware are proprietary. -- 18:55, 26 October 2005 (UTC)

I suppose so. I've stuck free/share/abandonware back in. -- Gronky 19:29, 26 October 2005 (UTC)

On mentioning software licensing

Mentioning "software licensing" as a means for implementing restrictions is still confusing though. Software licenses cannot restrict anything. If copyright says "no one can go anywhere", and an owner grants you a license saying "you can come in here but you have to take your shoes off" - the owner has not contributed to the restrictions on you. You can leave your shoes on and stay outside. So, taking everything literally, it's true that software licenses are "involved" in legal means of restricting people - but they're part of the solution, which is something I think most people won't get. So it's misleading.

I can't think of a good wording that includes the words "software licensing". It should probably be explained in a subsequent paragraph. I'll give it a try another day if no one else does. Gronky 19:29, 26 October 2005 (UTC)
Software licenses can restrict or and be part of the solution. Proprietary ones often go beyond typical copyright protection. I'm adding a link to the software license article that is relevant and I didn't find before. --
I still think this is a confusion. If one reads a proprietary license, one would think that it implements restrictions, however these actually have no legal foundation. Proprietary licenses contains such unenforceable clauses incase they become enforceable in the future by a change of legislation or by unexpected case law. Contracts can add restrictions, but licenses are not contracts (even though in many countries they are discussed in the same sections of law statutes as contract law). Some proprietary licenses are written to look like contracts, and designed so that the user believes that clicking "I Agree" is the equivalent of signing a contract (and therefore accepting all liability) - however, there is no jurisdiction in the world where clicking such a button has been legislated, or ruled by a court, to be the same as signing a contract.
Have I spotted the confusion? Or can you say how a license restricts beyond copyright (or patent) law? Gronky 03:52, 27 October 2005 (UTC)
...or is that I said "they're part of the solution"? I didn't mean that each license brings us closer to freedom. Microsoft's licenses grant you very few rights, they'll never be a solution, but Microsoft software plus their license gives you more freedom than Microsoft software plus no license. (Remembering that the claimed restrictions in Microsoft's licenses don't have legal foundation, they're just added because ...ah, sure why not add them - is that attitude.) Gronky 04:01, 27 October 2005 (UTC)
The software license article already takes care of describing the qualities you mention, including enforcability. -- 14:22, 27 October 2005 (UTC)
I've done some more thinking. If software license must be linked to, and if that article clears up the debate, then at the least this article shouldn't stir the debate by falsely claiming that (unreservedly) software licenses can restrict people's freedoms. Software licenses should be mentioned in a subsequent sentence allong the lines of "Although it is desputed, and legally unproven, some rights-holders argue that restrictions in addition to those of copyright law, with legal force, can be added to software licenses".
But then I did some more thinking. Isn't that irrelevent? If copyright and patents didn't exist, a license would not be needed and therefore any content of a license would be irrelevent. If that last sentence is correct, then software licenses should not be stated as a legal means for restricting users.
The words "software licenses" could still be mentioned in the article (not first paragraph material, but somewhere), I'm not arguing for a ban on them - just that they shouldn't be stated as a legal means for restricting users (if my above sentence is correct). Gronky 16:40, 27 October 2005 (UTC)
While End User License Agreements (and Shrink_wrap_contracts) are (thankfully) not deemed enforcable, there are software licenses that are legally contractual. These latter software licenses are contracts enforced by the state to protect software as property and contribute to making an environment for proprietary software to survive. Therefore software licensing deserves mention. -- 16:08, 29 October 2005 (UTC)
Your position rests on your statement that "there are software licenses that are legally contractual", but this is not self evident. Can you give an example or something to show the foundation of this statement? Thanks. Gronky 10:39, 3 January 2006 (UTC)

Dual licensing

The following was added to this article:

This is possible by dual-licensing, i.e. making the software available with two licenses and letting the recipient choose.

All permissive free software is available under a single license. Therefore, dual-licensing is hardly a requirement for making "possible" proprietary versions of free software. -- 22:37, 2 January 2006 (UTC)

You're right, I was confused, thanks for spotting this. I'll fix it now. Gronky 10:35, 3 January 2006 (UTC)
You reverted a fix at dual-license, too. Could you fix that, too?
That one wasn't a mistake, but the version I reverted it to is also incorrect. Factually, what I reverted to is correct, but it focusses unnecessarily narrowly on free software related dual licensing when dual licensing is commonly used in proprietary software too. The edit I reverted there increased the previous mistake by further narrowing the focus to copylefted free software. I'll improve that article later. Gronky 18:15, 3 January 2006 (UTC)
So edits will be reverted until you get around to fixing articles how you like? You're not offering us a very workable model for collaboration. This is disappointing.
I can't tell if you're serious. It would help if you signed your posts, that way I could see if I'm still talking to the same person, and if your are new here. I reverted one edit wrongly, I admitted my mistake and fixed it. Someone then questioned a second revert I made, but that revert was not wrong, so I explained it. Further, I offered to improve the article which was confusing. Me offering to improve an article doesn't stop anyone else from also improving that article. I don't see any reasonable grounds for your disappointment. Gronky 12:42, 4 January 2006 (UTC)

Merging in "closed source"

I propose merging the closed source article into this article. I've already mentioned this on Talk:Closed source and the idea got a positive response. The reasons are that the closed source article is quite small, and since it covers basically the same topic as this article, expanding it would basically mean turning it into a duplicate of this article. I'll add the tags now. The discussion should take place in one location, so I propose having the discussion here on this talk page (since the other talk page may end up being merged too). Comments sought. Gronky 10:52, 3 January 2006 (UTC)

They ['closed source' and 'proprietary software'] are two different names for the same topic, so merging seems sensible. I would probably nominate Proprietary Software as the redirect (since having a 'Closed Source' and an 'Open Source' article makes more sense than having 'Proprietary Software' and 'Non-proprietary software'.)Cynical 11:21, 3 January 2006 (UTC)
The reason for having proprietary software as the article is that closed source is not a widely used term. Comparing websearches for, for example, "proprietary" linux and "closed source" linux, and also comparing websearches for "proprietary software" and "closed source software" show this. Gronky 11:40, 3 January 2006 (UTC)
The mention of "a positive response" at Talk:closed source means "one positive response". There's nothing wrong with small short articles. Really, closed source needs a stronger mention of proprietary software as the more common and appropriate term. That would keep it from growing and make more submissions be made to proprietary software. -- 15:41, 4 January 2006 (UTC)
When I was choosing whether to say "a" or "one", I decided it could be misleading to say "one positive response" since it could sound like there were 10 responses and I'm only informing people of the one positive response. So I chose the word "a", since the general response, though small, was positive, and I linked to Talk:Closed source#Merging_in_.22closed_source.22 so that everyone could easily look at the details for themselves. I do my best, but being brief and writing bullet proof text is not easy, you'll never please everyone.
About your proposals for how to prevent the closed source article from growing, and at the same time encourage growth in the proprietary software article - I don't think those are the best goals to aim for. Currently we have one article with a detailed explanation and one article with a 4-line discussion of a term. Would it not be better to add the 4-line discussion of the term to the detailed article? As per norms, the term "closed source software" would be placed near the start of the article and would be in bold. That way, people that come to the page can see about the term and they will also get the detailed explanation. Gronky 21:40, 4 January 2006 (UTC)
I was the "positive response" referenced. I am terribly sorry, but after some consideration I have to change my vote. I do agree with's comment above. "Closed source" and "proprietary software" are sufficiently dissimilar that two articles don't really hurt. There are even usages in which non-closed software can be consideandred "proprietary" (meaning it does its own things and disregards established standards). I was concerned about topical overlap, and we do have to be careful there still. Haakon 22:58, 4 January 2006 (UTC)
I don't understand how they are dissimilar. The two things would need seperate articles if they were simple adjective-noun pairs, since as adjective-noun pairs their meanings would be software-that-has-an-owner and software-whose-internals-are-not-visible. But this is not the case (which is also why wikipedia doesn't have seperate articles for red cars and blue cars). The case is that the proprietary software article discusses the opposite of free software / open-source software, and the closed source article discusses the exact same thing (albeit without the details and with a focus on where the words came from).
As a general note (not part of a reply), I'm very surprised I have to go to such lengths to justify this merge, to me it's a obvious decision, but, if so, then I must have been highly inarticulate and/or abbrasive in my proposal and my responses. I'll respond to any direct questions, but otherwise, I should stop now. I've stated my position, hopefully someone more capable can justify it better at some point in time. Gronky 08:27, 5 January 2006 (UTC)
I do NOT agree that the articles should be merged. Closed source and proprietary software don't mean the same thing. There exists proprietary software which comes with source code. Even the proprietary software article mentions that! Rbarreira 00:46, 27 January 2006 (UTC)
Actually, proprietary software that comes with source is still "closed source" software. Wikipedia having separate articles for these identical topics is probably making that confusion more common. Gronky 10:15, 1 August 2007 (UTC)
Non-free software and proprietary software mean the same thing. Open Source means litterally just the source is enclosed and viewable. It does not mean, you (as a customer) are allowed to see the source without an further contract. And even more it doesn't mean that you are free to compile the source yourself and distribute the original source and binaries and modified ones. That's all only stated in the OSI's definition which one may regard as futile. The opposite, closed source, isn't defined by any authority. So it only means its literal meaning. So all “close source software” is also “proprietary software” and “non-free software”. But with shared source there exists open source software which is proprietary (= non-free). So please let us keep on speaking about freedom on this topic. --mms 17:36, 1 August 2007 (UTC)
To clarify, I don't suggest changing what this article says about freedom. About terms and meanings, the article that Wikipedia has filed under "Closed source" is an article about software which does not mean OSI's definition of open-source software (not about the general concept of software whose source code is unviewable/closed). Currently, the closed source article is just a scrawny duplicate of the proprietary software article. There's no point in having a closed source article - it's just confusing people. It would be better to fold the little bit of content that is at closed source into this article and add a small paragraph explainging the small differences. Gronky 01:20, 3 August 2007 (UTC)

Closed source v. Proprietary software?

I'd like to know the difference between closed source (= non-free) software and proprietary software. It's hard to get an answer from the free software camp, since the diffence may be irrelevant to them.

The word "proprietary" is based on the word "property"; this indicates that the software rights is partially "owned" by someone, i.e., the license restricts everyone except the copyright holder from something important. Based on this interpretation of the word "proprietary", I have two guesses of licenses that may be exceptions to the proposed equality "closed source=proprietary".

  • Closed source but not proprietary A license where non-commercial changing and redistribution by anyone is allowed, is non-free/closed, but could be considered non-proprietary. IIRC, PGP is released under such license. The author is likely to dual-license the software under a proprietary non-gratis license for commercial use.
  • Proprietary but not closed source: A proprietary license could be a modified copyleft license, where nobody except a specific company is allowed to fork the licensed software using non-free licenses. I.e., the license could basically say "If you're (Company A), you may do whatever you want with this software. If you're anyone else, you may use/change/redistribute it in any way you like, as long as you don't change this license". I have not heard of any license constructed like this (some GNU libs like GNU Guile have similar discriminatory clauses added to the GPL, but those clauses may be removed by anyone who forks the project).

I haven't found any information on whether my guesses are correct; I would appreciate if anyone who knows about this could clarify things for me. --Erik 19:48, 18 January 2006 (UTC)

On the first example, you should read the free software definition[2]. In a word, free software doesn't allow discrimination. I'm sure the open source camp concurs with this.
On the second, I'm not sure what a proprietary copyleft license is, but the issue is dealt with in the article: Some free software, even copyleft free software, is available under proprietary terms using a host of trickery methods by copyright holders or their lawyers. -- 08:24, 19 January 2006 (UTC)
The first example is closed source and proprietary because it prohibits commercial redistribution. The second example is not proprietary if I understood it right. It seems like a free software licence with a copyleft clause. Read the philosophy section on the GNU website to get a better understanding of what licences do and what the rational behind free software is. --mms 17:17, 1 August 2007 (UTC)


The compression done in WinZip is code from the Info-ZIP free software package. Shouldn't it be removed as an example of proprietary software?

Info-ZIP is released under a permissive free software license called the BSD license. The license allows software hoarding, making proprietary derivatives of the free software code. A proprietary derivative, like WinZip, composed in part of free software code and distributed entirely under proprietary terms is therefore wholly proprietary.

Just to nitpick

The title "Proprietary" gives a somewhat false definition for the intent of this article. Free and Open Source software has been written in proprietary fashions where payment is required to receive the software from the central source, but it still remains FOSS. Then again, this nitpick only applies if the word "proprietary" is synonymous or confuseable with "commercial". In fact, I'd suggest just a clarification somewhere regarding this if there isn't already one hidden.

If the article were titled Non-Free Software (as the FSF suggests), that might introduce unwanted bias towards FOSS, so I would assume that it isn't a viable alternative. The same could be said if the article on DRM was moved to Digital Restrictions Management as that is only the suggested meaning and not the acronym's "official" meaning. -- Unsigned.

You are right, free software can be sold for a price and it can be developed in a fashion closer to how proprietary software commonly is. The ability to sell free software is discussed at the free software article, and it could be mentioned in this article, it just seems off-topic. This is all discussed at commercial software, however. Maybe that article is more useful to you.
At first I thought you were talking about software with free and non-free dual-licensing such as Mac OS X, that is free software but released as proprietary.
I'd argue the FSF uses (and has advocated the use of) the adjective "proprietary" more than "non-free" in their literature for desribing software that isn't free software. -- 18:58, 9 April 2006 (UTC)
True, but I don't think that's enough to warrant a significant change in the article, especially without a reference for that argument. -Unknownwarrior33 03:46, 13 August 2006 (UTC)
"Proprietary" is never synonymous with "commercial". I don't know how anyone would make that confusion. For the base of Mac OS X, there is a free software version and a proprietary software version - just as Microsoft has a proprietary-for-schools version and a proprietary-for-home version, and MySQL AB have a proprietary version of the MySQL database and a free software version. Gronky 12:52, 13 August 2006 (UTC)
The title of an article is what the article is supposed to be about; if the content doesn't fit the title, then change the content, not the title. Talk of "the intent of this article" is inappropriate, as Wikipedia policy states that no one "owns" any part of any article. As for what the content should be, I wonder if any of the editors has ever consulted a dictionary: "proprietary: belonging or controlled as property". Copylefted software is proprietary; the owner of the copyright sets the conditions of distribution, and can further distribute the software under conditions inconsistent with the copyleft, something that no one else can do (e.g., the copyright owner of GPLed software can distribute binaries without source and can grant others the right to do so). If the FSF or anyone else uses the term "proprietary" to mean anything other than "privately owned", they are misusing the word. However, Wikipedia being what it is, the odds that this article will ever accurately describe what it names are low. -- Jibal 04:16, 31 March 2007 (UTC)
In Wikipedia, titles no not define what an article is about. Titles are a best effort to sum up the topic in as few words as possible. When a title can have multiple meanings, each topic gets its own page in the style "name (domain)".
The thing you described is a dictionary. Wikipedia is an encyclopedia. --Gronky 12:28, 16 September 2007 (UTC)

Pros and Cons or only Cons?

Since proprietary software exists, there must be some benefits. Since some is even bought for money, there must also be benefits for users, not only for owners. The article could try to provide some insight on this. Can the first sentence be something along "Proprietary software is software that has a well-defined owner who values that ownership to the software" and further downstream proceed to clarify the difference between owner and committer.

People pay for bad things for reasons including addiction and lack of alternatives. Also, keep in mind that "proprietary software" is a term, not an adjective-noun pair that can be looked up seperately in a dictionary. The definition is "software that is not free software". The reason "proprietary" is used is that software is defined by placing importance on control by the proprietor, rather than freedom for users. If you can think of how the article should be clarified on this point, that would be useful. Gronky 11:08, 21 August 2006 (UTC)
No, that's not the definition. Your comment here explains why this article is so grossly POV. -- Jibal 04:23, 31 March 2007 (UTC)
Bad things? Good or bad is off the mark unless you want to influence the value system of the reader. Who says that proprietary software is bad anyway? Or is paying bad? Who is talking about paying?

Proprietory and for-pay is distinct concepts. And free software is not a adjective-noun pair either, right? Huh? The term "proprietary software" is created from a noun and a qualifying adjective, now we want to make sure we give the correct meaning for the term to readers who are looking it up in the encylopedia because it is new to them. If we are sure the readers only want to reconfirm a bias, the current article is just fine.

Proprietary software is software that has a well-defined owner, where the owner places emphasis on this ownership for some reason. A frequent case is a commercial software manufacturer who limits use to those who pay for the software in order to finance continued sustained development. To keep the source code of software confidential is a simple way to protect the long-term vision of a development effort and to avoid user confusion over too many variants.

Why the accusations (my emphasis)?
Since proprietary software exists, there must be some *benefits*.
Who says that proprietary software is *bad* anyway?
Since some is even *bought for money*, there must also be benefits for users [...]
Who is talking about *paying*?
Is this scizophrenia or behavior resulting from short-term memory loss? -- 21:35, 21 August 2006 (UTC)
The accusations are made because that is the impression the article gives. It references Stallman to say that "the restrictions of [non-free] software benefit only the owner and are unethical," without offering, say, an opposing viewpoint. It then follows up with a section titled, "Risks." This article is biased, and I have therefore placed NPOV on it. I don't know how to make this article unbiased—since it's a hot topic among those who care—but I encourage someone to make an substantive effort beyond a one-sentence "proponents of proprietary software claim..." (which, in fact, is not even present in the current version). Mbelisle 07:45, 23 December 2006 (UTC)
The closed source article, aside from the "antonym" line in the first sentence, does a decent job of achieving NPOV on a similar topic. I think the focus should be more on what proprietary software is (from a neutral view) rather than what opponents see as drawbacks. This brings me to a second question: Being as "closed-source" isn't mentioned in the "Forms of Software Distribution" template, would it be appropriate to merge it into this article or add it to the template? Mbelisle 19:50, 23 December 2006 (UTC)

I believe part of the POV issue was related to the choice of headings. The headings were "Risks" and "Advantages". Neither were truly descriptive, and also divided the article into a "for" and "against" paradigm.

If there are POV issues, let them be heard. If there are more so-called "Pro" arguments, to be added along with Microsoft's, let them also be contributed. The closed source software article may be considered NPOV, but it doesn't delve in to the issues taken up in this article to the same degree, and also it has no references. This article does. -- 14:38, 1 March 2007 (UTC)