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I see all these people saying how eventually the somewhat recent boom in open source/free software will eventually fall to its knees, and I can't help but ask, how?

While Linux (both kernel and various user-space programs) is put under a weird melange of copyrights, whose owners could technically demand to pull their code at any given moment, things like the GNU project can't fail, so long as there's someone to modify it. All copyrights are put under the name of The Free Software Foundation for just that purpose: it can't die; it will always be free. So even if, say, RMS becomes a Massachusetts hobo begging for food, if I, or anyone, could find a GNU mirror somewhere, they could still continue development under free license.

I've heard people cite over-commercialization of the community as reasons why it will fail. Well, as long as it's common practice to put as much code under the GPL as possible, I see no problem with this. But, let's say, hypothetically, 10 years down the road, I need a kernel module for my nanotech molecule assembler to get my flying car working again. Well, even if nobody even knows what the hell "Linux" is anymore ("a guy named linus in around 1990-something? is he that jerk who revealed the magician's secrets?"), I could still try and hack in support for it, and if enough people say, "hey, that's cool", the community will grow again. It's as simple as that. Just because the code is no longer under rapid development (or "dead") doesn't mean it doesn't exist, or that I can't modify it.

I say the biggest threat are those mixed-copyright projects, but GNU will always be free. And then there're those tricky licenses, but RMS and other purists will be around to chant what is unholy and forgive us of our sins. If the booming economy goes downhill (it has shown signs of this already, and clueless morons promising tax cuts will not help), I could see a problem.

Oh, and let's not forget *BSD.. they could much more easily have problems for obvious reasons.

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