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Government Open Source Software United States

The New 501(c)(3) and the Future of Open Source In the US 228

An anonymous reader writes: If you're involved in the free and open-source software movement — especially in the United States — you may want to read through this, as long as it may seem. It appears that the United States' Internal Revenue Service has strongly shifted its views of free and open-source software, and to the detriment of the movement, in my opinion. From the article: "The IRS reasons that since Yorba’s open source software may be used for any purpose, Yorba is not a charity. Consider all the for-profit and non-charitable ways the Apache server is used; I’d still argue Apache is a charitable organization. (What else could it be?) There’s a charitable organization here in San Francisco that plants trees throughout the city for the benefit of all. If one of their tree’s shade falls on a cafe table and cools the cafe’s patrons as they enjoy their espressos, does that mean the tree-planting organization is no longer a charity?"
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The New 501(c)(3) and the Future of Open Source In the US

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  • 501(c)(3) Classes (Score:5, Insightful)

    by TechyImmigrant ( 175943 ) on Tuesday July 01, 2014 @02:28PM (#47362245) Homepage Journal

    From the wikis: charitable, religious, educational, scientific, literary, testing for public safety

    Why do you need to be charity? Why not educational/scientific?

  • ah (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Charliemopps ( 1157495 ) on Tuesday July 01, 2014 @02:38PM (#47362367)

    So... a non lawyer got a request from the IRS to explain his charitable status, they decided he wasn't a charity, and now he's posting to a blog that the entire open source world is coming to an end? I think dude needs to spend more time getting a lawyer and less time posting to slashdot.

    I HATE the IRS with a passion. This stuff should be easy. But the fact of the matter is, it's not. You need legal representation if you're going to be a 501(c)

    Then we have this: "We have no plans to appeal their decision."
    ok... so what's the point of this post? If you're agreeing with them, I don't get it. If you're not agreeing with them, but just rolling over, then you deserve what you get.

  • by kenh ( 9056 ) on Tuesday July 01, 2014 @02:51PM (#47362513) Homepage Journal

    A couple points - first off, there were hundreds of Patriot/Tea Party groups that applied, not just one monolithic Tea Party organization - each application was unique and individual.

    I'm not sure how many of what you refer to as 'Occupy' applications were submitted, by your use I assume it was one.

    The Occupy group that got a denial is actually years ahead (literally) of several dozen Patriot/Tea Party organizations that are still waiting YEARS LATER for a decision up or down on their application... So what? A group can not appeal a decision until it is rendered, by denying the Patriot/Tea Party groups a decision, they denied them the chance to appeal, and the appeal process would overturn baseless political denials. A delayed decision is effectively an unappealable denial - your 'Occupy' group, by getting a denial, could appeal - the Patriot/Tea Party groups can not.

    Your lone counter-example proves/dis-proves nothing.

    BTW, did your 'Occupy' group have their private donor information shared by IRS employees with other, non-governmental groups? Tea Party groups had their donor lists handed over by the IRS to Democrat groups...

    You would benefit from an expansion of your news sources to include, maybe source documents and/or actual, under-oath testimony from the people involved...

  • by Moryath ( 553296 ) on Tuesday July 01, 2014 @02:56PM (#47362567)

    Most open-source "foundations" have been operating in a "give away the razor, sell the blades" mentality.

    Give away the razor (base software), sell the blades (support contracts / phone support / specific pay-for-implementation requests / etc).

    I can see why the IRS is having a hard time taking claims of being a nonprofit or public-benefit company seriously when that's examined. It's kind of taking the "how to make money off FOSS" instructions constantly published in the community at face value.

  • Not a precedent (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mark-t ( 151149 ) <> on Tuesday July 01, 2014 @02:59PM (#47362589) Journal

    While this might seem to suck, I know from first-hand inquiries that it is not possible to allow a charitable organization such as a church, for example, that has a kitchen to allow their kitchen to be used even by one of its own members for any kind of commercial purpose, even if the church receives absolutely *NO* benefit from said use. Allowing it would jeopardize the church's tax-exempt status, so it's not allowed.

    Really, if you want to be a charity, then you can't allow your resources to be used by people with commercial interests. Sucks for open source organizations that want to act as charities, and I can see it being detrimental for some donations because I know that getting a tax exemption does motivate some people to donate.

    But bear in mind that if tax-exemption were really the only reason or even the primary reason why people might donate to a cause or organization that they may believe in, it's highly unlikely that something like crowdfunding would ever work, and we have plenty of evidence to show that it does.

  • by disposable60 ( 735022 ) on Tuesday July 01, 2014 @03:04PM (#47362631) Journal

    the current president is mega-corporate bitch;

    Unlike which of the previous several?

  • by just_another_sean ( 919159 ) on Tuesday July 01, 2014 @03:24PM (#47362817) Journal

    How is that different from other religions?

  • by krashnburn200 ( 1031132 ) on Tuesday July 01, 2014 @03:31PM (#47362889)
    In other religions THEY make up the rules as you go along,
  • by BenSchuarmer ( 922752 ) on Tuesday July 01, 2014 @03:47PM (#47363039)
    Trees produce oxygen. There's no telling who might be inhaling that oxygen!!! They could be supporting not just commercial customers, but criminals and terrorists!!!!!
  • by Bodhammer ( 559311 ) on Tuesday July 01, 2014 @04:29PM (#47363393)
    The U.S. is becoming a country in which only the government gets what they want.
  • by YrWrstNtmr ( 564987 ) on Tuesday July 01, 2014 @04:44PM (#47363507)
    The U.S. is becoming a country in which only the rich get what they want.

    The U.S. is becoming a country in which only the government gets what they want.

    And the difference is.....?
  • by gstoddart ( 321705 ) on Tuesday July 01, 2014 @05:27PM (#47363833) Homepage

    The U.S. is becoming a country in which only the government gets what they want.

    How about:

    The U.S. is becoming a country in which the government does what they're told by their corporate overlords.

  • by Archtech ( 159117 ) on Wednesday July 02, 2014 @07:57AM (#47367361)

    The IRS and corporations have this in common: they want everything to be measured in terms of money, and have no interest in anything that can't be measured in money. Consequently, they mistrust and dislike anything that is exchanged freely: they see it as theft from them, as they are entitled to a cut of every transaction.

    Let's barter informally as much as we can, just to spite the bastards.

The road to ruin is always in good repair, and the travellers pay the expense of it. -- Josh Billings