source access vs dynamism

Francois-Rene Rideau <>
26 Aug 1999 02:06:33 +0200

Kent M Pitman <> writes on comp.lang.lisp:

>> Do not confuse right and opportunity.
>> I demand the right to copy, understand, and modify, software.
>> But I'm ready to pay for the _opportunity_ to do it.
> I don't understand this as expressed.

It's all about rejecting intellectual property. See pointers to articles
collected down <>;
particularly <>.

I deny anyone any claim to a "right" to control what I do with ideas
that are in my mind. If I come in possession of a poem, a book, a piece
of software, I may use it as I like. But I deny any "entitlement"
to access other people's private information, either.

If you have a program that no one else has, or are able to write it,
then it is fair that you ask me some money before to disclose or complete
the program; but once you disclosed it to me, I'm free to do whatever
I want with it. You may even convince me not to get the sources;
but if I have binaries, I should be free to copy or hack them.

> I have some software I've written for myself that is not free.
> Suppose I say it is free and that anyone has the right to use and modify
> it as they like, but that they have to pay `` 1 billion dollars ''
> to exercise that right.  Is that within your definition of free software?
No. To me, anyone has the _right_ to modify software.
However, you also need the _opportunity_ to do it,
i.e. have access to a copy (preferrably source code) of the software.
So, even without violating anyone's rights,
you can keep your software _secret_, which is quite, quite different.

If your secret software is worth one billion dollar to me,
I'm ready to pay for the _opportunity_ to use it.
Most usually, however, I don't expect people to pay such sums for software
that happens to be here and sits waiting for someone to purchase;
rather, they will pay for incremental and/or tailored development,
customization, bug-fix, support, maintenance, etc;
programmers will likely get continuously paid for small services,
rather than getting paid once (with a big risk)
for an essentially one-shot service.

Now, the recent release of Xanadu shows to me how big software
developed in secret doesn't work:
people reinvent well-known concepts in particular cases,
and cut themselves from widely available culture,
and end up with programs that may have a few interesting ideas,
and a whole lot of stupid cruft.
Actually, this is all an incentive for people to sell their secrets
while they are still worth it, at a fair price,
which is a much better system than intellectual property
so as to promote creation and publication of original works.

Hence, I don't expect _much_ software to stay secret for any great length
in the future world when intellectual property will have been abolished.


[ "Faré" | VN: Уng-Vû Bân | Join the TUNES project!  ]
[ FR: François-René Rideau | TUNES is a Useful, Nevertheless Expedient System ]
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Because people confuse information and information-related services
(which include searching, creating, processing, transforming, selecting,
teaching, making available, guaranteeing, supporting, etc), they are afraid
that Free (libre) Information mean free (gratis) information-related services,
which would indeed kill the industry of said services. On the contrary,
Free Information would create a Free Market in these services, instead of
current monopolies, which means they will be available at a fair price,
so the result would be a flourishment of that industry!       -- Faré