Metaprogramming and Free Availability of Sources

Francois-Rene Rideau
Fri, 2 Jul 1999 03:23:19 +0200

>>: RMS

> hmm... well, why do they keep the specs secret? i'm not sure, but i
> would guess that it'd be so that they could have a monopoly selling
> software that uses their hardware.  but, if copyrights were eliminated,
> anyone could copy their software, so there'd be no motivation to
> try to keep it secret.  the only exception i can see again is if they
> write specialized software for people, in which case maintaining their
> monopoly would still be beneficial for them. ideally, even this problem would
> be solved by consumers boycotting the monopolist; this would not
> really take selflessness on the consumers' parts because if they
> are smart they'll forsee the difficulty of finding software for the
> monopolist's hardware.
Indeed. In absence of governmental protection,
monopolists will have a hard time,
even though no specific regulation against them exists.
The fact that specific regulation against monopolies be currently necessary
is the indication that something is rotten in the kingdom of Denmark.

>> So if we want to have freedom, we need to have something stronger to
>> rely on.  Relying on other people to value their freedom above
>> their convenience is not realistic.
It is not realistic, but it's the best we can strive for.
It's a permanent struggle, but it's a cause worth fighting for.

> On the other hand, may i suggest that convincing government officials
> to pass must-come-with-source-code laws is even less realistic.
Maybe not today. Maybe not tomorrow. But eventually.
Finagle's Sixth Law:
        Don't believe in miracles -- rely on them.

> Relying
> on them to enforce them well without entangling them with special
> interests is even less realistic.
I don't think this is unrealistic. Because such a law is a regulation,
not a empowerement, and that the ability for consumers to prosecute
vendors who'd break the regulation will be enough to enforce it,
without a penny having to be spent in governmental enforcement.

> Of course, just because something is not realistic doesn't mean we
> shouldn't aim for it; but it still seems to me like eliminating copyrights
> and patents (but without imposing must-come-with-source-code laws) would
> solve most of the problems you've mentioned.
That's another thing.
I agree that requirements of availability of source code
is a secondary question.
It may prove quite useful, but could also be done wrong.
The main thing is elimination of intellectual property in its three forms:
copyrights, patents, and (worst of all) proactive tax on raw media
[the latter being an obvious violation of every citizen's basic right
to presumption of innocence].

>> No, you can't always.  Often a non-free program is the only one.  When
>> it comes to drivers, it is hard to write a free program if you can't
>> get the specs.
> that's true, but you do have the choice of other hardware that does
> come with specs.
I understand your about sentence is that
"since free software is inherently Good economically, it shall overcome,
even in presence of absurd intellectual property laws".
What I say is "surely we shall overcome, but in the mean time,
there is economical waste and political oppression;
so let us do something to stop the waste and oppression as soon as possible."
So yes, boycott would win in the end;
but only law can make the victory complete.
Such a victory means acknowledgement of the fundamental Right
to freely use, copy, and modify information. But it might also mean
introduce regulations concerning availability of the sources of software.

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