Free Availability of Sources

Francois-Rene Rideau
Fri, 2 Jul 1999 05:35:30 +0200

>>>: Kirk Wylie
>>: Faré
>: Kirk Wylie

>> I know lots of cases where free software hasn't been there yet,
>> where some free software effort was stopped
>> by lack of funding or documentation or standardization.
> Those are the cases of which I was referring.
Well, these cases are immediately dealt with
by ending intellectual property laws:
there will be no more bias of funding towards IP rights concentrators,
no more incentive to hoard documentation,
no more erection of barriers of de facto proprietary "standards".

> But don't forget that some
> free software efforts have been stopped by lack of interest. Sometimes
> people no longer want to work on a product that they worked on in the past.
> When a project is small enough, one or two people quitting a project can
> lead to it being abandoned.
There have been even more proprietary software died
of lack of financial interest.
Actually, EVERY SINGLE proprietary software thus dies.
The difference is that with free software, the code lives on
for someone else to resurrect (see gimp, gwydion, kde, cmucl, etc),
whereas proprietary software just dies, and with every piece of it,
years and years of accumulated hard work and mindshare.

>> If consumers become aware of Free Software, and demand free software,
>> these barriers will fall down.
> There is a massive logical leap in this statement. Simply because people
> demand something does not mean that it will be provided, except through
> market-based means.
There isn't need for more means than that to crush proprietary software:
a suitably informed market. Only IP laws also do corrupt
the information upon which the market takes decision.

> This is the reason why closed-source software exists: A
> group of people wants a piece of software,
> someone produces and sells it to them.
No. This is why _software_ exists: people need it, so other people write it.
The same reason is as valid for free software
as it is for proprietary software.
Free software has another advantage:
it is in the long term _much_ more cost effective to the customer
than proprietary software.
All customers who don't intend to die by the end of the year
have interest in free software.

> The reason why the system works is that the people are directly
> placing a value on a particular piece of software, and thus manufacturers
> know how much to spend on making it.
No. Value is never on the piece of software itself.
It is in the use of software. And that's QUITE different.

>>> There are cases today, and
>>> will be cases in the future, where there is no Free Software to solve a
>>> particular problem that users have, and exhorting them to write it
>>> themselves is useless if they are one of the 99% of humanity who have no
>>> idea how to read source code, much less write it. And users should neither
>>> be expected nor required to understand or write any piece of software they
>>> use.
>> That's what I call an _opportunity_
>> for a market of free software development.
>> In a free market, difficulties are opportunities.
>> In a "protected" market, difficulties are the hell of consumers.
>> Remove governmental enforcement of proprietary licenses,
>> you'll have a free market.
> No, you won't. The problem is that what you are suggesting isn't a free
> market, it is an eliminated market, because no one has the opportunity to
> provide something which is proprietary. Moreover, no one has the ability to
> sell software alone, so the market has gone away.
You couldn't be wronger. See my .sig.
Value is added by _service_; licenses _decrease_ overall value.
To promote value, you must free the market of _services_,
and destroy the market of _licenses_.
And yes, developing software IS a valuable service.

> For example, say that I have a piece of software that I wish to sell.
For instance, if I want to make money fast without working.

> The whole reason that someone would want to buy it
> is that it functions faster than someone else's software,
> because I have been very clever at coding it.
Not *AT ALL*.
People don't give a damn about your being faster than someone else.
They care about having _their_ problems solved fast enough.
Faster than fast enough is utterly useless.
And solving something else than their problem is useless, too.
So people will always want _adaptation_ of software to _their_ problem.
Building software with bells and whistles (including or excluding speed),
which is the proprietary software motto, isn't helping.
And that _opportunity_ for free software _services_,
and _horror_ in the proprietary software model of _licenses_.

> If, however, my source code has been made available to the world, then
> anyone else can duplicate my efforts.
No. Anyone else can _save_ your efforts.
It means your efforts will have been _useful_ to everyone
instead of being wasted. The society at large _gains a lot_
at having only 10 programmers write one program used by everyone,
rather than having 1000 programmers write 100 programs over and over
each doing the same thing again and again.
This makes life more difficult to software companies? So what?
Why should software companies be favored by law?
Why not rather favor shoe-makers or hair-cutters?
This means that software companies will have to actually _compete_
to continue writing good software on and on so as to survive.

> Eventually all source code will be essentially the same homogenous entity,
> because there is no advantage in differentiation.
And every one wins!

> The only way to
> differentiate is through packaging and supplementary services, such as
> consulting and support. This takes away the benefit of the consumer to buy
> something else.
So what? The software companies adapt to this new market,
and everybody wins.

> Where can products compete?
Software are NOT products, and do not compete as such.
*Services* compete. *Mindshare* compete (and thus, software *projects*).

> In your idealized scenario, all products have
> reached the pinnacle of perfection.
On the contrary. There are no products, only projects,
that compete for continuous improvements.

> And if someone comes up with something
> that is better, what advantage does he have to create it at all, knowing
> that it will never benefit him in a market environment?
If that something is better,
this means _someone_ has an advantage to it,
and thus that there is an _opportunity_
for a provider of this thing to be paid.
In a perfect free market, all opportunities are filled.
So indeed, if the something is actually useless
(like most -- but not all -- of the features that Microsoft adds to Word),
then no one will pay for it, and no one will waste time implementing it,
for the benefit of mankind.
And if the somethinig is actually useful,
then someone, somewhere, can have it happen.

For instance, competing Consortiums of _users_
(like Fortune 500 companies, universities, and anything big)
will for a price _lower_ than their current licence budget
get _better_ software, adapted to their needs.
And by making it free software, they will ensure
not only that they get the best software
(by peer review and competition of service),
but also that their software becomes a universal standard
(hence lowering the price of most related services to that of commodity).

> Note that the things that make software unique make this a uniquely
> possible scenario: because there are no barriers to entry whatsoever
> (unlike Hardware), there is nothing to prevent someone else from abusing
> the open source scenario.
Just *what* kind of abuse can you make, besides making software proprietary???
There is no such thing as tragedy of the commons regarding free software.
The problem is not waste of limited resources.
It is illimited investment of resources (and it is not a problem).
See ESR's latest paper about that.

> Yes, a gift culture does exist to some extent that will provide many
> things, but then it is no longer a market.
Gift culture is a complete crap concept.
I'm sorry ESR chose to use it as an explanation.
It doesn't explain anything.
There IS a market, and will always be one.
Only the object of the market moves with the availability of services.
Proprietary software tended to shift services out of software creation
and software maintenance alike. Free software is fixing that.
And even in presence of proprietary software, there has always been
a big market in mindshare (which market is biased by IP "rights").

> Should people not be allowed to use the superior software before
> the Free Software catches up?
Should people not be allowed to use the superior software
because someone claims to have "rights" on it?
I say no. Stop fantasizing about "piracy", and let people use software.

> I should hope that consumers are allowed to
> use whatever they want, for whatever reasons.
Exactly. Down with intellectual property.

> But as I firmly believe, requiring source code be published essentially
> eliminates proprietary software.
Exactly. For the benefit of everyone but a tiny cast of monopolists.

> If you want that for reasons irrelevant to
> consumer choice, that's fine.
Not irrelevant to their choice. Very relevant to their choice.
Or to the choice they'd have in a free market.
Mind you, by definition, a market is free only if information is free.

> But don't claim that it's some kind of market force driving you to do so.
I claim it, because it's truth.
Information wants to be free.
It also wants to be useless.
There is opportunity in selling information before it become useless.
Even without state protection in the form of intellectual property;
even _more_ without state protection in the form of intellectual property.

>> There exist such things as security regulations:
>> you may not drive on the wrong side of a public road;
> Because you harm others when you do so.
And you harm people by depriving them from sources to programs they use.

>> you may not drive when drunk when on a public road;
> Because you harm others when you do so.
And you harm people by depriving them from sources to programs they use.

>> you may not sell a car on the consumer market lest it have standard
>> equipment;
> Because you harm others when you do so.
And you harm people by depriving them from sources to programs they use.

>> Well, let me add as a _possible_ additional law:
>> you may not make sell hardware or software
>> on the consumer market lest its source is freely available.
> The problem here is that you need to get closer to the problems involved.
> If you are going to have any particular law, then it should directly seek
> to address a wrong: You may not sell hardware or software on the consumer
> market lest you have established that it will not harm anyone. Having
> source freely available is a means to an end, not an end in and of itself,
> and not a means which does not have any negative consequences.
It is not the means to an end.
It is the only effective condition that makes the end possible.
And no, it does not have any negative consequence.
[Morever, negative as compared to what?]
Making information available does not harm anyone.
It allows for better choice. It makes the market freeer.
Hiding information does harm people.
It induces worse choices. It biases the market.
[Another reason why OO is Evil: it promotes information hiding]

>> Access to the source is not a universal right,
>> like freedom to use, copy and modify information;
>> but it _might_ possibly be a valid regulatory condition
>> concerning open sale of software on the consumer market.
> Yes, it might. But in this case it should be done to demonstrably benefit
> consumers, and not out of moral principle.
Moral principles are precisely what demonstrates benefit to the consumer.
To correspond to the benefit of mankind
is the _very definition_ of moral principles!

>> Note that a side effect is that is increases the value of programmers
>> as opposed to resellers, since resellers must convince (with money)
>> the programmer to release source
>> before they can get the dough by distributing the software.
> I think you have a definite misunderstanding of the role of money and
> marginal benefits.
I rather think you have a definite misunderstanding
of the notions of service and value.

> In a world where all source code must be free the marginal benefit of an
> additional line of source code approaches zero.
MU. It is the addition of source code,
NOT the additional line, that has value.

> Or, rather, it approaches
> zero to a particular person or reseller, but is quite valuable to the
> community in general.

> Thus there is no incentive for anyone to pay for any particular line of
> code for the purpose of reselling it.
Of course there is. If, as you suppose,
the addition is valuable to the community,
then the community has incentive to have it done,
and to have it made actually available to each of those who will benefit.
THAT is an opportunity.

> There is an incentive for someone to
> pay for a particular line of code to USE it, but not to resell it.
Of course. AVAILABILITY of code is a service.
People who make code available are resellers.
So if there's a need for the service, that's an opportunity
for people to provide the service.
Market will decide the price of said service.

>> For instance, games and other end-user software isn't used during public
>> transactions, and it is not necessary to demand source, whereas accounting
>> and otherwise business management software is critical and publication
>> of its source might be demanded by governmental regulations, to ensure
>> that the fundamental rights and personal security of employees and consumers
>> be respected.
> I disagree with the non sequitur that you draw. Recall that in classical
> principles (especially J.S. Mill) the duties of the state are to protect
> the rights of individuals, but NOT to protect them from themselves.
MU. You protect people from being crooked,
even if when they are crooked they voluntarily agree to something
they think is good for them. You don't object to people's good will,
but to the crookery that induced their choice.
We make information available so that people may choose in their good will
without being crooked.

> This can be done in many ways that are far more useful to consumers
> than simply forcing source code to be released.
Like what?
It seems to me that making information available is the one and only way
to allow the market to decide. It is thus the classical liberal way
to regulate markets par excellence, maximizing the equilibrium effects
while minimizing government intervention.

> 1) Require that the software seller enter into a contract where the results
> of the program ARE waranted (i.e. if the program breaks and you lose all
> your data, the manufacturer is to blame and is liable).
This is technically not feasible, leads to multiplication of legalese,
and subject to the impossibility to draw direct correspondance
between formal behavior and informal expectations.
I've thought a lot about such things before I became convinced
of the lambda nature of free software.

> 2) Require that software which is NOT waranted print that in huge letters
> on the cover (less useful as more software is distributed online without
> boxes), to allow the consumer to decide which to use.
This is exactly what is done today. Before you use any proprietary software,
you have to agree to a licence notice that indicates in huge letters
that you have no warranty whatsoever,
beyond what the government will enforce with weapons.
This doesn't lead anywhere.

> Note that these types of options preserve:
> a) The rights of the individual to choose what type of software to use,
> b) The rights of the individual to get open source software if it is
> available,
> c) The rights of the individual to choose to injure himself if he so chooses,
> d) The rights of the individual to choose amongst various licensing
> strategies.
These options preserve nothing.
And I deny any such notion as an absolute right to evil,
or to voluntarily become a slave, or such fallacies.
I do believe in an absolute right to good,
and to be free to work or not work.
It so happens that there is no enforceable criterion
that will accurately separate good from evil.
So that any criterion that doesn't forbid good will also allow _some_ evil.
This doesn't mean that we cannot forbid any evil.
We can and MUST forbid evil that we know for sure to be evil.
For instance, we condemn murder, robbery, theft, and other crimes.
And we're right in doing so.
Likely, we should condemn sale of proprietary software.

> The only times in
> classical thought where it is permissible to restrict the rights of
> individuals is when their exercising of those rights would infringe on the
> rights of others.
Intellectual Property is typical in restricting rights of people
even when they exercise it in ways that don't infringe on
any other people's right (worse, restrict their rights
in proportion to their being useful to other people).

> I find it ironic that in one part of your argument you
> would argue that the consumer must be protected from himself
Not from himself. From the crookeries of IP tenants.
And that's a whole lot of a difference.

> and/or the
> rapacious software companies, yet in another you evoke liberal thought to
> argue that a free market must be maintained.
A market is free only in as much as information is freely available.
Free availability of information is the very basis of any and all theory
about free market yielding optimal equilibria.

> Explain to me how my purchase of a copy of Microsoft Office infringes on
> the rights of others.
It is _sale_, not purchase, of a copy of micros~1 office,
that infringes rights! Or more precisely,
it is _enforcement_ (implicit or explicit)
of IP "rights" concerning these copies, that does infringe rights.
The rights of everyone to use, copy and modify information at one's disposal.

In a similar way, your working as a slave wouldn't infringe
the rights of others. But having you work as a slave,
and enforcing your status of slave, would be an infringement of your rights,
as well as a crime towards society at large.

Sorry for this long message.


[ "Faré" | VN: Уng-Vû Bân | Join the TUNES project!  ]
[ FR: François-René Rideau | TUNES is a Useful, Nevertheless Expedient System ]
[ Reflection&Cybernethics  | Project for  a Free Reflective  Computing System ]
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