Metaprogramming and Free Availability of Sources

Jim Little
Mon, 28 Jun 1999 17:20:24 -0600

Richard Stallman wrote:
>     But there is no absolute natural right to access other people's information.
> I agree that privacy is an important right, and I would object to any
> law requiring people to release all software that they write.
> But when someone chooses to make a program available in some way, it
> is no longer a matter of privacy.  Then he or she should be required
> to show users what is in the software they are being invited to use.


I understand why I might wish to release my software with source.  I
understand why, if I did so, I would want others who used it to also
release their modifications.  But I don't understand why everybody who
releases a program of any sort should be compelled to release the
source.  In my mind, this is the _opposite_ of freedom -- the compelling
of someone to do something they do not wish to do, when their preferred
approach harms no one.  (You may argue that withholding the source is an
implicit harm, because those who would benefit from the source won't,
but that's the same sort of "harm" as my refusing to give all my money
to the first person who demands it.)

Consumers (in the broadest sense of the word) have the freedom not to
use closed-source software.  They have the freedom to demand source when
they make a business transaction.  Why can't I, the hypothetical
producer, have the freedom not to make source available?  If that's not
what the consumers want, then I'll go out of business... but that, too,
is my choice, an exercise of my freedom.

No other industry is required to distribute its formulas, blueprints, or
schematics.  Why should software be any different?  What is it about the
nature of software that requires compelled distribution of source code? 
Why should any industry be forced to reveal its secrets?

-Jim Little  (