Metaprogramming and Free Availability of Sources

Rafael Kaufmann
Tue, 29 Jun 1999 14:32:48 -0300

Jim Little wrote:
> 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.
> Why?


> 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?


Actually, the chemicals and food industries are forced to do so -
because the consumers must be allowed to know what they're buying. And
if you take, e.g., the automobile industry, if you are knowledgeable
enough and have a sample product (a car), reverse engineering is rather
easy to do - you just take the car apart piece by piece. This is even
truer in, e.g., the real estate industry. On the other hand, modern-day
software is very difficult to reverse-engineer (well, anyways); compiled
code is a black box of sort for 99.9% of the people who will ever use
it. Therefore, the users should be allowed to see what the software
actually /does/, so that they can judge for themselves the quality of
the software and decide whether they want to use it or not. Without that
kind of requirement, incidents can happen... like the Ken
Thompson/original UNIX CC fiasco (see the Jargon File for details).