Metaprogramming and Free Availability of Sources
Tue, 29 Jun 1999 17:40:25 -0700 (PDT)

> >> 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.
> > [...] 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.

> Well, in most modern laws, people do not have the liberty to withhold
> their own liberties and become slave, even willingly. They may not
> accept work conditions considered excessive, even willingly. They may
> not work if too young, even willingly. So it is arguable that in _some_
> cases, people may not have the liberty to accept contracts that will
> later put them in impossible situations.

this is true, but it has nothing to do with what Jim was saying
(that compelling someone to release source code is wrong),
which has nothing to do with contracts.

> Now, there remains to know whether or not accepting
> to use proprietary software or otherwise software without source
> is indeed such a situation where the consumer is put at disadvantage
> with respect to the producer. I think that indeed it is.
> So that at least, the _default_ contracts, whenever software is used
> in a business situation where life or work depends on it,
> might be that source be available. And I can imagine
> that no consumer software could be sold in shrink-wrap boxes
> without the sources. There are lots of similar regulations

once again, there is no contract involved in obtaining software (at least, 
as long as copyrights are out of the picture); it is a simple trade,
perhaps even a gift if the software is offered on the internet;
there is no long-term obligation and no freedoms given up; so, again there
is no similarity to giving up your liberties to become a slave.

> regarding publicly sold goods and services of all kinds,
> so as to protect consumers from dishonest businessmen who would try
> to ensnare them into purchasing apparently great
> but really awful goods or services. And such regulations
> are generally considered a good thing. They mean the average consumer
> needn't be a specialist to avoid gross mistakes, for the standard traps
> are made illegal.

yes, they are good in that limited way. however, still i must emphasize
that we don't need a government nanny watching out for us to make sure
we don't make "bad trades". instead, smart consumers can look at the labels,
while "average" ones can turn to private recommendations, like the
"Consumers Report" magazine we have in America, which are extremely
better due to the possibility for competition.

> Oh, and I'm not making a statement for or against a law
> in this particular arena;
> I'm just saying that there are valid arguments in both directions,
> and that one shouldn't make one's mind without weighting both of them.

well, i'll agree there are arguments in both directions; but only the
government non-intervention one is valid :-) still, one should consider
them both before deciding ...
> PS: no need to just re-state your opinion, either way.
> Everyone has one's opinion. You may consider.

well some of what i'm saying involves concepts like "should" and "good"
and thus is my opinion; however i hope that the part of my concept of
"good" that i am stating here is basic enough that most people agree
with it... anyway, i think a discussion of "good" is not out of place
in "cybernethics".

> > (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.)

may i suggest a slightly different analogy from jim's: selling programs
without source is in a weak sense similar to asking someone to give you all
their money. my point is that _neither_ should be illegal (at least, neither 
should be punished).  after all, you don't have to give all your money
to the person who asks for it; neither do you have to buy programs without
source code from the people who sell them.

> It is NOT about implicit harm, but EXPLICIT harm,
> when you ensnare gullible people into buying proprietary infrastructure
> such that they'll have to keep buying your next versions till the end
> of times so as to continue using their data.

granted, tricking someone into giving you all their money is a more
explicit harm than bluntly asking for it, i still suggest that neither should
be punished; as long as their is no forceful theft involved, then it
should legally be the consumer's fault for any money he wastes giving
to software companies. note, however, that there is a difference between
proprietary software and software that doesn't come with source code.
i suggest that governments should cease their support for software
"property", but at the same time that they should not regulate whether
software comes with source code or not.

> Again and again, it's not about being forced to publish sources
> of whatever you write, but being forced to publish sources of
> whatever you sell in general public conditions to average customers.

i understand the difference. software-writers shouldn't be forced
to publish sources either way.

> Publicity of the offer and the average (non-technical) nature
> of the customers motivate laws to protect the customer.
> Perhaps they are not enough motivation in this case,
> but in many other cases, they are indeed enough motivation.

may i suggest that consumer protection laws are _never_ justified.
in one of the most extreme cases, one might ask: "well, what about for 
bottles of poison? shouldn't they require warning labels?". my answer
is a (horrifying) "no". people who sold the poison would have great
motivation to properly label it, in order to preserve their reputation.
on the other hand, if the absense of labeling truely constituted an attack
(attempted murder, for instance), then it of course should be severely
punished, but as such there is no need for arbitrary "poison-labeling" laws.

> > 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?
> When you buy food, the producer is forced to publish the ingredients.
> When you buy a car, it must have been homologated
> (which implies that plans be available).
> When you buy electronic devices, the schematics must be public
> (and often patented, too; and patented _implies_ public).

this state of laws of course does not imply that the force is right.

> Since software is used to produce information and your professional activity
> and your life depends on it, it is understandable that you should have access
> to the source; or else there is no way to prevent your being both crooked
> and ensnared with the software, and have no technical and legal recourse.

i think this is quite an exaggeration. if, however, software truely
did constitute an attack (like poison), then government intervention might be
justified. again, i think elimination of intellectual property would
largely solve this problem (consumers becoming ensnared with software...).

> On Mon, Jun 28, 1999 at 04:30:21PM -0700, wrote:
> > You seem to be suggesting that we (or the government) have the right to
> > punish someone if they make software available without source code.

> No. Only if they enter *public* market
> with reputedly unfair public conditions;
> which conditions might include offering proprietary software.

again, proprietary software is different from software without source code.
i think there may be a good argument for prohibiting someone from giving
up his fundamental freedom to copy (as in proprietary software), but
this is quite different from prohibiting someone from just offering software
without source code. still, i don't see why you make an exception for 
"*public*" markets (as opposed to private ones i suppose). i don't see why 
government intervention is necessary either way (i think the example with the
poison explains it well)

> > On the other hand, in the absense of copyright, most people would release
> > their source code voluntarily, [...]
> > customer demand would pressure them [...]

> Yes, so that framing laws might be unnecessary.
> They _might_ be useful, still, if used as a bootstrap measure.

yes, i would have no complaint if they were used only for bootstrap
measures, if they truely were useful. this whole time, i have been arguing
whether the laws were just, not whether they were useful for bootstrapping
(i think you have too; i don't know why you're bringing this bootstrapping 
thing up now :-)).

> Of course, like all laws except the most fundamental ones,
> they should have limited validity duration (and a relatively short one,
> in as much as they are technology-dependant and/or bootstrap related),
> and require being explicitly reconducted by parliament if necessary.

bootsrapping...  (:-))
> PS: Again, I'm moving the discussion out of
> to
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- iepos