source access vs dynamism

Francois-Rene Rideau
03 Sep 1999 13:04:37 +0200

Dear Kent, dear readers,

Kent M Pitman <> writes on comp.lang.lisp
> Just for example, though, my feelings are not anything at all to do
> with junk software.  I believe there will always be junk software and
> (as long as you don't use it) it's probably healthy that it be there.
Of course there will always be junk software.
The question is: will the social framework defend against junk,
will it let junk invade it, or (worse) will systematically select junk?

> My feelings are largely based on the issue of incentive.

> Free software makes no incentive to create things.
Neither does personal freedom make incentive to live morally;
neither does political freedom make incentive to behave socially;
at least not directly. Incentive must preexist. Incentive does preexist.
Law can only filter and select for or defend against; it never creates.
Freedom wins not because it creates an incentive,
but because it helps evolution select according to sole adequacy.
This is why slavery and tyranny fail before liberty and democracy;
this is also why proprietary software fails before free software.

To put it in simple software terms, in a world of free software,
the overall world-wide incentive for software-making and otherwise creation
of information is in its expected ultimate use-value.
Any additional "incentive" that does correspond to use-value
is a neat loss to society at large (waste of resource for useless ends),
and a corruption of the incented human mind.
Intellectual property does _not_ increase use-value in _any_ way;
it inserts barriers to use, thereby _decreasing_ use-value,
and it indeed creates "incentive" for useless redundancy and immoral plunder.

Certainly there is a use/need of some infrastructure to collect the existing
overall incentive and transform it into actual funding of creators.
The rigid barrier-based structures of intellectual property are a very
poor such infrastructure: IP owners collect the incentive that they manage
to fence in, collecting a heavy tax on those who enter, exit or live
in the fenced territory (again remindful of feudal Europe).
The fluid adaptative structure of a free market is a much
more interesting structure, where no one is entitled right to destruction,
and where any spotted shortcoming that leads to lack of creation
becomes an opportunity to render a service by connecting providers
and consumers of services: that's the reason why Europe has dropped
tax barriers in its internal borders, and why the world constantly
negociates free trade agreements.

> I am a creative person.
> If you tell me I can't make money creating software, I'll create
> something else that can make money.
Of course you can make money creating software! Who says you cannot?
Creation is a service, and like all services, is to be remunerated.
Since nobody can force you to create software, yet everybody has uses
and needs for ever more software, you'll get paid to write software.
And that's _completely_ independent from the legal status of the software
once written.

Software is not much different from math.
Mathematicians don't sell the _right_ to use theorems,
and publish theorems that can be freely reused, copied, modified, etc.
They sell, by teaching, the _proficiency_ to use theorems;
by researching, the _opportunity_ to use theorems;
by consulting, the _suitability_ of theorems to use; etc.
Certainly, most "mathematical engineers" do petty additions, substractions,
divisions, and multiplications, in smaller or bigger financial businesses;
they do accounting or trading of some sort; just like most computer engineers.
Mathematical|Computer scientists in research labs and universities,
and sell research and consultancy on higher topics.
And a lot of math|computer scientists teach elementary science
and techniques to future technicians.
All in all, no need for any kind of intellectual property here.
[yes, math books are subject to copyright, but they don't prevent
reuse of theorems, that stay valid accross rephrasing; also,
copyrights don't seem to provide any gigantic incentive to research,
and seem mostly to be mostly an annoyance to mathematicians
and a tax levied upon them by publishers].

> My goal in life is FIRST to feed
> myself and give myself independent personal autonomy of choice in my
> life.

> Once I'm independently wealthy (and I won't get there with free
> software)
Wrong. If by "wealthy" you mean that you earn enough money to cover
everyday expenses for a healthy life, with some money left for your
family and still some left for your old days, then there's no reason
why free software won't get you there. There are already many companies
and research centers that live on free software services. Few become
rich like that (some do -- RedHat has made one billionaire already);
but those who live by free software are not reduced to mendicancy.

If by "wealthy", you mean that you demand above-average incomes,
the ability to spend your life in a luxuous setting, or anything such,
then I don't see why you're entitled to it, and why the legal and
paralegal systems should guarantee you anything about it.
Certainly, proprietary software can help some people becoming wealthy
in this way; but only to the detriment of many other people who are
plundered and racketted. Every single cent that makes wealthier
an IP owner as such is two cents lost by people who are not free
to compete or to benefit from competition.

> and don't have an employer to tell me what to do, I'll be
> happy to do things for the public good as I see it.
Not having an employer is not any easier with proprietary software than
with free software; it's much more difficult even, since proprietary software
transforms software service providers into the liege-men of
"intellectual property" owners, whereas free software makes them members
of a liberal profession.

> (But even then, I
> probably wouldn't give things away.  Because people who receive free
> things, whether food or software, don't understand the value of it.
> I'd rather contribute to education, for example.
Software is not a thing, it's information. A software-containing _media_
is a thing. Education is a *service*. So are _Installation_, _operation_,
_administration_, _maintenance_, _support_, _research_, _creation_,
_processing_, _transformation_, _selection_, _guaranteeing_, _availability_,
_teaching_ and _training_, _trust_, as applied to software.
And no matter the software being free of IP claims, there will be a need
for these services, so that you'll be able to sell such services and make
a honest living. On the contrary, absence of IP means you'll be free
to render services without having to worry about "infringing" anyone's IP;
no more _barriers_ to software services, hence an easier life for all
service providers.

To repeat myself once again:
        Because people confuse information and information-related services
        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!

> And no, I don't
> think having a heap of software in your house means you can educate
> yourself any more than I think having a gun and a target means you
> don't need education in how to shoot.)
Sure. So what? Again, this means that there will be a _market_
for software education even (even more so) with free software! Great!
You won't starve, I won't starve; no honest computer scientist will starve.
Maybe a few dishonest crooks will starve. So far so good.
Free (of IP claims) software, not free (of charge) beer or services.

Again, you may disagree with the position and arguments
of free software tenants such as me.
But while disagreeing, please do not deform them.
And if you do spot some internal inconsistency in them
then please do tell us about it so we be enlightened.

Best regards,

[ "Faré" | VN: Уng-Vû Bân | Join the TUNES project!  ]
[ FR: François-René Rideau | TUNES is a Useful, Nevertheless Expedient System ]
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You don't test the validity of a theory by seeing that it says correct
things, but by seeing that it doesn't say incorrect things. What you test
by seeing that it does say correct _and previously unpredicted_ things,
is the interest of a theory you've tested to be valid.