Copyleft & royalties for authors

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Eiffel Kills C++

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Oct 31, 1991, 4:34:59 PM10/31/91
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I think I've seen a thread like this somewhere in this newsgroup, but I
can't find it, so here goes my question.

As far as I know, if I write a software package and copyleft it, and
sell it to someone, what's to stop them from undercutting my price and
selling a mess of copies? Is there any provision for further
resellings to automatically mark some percentage or fixed dollar amount
to go to the author? Or are all your rights gone, including your right
to get some compensation for writing the original code?

If this has already been explained clearly somewhere, point me to it: I
don't think I've seen this question addressed, and invariably it always
comes up when I talk about the GNU Project to people who don't know
much about it.

Steve Boswell -- Future author of GNU Eiffel, if everything goes right
wha...@ucsd.edu
wha...@gnu.ai.mit.edu

Chris Flatters

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Nov 1, 1991, 10:06:30 AM11/1/91
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In article <25...@sdcc6.ucsd.edu> cs199ak@uape_14.ucsd.edu (Eiffel Kills C++) writes:
As far as I know, if I write a software package and copyleft it, and
sell it to someone, what's to stop them from undercutting my price and
selling a mess of copies? Is there any provision for further
resellings to automatically mark some percentage or fixed dollar amount
to go to the author? Or are all your rights gone, including your right
to get some compensation for writing the original code?

I thought that the GPL was pretty clear on this point. You can not sell
a copylefted program to anyone, even if you are the author. You can,
however, charge a reasonable fee for distributing it (ie. cost of media
plus overheads).

On the question of how you get compensated when you can't charge for
software on a per-copy basis: see the GNU manifesto (reproduced in
the GNU emacs manual).

Chris Flatters -- potential user of GNU Eiffel, if everything goes right


--
======================================================================
Chris Flatters | cfla...@nrao.edu
AIPS Scientific Programmer |
======================================================================
Opinions expressed in this message do not necessarily reflect NRAO
policy.

Bill Johnston

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Nov 3, 1991, 2:38:00 PM11/3/91
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In article <25...@sdcc6.ucsd.edu>, cs199ak@uape_14.ucsd.edu (Eiffel Kills C++) writes...
In article <25...@sdcc6.ucsd.edu>, you write...

>I think I've seen a thread like this somewhere in this newsgroup, but I
>can't find it, so here goes my question.
>
>As far as I know, if I write a software package and copyleft it, and
>sell it to someone, what's to stop them from undercutting my price and
>selling a mess of copies? Is there any provision for further

But you can't sell it either. All you can do is charge "distribution"
fee and perhaps sell them a manual. You are highly unlikely to be
compensated financially to the extent that you could earn a living
from the work you have done with your product.

Just ask anybody who has tried to make money with payment schemes
such as "shareware". Try before you buy is a nice idea in theory,
but very few make a living at it.

>resellings to automatically mark some percentage or fixed dollar amount
>to go to the author? Or are all your rights gone, including your right
>to get some compensation for writing the original code?

Yes. But don't take my word for it; ask a lawyer.

If you want to donate your efforts to the public, that's fine.
People will love you for it. If you want to guarantee that the
code will be unavailable for commercial use, then CopyLeft it.

If you do this you should recognize that that you are giving up
all rights to use the code in traditional commercial applications.

Fortunately, this is not the only way to publish source code.
To preserve your commercial rights, and release your current source
to the public all you have to do is "g alt.sources" and hit "p".

That way, your rights to use the code as a foundation for later
commercial work are protected, and the right of others to use the
code are not restricted.

You could even include a voluntary request that the next user
"pass it along". But make it voluntary. Free is only free if
it's really free.

-- Bill (john...@minnie.me.udel.edu)

Andrew Ginter

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Nov 3, 1991, 5:25:48 PM11/3/91
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In article <3NOV1991...@minnie.me.udel.edu> john...@minnie.me.udel.edu (Bill Johnston) writes:
>If you want to donate your efforts to the public, that's fine.
>People will love you for it. If you want to guarantee that the
>code will be unavailable for commercial use, then CopyLeft it.
>
>If you do this you should recognize that that you are giving up
>all rights to use the code in traditional commercial applications.

As I understand it, the CopyLeft is still a legal copyright and when
authors affix it to their work, those authors are still the legal
copyright owners. If these authors later decide to use THEIR code in
a commercial, non-CopyLeft'ed product, they can legally do so. The
CopyLeft describes only what people with no other agreement with the
author can do with the software. Or am I mistaken?

Andrew Ginter, 403-220-6320, gin...@cpsc.ucalgary.ca

Dennis Ferguson

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Nov 3, 1991, 6:37:43 PM11/3/91
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In article <3NOV1991...@minnie.me.udel.edu> john...@minnie.me.udel.edu (Bill Johnston) writes:
>In article <25...@sdcc6.ucsd.edu>, cs199ak@uape_14.ucsd.edu (Eiffel Kills C++) writes...
>>As far as I know, if I write a software package and copyleft it, and
>>sell it to someone, what's to stop them from undercutting my price and
>>selling a mess of copies? Is there any provision for further
>
>But you can't sell it either. All you can do is charge "distribution"
>fee and perhaps sell them a manual. You are highly unlikely to be
>compensated financially to the extent that you could earn a living
>from the work you have done with your product.

This is incorrect. You can sell software which contains copylefted
code to whomever you want for whatever price you can get (what is a
"distribution" fee, if not a selling price?). The only constraints are
that you must make the source for the whole program available to the
person you sell it to, and you must not restrict their ability to
redistribute the program further on the same basis by which you were
given the right to sell GPL-licensed code in the first place.

If you feel these constraints won't allow you to make the amount
of money you want from the sale of your program then just don't
include any GPL-licensed code in your program in the first place.
Sometimes you can't have your cake and eat it too.

>If you want to donate your efforts to the public, that's fine.
>People will love you for it. If you want to guarantee that the
>code will be unavailable for commercial use, then CopyLeft it.
>
>If you do this you should recognize that that you are giving up
>all rights to use the code in traditional commercial applications.
>
>Fortunately, this is not the only way to publish source code.
>To preserve your commercial rights, and release your current source
>to the public all you have to do is "g alt.sources" and hit "p".
>
>That way, your rights to use the code as a foundation for later
>commercial work are protected, and the right of others to use the
>code are not restricted.

This is nonsense, you really should read the GPL if you are going
to comment on it (that is my only qualification). There is nothing
in the GPL which prevents you from distributing a version of your
own code under the GPL now and under some other terms later. You
have the right to do whatever you want with your own work, when ever
you want. It is only if your program contains code written by
someone else and obtained by you under the terms of the GPL that
constrains you to make your program available under the terms of
the GPL if you are distributing the program at all. You are perfectly
free to do whatever you wish with your own code, but if you use other
people's code you really do have to respect their freedom to do what
they wish with their own software. This seems fair.

Your whining paranoia, and belittling of the efforts of others because
you don't think you'll be able to get rich enough selling software
they wrote under the terms by which they made it available to you,
grows tiresome.

Dennis Ferguson
University of Toronto

Bill Johnston

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Nov 4, 1991, 1:06:00 AM11/4/91
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In article <1991Nov3.2...@gpu.utcs.utoronto.ca>, den...@gpu.utcs.utoronto.ca (Dennis Ferguson) writes...

>In article <3NOV1991...@minnie.me.udel.edu> john...@minnie.me.udel.edu (Bill Johnston) writes:
>>In article <25...@sdcc6.ucsd.edu>, cs199ak@uape_14.ucsd.edu (Eiffel Kills C++) writes...
>>>As far as I know, if I write a software package and copyleft it, and
>>>sell it to someone, what's to stop them from undercutting my price and
>>>selling a mess of copies? Is there any provision for further
>>
>>But you can't sell it either. All you can do is charge "distribution"
>>fee and perhaps sell them a manual. You are highly unlikely to be
>>compensated financially to the extent that you could earn a living
>>from the work you have done with your product.

>This is incorrect. You can sell software which contains copylefted
>code to whomever you want for whatever price you can get (what is a
>"distribution" fee, if not a selling price?). The only constraints are
>that you must make the source for the whole program available to the
>person you sell it to, and you must not restrict their ability to
>redistribute the program further on the same basis by which you were
>given the right to sell GPL-licensed code in the first place.

That is a pretty big "only constraint", isn't it?

The person whose article I responded to has an original work
that he is interested in distributing. He asked whether or not
his decision to CopyLeft will affect the commercial status of
his product. He has asked this question twice in this group,
and gotten surprisingly little feedback, considering that he
is offering to CopyLeft a significant work (an implementation
of Eiffel).

Ref: article <25...@sdcc6.ucsd.edu>:

>I think I've seen a thread like this somewhere in this newsgroup, but I
>can't find it, so here goes my question.

>As far as I know, if I write a software package and copyleft it, and


>sell it to someone, what's to stop them from undercutting my price and
>selling a mess of copies? Is there any provision for further

>resellings to automatically mark some percentage or fixed dollar amount
>to go to the author? Or are all your rights gone, including your right
>to get some compensation for writing the original code?

It is a fair question, and the answer is that the author CANNOT
stop them from distributing a "mess of copies". He CANNOT restrict
the right of the user to redistribute the product, and he CANNOT
insist on getting royalties on these redistributions.

>If you feel these constraints won't allow you to make the amount
>of money you want from the sale of your program then just don't
>include any GPL-licensed code in your program in the first place.
>Sometimes you can't have your cake and eat it too.

I don't sell software for a living. I am a graduate student,
planning a career in research in which ALL of my intellectual
contributions will become public, and uncompensated. (That is,
unless I can find a journal that pays for submissions! ;-) )

But who is asking to have their cake and eat it too?

GNU is trying to pretend that CopyLefting is not inconsistent
with a desire to sell a software product commercially; anyone
with an ounce of common sense can see that an arrangement in
which copying is unrestricted will not lead to commercial success.

>>Fortunately, this is not the only way to publish source code.
>>To preserve your commercial rights, and release your current source
>>to the public all you have to do is "g alt.sources" and hit "p".
>>
>>That way, your rights to use the code as a foundation for later
>>commercial work are protected, and the right of others to use the
>>code are not restricted.

>This is nonsense, you really should read the GPL if you are going
>to comment on it (that is my only qualification).

I have read the GPL, and I do not think that my recommendation
that the author place the source in the public domain -- that is,
make it really free instead of free with alot of strings attached
-- is a non-sensical one.

It is the mechanism by which genuinely free software is distributed;
it is also the mechanism by which academics have traditionally
distributed intellectual contributions.

The CopyLeft is different: it places conditions and restrictions
on the subsequent use of the code. Because most of the programming
that is done in the world is still done for "private" clients, the
net effect of the CopyLeft is to make the code less useful for many
programmers than would be the case if the code were genuinely "free".

Attaching a CopyLeft to one's code is little different than attaching
a condition to a scientific paper: for example, one might publish
a paper in physics an attempt to require that the ideas within not be
used for weapons research, by groups that support apartheid, etc.

In my opinion, the objectives of the CopyLeft are reasonable for
instances in which one wishes to make a program free and public
and keep it that way. The CopyLeft is not something that I would
recommend to a person concerned about commercial rights in a
software product.

>There is nothing
>in the GPL which prevents you from distributing a version of your
>own code under the GPL now and under some other terms later. You
>have the right to do whatever you want with your own work, when ever
>you want. It is only if your program contains code written by
>someone else and obtained by you under the terms of the GPL that
>constrains you to make your program available under the terms of
>the GPL if you are distributing the program at all. You are perfectly
>free to do whatever you wish with your own code, but if you use other
>people's code you really do have to respect their freedom to do what
>they wish with their own software. This seems fair.

Of course it is. But once this author publishes version one of
his Eiffel implementation under CopyLeft, it is not likely that
he could successfully go commercial with a later version.

>Your whining paranoia, and belittling of the efforts of others because
>you don't think you'll be able to get rich enough selling software
>they wrote under the terms by which they made it available to you,
>grows tiresome.

I have read the GPL. Please correct me if I have misrepresented
it in this case. In any case, I have no plans at present to write
or sell commercial software, so I don't see how the comments above
are applicable.

I have no objection to the use of CopyLeft as a way to keep
source code and improvements available to successive generations
of contributors.

What I object to are the assertions that CopyLefted software can
be sold commercially. This is a case in which GNU is trying to
"have it's cake and eat it too".

The person who asked the question about his commercial rights has an
original work to that he wants to be able to sell. If he CopyLefts it,
he will not profit financially from his work.

That doesn't mean he won't be doing us all a great favor, but he
should understand that before he makes the commitment to CopyLeft.

-- Bill (john...@minnie.me.udel.edu)

Joachim Schrod

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Nov 4, 1991, 12:10:25 PM11/4/91
to
In article <4NOV1991...@minnie.me.udel.edu>, john...@minnie.me.udel.edu (Bill Johnston) writes:
> What I object to are the assertions that CopyLefted software can
> be sold commercially. This is a case in which GNU is trying to
> "have it's cake and eat it too".

Can you please cite this assertion? And can you please stop changing
your terms? In your former article
(<3NOV1991...@minnie.me.udel.edu>) you wrote

> If you want to guarantee that the
> code will be unavailable for commercial use, then CopyLeft it.

The term you changed is `usage.' First, you wrote of `usage,' now you
write on `selling.' Such statements as `GNU source is off-limits to
anyone who plans to write commercial software' (which you made in
<3NOV1991...@minnie.me.udel.edu>) are not usable, because they
do not differentiate enough.

So, please look at the following statements and think of them/reply
to them. (And note that they do not only react on your specific
postings, these are reactions to the bulk of postings you did the
last week.)

1. To `use software' does not only mean that you incorporate this source
in your programs. It may also be that you use GNU Emacs for
typing, gcc -Wall for compiling, gdb for debugging, and that
you sell your created software afterwards. I would be happy if
commercial C compilers are at the same stability level as gcc...

2. If GNU software is really not usable for commercial companies,
why do companies like NeXT, DG, HP, DEC, etc., distribute GNU
software? Why is the OSF cc derived from gcc?
Please explain this.

3. I agree with you that someone who wants to sell his program should
not use the GPL. (After all, his software will not be free.) But
please explain me, why is he/she not allowed to use the GNU tools?
Why is he not allowed to incorporate the stuff distributed under
the GLPL? Ok, he must supply linkable object modules for his non-free
part and the source of the GLPL part, -- but where's the problem?

4. If someone releases his source code under the GPL, he can of
course sell an other version of his program. This other version
may have a better user interface and other value-added stuff.
Isn't it INGRES which is available over the net and which
is sold in newer versions?

--
Joachim
Darmstadt, Germany
<sch...@iti.informatik.th-darmstadt.de>

Bill Johnston

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Nov 5, 1991, 1:52:00 AM11/5/91
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In article <1991Nov04.1...@infoserver.th-darmstadt.de>,
sch...@iti.informatik.th-darmstadt.de (Joachim Schrod) writes...

[ ... pointing out inconsistencies in previous articles,
and requesting clarification ...]

>In article <4NOV1991...@minnie.me.udel.edu>, john...@minnie.me.udel.edu (Bill Johnston) writes:
>> What I object to are the assertions that CopyLefted software can
>> be sold commercially. This is a case in which GNU is trying to
>> "have it's cake and eat it too".

>Can you please cite this assertion?

I am not sure that I understand what is requested here. Am I asked to
support the proposition that 1) GNU claims that CopyLefted software can
be sold, or that 2) this claim is made by GNU but (I claim) it's an
example of GNU trying to "have it's cake and eat it too"?

I'll try to address both possibilities.

To date, my arguments on this point have attracted two types of reply
from FSF supporters which are somewhat at odds, in my opinion.

The first type of reply is "But of course you can sell CopyLefted
software, that is what we do at the FSF." The second type of reply,
which also comes from FSF supporters, is that "No you can't sell
CopyLefted software; the software is free, and any fee that you
pay is a distribution fee, charge for media, etc.

Why this difference? I believe that there is disagreement among
supporters of GNU, FSF, and LPF over the question of how far to go
in changing intellectual property laws. Some want only to eliminate
the possibility of UI copyrights/patents; others hope to abolish
the entire concept of "intellectual property". The latter and more
radical group prefers to think of software as something that cannot
be owned or sold, because it belongs to the realm of ideas, like a
law of physics or a mathematical theorem.

In practical terms, the "moderates" are concerned mostly with the
effect of UI copyright laws and algorithm patents on their freedom
to write code. They may copyleft all or part of their own code,
but have no problem affirming the right of others to copyright
and sell software and restrict copying in the conventional sense.

The radicals see "copyleft" as a tactic, rather than a fundamental
principle. The reason for this is that they understand that the
CopyLeft is itself based on the principle of ownership of
intellectual property.

One cannot restrict the use of something that one does not (or cannot) own.
Because the right to Copyleft -- and the right to copyright and restrict
subsequent copying -- arise from the same source, the tactic of "CopyLeft"
is seen as a temporary use of existing copyright law to further the free
software agenda. The eventual goal is to overturn laws and court decisions
which they claim have manufactured the "artificial" notion of software
intellectual property. If successful, this would make the CopyLeft
impossible (and unnecessary). The most extreme expression of this radical
viewpoint extends the overthrow of software intellectual property rights
to include all intellectual property rights.


The point that I have made -- and it is an expression of opinion --
is that there is a deliberate ambiguity in the GNU position on
"selling" CopyLefted software that is really an attempt to make
the FSF more palatable to the groups that it stands to affect most,
the professional programmers who make up the commercial software
industry, and the academic programmers who like the freedom made
possible by publically available libraries of source code.

IMO, this ambiguity is well and fairly expressed in the quote that
I used from Richard Stallman's interview on National Public Radio:

=======================================================================

Q: When you talk about "free", in the Free Software Foundation,
how are you using that word?

RMS: Well, the word "free" has two meanings in English. One has to
do with no price. The other has to do with freedom. In the
term "free software", I am talking about freedom, not price.
So when a program is free, it means that you the user have the
freedom to make copies, the freedom to study it and change it
and improve it. But it doesn't say anything about whether you
pay money to get it. You might get it without paying money,
or you might pay money to get it. At the Free Software Foundation,
we distribute software in two ways. We put copies on the
computer nets and people can copy that and they don't have to
pay anything. Or they can send us money and we'll mail them
tapes. And that's how we raise most of our money.

=========================================================================

It is thus possible to REQUEST payment for CopyLefted software,
but one cannot REQUIRE payment. In the business world, very
few are willing to pay for what they can get for free. In the
"user world", even fewer will pay for things that are free.

Because the amount of money that is available to pay programmers
is proportional to the number of dollars spent to "get" that
software, such a policy pushed to its logical conclusion will
mean that fewer dollars will be available to pay you, the programmer.


To return to Joachim's request for clarification, he asks:

>And can you please stop changing
>your terms? In your former article
>(<3NOV1991...@minnie.me.udel.edu>) you wrote
>
>> If you want to guarantee that the
>> code will be unavailable for commercial use, then CopyLeft it.

>The term you changed is `usage.' First, you wrote of `usage,' now you
>write on `selling.' Such statements as `GNU source is off-limits to
>anyone who plans to write commercial software' (which you made in
><3NOV1991...@minnie.me.udel.edu>) are not usable, because they
>do not differentiate enough.

I used the term "selling" the traditional sense: "selling" is what the
baker does when he trades you a loaf of bread for money. The payment is
not voluntary; if you want to have the bread you are REQUIRED to pay.
What GNU does with software is not "selling" under this definition.

In the sentence quoted above, the term "use" refers to using GNU
source as the foundation or building blocks for other programs.

It doesn't refer to "using" EMACS as a word processor, or "using"
gcc with your own interfaces to create commercial software. The
CopyLeft does not restrict this kind of "use".

However, the use of CopyLefted source code in a new software
project does require that the CopyLeft be carried forward into
the new project. This means that many programmers will not
be able to use this code as the basis for new work; not just
those whose want to write commercial software, but any programmer
whose client requires clear copyright in the finished project.
For example, many academics have grants that require that the
product of the funded project be placeable in the public domain.

Publicly available source code has traditionally played a significant
role in such projects. Examples are to be found on internet ftp
sites all over the world. It is a mechanism for preserving and
sharing the value of one's programming effort that has served us well.

If one opposes the notion of software intellectual property,
the logical response is to refuse to assert rights accruing
from intellectual property; one can place one's work in the
public domain. This means that EVERYBODY can use it, not just
those whose employers are enlightened enough to permit them to
work on projects that can be CopyLefted.

Some programmers may have the kind of skills and reputation that
would enable them to choose only those programming jobs in which
the product can be CopyLefted, but most of us do not have the
luxury of dictating terms to our employers.


Joachim asks:

>So, please look at the following statements and think of them/reply
>to them. (And note that they do not only react on your specific
>postings, these are reactions to the bulk of postings you did the
>last week.)

> 1. To `use software' does not only mean that you incorporate this source
> in your programs. It may also be that you use GNU Emacs for
> typing, gcc -Wall for compiling, gdb for debugging, and that
> you sell your created software afterwards. I would be happy if
> commercial C compilers are at the same stability level as gcc...

> 2. If GNU software is really not usable for commercial companies,
> why do companies like NeXT, DG, HP, DEC, etc., distribute GNU
> software? Why is the OSF cc derived from gcc?
> Please explain this.

I explained this above. I did employ the term "use" with the word
"source" as direct object; I specifically referred to the use
of GNU source code as the foundation for subsequent creative work.
Because the CopyLeft is designed to carry over into derivative
works, GNU source can't be used for projects that can't be themselves
CopyLefted.

This is only a problem because it conflicts with one of the stated
objectives of the FSF, which is to promote the distribution of
software that users can modify and build upon.

These objectives would only be fully realized in the case of
the CopyLefted code in the case that the so-called (my term)
radical agenda of some in the the FSF -- the abolition of software
intellectual property laws -- is realized.

If one believes that this can and should happen, then the CopyLeft
is a logical tactic to further this agenda. If one believes that
intellectual property can't or shouldn't be abolished, then the
act of CopyLefting means that the usefulness of your source code is
partly limited for those who can't attach the CopyLeft to their work.

> 3. I agree with you that someone who wants to sell his program should
> not use the GPL. (After all, his software will not be free.) But
> please explain me, why is he/she not allowed to use the GNU tools?

I did not make this argument. The GPL does not restrict the private
use of CopyLefted software.

> 4. If someone releases his source code under the GPL, he can of
> course sell an other version of his program. This other version
> may have a better user interface and other value-added stuff.

The only objection I have made is that everything the GPL does
to ensure that rights to use source code is unrestricted, is
accomplished more effectively by releasing the source code to
the public domain. The CopyLeft is added baggage that serves a
political agenda without furthering people's freedom to use
the CopyLefted code.

For those who say, "Yes, but we've got to do _something_
to change the current state of affairs; user interface
copyrights are poisoning the well...", let me offer a few
comments.

First, I agree with you. I have publically called for Apple
to put an end to its UI lawsuits, and did so in an article posted
to this group, and xrefed to the Macintosh groups. I didn't
expect that Apple would immediately drop their lawsuit as the
result of an article from one person, but I am on record on
this point.

I also oppose the LPF boycott of Apple. I think that it is
arbitrary, and that the charges of "terrorism" that have
appeared in this group have strengthened the hand of those at
Apple who favor the lawsuit.

I have also argued that the LPF boycott has been ineffective.
This is mostly because Mac buyers are either DOS/Unix refugees
who have little interest in text based non-interactive software.
For the non-programmers who account for the lion's share of Mac
sales, the non-availability of GNU software is irrelevant.
The boycott affects only those who are inclined to support GNU,
and does so to a limited degree because we are porting software
on our own, in the same was that MS-DOS users are.


Then what would be an effective strategy, assuming that we
must take action to counter the negative impact of UI copyright?


I suggest that someone, or some group should anonymously write
a free Macintosh-like UI to work in conjunction with the GNU OS.
One assumes that the GNU OS will not impose a standardized
GUI as does the ROM-based Macintosh ToolBox, but I imagine that
it will support a plug-in UI.

This could be done as an act of civil disobedience, and as a test
of the hypothesis that Apple Computer is out to sue "anyone who
comes up with a reasonable DeskTop program". In order to limit
the work involved, the focus should be on recreating precisely
those elements of the Mac GUI that Apple claims to own in its
lawsuit with Microsoft and HP.

Then see what happens.

-- Bill (john...@minnie.me.udel.edu)

Richard L. Goerwitz

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Nov 5, 1991, 11:27:43 AM11/5/91
to
john...@minnie.me.udel.edu (Bill Johnston) writes:
>
>...[T]he use of CopyLefted source code in a new software
>project *does* require that the CopyLeft be carried forward into
>the new project. This means that many programmers will not
>be able to use this code as the basis for new work; not just
>those whose want to write commercial software, but any programmer
>whose client requires clear copyright in the finished project.
>For example, many academics have grants that require that the
>product of the funded project be placeable in the public domain.

Yes, precisely. "Free" software is not "free" in the sense that most
people understand the term. "Free," when applied to a product, means
that the product is without cost. "Public domain" means it's without
any strings attached (i.e. "free" in the sense of being "unrestricted").
The meaning attached to "free" by FSF radicals is actually a highly
idiosyncratic one - a kind of doublespeak which allows them to alter
the socioeconomic basis for software development and distribution, and
at the same time call up the kinds of warm feelings usually associated
with truly free and unrestricted (i.e. PD) software. As we all know,
simply publishing PD software makes it impossible for others to copy-
right it or patent algorithms used in it. FSF software is hardly "free"
in this or any other commonly accepted sense.

It's a ruse, and although I have a lot of sympathy with the FSF's goals,
I don't appreciate being duped. Whether the duping is done through ig-
norance on the part of dupers (who really don't understand common Eng-
lish uses of the term "free," when applied to products), or whether it
is actually a deliberate act of deception, it makes me feel very, very
uncomfortable.

>If one opposes the notion of software intellectual property,
>the logical response is to refuse to assert rights accruing
>from intellectual property; one can place one's work in the
>public domain. This means that EVERYBODY can use it, not just
>those whose employers are enlightened enough to permit them to
>work on projects that can be CopyLefted.

This makes so much sense. But you see, the FSF seems not to have the
production of good, unrestricted software as its goal. As you point
out, the FSF is actually using property rights to transform the soft-
ware industry.

I find Richard Stallman and cohorts to be a very clever bunch, and in
the long run what they are doing will benefit us all. I just find it
disconcerting to watch people here swallow up this stuff as if it were
God's truth. It's a ruse we're all participating in here. A calculated
ruse. FSF software is no more "free" than my copy of WordPerfect, and
in fact is far more insidious in many ways.

Unless people believe that most people are fundamentally altruistic, it
might be good for naive readers of this newsgroup to quaff a few potions
of cynicism, or at least realism. It's only when you acknowledge the
pet peeves, prejudices, and hidden agendas that you can actually see the
real altruisms that may be present. The way I see it, people who are
interested in pure research and software development are annoyed at re-
strictions the industry places on them. In general, they don't understand
economics very well, and tend to view others through the lens of their
own CRT. It is good, though, for them to balance out the power structure
in the software industry, and prevent it from being taken over by the big
evil corporations. Whether or not their motives are fundamentally altru-
istic really isn't at issue. They are having a good effect on the indus-
try right now.

I still don't like this doublespeak with the word "free," though. I can't
use FSF code in PD projects, so it's clearly not "free" in the sense of
being "unrestricted." The FSF says there's nothing wrong with charging
people for it, so it's not costless. What is it then? Put your thinking
caps on, everyone: It's doublespeak. Understand that, and maybe you'll
get a glimpse of what is *really* going on.

I expect I'll get flamed for divulging this secret knowledge. What radi-
cal will be the first to stand up and deny the truth :-)?

--

-Richard L. Goerwitz goer%sop...@uchicago.bitnet
go...@sophist.uchicago.edu rutgers!oddjob!gide!sophist!goer

Henry S. Thompson

unread,
Nov 5, 1991, 4:26:21 AM11/5/91
to
In article <5NOV1991...@minnie.me.udel.edu> john...@minnie.me.udel.edu (Bill Johnston) writes:


> =======================================================================
>
> Q: When you talk about "free", in the Free Software Foundation,
> how are you using that word?
>
> RMS: Well, the word "free" has two meanings in English. One has to
> do with no price. The other has to do with freedom. In the
> term "free software", I am talking about freedom, not price.
> So when a program is free, it means that you the user have the
> freedom to make copies, the freedom to study it and change it
> and improve it. But it doesn't say anything about whether you
> pay money to get it. You might get it without paying money,
> or you might pay money to get it. At the Free Software Foundation,
> we distribute software in two ways. We put copies on the
> computer nets and people can copy that and they don't have to
> pay anything. Or they can send us money and we'll mail them
> tapes. And that's how we raise most of our money.
>
> =========================================================================
>
> It is thus possible to REQUEST payment for CopyLefted software,
> but one cannot REQUIRE payment. In the business world, very
> few are willing to pay for what they can get for free. In the
> "user world", even fewer will pay for things that are free.

Seems to me, having just had a quick re-read of the GPL in the version
(18.57) of emacs I'm reading this in, that this is not correct. What
RMS said is that HE/FSF doesn't require payment. Nothing to stop your
friend from requiring payment, if he choses to. To sell stuff with
the GPL on it, he simply has to include source with what he sells. Of
course he cannot, in consequence of the GPL, constrain people from
onward distribution to their friends and relatives, or even to rank
strangers. Unless he wants a brass-bound guarantee of a living from
selling his code, I don't see that that's much of a problem, in
reality. (Of course, even without the GPL he's got no guarantee of a
living.) Point is, most people are relatively honest. Also they know
where their own best interests lie. If there is a sale price on his
code, most people will pay it. If he makes it clear that support is
available from him only to people who pay, your putative commercial
user will pay. Seems to me that's the sensible route for him, if his
alternative is unconstrained no-warranty PD. As RMS says above, free
means, in this case, unconstrained, not no-cost.

ht

[If there are egregious errors in the above, perhaps that will finally
provoke the Powers That Be to a reply :-)]

--
Henry Thompson, Human Communication Research Centre, University of Edinburgh
2 Buccleuch Place, Edinburgh EH8 9LW, SCOTLAND -- (44) 31 650-4440
Fax: (44) 31 650-4587 ARPA: h...@cogsci.ed.ac.uk JANET: h...@uk.ac.ed.cogsci
UUCP: ...!uunet!mcsun!ukc!cogsci!ht

Mark Draughn

unread,
Nov 5, 1991, 4:07:39 PM11/5/91
to
In article <5NOV1991...@minnie.me.udel.edu> john...@minnie.me.udel.edu (Bill Johnston) writes:

[A long article that makes a lot of points. I'd like to address one
particular aspect of CopyLeft that Mr. Johnston comments on. I don't
think these quotes are out of context.]

>However, the use of CopyLefted source code in a new software
>project does require that the CopyLeft be carried forward into
>the new project. This means that many programmers will not
>be able to use this code as the basis for new work; not just
>those whose want to write commercial software, but any programmer
>whose client requires clear copyright in the finished project.
>For example, many academics have grants that require that the
>product of the funded project be placeable in the public domain.
>
>Publicly available source code has traditionally played a significant
>role in such projects. Examples are to be found on internet ftp
>sites all over the world. It is a mechanism for preserving and
>sharing the value of one's programming effort that has served us well.
>
>If one opposes the notion of software intellectual property,
>the logical response is to refuse to assert rights accruing
>from intellectual property; one can place one's work in the
>public domain. This means that EVERYBODY can use it, not just
>those whose employers are enlightened enough to permit them to
>work on projects that can be CopyLefted.

[...]


>The only objection I have made is that everything the GPL does
>to ensure that rights to use source code is unrestricted, is
>accomplished more effectively by releasing the source code to
>the public domain. The CopyLeft is added baggage that serves a
>political agenda without furthering people's freedom to use
>the CopyLefted code.

There are other reasons to use CopyLeft besides a "political agenda."

I'm in the midst of writing a subroutine library that implements a
small message-passing, state-machine oriented, multitasking kernel
that can run on a PC or as a process in a multitasking environment.

There is a chance that other people would be able to use something
like this. When I'm done, I'll consider making it publicly available.

I could just put it in the public domain, but I can forsee the
possibility of some unpleasentness. What if some software company out
there uses my code in a program that they sell commercially?

Boy, will I feel stupid. I'm in the position of a musician who writes
a Christmas song and releases it to the public domain, so that
carolers and school choirs can use it, only to discover that someone
has recorded a single and is making big money from it. Here's someone
making money off of work, and I have no way to stop it.

Unless I use CopyLeft.

With CopyLeft, I can do a good deed by giving away my work, without
worrying that someone else will take advantage of my good will.

I realize that my concerns go beyond ensuring that the right to use
source code is unrestricted. In fact, there is one particular use of
source code that I definitely want to restrict. However, I don't
think there is any political agenda involved.
--

Mark Draughn | <dra...@iitmax.iit.edu> or <SYSMARK@IITVAX> on BITNET
----------------+ Academic Computing Center, Illinois Institute of Technology
+1 312 567 5962 | 10 W. 31st Street, Chicago, Illinois 60616

Richard L. Goerwitz

unread,
Nov 5, 1991, 6:08:30 PM11/5/91
to

Oh come on, guys, stop sending me mail. Put the flames here for every-
one to see :-). But be sure you understand what I'm saying. I'm not
by any means expressing a desire that the FSF go away. Quite the con-
trary. Read my last posting more carefully.

Let me reiterate: I regard the use of an inappropriate word, name-
ly "free," as deliberate misdirection on the order of "pro-abortion" for
"pro-choice" and "anti-choice" for "anti-abortion." Most aren't really
fooled, but the gratuitous attempt at obfuscation can be very annoying,
perhaps indicative of a failure to fess up to the real issues at stake.
If the software is not unrestricted, then a different word should have
been used. Perhaps "socioeconomically laden." SELSF: The Socio-Econom-
ically Laden Software Foundation.

All the "read the license" mail in the world will not change the fact
that FSF software is free only in a specially and idiosyncratically de-
fined sense dreamt up by the FSF.

About GNU stuff in PD software: Its rediculous to have to parcel out
software, and label it as GNU copylefted. In many cases, I'd like to
intermingle it with my code in ways that would mean line-by-line separa-
tion, or at least an attempt at subcategorization of files into GNU-
influenced, and "pure PD." This is a pile of crap, and no one should
have to do this with *truly* unrestricted (aka "free") software.

Note that I am not calling FSF software a pile of crap. And in fact, I
see no reason why the FSF will not have beneficial impact on the indus-
try. I admire, in a very real way, the goals of the FSF (aka SELSF),
and hope they succeed. Their work is top-notch, and they are nothing
if not interesting people (at least from my e-mail perspective). The
world could do with a few more FSF types.

I merely reserve the right to complain when the FSF copyleft conditions
impinge on my freedom to write software, and make it totally "free." I
also reserve the right to comment on the irony when I find myself feeling
constrained by the "Free" Sofware Foundation. I feel like a whore when I
have to knuckle under to their socioeconomic agenda in order to lay hands
on the code. Better than an AT&T source license, though.

Go FSF!

da...@thymus.synaptics.com

unread,
Nov 5, 1991, 5:42:36 AM11/5/91
to
Bill Johnston writes:

> To date, my arguments on this point have attracted two types of reply
> from FSF supporters which are somewhat at odds, in my opinion.

> The first type of reply is "But of course you can sell CopyLefted
> software, that is what we do at the FSF." The second type of reply,
> which also comes from FSF supporters, is that "No you can't sell
> CopyLefted software; the software is free, and any fee that you
> pay is a distribution fee, charge for media, etc.

I understand WRI charges $250,000 for the Cray version of Mathematica.
If they want to call that a distribution fee, that's certainly their
right. It doesn't change the amount of money I have to pay to get the
Cray version of Mathematica.

The FSF charges (I believe) $100 for its tapes. You can call that a
selling price, or a distribution fee, however you like. It doesn't
change the fact that, if you want the FSF to make a tape for you,
you have to give them $100 in exchange for the service.

The reason one might consider the FSF's charge to be a distribution
fee is that our usual concept of "selling" implies that you restrict
your customers from obtaining the product without paying the charge.
The FSF is only too happy to see you get a free copy of a program
from some other source; it saves them the trouble of making a tape.
Because this doesn't fit well with our usual concept of "selling,"
we like to invent other words for it. But in the end they all mean
the same thing.

> It is thus possible to REQUEST payment for CopyLefted software,
> but one cannot REQUIRE payment. In the business world, very
> few are willing to pay for what they can get for free. In the
> "user world", even fewer will pay for things that are free.

Pragmatically speaking, you are not paying for GNU Emacs when you
buy the Emacs tape from the FSF. Or if you are, you're a chump.
What you are really paying for is the convenience of getting a
tape of the software in the mail. If you are on the Internet, you
would be very unlikely to buy an FSF tape. If you aren't, you
might well buy the tape because it might be worth the $100 to you
not to have to track the softawre down from some other source.

My company has hired a receptionist to answer the phones and greet
visitors. Before we hired her, we did that sort of thing ourselves.
But it was enough of a nuisance that we eventually decided to pay
considerably more than $100 to get someone else to do it for us.
That's not because we're fools, it's because a good business person
knows when to pay for convenience.

I think what you're really describing is usually called "shareware,"
software that is distributed free but with the request or expectation
that the user will donate a certain amount of money to the author if
the software turns out to be useful. I don't recall the FSF's
position on shareware offhand, but since shareware is not truly free
I imagine the FSF does not wholeheartedly support it.

The difference is that the FSF is not looking at you with puppy eyes
saying "please help me feed my family by paying for this program";
they've simply provided a way for you to get their software free and
then are asking a fee if you wish to use a different, less convenient
method.

> For example, many academics have grants that require that the
> product of the funded project be placeable in the public domain.

If you are contractually required to release your work in the public
domain, you could probably do something along the lines of releasing
diffs of your software against GNU base software into the public
domain. Since the law that required you to use PD had its heart in
the right place, FSF-wise, I don't think they'd mind this much.

Perhaps the FSF should investigate this. Would government agencies
be willing to allow grant recipients to use the GPL? This might be
a tall order, requiring legislation and such, but it can't hurt to
ask.

> If one opposes the notion of software intellectual property,
> the logical response is to refuse to assert rights accruing
> from intellectual property; one can place one's work in the
> public domain. This means that EVERYBODY can use it, not just
> those whose employers are enlightened enough to permit them to
> work on projects that can be CopyLefted.

The GPL is indeed an interim measure. The problem, and the reason
the GPL was invented, is that pure PD distribution leaves itself
open for later development by other parties to be less-than-free.
The usual example is the X window system, which is available free
from MIT. But many manufacturers create specially-tuned versions
of X for their own machines, which they then sell for a significant
price, and distribute without source code. I remember using X on
HP machines, when we found a serious bug in the server. Since HP
didn't ship sources, we had no way to fix the bug short of going
back to the raw MIT distribution.

If X had been distributed under the GPL, HP would have been forced
to ship sources and we would have been able to fix the bug. If HP
and other companies were more "enlightened" and released the sources
to their versions of X, there would be no reason to use the GPL for
X, but since those companies are not in fact so generous, the GPL
remains meaningful and relevant.

> I suggest that someone, or some group should anonymously write
> a free Macintosh-like UI to work in conjunction with the GNU OS.
> One assumes that the GNU OS will not impose a standardized
> GUI as does the ROM-based Macintosh ToolBox, but I imagine that
> it will support a plug-in UI.

> This could be done as an act of civil disobedience, and as a test
> of the hypothesis that Apple Computer is out to sue "anyone who
> comes up with a reasonable DeskTop program". In order to limit
> the work involved, the focus should be on recreating precisely
> those elements of the Mac GUI that Apple claims to own in its
> lawsuit with Microsoft and HP.

I fear that this would accomplish the same thing you (probably
rightly) say the "terrorism" charges are already doing: It would
just make Apple angry and less willing to be reasonable. After all,
what you recommend has just as strong a claim to the word "terrorism"
as anything Apple has done---probably more so.

The FSF and LPF want to strike down UI copyrights because of the
principle that building on existing work is healthy and constructive.
If we copy the Mac just out of spite, we're saying that even we don't
believe our own ideals.

-- Dave

Bill Johnston

unread,
Nov 6, 1991, 2:45:00 AM11/6/91
to
In article <1991Nov5.2...@iitmax.iit.edu>, dra...@iitmax.iit.edu (Mark Draughn) writes...

>In article <5NOV1991...@minnie.me.udel.edu> john...@minnie.me.udel.edu (Bill Johnston) writes:
>
>[A long article that makes a lot of points. I'd like to address one
>particular aspect of CopyLeft that Mr. Johnston comments on. I don't
>think these quotes are out of context.]

>>The only objection I have made is that everything the GPL does


>>to ensure that rights to use source code is unrestricted, is
>>accomplished more effectively by releasing the source code to
>>the public domain. The CopyLeft is added baggage that serves a
>>political agenda without furthering people's freedom to use
>>the CopyLefted code.

>There are other reasons to use CopyLeft besides a "political agenda."

Yes. I should have worded this differently.

>I'm in the midst of writing a subroutine library that implements a
>small message-passing, state-machine oriented, multitasking kernel
>that can run on a PC or as a process in a multitasking environment.

[ ...interesting description ... ]

>There is a chance that other people would be able to use something
>like this. When I'm done, I'll consider making it publicly available.
>
>I could just put it in the public domain, but I can forsee the
>possibility of some unpleasentness. What if some software company out
>there uses my code in a program that they sell commercially?

But why is this so bad? The code you wrote is still available for free.
People who are interested in free software can still make improvements on it.
It still exists as "prior art".

Because you have released the source to everyone, the software company
will have strong competition from the improvements that people make
to your code. This means that the company will have to extend your
work considerably in order to make it worth buying.

>Boy, will I feel stupid. I'm in the position of a musician who writes
>a Christmas song and releases it to the public domain, so that
>carolers and school choirs can use it, only to discover that someone
>has recorded a single and is making big money from it. Here's someone
>making money off of work, and I have no way to stop it.

But what's wrong with this? It happens all the time with ideas
published in the academic literature. In fact, it's the main reason
why society commits public funds to support public research. Some
people like to work on theoretical problems, without worrying about
commercial aspects. We give them a few bucks, and occasionally reap
the reward of great new ideas and technologies.

My own work, for example, attempts to explain some of the mechanical
behavior of carbon fibers. In the ordinary conduct of this research
I have stumbled across a few facts that might have practical value
for companies interested in making widgets out of these fibers.

The members of my dissertation commitee -- who are fine, upstanding,
deep-thinking academicians < ;-) > -- naturally have more interest in
the "fundamental" (ie, impractical) aspects of the project, so I am left
in a similar position to that of the programmer in the example above.

If I disclose my chance findings, some company is sure to make a few
extra bucks by taking advantage of my work. I don't have an interest
in going into the widget business myself, so why should I let somebody
else benefit? Should I "CopyLeft" my idea?

The answer is that while I may never want to go into the widget
business, I like widgets. The more the better. The company that
takes advantage of my idea will be able to hire more people, pay
more wages, increase dividends to its shareholders. It may even
decide to put more money into grants so that fools like me can
come up with more (accidentally) practical research findings.

Are these things bad?

Another way to answer the question is that while it may be possible
for people to own _some_ kinds of information, it sure is nice when
people share ideas that are useful. We don't expect people or
companies to share _all_ of their ideas; for example, if Chrysler
invests $100 million dollars to develop a new braking system for
their automotive products, we have no right to wait till they are
done and then show up with guns and say, "It's ours, now.".
Nor do we say that it is OK for GM to buy a Chrysler, take apart
the brakes and build their own using the same idea.

But when Chrysler researchers come up with ideas that aren't of
great commercial importance to Chrysler, like as not we'll see
a paper in the scientific literature the describes how the material
that turned out to be lousy as a radiator hose might be terrific
for internal sutures that dissolve naturally after surgery.

In both cases, the company respects the value of IDEAS and acts
to ensure that the ideas get used.

>Unless I use CopyLeft.

>With CopyLeft, I can do a good deed by giving away my work, without
>worrying that someone else will take advantage of my good will.

This is the part that I don't understand. How does it hurt anyone
for that code to be used commercially?

>I realize that my concerns go beyond ensuring that the right to use
>source code is unrestricted. In fact, there is one particular use of
>source code that I definitely want to restrict. However, I don't
>think there is any political agenda involved.

Fair enough. Call it a private agenda. It is your code -- at least
until software intellectual property is abolished -- and you can use
it as you see fit, including CopyLefting it so that no one (except you,
of course) can use it as the basis of a commercial application.

In my opinion, it "wastes the value of the program that's been written".

But who would argue that this is a bad thing?

-- Bill (john...@minnie.me.udel.edu)

Founding member of the PFTDPFSD ...

(People for the "Doritos Principle" of free software distribution! ;-) )

Bill Johnston

unread,
Nov 6, 1991, 4:10:00 AM11/6/91
to
In article <1991Nov5.2...@midway.uchicago.edu>, go...@ellis.uchicago.edu (Richard L. Goerwitz) writes...

>
>Note that I am not calling FSF software a pile of crap. And in fact, I
>see no reason why the FSF will not have beneficial impact on the indus-
>try. I admire, in a very real way, the goals of the FSF (aka SELSF),
>and hope they succeed. Their work is top-notch, and they are nothing
>if not interesting people (at least from my e-mail perspective). The
>world could do with a few more FSF types.

[...]

>Go FSF!

Hear, hear! The work that FSF is doing to promote the distribution
and further development of free software is a wonderful thing.

>About GNU stuff in PD software: Its rediculous to have to parcel out
>software, and label it as GNU copylefted. In many cases, I'd like to
>intermingle it with my code in ways that would mean line-by-line separa-
>tion, or at least an attempt at subcategorization of files into GNU-
>influenced, and "pure PD." This is a pile of crap, and no one should
>have to do this with *truly* unrestricted (aka "free") software.

Let me add just a couple of points.

First, if GNU source were made available on a truly free basis, it would
still be possible to include a statement describing the benefits of free
software, and suggesting that people who make improvements voluntarily
make them available to the public through the auspices of a non-CopyLefting
Free Software Foundation.

I think that most programmers would still consider it a matter of honor
and good taste to pass along their contributions, that is, to support the
"spirit" of the CopyLeft on a voluntary basis -- responding to the "good
example" set by FSF -- rather than to a legal instrument that attempts
to mandate the practice of distributing source with software.

(This makes practical sense as well, because it is not likely that FSF
will ever have the resources or inclination to *enforce* CopyLeft through
the expensive mechanism of the legal system. This would be too much
like the tactics that they have criticized publically, and would divert
time and money from creative pursuits.)

But suppose that an individual or company does decide to use GNU code as
part of a commercial project; does anyone really lose in such an event?

The source that was borrowed is still available for the rest of us
to use and improve. It is there as "prior art" to be used in the
event that a real bad egg decides to try to copyright a program that
merely reproduces a GNU program without adding meaningful improvements.

Note however, that it would be difficult to make money this way,
because people would soon learn that the same thing was available
for free. People who buy software aren't stupid; they don't pay
for something that they can get for free (and better, because the
GNU version comes with source.)


I have a few friends who work as programmers for commercial software
companies. I think that they practice an honorable profession.

Occasionally I see questions posted in a ".programmer" newsgroup in
which a commercial developer asks "How can I do XYZ?" or "Does anybody
have a routine that does "XYZ"? I would like to be able to reply,
"Hey, I've using the this terrific program from the FSF that has
feature XYZ; you can find a copy of the source code on prep.ai.mit.edu;
maybe it will help you solve your problem."

That programmer is likely to be rather impressed with the idea,
and will certainly feel more inclined to support FSF in his/her
spare time than would be the case if it turned out that the code
was CopyLefted and bundled with a manifesto critical of the means
by which he/she earns a paycheck. Everybody still wins.

-- Bill (john...@minnie.me.udel.edu)

Charles Geyer

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Nov 6, 1991, 12:54:07 PM11/6/91
to
In article <1991Nov5.2...@midway.uchicago.edu>,

go...@ellis.uchicago.edu (Richard L. Goerwitz) writes:

> Oh come on, guys, stop sending me mail. Put the flames here for every-
> one to see :-).

Glad to oblige.

> But be sure you understand what I'm saying. I'm not
> by any means expressing a desire that the FSF go away. Quite the con-
> trary. Read my last posting more carefully.
>
> Let me reiterate: I regard the use of an inappropriate word, name-
> ly "free," as deliberate misdirection on the order of "pro-abortion" for
> "pro-choice" and "anti-choice" for "anti-abortion." Most aren't really
> fooled, but the gratuitous attempt at obfuscation can be very annoying,
> perhaps indicative of a failure to fess up to the real issues at stake.

Baloney. I will concede that the "free" in FSF doesn't mean "free in the
meaning preferred by Richard L. Goerwitz". It probably doesn't mean "free
in the meaning preferred by Ronald Regan, or John Scully, or Attilla the
Hun." Who cares?

> If the software is not unrestricted, then a different word should have
> been used. Perhaps "socioeconomically laden." SELSF: The Socio-Econom-
> ically Laden Software Foundation.

There isn't and wasn't any intent to deceive anyone and no one, certainly
not you, is confused about the meaning intended by RMS and FSF. If you
look up "free" in an unabridged dictionary, it has dozens of meanings.
It's a word of plain English, to a technical term of Goerwitz-speak.

I'll use it the way I like, thank you, and I expect others to do the same.

--
Charles Geyer
School of Statistics
University of Minnesota
cha...@umnstat.stat.umn.edu

Kevin W. Rudd

unread,
Nov 6, 1991, 2:14:24 PM11/6/91
to
In article <1991Nov6.1...@cs.umn.edu> cha...@umnstat.stat.umn.edu (Charles Geyer) writes:
>
>I'll use it the way I like, thank you, and I expect others to do the same.
>
Enclosed are a few of the definitions in webster's concerning free:

Note that this set is in direct conflict with the CopyLeft
1d: enjoying personal freedom: not subject to the control or domination
of another
2b: determined by the choice of the actor or performer <free actions>
3a: exempt, relieved, or released from something unpleasant or burdensome
<free from pain>
3b: not bound, confined, or detained by force
4a: having no trade restrictions
4b: not subject to government regulation
4c of foreign exchange: not subject to restriction or official control
5a: having no obligations (as to work) or commitments (as to duty or
custom) <I'll be free this evening>
7a1: not obstructed or impeded: CLEAR <a free and open highway>
7b: not hampered or restricted in its normal operation
14: not allowing slavery
9f: LICENTIOUS
1: lacking legal or moral restraints; esp: disregarding sexual restraints
2: marked by disregard for strict rules of correctness

These, however, are followed in the CopyLeft
9b: OUTSPOKEN
10: not costing or charging anything

You are welcome to misuse (or use with intent to deceive) any word you like,
but you'd better expect to be called on the carpet for it.

>--
>Charles Geyer
>School of Statistics
>University of Minnesota
>cha...@umnstat.stat.umn.edu


--
ke...@umunhum.Stanford.EDU
kev...@leland.Stanford.EDU

Richard L. Goerwitz

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Nov 6, 1991, 2:15:36 PM11/6/91
to
Charles Geyer writes:
>
>> Let me reiterate: I regard the use of an inappropriate word, name-
>> ly "free," as deliberate misdirection on the order of "pro-abortion" for
>> "pro-choice" and "anti-choice" for "anti-abortion." Most aren't really
>> fooled, but the gratuitous attempt at obfuscation can be very annoying,
>> perhaps indicative of a failure to fess up to the real issues at stake.
>
>Baloney. I will concede that the "free" in FSF doesn't mean "free in the
>meaning preferred by Richard L. Goerwitz". It probably doesn't mean "free
>in the meaning preferred by Ronald Regan, or John Scully, or Attilla the
>Hun." Who cares?

I care. Words are supposed to be used in ways that communicate accurately
intended meanings. If it takes lots of additional explanation to get across
this intended meaning, then the original wording was misleading and/or poor-
ly constructed. The question is whether it is really all that idiosyncratic
to think of freedom as implying a lack of restraint (either monetary, poli-
tical, legal, or otherwise). Do you think that this notion is peculiarly
Goerwitzian? If you do, then I'd have to conclude that you *have* in fact
been deceived by the very doublespeak that you say should never have confused
anyone.

In fact, copylefted software is heavily restricted, to the point of trying
to enforce upon me a specific way of handling software, and forcing me to get
others to do the same. In fact it's much more than "unrestricted" software,
and does much more than prevent subsequent copyrighting or patenting of the
materials it's tacked onto. Whether or not you buy the implied socioeconomic
system, it's there. FSF code is anything but "free." If if were truly free,
I would be able to put it into public domain packages, and not have to worry
about the thought police checking to see that I've included the license.

>I'll use [the word "free"] the way I like, thank you, and I expect others
>to do the same.

I'll use the word "free" in its usual sense, and only label things as free
when they are free in a sense every reasonable person will understand. I'll
reserve the right to chide others who are - either premeditatedly or not -
less straightforward, as well. (Even if I sympathize with their overall con-
cerns, and hope they have a balancing effect on the software industry.)

Charles Geyer

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Nov 6, 1991, 4:50:06 PM11/6/91
to
In article <1991Nov6.1...@midway.uchicago.edu>, go...@ellis.uchicago.edu
(Richard L. Goerwitz) writes:

> The question is whether it is really all that idiosyncratic
> to think of freedom as implying a lack of restraint (either monetary, poli-
> tical, legal, or otherwise). Do you think that this notion is peculiarly
> Goerwitzian? If you do, then I'd have to conclude that you *have* in fact
> been deceived by the very doublespeak that you say should never have confused
> anyone.
>
> In fact, copylefted software is heavily restricted, to the point of trying
> to enforce upon me a specific way of handling software, and forcing me to get
> others to do the same.

Again so what?

What's a "free man" someone who you can treat in an "unrestricted" fashion".

Similarly for "free software". It's software that can't be enslaved.

You may not like it, and obviously don't, but there's nothing misleading about
it.

Jyrki Kuoppala

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Nov 6, 1991, 4:56:00 PM11/6/91
to
In article <HT.91No...@spark.cogsci.ed.ac.uk>, ht@cogsci (Henry S. Thompson) writes:
>[If there are egregious errors in the above, perhaps that will finally
>provoke the Powers That Be to a reply :-)]

I remember rms has earlier said that he doesn't read gnu.misc.discuss.

There doesn't seem to be many posts from other people closely
associated with the FSF, either.

It's good to keep in mind that gnu.misc.discuss is a forum to talk
about the GNU project, but also that it's mostly just talk, and you
probably won't find many official statements from anyone here - read
the GNU manifesto and rms interviews and mailings (to gnu.announce
etc.) for definitive material.

//Jyrki

Jyrki Kuoppala

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Nov 6, 1991, 5:28:01 PM11/6/91
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In article <6NOV1991...@minnie.me.udel.edu>, johnston@minnie (Bill Johnston) writes:
>>I could just put it in the public domain, but I can forsee the
>>possibility of some unpleasentness. What if some software company out
>>there uses my code in a program that they sell commercially?
>
>But why is this so bad? The code you wrote is still available for free.

I of course can't speak for the original poster, but if I think myself
in a similar situation I would think it's very unfair for the company
to put limits on the distribution of my program - they may add a
couple of features, or just change the copyright to their own and then
they can just ship the binary and take away the freedom of users to
have third-party improvements to the code and to share it with their
friends and others.

I personally don't see anything wrong with someone making money from
my ideas - well, if they make a few million $$ and I'll end up
starving, then I'll perhaps feel a bit silly because I didn't make the
million $$, but such is life. But when someone takes my ideas or work
which I've made for everybody to use, adds a few insignificant details
and then starts to restrict the availablity of the ideas to others,
then I feel insulted and harmed since my ideas and work have been
turned into something very non-productive and very harmful to the idea
of sharing of tools, information and ideas.

Other people have reasons for putting their work in the public domain,
and that's OK with me - I don't want to take their right to do that
away, and I hope they are not trying to take my right of using the GPL
away.

Still others make their living at selling copyrighted software - I
don't want to take away their right to do that, and many of them don't
want to take away others' right to write public domain or GPL'd
software; many of them even benefit a lot from public domain and GPL'd
software (I'm told that for example Lotus uses gcc).

However, it seems that software patents and interface copyrights might
make both good public domain and good GPL'd software quite impossible
in practice, and I certainly feel that this is very unacceptable.

//Jyrki

Per Abrahamsen

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Nov 6, 1991, 6:36:57 PM11/6/91
to

>>>>> On 6 Nov 91 19:14:24 GMT, ke...@simd.stanford.edu (Kevin W. Rudd) said:

Kevin> Enclosed are a few of the definitions in webster's concerning free:

Kevin> 14: not allowing slavery

This is (almost, substituting people with software) how the FSF use
the word FREE.

Bill Johnston

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Nov 6, 1991, 7:27:00 PM11/6/91
to
In article <911106024...@thymus.synaptics>, da...@synaptics.com writes...
>Bill Johnston writes:

>> If one opposes the notion of software intellectual property,
>> the logical response is to refuse to assert rights accruing
>> from intellectual property; one can place one's work in the
>> public domain. This means that EVERYBODY can use it, not just
>> those whose employers are enlightened enough to permit them to
>> work on projects that can be CopyLefted.

I should have also mentioned that is possible to release code as
copyrighted freeware. "Public domain" implies (to me, anyway) that
one does not claim any copyright at all. Many works are copyrighted
but still free for everyone to use. You might have to footnote or
include acknowledgements, but there are many possibilities short
of the CopyLeft which mandates its own perpetuation.

>The GPL is indeed an interim measure. The problem, and the reason
>the GPL was invented, is that pure PD distribution leaves itself
>open for later development by other parties to be less-than-free.
>The usual example is the X window system, which is available free
>from MIT. But many manufacturers create specially-tuned versions
>of X for their own machines, which they then sell for a significant
>price, and distribute without source code. I remember using X on
>HP machines, when we found a serious bug in the server. Since HP
>didn't ship sources, we had no way to fix the bug short of going
>back to the raw MIT distribution.
>
>If X had been distributed under the GPL, HP would have been forced
>to ship sources and we would have been able to fix the bug. If HP
>and other companies were more "enlightened" and released the sources
>to their versions of X, there would be no reason to use the GPL for
>X, but since those companies are not in fact so generous, the GPL
>remains meaningful and relevant.

I didn't follow up this article when it first appeared, because the
replies that it suggested to me at the time were just restatements
of points made previously. However, in subsequent discussion of the
HP X Windows discussion a few new points emerged so I've suggested
that we take it back to the net. I'll try to stick to new stuff,
with a minimum of rehash.

My initial response to the HP question was to ask "What's so bad
about the fact that HP chose to base a windowing system on X?".

The discussion later got into the question of whether we should
_force_ companies like HP to release software with source,
comparing such a mandate to other forms of trade regulation such
as emissions control requirements for automobiles ...


The difference between pollution regulations and mandating CopyLeft
is that in the case of automobiles, everyone is forced to experience
the bad effects of pollution whether they buy and use cars or not.

In such a case, simply saying "If you don't like it, don't buy the car."
doesn't solve the problem. Pollution is an "externality" that affects
everyone, not just the person who purchases the car.

In the case of HPs X window adaptation, no one was forced to buy it or
to use it in preference to the open version of X. One can still
choose to do the port from the open source in the traditional way.

Moreover, the motive for not distributing source is not always that the
company wants to prevent others from using their additions. In this
case HP wanted to do some hardware-specific modifications, but often
the rationale is simply that the company intends to provide support
for the product and wants to maintain version control in order to have
a reasonable chance of diagnosing customer problems.

This kind of paternalism is anathema to the "expert" user, but not
everyone has the time or inclination to hack the user interface of
their own computer.

I agree that it it would be NICE for HP to release its modifications
to X windows; it would make it easier for users to keep up with
(and contribute to) the ongoing improvements to the X Windows project.

What I disagree with vehemently is the idea that HP should be
FORCED to release source code with its implement of X-Windows,
or worse, forced to permit customers the right to copy the HP X
for their friends who may not have paid HP's license fee.

If this were the case, it would increase the likelihood that
HP would decide either not to use X as the basis for its UI,
or not to make as many improvements to the code. Either way,
the vast majority of _users_ suffer, and diversity suffers.

Now it is perfectly reasonable for customers (and prospective
customers) to lobby HP to release source code with its product.
If enough people felt that this was an indispensable feature of
commercial software, I think that this could happen -- but probably
only for software on workstation-type platforms for which a significant
percentage of users actively engage in programming. Open source for
a user-oriented package like 'WordPerfect' might create more
problems than it would solve. Anyone who has tried to teach
novices the fundamentals can appreciate how much more difficult
it would become to provide support if we had to deal with
"Joe's Own Version of 1-2-3".

As an advocacy group set up to promote the distribution of
software with source (without eliminating single-user license)
GNU could be very effective indeed. Not only would it be asking
the industry to give us more for our money (you can always ask!),
but more importantly it would be setting a powerful example by
distributing great software-with-source that gives the commercial
stuff real competition.

I would sincerely like to see this happen.

-- Bill (john...@minnie.me.udel.edu)

"But if you go carrying pictures of Chairman Mao,
you ain't gonna make it with anyone, anyhow." -- John Lennon

Russ Nelson

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Nov 7, 1991, 6:29:05 AM11/7/91
to
In article <4NOV1991...@minnie.me.udel.edu> john...@minnie.me.udel.edu (Bill Johnston) writes:


GNU is trying to pretend that CopyLefting is not inconsistent
with a desire to sell a software product commercially; anyone
with an ounce of common sense can see that an arrangement in
which copying is unrestricted will not lead to commercial success.

The success of Cygnus disproves your point.

[Public domain] is the mechanism by which genuinely free software


is distributed; it is also the mechanism by which academics have
traditionally distributed intellectual contributions.

We can argue semantics back and forth all day, but remember that freedom
for the wolves is tyrrany for the sheep.

--
--russ <nel...@clutx.clarkson.edu> I'm proud to be a humble Quaker.
Peace is not the absence of war. Peace is the presence of a system for
resolving conflicts before war becomes necessary. War never creates peace.

Richard L. Goerwitz

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Nov 6, 1991, 8:41:05 PM11/6/91
to
>> In fact, copylefted software is heavily restricted, to the point of trying
>> to enforce upon me a specific way of handling software, and forcing me to get
>> others to do the same.
>
>Again so what?
>
>What's a "free man" someone who you can treat in an "unrestricted" fashion".
>Similarly for "free software". It's software that can't be enslaved.

This is ludicrous. Do we now disregard context as a viable guide to
meaning? All the schoolboys online here have gotten out their dictionaries
and started quoting them to me completely out of context.

Today walk up to someone and say, "There is this foundation that writes
free software." Ask him or her what is implied by that. Ask what the plain
meaning is. Invariably they'll say that it doesn't cost a cent. Anything
beyond that lies in the realm of non-obvious meanings, and constitutes mis-
direction.

In the context of discussions of slavery, "free" has another meaning. Ask
anyone on the street what a freed slave is, and he or she will give approx-
imately the same answer. If you define a freed slave to be something other
than this, you jump into the realm of non-obvious meanings.

Why must I point out the obvious? If it's not costless, then what is it?
Is it free in the sense of being freely usable or accessible? Certainly
not. You have to buy into the socioeconomic philosophy of the FSF, and tack
on the little license that insists every one else will, too. There is no
latitude for people who might dare to differ in opinion, or who might just
like the idea of truly unrestricted software. You eat it up, or you leave
it be. Some freedom!

This is not freedom. It's doublespeak. Quote me all the secondary defini-
tions in the world, and it's not going to alter the plain sense of the word
in the context we're talking about. That is, if we're using language to
communicate ideas, and not living in a Lewis Carroll fantasy.

Scott E. Preece

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Nov 6, 1991, 10:44:28 AM11/6/91
to
In article <1991Nov5.2...@iitmax.iit.edu> dra...@iitmax.iit.edu (Mark Draughn) writes:

| There is a chance that other people would be able to use something
| like this. When I'm done, I'll consider making it publicly available.

| I could just put it in the public domain, but I can forsee the
| possibility of some unpleasentness. What if some software company out
| there uses my code in a program that they sell commercially?

| Boy, will I feel stupid. I'm in the position of a musician who writes
| a Christmas song and releases it to the public domain, so that
| carolers and school choirs can use it, only to discover that someone
| has recorded a single and is making big money from it. Here's someone
| making money off of work, and I have no way to stop it.

---
I still have a lot of philosophical trouble with people who say "Look,
I'm giving this away, so anyone can use it" and then act like they've
been damaged if somebody else chooses to take that gift and use it to
make money. This seems to violate their sense of fairness, but I can't
see it. If you choose to provide a social good by allowing anyone to
use the fruits of your intelligence and effort, that's great; if you
choose to try instead to make money with those fruits, that's fine, too.

But apparently a lot of the GNU people have this sort of self-conscious
idea that they will look stupid if someone else makes money off their
work. I don't know whether this is lack of self-confidence (believing
others can turn their work into something much, much better than they
could hope to compete with) or just lack of the courage of their
convictions, but it does wear thin after a while.

If you would wear a halo, be a saint. Say, "It's my gift to the greater
social good, use it as you will." I promise that *I*, at least, will
never laugh at you for having chosen to give something of value.

If you're not brave enough to give things away, don't claim the glory.
There's nothing wrong with having a social, political, or
profit-oriented agenda, as long as you don't claim to be agenda-free.
I may not agree with RMS's views, but I respect them as seriously
thought about and openly avowed. I have rather less respect for those
of his followers who use the "Think how stupid you'd feel if someone
else profited from the work you gave away." argument to scare insecure
developers into playing in line with the Foundation's political agenda.

scott
--
scott preece
motorola/mcg urbana design center 1101 e. university, urbana, il 61801
uucp: uunet!uiucuxc!udc!preece, arpa: pre...@urbana.mcd.mot.com
phone: 217-384-8589 fax: 217-384-8550

Charles Geyer

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Nov 7, 1991, 10:20:26 AM11/7/91
to
In article <PREECE.91...@neptune.urbana.mcd.mot.com>,

pre...@urbana.mcd.mot.com (Scott E. Preece) writes:

> But apparently a lot of the GNU people have this sort of self-conscious
> idea that they will look stupid if someone else makes money off their
> work. I don't know whether this is lack of self-confidence (believing
> others can turn their work into something much, much better than they
> could hope to compete with) or just lack of the courage of their
> convictions, but it does wear thin after a while.

That's not even an interesting reason for opposing look-and-feel copyright
and patents on mathematical algorithms. One poster who said something
like this does not make "a lot" of GNU people.

The United States can have look-and-feel copyright and algorithm patents
or it can have computer science and scientific computing, but it can't
have both, not for long.

If the current legal mess continues, innovation in computing will be
destroyed. The ability to get new and interesting things done with
computers will be strangled, to that some vendors can have a lock on
the bozo segment of the market.

Software from vendors is typically useless for doing anything out of the
ordinary, anything *new*. When it becomes impossible to write nontrivial
software without being subject to lawsuits, that's the end of innovative
computing in the U. S. of A.

That's the issue.

mathew

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Nov 8, 1991, 10:46:13 AM11/8/91
to
cha...@umnstat.stat.umn.edu (Charles Geyer) writes:
> In article <1991Nov6.1...@midway.uchicago.edu>, go...@ellis.uchicago.ed

> (Richard L. Goerwitz) writes:
> > The question is whether it is really all that idiosyncratic
> > to think of freedom as implying a lack of restraint (either monetary, poli-
> > tical, legal, or otherwise). Do you think that this notion is peculiarly
> > Goerwitzian? If you do, then I'd have to conclude that you *have* in fact
> > been deceived by the very doublespeak that you say should never have confus
> > anyone.
[...]

> Again so what?
>
> What's a "free man" someone who you can treat in an "unrestricted" fashion".

No, it's a man who is not constrained in some way. A man who is unrestricted
in some way.

Your deliberate re-phrasing "in an ... fashion" to make the common definition
of "free" sound ridiculous isn't going to fool anyone.

> Similarly for "free software". It's software that can't be enslaved.

But it is enslaved already, by a restrictive copyright.


mathew

--
Another would-be Mac owner put off by Apple's monopolistic practices.

Mark Draughn

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Nov 8, 1991, 6:53:45 PM11/8/91
to
In article <6NOV1991...@minnie.me.udel.edu> john...@minnie.me.udel.edu

(Bill Johnston) writes:
>In article <1991Nov5.2...@iitmax.iit.edu>, dra...@iitmax.iit.edu
>(Mark Draughn) writes...

[A scenario in which software that I release to the public domain is
modified and used commercially by someone else.]

>But why is this so bad? The code you wrote is still available for free.
>People who are interested in free software can still make improvements on it.
>It still exists as "prior art".
>
>Because you have released the source to everyone, the software company
>will have strong competition from the improvements that people make
>to your code. This means that the company will have to extend your
>work considerably in order to make it worth buying.

All of these statements are just as true for CopyLefted code as they are
for public domain code.

>>Boy, will I feel stupid. I'm in the position of a musician who writes
>>a Christmas song and releases it to the public domain, so that
>>carolers and school choirs can use it, only to discover that someone
>>has recorded a single and is making big money from it. Here's someone

>>making money off of my work, and I have no way to stop it.


>
>But what's wrong with this? It happens all the time with ideas
>published in the academic literature. In fact, it's the main reason
>why society commits public funds to support public research. Some
>people like to work on theoretical problems, without worrying about
>commercial aspects. We give them a few bucks, and occasionally reap
>the reward of great new ideas and technologies.
>
>My own work, for example, attempts to explain some of the mechanical
>behavior of carbon fibers. In the ordinary conduct of this research
>I have stumbled across a few facts that might have practical value
>for companies interested in making widgets out of these fibers.

[...]


>If I disclose my chance findings, some company is sure to make a few
>extra bucks by taking advantage of my work. I don't have an interest
>in going into the widget business myself, so why should I let somebody
>else benefit? Should I "CopyLeft" my idea?

It would be nit-picking to point out that ideas can't be CopyLefted
because they can't be copyrighted. Nevertheless, the distinction
between ideas and finished works seems important in this case. It's
true that academic research is rarely protected by a patent. However,
specific expressions of the ideas --- theses and journal articles ---
are often protected. This is from an article from _ACM Transactions on
Graphics_:

"Permission to copy without fee all or part of this
material is granted provided that the copies are
not made or distributed for direct commercial
advantage, the ACM copyright notice and the title
of the publication and its date appear, and notice
is given that copying is by permission of the
Association for Computing Machinery. To copy
otherwise, or to republish, requires a fee and/or
specific permission."

Sounds a bit like CopyLeft to me...

[...]


>Another way to answer the question is that while it may be possible
>for people to own _some_ kinds of information, it sure is nice when
>people share ideas that are useful.

Ideas are not the problem. If someone wants to write functionally
equivalent code, that's fine. But if someone wants to reuse my code,
I want to have some control.

>>With CopyLeft, I can do a good deed by giving away my work, without
>>worrying that someone else will take advantage of my good will.
>
>This is the part that I don't understand. How does it hurt anyone
>for that code to be used commercially?

It doesn't hurt anyone, but it doesn't help me either. If someone
wants to use the code commercially, that's fine; but I'd like to share
in the profits.

>>I realize that my concerns go beyond ensuring that the right to use
>>source code is unrestricted. In fact, there is one particular use of
>>source code that I definitely want to restrict. However, I don't
>>think there is any political agenda involved.
>
>Fair enough. Call it a private agenda. It is your code -- at least
>until software intellectual property is abolished -- and you can use
>it as you see fit, including CopyLefting it so that no one (except you,
>of course) can use it as the basis of a commercial application.
>
>In my opinion, it "wastes the value of the program that's been written".
>
>But who would argue that this is a bad thing?

I think we're looking at this from different perspectives.

I don't have problems with the concept of copyrighted code. If I
write code, I want to own it so that I can have the option of making
money off of it. However, I'm willing to make an exception by
allowing people to use the software for free if they, in turn, allow
others to use it for free. CopyLeft permits this.

I'm not saying that I'm going to CopyLeft everything I ever write.
This is mostly a theoretical discussion. In fact, I've never
CopyLefted anything. I've put a few things in the public domain,
though.

Scott E. Preece

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Nov 9, 1991, 3:07:33 AM11/9/91
to
In article <1991Nov7.1...@cs.umn.edu> cha...@umnstat.stat.umn.edu (Charles Geyer) writes:

| In article <PREECE.91...@neptune.urbana.mcd.mot.com>,
| pre...@urbana.mcd.mot.com (Scott E. Preece) writes:
|
| > But apparently a lot of the GNU people have this sort of self-conscious
| > idea that they will look stupid if someone else makes money off their
| > work. I don't know whether this is lack of self-confidence (believing
| > others can turn their work into something much, much better than they
| > could hope to compete with) or just lack of the courage of their
| > convictions, but it does wear thin after a while.
|
| That's not even an interesting reason for opposing look-and-feel copyright
| and patents on mathematical algorithms. One poster who said something
| like this does not make "a lot" of GNU people.

---
I don't know what Charles *thought* he was responding to, but there's
nothing at all in my note about look-and-feel copyright or patents. I
was talking about Copyleft and whether the possibility of someone else
profiting from your work was a reasonable argument against releasing
your work as public domain. And, yes, I've seen enough debate in this
newsgroup to say with no fear at all that the attitude I questioned has
been expressed by a lot more than one poster (though, to be fair, saying
"GNU people" was not what I meant -- I meant Copyleft supporters).
---


|
| The United States can have look-and-feel copyright and algorithm patents
| or it can have computer science and scientific computing, but it can't
| have both, not for long.

---
As I said, I wasn't talking about these issues. But since you bring
them up ...

I think the application of patent law to software needs significant
tuning -- some patents have been issued which clearly were not
non-obvious or without prior art -- but much of the discussion claiming
that software is significantly different from other areas of invention
is not very convincing. We may have to learn to pay more attention to
what technology is patented, but, frankly, most of us would be better
engineers if we paid more attention to what other people had developed
and spent less time trying to invent everything ourselves.

Kee Hinckley

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Nov 9, 1991, 10:38:45 PM11/9/91
to
In article <1991Nov5.2...@iitmax.iit.edu> dra...@iitmax.iit.edu (Mark Draughn) writes:
>I could just put it in the public domain, but I can forsee the
>possibility of some unpleasentness. What if some software company out
>there uses my code in a program that they sell commercially?
>
>Boy, will I feel stupid. I'm in the position of a musician who writes
>a Christmas song and releases it to the public domain, so that
>carolers and school choirs can use it, only to discover that someone
>has recorded a single and is making big money from it. Here's someone
>making money off of work, and I have no way to stop it.
>
>Unless I use CopyLeft.

Nonsense. You think there are only two possible copyrights? Everyone
and noone? Put a copyright on it that allows non-commercial use, but
requires anyone wishing to include it or derivitives in commercial software
to contact you first.


--
Alfalfa Software, Inc. | Poste: The EMail for Unix
naz...@alfalfa.com | Send Anything... Anywhere
617/497-2922 | in...@alfalfa.com

I'm not sure which upsets me more: that people are so unwilling to accept
responsibility for their own actions, or that they are so eager to regulate
everyone else's.

Per Abrahamsen

unread,
Nov 11, 1991, 11:10:03 AM11/11/91
to

>>>>> On 10 Nov 91 03:38:45 GMT, naz...@alphalpha.com (Kee Hinckley) said:

nazgul> Put a copyright on it that allows non-commercial use, but
nazgul> requires anyone wishing to include it or derivitives in
nazgul> commercial software to contact you first.

That is essentially how the copyleft works. GhostScript is explicitly
distributed under similar conditions (using the copyleft).

As long as you own the copyright, you can always make it available in
commercial software. Things may be different if you donate the
software to the FSF, but simply putting it under the copyleft does not
remove any of your own rights.

Kenneth Jamieson

unread,
Nov 11, 1991, 1:50:18 PM11/11/91
to
In article <1991Nov6.2...@nntp.hut.fi> j...@cs.HUT.FI (Jyrki Kuoppala) writes:
>want to take away others' right to write public domain or GPL'd
>software; many of them even benefit a lot from public domain and GPL'd
>software (I'm told that for example Lotus uses gcc).

This is a issue I am confused on (have asked before, gotten
no clear answer.)

I someonw compiles a program with gcc, has he created an "aggregate
work" ?? The resulting binary will contain GPL code (includes, libraries)
etc....

So how can Lotus use gcc to compile a commercial program ?


--
========[ Xanadu Enterprises Inc. Amiga & Unix Software Development]=======
= Political Correctness - a stupid idea supported by tiny minds =
= who enjoy the power they get from making you feel guilty. =
=========== Ken Jamieson: uunet!tronsbox.xei.com!tron1 ===================
= NONE of the opinions represented here are endorsed by anybody. =
===========================================================================

Jyrki Kuoppala

unread,
Nov 12, 1991, 5:18:25 AM11/12/91
to
In article <27...@tronsbox.xei.com>, tron1@tronsbox (Kenneth Jamieson) writes:
> I someonw compiles a program with gcc, has he created an "aggregate
>work" ?? The resulting binary will contain GPL code (includes, libraries)
>etc....

No, it won't. The includes & libraries are from the OS, not GNU - an
exception is gnulib as distributed with gcc, but it is in the public
domain so it's no problem.

Even if you use GNU libraries (not published yet), they will have the
GLPL which allows linking with other programs - see the GLPL on some
recent GNU distributions for details.

//Jyrki

Russ Nelson

unread,
Nov 12, 1991, 11:39:38 PM11/12/91
to

but much of the discussion claiming that software is significantly
different from other areas of invention is not very convincing.

Try this: Software is the only means of production for which the
incremental cost of production is nearly free.

David Chase

unread,
Nov 13, 1991, 2:01:41 AM11/13/91
to
In article <1991Nov10....@alphalpha.com> naz...@alphalpha.com (Kee Hinckley) writes:
>In article <1991Nov5.2...@iitmax.iit.edu> dra...@iitmax.iit.edu (Mark Draughn) writes:
>>I could just put it in the public domain, but I can forsee the
>>possibility of some unpleasentness. What if some software company out
>>there uses my code in a program that they sell commercially?
...
>>Unless I use CopyLeft.

>Nonsense. You think there are only two possible copyrights? Everyone
>and noone? Put a copyright on it that allows non-commercial use, but
>requires anyone wishing to include it or derivitives in commercial software
>to contact you first.

I definitely agree with this. If the code is useful, people will take
the time to get in touch with you about it. I know it works because
I've done it. I didn't bother with the "non-commercial" blather,
either -- just
"Copyright <date> by <me>, <place>, All rights reserved."

I'm also a little confused about the "unpleasantness" -- it's not
like you've had your right to use the code taken away, just because
somebody else is using it to make money. Can you explain this?

But, it's your work, and a free country, so you can slap whatever
copyright you want onto it. I suggest you get your legal advice from
a lawyer, or (at minimum) a book written by a lawyer.

David Chase
Sun

Ronald S H Khoo

unread,
Nov 13, 1991, 11:50:29 AM11/13/91
to

>From <23...@exodus.Eng.Sun.COM> by cha...@rbbb.Eng.Sun.COM (David Chase):

>> Put a copyright on it that allows non-commercial use, but
>> requires anyone wishing to include it or derivitives in commercial software
>> to contact you first.

> I definitely agree with this. If the code is useful, people will take
> the time to get in touch with you about it.
> I know it works because I've done it.

There are cases where it doesn't work. People do move, change
addresses, telephone numbers, etc. and become uncontactable. I
recently had to give up the idea of using a couple of nice bits of ware
from the sources.misc archives for exactly this reason.

> But, it's your work, and a free country, so you can slap whatever
> copyright you want onto it.

While this is in itself true, there should be some reasonable degree of
freedom in sources that are *posted* to the net, so that the effort
expended by the people who ensure that your sources are a) transmitted
correctly and b) archived does not come to naught just because I can't
can't get at your permission to use the code that you've written.

For *posted* sources (different balance applies to FTP'd stuff) I am always
unhappy to see conditions less liberal than something like:

"You may freely use this code in a commercial package so long as
its inclusion does not raise the price of your package"

so that aggregation with a commercial package is at least allowed.

I guess it's a question of balancing courtesy against rights.
"Balance" is something that seems to stir up religious wars a lot. Sigh.

--
Ronald Khoo <ron...@robobar.co.uk> +44 81 991 1142 (O) +44 71 229 7741 (H)

mathew

unread,
Nov 13, 1991, 9:32:51 AM11/13/91
to
tr...@tronsbox.xei.com (Kenneth Jamieson) writes:
> This is a issue I am confused on (have asked before, gotten
> no clear answer.)
>
> I someonw compiles a program with gcc, has he created an "aggregate
> work" ?? The resulting binary will contain GPL code (includes, libraries)
> etc....
>
> So how can Lotus use gcc to compile a commercial program ?

If you use gcc to compile a program, you can do what you like with the
source and gcc-produced object code for your program.

If you use *source code from gcc* in your program, your program must be
distributed under the terms of the GPL.

If you link the object code of your program with GNU libraries to make
an executable program, that program must be distributed according to
the GNU *library* public license.

So Lotus can, for example, compile a C program with gcc and then link it
with their own non-GNU version of the C libraries to produce an executable
which they can do what they like with.

That's the intent of the GPL and GLPL, as far as I can make out;
whether it will all work in court is a different matter.

Scott E. Preece

unread,
Nov 14, 1991, 6:18:40 PM11/14/91
to

| but much of the discussion claiming that software is significantly
| different from other areas of invention is not very convincing.
|
| Try this: Software is the only means of production for which the
| incremental cost of production is nearly free.
---

I don't think I understand this argument at all. What has the cost of
production to do with the patentability of something? Are you saying
only expensive things should be patentable?

In any case, this doesn't make software unique. You can patent, for
instance, hybrid plants, which cost nothing whatever to produce. For
many drugs and other chemicals the cost of production is negligible on
the same scale as software; the profitability or non-profitability is
wholly based on incidental costs, like research, development, and
marketing. Just like software.

Garrett Wollman

unread,
Nov 15, 1991, 8:47:07 AM11/15/91
to
In article <PREECE.91N...@neptune.urbana.mcd.mot.com> pre...@urbana.mcd.mot.com (Scott E. Preece) writes:
>I don't think I understand this argument at all. What has the cost of
>production to do with the patentability of something? Are you saying
>only expensive things should be patentable?

If I understand him right, Russ is trying to explain how software is
*fundamentally* *different* from other types of invention, which is
the reason many people believe that software should not be patentable.
(While the truth of the antecedent is completely obvious, there are
many people who would not accept the consequent; I think that the
other arguments---i.e., that software is primarily mathematical in
nature, and that patenting software doesn't pass the constitutional
test of advancing the useful arts---are much stronger.)

>
>In any case, this doesn't make software unique. You can patent, for
>instance, hybrid plants, which cost nothing whatever to produce. For

There are a lot of nursery companies out there which would be
very interested to hear this...

-GAWollman
--
Garrett A. Wollman - wol...@emily.uvm.edu - uvm-gen!wollman

Disclaimer: I'm not even sure this represents *my* opinion, never
mind UVM's, EMBA's, EMBA-CF's, or indeed anyone else's.

Barry Margolin

unread,
Nov 15, 1991, 3:17:16 PM11/15/91
to
In article <1991Nov15.1...@uvm.edu> wol...@emily.uvm.edu (Garrett Wollman) writes:
>In article <PREECE.91N...@neptune.urbana.mcd.mot.com> pre...@urbana.mcd.mot.com (Scott E. Preece) writes:
>>I don't think I understand this argument at all. What has the cost of
>>production to do with the patentability of something? Are you saying
>>only expensive things should be patentable?
>
>If I understand him right, Russ is trying to explain how software is
>*fundamentally* *different* from other types of invention, which is
>the reason many people believe that software should not be patentable.

I believe the argument goes as follows:

Manufacturing facilities (i.e. factories) are expensive, so a manufacturer
would like to have some assurance that he'll be able to recover his
investment. Assuming that there's a market for the product, he can do this
best by making sure that he's the only source of the new product. Without
patents, the only way he can do this is by keeping the design of the
product secret and hoping someone else doesn't invent it. Patents allow
him to have a monopoly in exchange for not keeping the design secret.

Software is different. Yes, there's some initial capital outlay, but it's
relatively small compared to the cost of building a factory. It presumably
costs hundreds of thousands of dollars to build the manufacturing facility
for paper clips that cost a penny apiece; on the other hand, it costs
$5-10K to buy a computer that can be used to write programs that go for
hundreds of dollars apiece. The paper clip manufacturer has to sell
thousands of boxes of paper clips to recoup his investment, while the
software developer only needs to sell a few dozen.

Furthermore, the software developer's investment can be amortized over many
different products. Factories can be converted as well, but there's
usually significant retooling expenses. There's no retooling expense
required when converting a computer from a word-processor development
machine to a database development machine; the most significant expense
that might be considered retooling would be purchasing new peripherals
related to the new application (e.g. when going from development of word
processors to paint programs you would probably buy color display hardware).

--
Barry Margolin, Thinking Machines Corp.

bar...@think.com
{uunet,harvard}!think!barmar

Kee Hinckley

unread,
Nov 17, 1991, 3:35:40 PM11/17/91
to
In article <ki8aqc...@early-bird.think.com> bar...@think.com (Barry Margolin) writes:
>Software is different. Yes, there's some initial capital outlay, but it's
>relatively small compared to the cost of building a factory. It presumably
>costs hundreds of thousands of dollars to build the manufacturing facility
>for paper clips that cost a penny apiece; on the other hand, it costs
>$5-10K to buy a computer that can be used to write programs that go for
>hundreds of dollars apiece. The paper clip manufacturer has to sell
>thousands of boxes of paper clips to recoup his investment, while the
>software developer only needs to sell a few dozen.

This is a common statement. It isn't true. You forgot to add in manuals,
support cost, production costs, advertising, marketing, distribution...
and of course, salaries. Programmers are a trifle more expensive than
paperclip builders. All of which costs real money, and in some cases is
much more difficult than in other markets (software distribution and sales
in the Unix market for instance, virtually requires an in-house sales staff
- it's not shrinkwrapped like the Mac market). A small commercial software
venture can easily cost in excess of half a million dollars just to get
started. This is still problably cheaper than paperclips, but it isn't so
cheap that I'm not worried about recouping my investment.

>Furthermore, the software developer's investment can be amortized over many
>different products. Factories can be converted as well, but there's

Possibly. Depends on the experience of the developer. I'm not going
to take a cobol programmer and tell them to go write X.400 software.
I may also need a very different set of development tools, and of
course the machine I used three years ago is probably not an appropriate
development tool for new software. And if you change markets you have
to start all over on building your customer base and company recognition.
That all costs money.

Take reasonable marketing as an example. We're just talking some basic
press releases, a press tour, and getting magazines to do some reviews.
Never mind writing articles on related subjects, or getting customers
to write up nice things or any advertising. You're talking on the
order of $3 to $10K a month.

And then of course there's the problem of supporting the software on
machines you don't have, and the cost of cartridge tapes (or worse yet,
DEC tapes). And the $30-$40K you pay someone to write professional
documentation....

Yes it's true that I can sit in a hole with a $6000 machine (and a
$600 modem) and code with no additional costs. If I don't have to
worry about salary and insurance and clothing for my kids, and all
I ever plan to do is give away the software to people who hear about
it on the net. But you know what? If those are your assumptions, I
bet I could sell paperclips with an initial outlay of $6K too. What
costs money is building up a production that is capable of making
money. And that's true of paperclips *and* software.

Kyle Jones

unread,
Nov 18, 1991, 7:30:53 PM11/18/91
to

> > Similarly for "free software". It's software that can't be enslaved.
>
> But it is enslaved already, by a restrictive copyright.

No more than I am enslaved by living in a land with laws. Some
of those laws keep me from doing things I might wantto do, but
some of those laws also keep me from being enslaved. It's worth
it. I don't think I'm exaggerating when I say that I'm a free
man, even though I live in a land with many, many laws.

Barry Margolin

unread,
Nov 19, 1991, 3:56:18 AM11/19/91
to
In article <1991Nov17....@alphalpha.com> naz...@alphalpha.com (Kee Hinckley) writes:
>Yes it's true that I can sit in a hole with a $6000 machine (and a
>$600 modem) and code with no additional costs. If I don't have to
>worry about salary and insurance and clothing for my kids, and all
>I ever plan to do is give away the software to people who hear about
>it on the net. But you know what? If those are your assumptions, I
>bet I could sell paperclips with an initial outlay of $6K too. What
>costs money is building up a production that is capable of making
>money. And that's true of paperclips *and* software.

I believe Microsoft began its life as a couple of guys writing a BASIC
interpreter in their garage. Computer spreadsheets were invented by
Frankston and Bricklan on an Apple II in one of their apartments; they
later formed Software Arts to market Visicalc, and were eventually bought
out by Lotus (which I'll bet also began life as a personal endeavor). I
imagine that many other popular microcomputer applications were invented
and initially marketed on such shoestring budgets.

Yes, over time, as your operation gets bigger, overhead increases. But
manufacturing has a built-in capital overhead just to get started.
Manufacturing company founders generally have to take out huge loans or get
venture capital investment; software companies don't usually have to. They
start out small, and can use their income to fund growth, instead of
starting big and paying off the loans with much of the income. You don't
need a large support group until you have a large customer base, so it's
silly to hire support people early on (what would happen if the product
didn't sell well -- you'd be stuck with a support group being paid to do
nothing, and very little revenues). Marketing can also be done
inexpensively; a one-person operation doesn't need to take out full-page
ads in every publication.

Sean Eric Fagan

unread,
Nov 19, 1991, 9:30:46 PM11/19/91
to
In article <1991Nov17....@alphalpha.com> naz...@alphalpha.com (Kee Hinckley) writes:
>A small commercial software
>venture can easily cost in excess of half a million dollars just to get
>started.

I'm told my current employers started with only a few thousand dollars
(i.e., less than $10k).

Most of that seems to have gone to buying equipment.

--
Sean Eric Fagan | "I made the universe, but please don't blame me for it;
s...@kithrup.COM | I had a bellyache at the time."
-----------------+ -- The Turtle (Stephen King, _It_)
Any opinions expressed are my own, and generally unpopular with others.

Blair P. Houghton

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Nov 19, 1991, 7:40:52 PM11/19/91
to
In article <ki8aqc...@early-bird.think.com> bar...@think.com (Barry Margolin) writes:
>Software is different. Yes, there's some initial capital outlay, but it's
>relatively small compared to the cost of building a factory. It presumably
>costs hundreds of thousands of dollars to build the manufacturing facility
>for paper clips that cost a penny apiece; on the other hand, it costs
>$5-10K to buy a computer that can be used to write programs that go for
>hundreds of dollars apiece. The paper clip manufacturer has to sell
>thousands of boxes of paper clips to recoup his investment, while the
>software developer only needs to sell a few dozen.

Economies of scale.

(How's *that* for an expletive? :-))

I can start a one-man paperclip factory with a pair of
pliers and a castoff spool of steel wire from the Acme
Chicken-Coop Company. Total cost: two bucks and a mild
salmonella infection. I can't charge fifty bucks a
paperclip, however. Nor would I expect to pay "several
hundred dollars" a copy for something you twiddled out of a
Quadra in your underwear.

Real-world software-development, of the sort that large
companies protect, is undertaken by large teams of individuals
who occupy expensively zoned office space and require copious
amounts of Mountain Dew, Dental Care, Cash Money, and capital
equipment (an average employee costs ~100k/yr to pay, heat,
and manage (including the managers), and is allocated ~150k
of per-capita revenue by the accountants (who often know how
many atomic beans there are, but rarely know how many of them
are fissionable matter...)). And then there's the many, many
people needed just to copy the software. I remember the days
when there was a designated Chief Floppy Copier, who would
spend as much as ten hours in the middle of the night after
a beta deadline, making all of 10 copies of the release for
the beta sites (about 50MB each).

It may appear from the outside that the product is just so
much plastic and iron oxide, but from the inside there's a
couple of dozen man-years of blood, sweat, and debentures
to be recouped.

I can guarantee you that the GNU software now in
circulation, if valued at its development costs, which I
bet are considerable since I don't know of many UNIX
machines ca. 1982-90 that would have cost anywhere near as
low as $10k, either to buy or to run, would probably be in
the several tens of thousands of dollars per major program
(call EMACS $1e6, given the economic cost of the talent of
its author(s)), and easily over a thousand dollars per
executable file.

We're merely fortunate that the variable costs of software
are dinky (a few hundred to pay for a tape-set or network
transfer and the hard-disk space that will, eternally it
seems, be taken to store it; plus the several thousand for
the system guys to unpack and rebuild it, and to announce
its availability, and maintain it (none of this is required
when you buy a package from DEC, for instance...); plus the
few hundred in time taken by users to report and work
around the bugs, plus the <mumble> in time, waste, and rework
when users don't realize there's a bug and the results are
gunk but get used, anyway...) and that the developers and
their sponsors have donated their time and capital
depreciation to the users of the software.

Besides, economics isn't any sort of factor in patent
differentiation, so the whole issue's a red herring...

There's another point: what does a patent really prevent and
how long does it hang around? It certainly doesn't prevent
progress, since it's designed to promote progress. What it
prevents is profit from copying, but nothing done by FSF
ever promoted profit, so profit isn't a motive. Is profit
a motivation to progress? Not necessarily; a billion[*]
economic-cost-dollars worth of software exists in GNU, and
nobody's profited per se from it, yet.

A patent exists for 17 years, give or take. In 200 years
we've come from being able to make N parts the same to
being able to do a trillion mathematical calculations in
a single second (a story I read recently gave that a palpable
metaphor: if every human on earth were given a pocket
calculator and told to wail away for something over a
minute, you'd get a trillion operations, and there's the
physical capability right now to plug together a few
boxes of circuit boards and do that every second; of course,
this doesn't do justice to the net = ~1.5e6 machines
times ~1.5 Mflops/machine = ~2Tflops/Earth). Comparatively
it took 7000 years from poking seeds into the ground to
being able to mechanically pluck them out of cotton bolls.

If a patent does have a discernible chilling effect on
progress, just what sort of time-frame is it in which you
feel chilled? Are you worried about progress itself, or
progress in your lifetime? Is it a crucial element of
human existence that progress be achieved manically, or are
we killing ourselves with it? (Hey, _I_ could do with a
vacation right now, but a certain twiddle I thought up
eleven months ago is taking just a little longer than I
scheduled to get itself fleshed-out, so I have to write
thousand-word diatribes on software patentability in lieu
of leaving my computer for a little R&R...)


A final point on the prevention of profit on technology:
How many people don't get the economic benefits owed them
(though they may not perhap demand it) for their
participation in this progress, because the product is
free? How many don't get the benefits of participating in
the business of producing and distributing this thing,
because there's no unit product margin to support them?
How many don't have jobs providing the goods and services
used by the people in this business, because none of them
have incomes? How many don't get the benefits of the
business of building a supporting infrastructure to
facilitate all of this direct and collateral economic
activity, because now nobody can pay taxes?

Progress is like minerals; you don't make it, you mine it;
it's the basis of an entire sector of the economy; but you
can't consume it, so it's no good economically unless it's
tradeable, not even to the miners. But will it run out?


It's paradoxical, isn't it? We get what we want, and it
don't cost us nothin', but we may starve because of it.


--Blair
"Thanks for the editor;
now how about consing
me up a cheeseburger?"


[*] That's a conservative estimate. Take Microsoft's
eternal revenue and multiply it by ten and you'll get what
I think GNU software will be worth once the OS is out, if
it works on micros. That's not what it will earn,
certainly, nor is there really going to be that sort of
demand for it, maybe, but in a quality-based valuation,
that's the general ballpark.

James Davies

unread,
Nov 20, 1991, 4:59:28 PM11/20/91
to
In article <kihkdi...@early-bird.think.com> bar...@think.com (Barry Margolin) writes:
>
>Manufacturing company founders generally have to take out huge loans or get
>venture capital investment; software companies don't usually have to. They
>start out small, and can use their income to fund growth, instead of
>starting big and paying off the loans with much of the income.

Another (in my opinion, unethical) approach often taken these days is
to do the R&D work on machines owned by a university, and only start
investing your own money once you have a product. This can significantly
reduce your startup costs, if you're able to do this and still look at
yourself in the mirror.

>Marketing can also be done
>inexpensively; a one-person operation doesn't need to take out full-page
>ads in every publication.

I've done this (actually a two-person operation). I was over $10,000 in
the hole before reaching the break-even point, and this was for a niche
product advertising in small-to-medium circulation mags. Minimal ads these
days cost upwards of $500 a pop, even for small ads in small magazines.
Unless the world literally beats a path to your door, you need a fair
amount of capital to get established.

Kee Hinckley

unread,
Nov 20, 1991, 7:42:24 PM11/20/91
to
In article <kihkdi...@early-bird.think.com> bar...@think.com (Barry Margolin) writes:
>I believe Microsoft began its life as a couple of guys writing a BASIC
>interpreter in their garage. Computer spreadsheets were invented by

Microsoft began by selling Basic and then writing it - in that order.

>Frankston and Bricklan on an Apple II in one of their apartments; they
>later formed Software Arts to market Visicalc, and were eventually bought
>out by Lotus (which I'll bet also began life as a personal endeavor). I
>imagine that many other popular microcomputer applications were invented
>and initially marketed on such shoestring budgets.

I'm sure many industries started that way. I'm not going to argue that
software costs as much as hardware. But it *does* cost money to produce,
and in some markets it can cost a *lot* of money to produce. (Go ask
Visix how much financing *they* got!)

>starting big and paying off the loans with much of the income. You don't
>need a large support group until you have a large customer base, so it's
>silly to hire support people early on (what would happen if the product

True. We haven't, instead it costs us in development time, and that's
a very real cost.

>nothing, and very little revenues). Marketing can also be done
>inexpensively; a one-person operation doesn't need to take out full-page
>ads in every publication.

Perhaps. But even without ads it costs money.

But by now I've lost track. What's the point of this? Software shouldn't
be copyrighted because it's cheap to produce? That doesn't sound right.

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