Subject: Re: crux of the essence
From: "Karsten M. Self" <>
Date: Tue, 16 Oct 2001 17:01:32 -0700
Tue, 16 Oct 2001 17:01:32 -0700
on Mon, Oct 15, 2001 at 03:47:47AM -0700, Tom Lord ( wrote:
> Suppose it really is impossible to get, at least approximately, "per
> copy" payment for a free software product.  In that case, isn't this
> a fundamental bug in capitalism -- a complete disincentive to write
> certain kinds of program?  Isn't the right patch for that bug the
> constitutional creation of copyright?  Isn't the only way to make
> copyright enforceable in the digital age laws such as DMCA and
> SSSCA, and enforcement techniques such as mandatory auditing?

Suffice to say that economic incentives within the software market is
perverse in manifold ways.

This article states what I've been saying for years:  incentives in the
proprietary software market encourage practices very frequently
detrimental to customers. content.html

    Let's Stop Wasting $78 Billion a Year
    Meridith Levinson

    Analysts estimate that American businesses end up spending billions
    fo rsoftware that doesn't do what it's supposed to.  Some CIOs are
    tiered of playing the sap and are beginning to take action


    And then it dawned on Seyk why the software and support were so bad:
    That's the way vendors make money. They push products on the market
    before they've been adequately tested, demand payment up front and
    then are often not available to deal with the sequelae of poorly
    performing products. (Lawson officials declined to comment
    specifically on VisionQuest's problems with its software. All a
    Lawson spokesperson would say is that the company is working with
    VisionQuest in an effort to resolve its concerns. "We are committed
    to 100 percent customer satisfaction," says Bev Bergstrom, vice
    president of communications for Lawson.)

    [....] CIOs are beginning to realize that the root of the problem
    may lie in the economics of the industry. Vendors generate most of
    their revenues through perpetual licensing agreements, which force
    CIOs to pay up front for an application. In return, CIOs own the
    software and the right to use it "in perpetuity." The problem with
    this model is that in reality, CIOs are lucky if they can get three
    years out of a product before vendors release entirely new versions
    of their software. Vendors further pressure CIOs to buy those new
    releases by threatening to stop supporting previous releases--a
    tactic they often take both to cut their tech support costs and to
    get CIOs to pay again and again for what is essentially the same

    [.... S]ome CIOs are opting to circumnavigate packaged software
    wherever possible. They're turning to open-source technologies such
    as the GNU and GNU/Linux operating systems, the Apache Web server
    and Sendmail e-mail. "People are not involved with [the open-source
    movement] for profit; they're involved with it because they want to
    write good product," says Bill Lessard, coauthor of NetSlaves: True
    Tales of Working the Web  and a former developer for Prodigy and AOL
    Time Warner. "If software makers see they are losing money to people
    going the open-source route, then they will change. Until then, it
    will be business as usual despite appearances." 

Economics isn't about perfect solutions, it's about relative advantage.
I've said it before and I'll say it again:  free software isn't about
profit for software vendors, it's about enabling functionality for
users.  There are a number of development models which appear to work:
some firm-based work, services and support, and academia.  However, as
ESR has noted, the vast majority of IT workers are directly employed by
companies who use, not sell, technology, for in-house support and
development.  I see this as the most likely primary modality for
development support.

I've yet to see a compelling argument for *why* a development repository
for free software should resemble Microsoft, rather than, say, a public


Karsten M. Self <>
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