Subject: Re: Studies
From: Russell Nelson <nelson@crynwr.com>
Date: 27 Nov 1997 13:58:20 -0000

To be precise, I will use the terms gratis and libre, the two meanings
of ``Free'' in the word ``Free Software''.  Off this mailing list, I
use the term ``freed software'', to reduce confusion.

Adam J. Richter writes:
 >         We and, I think, every other Linux distribution maker, recognize
 > the non-GPL'ed versions of Aladdin Ghostscript as proprietary software
 > with a promotional distribution policy,

Um, no, see below.  That phrase better characterizes the
academic/single-user version of SCO, or limited-use demo software.

 > just like KDE,

KDE is a complicated case, which is why you see so much argument about
it.  The Qt license is not like the FPL in one important way: it
prohibits distribution of modifications.  KDE itself is freely
copyable software.  It is not freed software since it relies on the Qt
license, which prohibits modification.

 >         The ability to modify, use and redistribute the software, all for
 > profit if desired,

With some examination of the FPL, you can see that it imposes no
restrictions over the GPL on people who are writing gratis software.
None whatsoever.  It *does* impose restrictions on people who are
writing libre software, because when their software falls under the
FPL, it requires that their software also be gratis.

That libre software is almost always gratis software is, I think most
people will agree, a by-product of being libre.  I might sell my libre
software for any amount I choose, but the competition in the
marketplace will not support any price much over the cost of copying
(assuming you don't take the extingency of including a printed manual,
bundling support, and including proprietary software, as the Official
Redhat distribution does for $50, over, say, the Cheapbytes does for
$5).

While there are benefits to gratis software competing in the market,
that's not enough of an advantage, given the ease of copying
proprietary software.  Basically, *all* software is gratis.  While
there are some means the proprietary software vendors can use to keep
their software from being gratis, they are largely ineffective.  They
have much stronger means to keep their software from being libre.  I
know of at least one person who has made sources of MS-DOS, through
version 5.00.  And while source availability is necessary for software
to be libre, it is not sufficient.

GPL'ed software is not completely libre software, since it imposes
restrictions on its use.  Feel free to argue that they are
restrictions to preserve its libre nature, but they *are* restrictions
that reduce its libre.  This is the main argument that BSD-copyright
fans use against it.  I think it's an argument that devalues libre
software.  It emphasizes short-term libre without requiring libre in
the long-term.  Of course, as a voluntarist, I believe that people
will recognize the value of liberty, and free their own software (and
there is evidence that BSD-users do that), but I also recognize the
value of putting a price on something (the price of GPL-libre being
coerced libre).

 > 	By the way, I also think that this mailing list is for discussions
 > of these free software dynamics.  If you think more restricted software
 > shares these dynamics, I think that sort of discussion should be within
 > the scope of this list, if you just want to talk about how its more profitable
 > in the short term to sell proprietary software with promotional copyrights,
 > that should be outside the scope of this list.

I agree to an extent.  This list is about alternatives to the standard
model of proprietary software.  Anything one can do to increase the
libre of software is a good thing, even if that libre is not total.  A
slave who is well-fed and without chains is a happIER slave.  A
necessary component of discussions of non-completely-libre software is
going to include profitability (because, to stretch the analogy, it's
still necessary to feed and house the slave.)

It may be that some software cannot be libre, e.g. some extreme
vertical market software in a very price-sensitive field, e.g. my
mother-in-law's company's Lunch-Cruncher product.  It deals with
federal forms for free and reduced-price lunches in the public
schools.  If it were libre software, no one would pay for it.  There
doesn't seem to be anyone in that field who is interested in writing
the software for free.  It's very specialized, very boring, and the
people who understand the problem are completely incapable of
programming.

The most difficult challenge to the members of this list is to find a
way to increase the libre of that software.

-- 
-russ <nelson@crynwr.com>  http://www.crynwr.com/~nelson  | Freedom is the
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