Subject: Re: Unexercisable rights
From: "R. Brock Lynn" <brock@cyberdude.com>
Date: Wed, 23 Jun 1999 20:37:11 -0500

Brian Bartholomew wrote:

> I learned what the term "free software" means from the example of the
> FSF, which has always acted with charity.
> 
> It may be that the FSF was always promoting libre without gratis, and
> in my ignorance of intellectual property details I did not understand
> the distinction.  But the pitch was always "write a piece of free
> software", not "write a piece of free software, and then donate it to
> the world".  The "donation" idea was included in the term "free
> software", not mentioned as separate decision.  The admonition "free
> speech, not free beer" was perfectly clear; it meant "gratis does not
> imply libre", not "libre does not imply gratis".  Gratis was heavily
> implied by the rest of the pitch.
> 
> There are lots and lots of people out there who believe and act like
> gratis is an integral part of "free software", and it is those people
> who have created today's boom of libre, gratis software.
> 
> I really feel like the meaning of "free software" has drifted (or been
> towed) now that money can be made.  I am particularly unhappy that the
> money appears to be made by discouraging redistribution.

Well, even if one charged for libre software, eventually by way of distribution,
it would ultimately become gratis, or charity software as well, maybe not from
the original distributor, but by way of propagation if you will.

The logic goes like this:

One user gets a libre software package, (gratis of for a fee) and spreads it to
all his friends, (most probably gratis, as friends rarely charge each other for
copying software, regardless of license... ;^) ... due to the permissive
license. I'm sure if you took a poll, the numbers would reflect this statement.
Then each of the friends give it away to their friends... ad infinitum.

So it logically follows, at least statistically due to human behavior, that
libre software is also more of less gratis software as well. Of course some
users might want to pay for additional development for specific vertical needs,
or for support and training related to the software, but the software itself,
being libre, would more or less be gratis as well.

BTW: licensing software under a free software license, and then discouraging
redistribution sounds kind of flaky to me. I hope none of the free software
business in existence, or in the future will do that sort of thing. It will most
certainly reflect badly on them to the masses.

How does this reflect on software businesses?

Like this:
I think it would be best to just give the libre software away gratis after it's
developed. Perhaps some individual, organization, groups of organizations or
groups of individual users would want to pay for the act of development, but
once developed, I think it only makes sense to just give it away, or if packaged
for shrink-wrap, retail sale [like Red Hat], just for nominal prices to cover
the packaging and such... and perhaps a little profit, but just that, a little.

It would probably be best to make the most money on the act of development, and
the maintenance, service, and support et. al. and not so much on the act of
copying and distribution.

I can't really back up these claims and opinions with any real data to show that
would be the best way to make money with free software and it's development, but
It seems fairly reasonable to me. :)

That's my 2 cents on that.

--Brock

---------------------  PGP key ID: FED76A3D <brock@cyberdude.com> 4 / 5 / 1999

   __ _    Debian GNU       R. Brock Lynn             (bytopian on irc #debian)
  / /(_)_ __  _   ___  __   http://www.debian.org/     irc.openprojects.net
 / / | | '_ \| | | \ \/ /                    Free Software!
/ /__| | | | | |_| |>  <    Remember that's "Free" as in Freedom!,
\____/_|_| |_|\__,_/_/\_\   Not Free as in price.      Debian's 'Da Bomb!