Subject: Urban Legends about Free Software
From: Jeffrey Kegler <jeffrey@ALGOR2.ALGORISTS.COM>
Date: Sat, 24 Apr 93 16:04:26 -0700


In my practice as a consultant, I often try to introduce create in my
clients awareness of the importance of free software in the
client/server world.  Almost as often, I run up against a brick wall
due to a set of urban legends about free software.  "Free software
contains viruses."  "Free software is low quality."  "Free software
lacks support."  "Copylefted software opens us up to open ended legal
liability."

To overcome these objections, a standard reprint, article, etc., that
briefly but definitively mows down these straw men could turn the
tide.  It should be short, but must be fact-filled and well
researched.

For example, on the ridiculous claim that copylefted software is
legally problematical for the user, the article should point out how
light the obligations are, and how copylefters are not litigious,
gladly settling once the infraction is corrected, which it can be at
little or no expense.  I believe it is the fact no one has ever been
sued for a violation of the copyleft.

It could contrast this with the proprietary software from SPA members,
which could bring armed Federal marshals storming in the door,
stopping large parts of your operations while your people are forced
to dig up the legal proof that all the software your machines run was
paid for.  (Quick!  Take the nearest DOS machine, and, as a mental
exercise figure out how much time it would take to find all the
licenses, receipts, etc.)  A single disgruntled employee called down
such a raid on Snap-On tool, which after considerable trouble and
expense emerged with a clean bill of health.  A reasonable tally of
the cost would probably show that the armed "audit" cost them more in
wasted time than was at stake in the software.  SPA protects the
identify of its informants, even when the so-called information is
false and malicious, so the disgruntled former employee got his
revenge without having to endure so much as a nasty look in return.

Yet most of my clients refuse free software in favor of SPA software
with a common ground being that the free stuff is legally risky!  A
short handout could be the solution.

Doing a proper job of this article, even if short, would require some
time and access to a quality library, neither of which I have.
However, putting such an article into the hands of consultants like me
would pay back some of the current FSB's handsomely, I think.

Jeffrey Kegler, Independent UNIX Consultant, Algorists, Inc.
jeffrey@algor2.ALGORISTS.COM
137 E Fremont AVE #122, Sunnyvale CA 94087
"There is no such thing as quality control.  There is truth, and
there is honor." -- from an interview with Carl Landegger, CEO of
Black Clawson, on CNN's "Pinnacle" series.