Subject: Re: Lehman Report, Software patents, and more
From: nelson@crynwr.com (Russell Nelson)
Date: Thu, 25 Aug 94 22:06 EDT

   cc: fsb@asylum.sf.ca.us
   Date: Thu, 25 Aug 1994 16:06:39 PDT
   From: Chris Maeda <cmaeda@cs.washington.edu>

      Date:    Thu, 25 Aug 1994 17:27:00 EDT
      To:      fsb@asylum.sf.ca.us
      From:    nelson@crynwr.com (Russell Nelson)
      Subject: Re: Lehman Report, Software patents, and more

      If I give away software, I expose myself to expropriation of
      someone else's patents even if I've written every line of code myself.

   Ok.  Patents might be a problem.  People have pointed this out in
   private mail as well.  However, I don't think they present a critical
   barrier to the development of free software.  Even if we abolish the
   software patent system, I don't see what economic motivation there is
   for developing free software.

The motivation might not be from the software itself.  I have three
standing job offers, and I've no doubt I could come up with more.
I've had them for four years now.  They're directly tracable to the
free software I've written.

You could spend four years in college getting a degree, or you could
spend four years writing free software.  The latter four years would
guarantee you a job.  The former four years might well be wasted.

I keep fantasizing about taking on apprentices.  Charge 'em $10K/year,
and guarantee that they'll get a job even if I have to employ them
myself.  For their mastery task, I have them write a free software
application.

   And commercial software vendors face the same patent problems and
   these problems don't stop them.

Proprietary (my software is commercial AND freed) software vendors
just calculate the risk from patent suits, bundle that risk into the
price of the system, and pass it on to the consumer.  Freed software
vendors have no way to extract a per-copy price, yet that is exactly
how they're going to be fined if they're found to be using infringing
software.

Plus, their expose is limited because their source is not available.

      I think part of that problem is a lack of mass.  For example, there's
      no accounting software because there haven't been enough accountants
      who can program or programmers who can account, who *also* need a
      program to do the accounting.

   I don't think this is the problem at all.  There are lots of
   commercial accounting software packages.  There must be even more
   people that are capable of producing them.  Why aren't these people
   working on free accounting software?

How many people think you can't make a living off free software?
Answer: the vast majority.  So, your pool of programmers is greatly
diminished.  Now how many of them are willing to start a small
business from scratch.  Again, lots fewer.  Once this person pops up,
boom, we'll have a commercial but free accounting package.

-russ <nelson@crynwr.com>    http://www.crynwr.com/crynwr/nelson.html
Crynwr Software   | Crynwr Software sells packet driver support | ask4 PGP key
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