Subject: Open letter to those who believe in a right to free software
From: "Stephen J. Turnbull" <turnbull@sk.tsukuba.ac.jp>
Date: Thu, 21 Oct 1999 19:40:00 +0900 (JST)

To whom it may concern:

Regarding my motives:

Please understand: I intend to spend as much of the rest of my life as
possible living in the wonderful world of free software that Richard
Stallman envisioned many years ago in the GNU Manifesto, and that the
participants on this list have done so much to create and enhance over 
the years.  But I am a professional economist; I am ethically required 
to consider the needs and wants of people who don't think like I do.

I know some of you don't much like the way I think.  But I am going to
write and try to publish professional economics articles describing
the social costs and benefits, in conventional economic terms, of
legally establishing various intellectual property rights.  If you
don't do a much better job of explaining why "users' rights" are valid
and "inventors' rights" are not, odds are good that they will look a
lot like Shapiro and Varian's _Information Rules_.  Ie, I'll just take 
the current regime as given, and maybe propose some cosmetic changes.
I suspect that the results are unlikely to justify more.

If you like that, I'll just shut up and go do it.  (I will continue to
think about the issue, but as Richard said, I just don't seem to grasp
the idea---it's not likely I'll have an epiphany without help.)

But I really want to know where those "users' rights" come from, if
they're not written by the vendor into the license contract.  I'd like
to believe in them, but I don't.  I can't honestly base policy
recommendations on them unless I am convinced of their plausibility.
I can't analyze models based on the assumption they are not violated,
because nobody will pay attention to analysis presuming them unless
they are made plausible.

Will you help me?

Sincerely yours,
Stephen


-- 
University of Tsukuba                Tennodai 1-1-1 Tsukuba 305-8573 JAPAN
Institute of Policy and Planning Sciences       Tel/fax: +81 (298) 53-5091
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What are those two straight lines for?  "Free software rules."