Subject: Re: GPL and trademarks and brandnames...
From: Brian Bartholomew <bb@wv.com>
Date: Sat, 7 Nov 1998 22:56:40 -0500

I think "free software business" is an oxymoron, because the only ways
you can make money are:

	(a) by charging for access to proprietary IP (denying "free")

	(b) by selling non-IP (denying "software")

	(c) by being a charity or a government (denying "business").

-----

> there are lots of services you can sell in your mixed economy

None of those services are libre.  They either boil down to selling
physical objects which don't copy cheaply (books and CDs of
interesting bits), or they charge access to proprietary IP that could
be more cheaply distributed as libre (bug databases, mental code
documentation).  Libre code development is one of the few services
that is libre, but it's unsellable because it creates an instant and
massive free rider problem.

> one way to look at free software support is that the vendor is
> selling insurance against failures or inadequacies in the software.

The support vendor is incented to invent a constant stream of flaws,
to produce a constant stream of revenue to fix them.  The end state is
the Microsoft version treadmill.  Not a libre business model.

Asymptotically wonderful software does not need support.  And if it
does need support, it's so well written and documented that the
creator has no special advantage in providing it.  I know of at least
one freeish software product that is so good that users stopped buying
support contracts.  Faced with this loss of revenue, the license terms
became more proprietary.

> I can in turn earn money myself with my detailed knowledge of
> superhero comics trivia, highly useful for settling bar bets.

You are incented to keep this knowledge proprietary to protect your
livelihood.  You earn money by erecting artificial barriers to the
free flow of this information, and charging rent as a gatekeeper.  Not
a libre business model.

> I'd actually really like to see a free information service of this
> sort--one which answers questions based on freely available
> information, but charges per question.  Does anybody know of one?
> (The Usenet Oracle doesn't count.)

Talk to a librarian -- I believe there are many for-pay research
services.


League for Programming Freedom (LPF) ftp://ftp.gnu.org/pub/lpf/patents.text
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Brian Bartholomew - bb@wv.com - www.wv.com - Working Version, Cambridge, MA