Subject: Re: proprietary -- a truism
From: Ian Lance Taylor <>
Date: 12 Apr 1999 05:27:03 -0000

   Date: 12 Apr 1999 01:44:12 -0000
   From: Russell Nelson <>

   I think it's almost a truism that a free software business has to keep 
   something proprietary.  Unless you keep something proprietary, you
   have nothing to sell.  You wouldn't be in business, then, you'd be a
   non-profit foundation.

I guess it depends upon what you mean by proprietary.

If you can do something more cheaply than somebody else, and that
somebody else wants the thing to be done, then you have something to
sell.  What you are selling is your special skills.

These skills are not proprietary in the sense of something which you
own which nobody else can own.  In fact, there may be many people with
these skills.  What you are selling is the fact that the customer does
not have these skills, and it is cheaper for the customer to hire your
skills than to develop them.

   Proprietary things:
    1) Reputation.
    2) People's time.
    3) Physical copies.
    4) Some of your software.
    5) Documentation.
    6) Datasets.
    7) Hardware.

I suppose what I'm talking is your ``people's time'' category.  I
guess my point is that I'm not sure in what you sense you can describe
people's time as proprietary.  We all have time.  There is no shortage
of people.

If you do consider people's time as proprietary, then I think it is
indeed a truism that an FSB keeps something proprietary.  In fact, I
think it follows that anybody who sells anything keeps something