Subject: Re: Exploring the limits of free software
From: Ian Lance Taylor <ian@airs.com>
Date: 22 May 1999 15:19:20 -0400

   Date: Fri, 21 May 1999 15:39:27 -0400
   From: Brian Bartholomew <bb@wv.com>

   If I understand Cygnus' product offerings correctly, they do the
   following, which is considered by many (most?) people to be free
   software:

	   obscure the relationship between commercial and gratis
	   offerings

I don't think this is the case.  Cygnus has only a few gratis
offerings, but I think they are clearly marked.

	   do not put commercial product up for ftp gratis

Correct.

	   charge $6K for a copy (GNUPro with all targets)

I believe this is essentially correct.

	   withhold releasing improvements gratis for several months

In certain limited cases, yes.

	   do not release related code that gives a unique advantage in
	   maintenance, such as regression test base

Not to my knowledge, except when contractually limited.

	   collateral and documentation are proprietary

The GNUPro documentation is under the GPL, and is not proprietary.  In
fact, it's on the Cygnus web site.  Why do you say that it is
proprietary?

I'm not sure what you mean by collateral.  I doubt Cygnus would object
if you made copies of their marketing brochures.

	   do not give gratis support

Correct.

	   allow improvements in new files to be proprietary (eCos, not GNUPro)

Correct.

   Now suppose I make one or more of the following incremental changes to
   those business practices:

   ...

   When does it stop being free software?

It stops being free software when customers don't get source code, or
can not make changes themselves, or can not redistribute those
changes, etc.

Cygnus may do many horrible things, but it should be more or less
clear whether they produce free software.

You appear to be after something else, perhaps what one might describe
as an ethical company.  Please don't confuse that with a free software
company.  Please use some other word.

Ian