Subject: Re: the walls have ears
From: "R. Brock Lynn" <>
Date: Tue, 01 Jun 1999 08:13:40 -0500

[Another long one... I read too much Greek philosophy to write concisely I
guess... those dudes never knew when to "shut up" :]

Richard Stallman wrote:

> O'Reilly wrote:
>     Hmmmm.  There are two issues here:
>     * what's best for businesses who just want to make money
>     * what's best for businesses who want to make money while
>     supporting the ideals of free software and keep returning their
>     work to the ecosystem

> I think Brock probably meant the latter, but didn't state it
> clearly.  Brock, is that true?

Partly, but I even go so far as to say that I think that what is best for the
most economic growth of the software producer is also what's best for the growth
of free software... *strange* ???

These are in fact two distinct goals for sure.

1) Make the most money.

a) by creating greater and greater differences between the wealth of yourself
and everyone else, (whilst the total wealth remains the same.)

b) or by allowing everyone, or at least lots of others to also get more and more
wealthy together as the greater software technology being developed will allow
better, more fine tuned "management" of our resources as a whole so that more
and more "stuff" can be produced.

c) or by some combination of (a) and (b)

d) or by hurting things on the whole by being destructive more than
constructive, but offsetting the decrease significantly in your favor to more
than make up for the overall decrease.

I personally like (b) ... 

I don't give a darn what other people have, so long as I have most everything I
want and desire... Even if other people are 10 times more wealthy materially. I
don't give a darn, as long as I have enough to live my "real" dreams (which I
can honestly tell you are not attached to the lust for money and power as ends
in themselves.) of which the wealth is but a stepping stone to help achieve. And
It'd be nice if the more wealthy people were not greedy, but instead also
wealthy in emotion, culture, morality, and "soul", and had respect for less
wealthy people. I'd be able to admire and respect such more wealthy people!

Emotional and cultural wealth are also quite important for the soul you know!
I'd love to have enough money for example to buy the Mr. Wizard video series ...
I'm a science nut. And enough money to take flight lessons and get a pilot's
license and buy a small plane. And enough money to take a wilderness survival
course. And enough money to travel the world, and soak up the cultural diversity
and go see historical sites first hand. And enough money to be able to take
months at a time and do nothing more than read philosophy and brush up on my
general relativity, or whatever strikes my fancy. :D One can best attain these
goals when one is not the only wealthy person around. I'd feel terrible that I
was the only person with such wealth and would then feel compelled to help
others rather than to enjoy the spoils all for myself. I was born an unselfish
person, and will die that way. I guess it's in my genetic makeup. But I'm happy
with it. I might die a poor man, but I can guarantee I'll be as happy a poor man
as I can be. But my soul will, hopefully at least, be wealthy!

As Rudyard Kipling says in his awesome poem "If":
"[If you can] walk with kings -- [but not] lose the common touch"
"If all men count with you, but none too much"

I'd like to be a rich man who still doesn't mind sitting on a street corner and
be able to talk to a homeless dude. Of course I wouldn't try to monetarily help,
as that would be morally degrading to the guy. But rather try to uplift the guy
and help to turn his outlook around. Try to make him more "spiritually" wealthy
I guess you could say.

[But enough talk about moral and emotional wealth for now :]


The other goal:

2) Generate the most Free Software so that the whole community, including
yourself, benefits.

But I propose that, even if one only wants to make the most money, not in the
short term but steadily for the long term, ultimately one will realize that they
are "parallel" goals. i.e. by accomplishing one the other goes along with it.
i.e. the best way to generate the most wealth or money for yourself in the
software production business is to produce the most free software, and perhaps
by mostly using the GPL license, at least as long as copyright law stays in

I honestly think (and of course the final "judgment" isn't in yet), that as the
longer term software production unfolds (perhaps we need to give it another 100
years or so to really tell) a pattern will emerge that free software production
will be the most lucrative to the producers/maintainers, as well as many others.

Of course there is the destructive route, where one only uses proprietary
methods and continually changes the "rules of the game" by planned obsolescence
or by planned "upgrades" so that they keep gobbling up other people's money for
their own gain to the detriment of the economy as a whole. Then the market will
never "level out" and the producers keep making profits on the "upgrade" and
"planned bugfix" margin. *shudder* This honestly makes me sick, but it could
prove quite lucrative (but only mostly in the sense of the shift of wealth, and
not so much in the way of much new wealth being generated.), and would be an
example of (d).

[maybe I need to be an economist? :]

I will stick to my guns and say that I truly think the two goals that Tim talked
about are actually, when you do the math, one and the same: The more Free
Software you pump into the system the more you will get out of it. And revoking
the "right" to release non-free forks, catalyzes the process, and if nothing
else keeps the process headed in the right direction: Even when would be "bad
drivers" try to steer off course, this would be like an "auto pilot" to keep the
whole shebang on course. :)

Clear as mud? 

But that's what I have to say on that. 'Course it's all theory until it's put
into practice and we see for sure that theory matches reality. :)

I've always leaned more toward the theoretical physicists rather then the
experimental physicists, but the experimenters are very important indeed... they
keep the theoreticians on the right course. :)

So I guess what we need now are some business experimenters to try my theory,
and see how well it stands up... Any takers with and idea for a software system
product and some capital to spare? If I was a multimillionaire I might give it a
shot. Perhaps the company that Miguel de Icaza is planning to service the GNOME
project will be interesting! Is that rumor or fact btw? I get things mixed up
every now and then... only 26 and going senile already I guess.

> But these two questions are still not entirely clear, and each has
> multiple interpretations.  A software license is not good or bad for
> anyone *in the abstract*; it has effects when it is *used* on a
> program.  To have a clear question, we have to specify how the
> business in question relates to the code on which the license was
> used.  Did the business develop and release it?  Did the business just
> use it?

I'm only restricting myself with the *production* of free software in a money
making environment... Something that is not being done very much in the industry
right now. I think it can be done where the actual code is given away, and then
multiple companies spring up to "service" the code base: manage bug tracking
lists, provide specialized enhancements, or customized versions, warranties,
insurance, training, etc. Just take the Debian system plus upstream providers
and somehow try to fit it into a business environment, where coders and
maintainers can get paid for their labors so they can spend more time on what
they love to do: coding... and maybe allow for incentive to help in coding for
others what they would normally not need themselves: extensions and special
versions etc.

>     At least so far, the BSD style license wins hands down for the
>     first case.  There have already been scads of companies who've
>     made billions as a result of work put out under BSD style
>     licenses.

> Here you are talking (I think) about free software that was developed
> by party A, then non-free copies were distributed by business B.
> Business B contributed nothing to the free software, but made money
> from it.  So the question being addressed here is,

Or developed free by A, forked and re-released by B and sold to C who is using
it to make money.

Does BSDI fit this category, or do they also release source code, or do you have
to pay extra for the code?
>  "When I release a free program, which licenses for it would be good
>   for the profits of all sorts of businesses that might use it?"
> I think a different question is more interesting
> for free software business:

>  "If I want develop and release some free software as a business,
>   which licenses for it would be good for my profits?"

Yes, this is where I think the most concentration is best: How will I make money
and still be able to release the code to the world? I think it not only can be
done, but is the best way, but a *VERY* different management style must be
formulated. Every detail is important.

I love this saying from cicero so much, I feel like a broken record but:
"Careful attention to small detail often proves superior to genius."

I'd love to see individual copyright left intact rather than a production
company taking all the credit. And at least a license like the GPL can make that
a reality, but adding a "CYA" factor whereby even if ex-employee "joe" takes
off, and tries to close the code snippets for which he owns the copyright, he
will not be able to do so. There can be some kind of employment contract
stipulation that individual copyright will be allowed only under the condition
that perhaps copyright is jointly owned, or if singly owned by the employee,
that if he later leaves and decides to change the license, the original version
that is part of the company's system will remain under the GPL, for their, or
anyone else's use.

> However, my reason for preferring copyleft has nothing to do with
> business.

Well I have to agree too. I'm quite an idealist and optimist... of the utopian
flavor too. :P Freedom for the code is a great ideal in of itself, even if it
was contrary to the highest profits for companies.

I'm also a radical, bleeding heart, revolutionary extremist liberal, and also
stark mad and insane at times too (=:] ... Well I guess that's going a bit
overboard, but heck I'm just nuts about the idea of carrying freedom to the
utter extreme, as long as it doesn't cause too much harm to anyone else, or to
the system/society as a whole.

I guess I'm a conservative extreme liberal :^)
i.e. Let's try not the break the system or change it *too* quickly as a whole
nor too many individuals in it while we are trying to attain the maximum
individual liberty, and also of the liberty of the system as a whole, if there
is such a thing. :)

But then some philosophers argue that all things are predetermined, and freedom
is merely a figment of a deranged imagination... But, I contend if you are going
to imagine, you might as well imagine freedom. :)

That's a feature not a bug. :)

But then the "solipsists" believe that nothing really exists and everything is a
figment of a deranged imagination... But I say *bah*! Even if it is, it's best
to assume it's not... But if it is true, you can at least strive for positive
progress within that deranged imagination. (=:] ... heh, mathematicians work
with imaginary numbers all the time...

> I'm not against business per se

Yes, understood.

I kind of like the idea of a capitalist free market economy system of business.
In fact I think capitalism based on pure self interest might be quite all right,
as long as the individual capitalists can learn to work together as a nicely
functioning whole. And that can come about only with "educated" capitalists who
understand that the whole system is just as important as they themselves are ...
to themselves.

Socialistic ideas are worthy of studying too though.

The more you know...

> but I think that
> preserving and spreading freedom takes priority.  That's what the
> GPL is designed to do.

Yes, A great and noble goal that I contend is in fact *also* best for business
due to economic equations that have yet to come fully to light. :)

> Side issue but important: I recommend that people avoid using the term
> "BSD-style" for simple non-copyleft licenses; see
> for an explanation.
> "X11-style" is a better way to describe them.

What would a license be that was exactly like the GPL or copyleft but allowed
non-free forks? ... I just don't like the idea of allowing non-free forks.

I personally think the "best" license that is most in favor of free software
(and by virtue of economic theory is also best for business) is one that cares
most about helping free software "take off", and once "in the air", helps it
maintain it's "flight pattern", without crashing back down to non-freedom.

I make a lot of metaphors with flying... I can't help but love flying... :)

I rather like the "viral" quality of the GPLv2. That's one of it's most
interesting and greatest strengths.


---------------------  PGP key ID: FED76A3D <> 4 / 5 / 1999

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