Subject: Re: Unexercisable rights
From: Ian Lance Taylor <ian@airs.com>
Date: 24 Jun 1999 12:28:12 -0400

   Date: Thu, 24 Jun 1999 04:19:26 -0400
   From: Brian Bartholomew <bb@wv.com>

   > I feel obliged to point out that the belief that some organizations
   > are making money by discouraging redistribution of libre software is
   > a conspiracy theory

   In my imagined free software X-files episode, every fsb about to
   receive investment from a VC firm has a meeting with the Investor.
   The Investor asks, what will the fsb do to protect the investment if
   some undergrad takes it upon themselves to market and distribute the
   fsb's GPLed product in a charity fashion.  The fsb must come up with a
   plausible answer that doesn't depend on the rest of the world sharing
   the fsb's values.  I am looking to discover what that answer is.

Your question is wrong.  You seem to be starting from the assumption
that the FSB is going to the VC firm saying ``we are selling a
software program.''  The VC firm's reaction will be ``Sorry.
Microsoft has sewn up the software market.  Next!''

VC firms are interested in a big IPO or a big acquisition.  How many
of the big IPOs in the last couple of years have been software
companies?

Very few people buy software.  What people buy is a solution to a
problem.  If the FSB can solve people's problems, VC firms may be
willing to invest.  In that case, you can start talking about barriers
to entry.  An undergrad with no funding will not be able to solve
people's problems, so that is scarcely a concern.

   My
   current hypothesis is the answer consists of some combination of:

All of your answers are wrong.  Better answers revolve around ability
to solve the problem, ability to convince customers that you can solve
the problem, access to the market, name recognition, branding, etc.

You seem to think that companies like Red Hat and Cygnus are profiting
because they are selling software.  But as you keep pointing out
yourself, the software is free, both libre and gratis.  You seem to
conclude that they are somehow tricking everybody.  The correct
conclusion is that they are not selling software.

Ian