Subject: Advantages of freed vs. proprietary software
From: (Russell Nelson)
Date: Fri, 26 Aug 94 10:41 EDT

   Date: Thu, 25 Aug 94 21:31:16 PDT
   From: (L. Peter Deutsch)

   The only intrinsic advantage that free software (or at least
   GNU-style free software, for which the source code is required to
   be available) has in this respect is that a sufficiently motivated
   person can offer support based on having read and mastered the
   source code.  And since, as I observed before, there are strong
   incentives for authors of free software to document the software
   poorly, the opportunities for this kind of support may be limited.

Michael Tiemann maintains that the chief advantage of freed software
is the possibility of cooperation and collaberation between developers
and users.  All my experience with freed software agrees with this.
With proprietary programs, users sometimes offer suggestions for
enhancements.  With freed programs, users sometimes offer the
actual enhancements.

That seems, to me, to be the deciding factor between freed and
proprietary software.  Whether 'tis nobler to be able to force payment
yet go alone, versus to have to scramble for payments and share the
efforts produced by a community.

We should remember that intellectual property law is not there to
benefit developers.  It's there "To promote the progress of science
and useful arts".  If society should find that intellectual property
law is not necessary for this, then society should not enFORCE laws
restricting intellectual property.

As free software businessmen, we're testing this princple.

   On a related topic, if there is some kind of moral right for software,
   once created, to be freely available to everyone modulo production costs,
   why does that right not apply to the documentation?  After all, like
   software and unlike support, documentation, once created (in electronic
   form), has essentially no reproduction cost.  I really want to hear the
   argument as to why charging for (electronic) documentation is any more
   justifiable than charging for software.

I don't think it is.  Software is different in kind from documentation
(just like a hammer is different from blueprints), but it's no
different in nature.

-russ <>
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