Subject: Re: Open letter to those who believe in a right to free software
From: "Tim O'Reilly" <>
Date: Thu, 21 Oct 1999 15:13:29 -0700

Hear, hear! wrote:
> A personal opinion:
> Placing this discussion in the context of "rights" is, frankly, a weak framing.
> There are certainly people out there who do all of this from a sense of
> principle.  My thought is this: if you can get people to understand for
> themselves that something is to their advantage, you have a much more
> sustainable and growable position than if you have to tell them from "on high"
> that something is the "right" thing to do, or that they should beat the drums to
> protect their "right" to do something that most of them can never see needing to
> actually "do".  Cynical though it may be, I believe that self-interest is more
> enduring than faith (though the irony in that sentence does not escape me).
> Whatever you think about gun posession (I was a national champion shooter at one
> time; I don't own one), there is a clear lesson in the success of the anti-gun
> lobby in the US: people will not rally to defend rights that they do not
> anticipate needing to exercise
> Therefore, I am not interested in "rights".  I am interested in building a
> community that finds a successful balance point among the self interest of a
> range of parties.  The novelty of GPL, in my opinion, is not that it's doctrine
> is anti-proprietary.  Rather, it's that it strikes a different and equally
> (perhaps more) effective balance point between the interests of software
> producers and the interests of software users.  As long as that balance point
> has higher leverage than the alternatives, there is no need to speak of rights;
> it will win on merit.
> Jonathan S. Shapiro, Ph. D.
> IBM T.J. Watson Research Center
> Email:
> Phone: +1 914 784 7085  (Tieline: 863)
> Fax: +1 914 784 7595

Tim O'Reilly @ O'Reilly & Associates, Inc.
101 Morris Street, Sebastopol, CA 95472
+1 707-829-0515, FAX +1 707-829-0104,