Subject: Re: Open letter to those who believe in a right to free software
From: "Stephen J. Turnbull" <turnbull@sk.tsukuba.ac.jp>
Date: Mon, 25 Oct 1999 22:31:19 +0900 (JST)

>>>>> "rms" == Richard Stallman <rms@gnu.org> writes:

    rms> But even more important is that proprietary software is based
    rms> on telling people, "It is wrong to share copies with your
    rms> neighbor."  That undermines the good will that makes the
    rms> difference between a dog-eat-dog jungle and a society.

Sharing copies of programs with your neighbors is a way of decreasing
the share of development costs borne by people you know at the expense
of increasing the cost share of people you don't know.[1]

I don't know if that's wrong, but I am not comfortable with it.  I can
say, somewhat inconsistently, that it's not neighborly in the Internet
society where everywhere is here and everyone is my neighbor, even if
I don't know them.  But the real problem is that it's just plain
arbitrary.  Why should one's list of friends (or whether there are any
at all) determine the price one pays for software?

True, on the Internet, you can distribute it to anonymous neighbors;
then the phrasing is a little different.  Sharing programs is way of
decreasing the share borne by the late adopters at the expense of the
early adopters; or a way of decreasing the share borne by those who
don't need handholding at the expense of those who do; or a way of
decreasing the share borne by those for whom the stock version is
satisfactory at the expense of those who need customization.

The original phrasing (acquaintance vs. stranger) is best, though,
because it is not contaminated by the accident that the higher price
paid is spuriously correlated with more services received.  (To see
that it is spurious, simply suppose that it happens that the value of
the software itself is inversely proportional to the value of the
ancillary services.)


Footnotes: 
[1]  In a hypothetical competitive software market.  In the real
world, it may decrease costs to all users if the vendor is forced by
competition from unlicensed copies to lower price in order to get
anybody to pay.  It can go the other way, though, if the paying
customers have inelastic demand.

-- 
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What are those two straight lines for?  "Free software rules."