Subject: Economic incentives to produce software in a free software regime
From: "Stephen J. Turnbull" <>
Date: Mon, 25 Oct 1999 22:51:18 +0900 (JST)

Subject changed.  This isn't ethics, except for one small lapse.

>>>>> "Crispin" == Crispin Cowan <> writes:

    Crispin> Consider the view that commodity software is just an
    Crispin> inducement to sell hardware.

Specialization leads to efficiency, as a general rule.  Both lower
costs, and the right product being delivered to each individual user.

    Crispin> This is (I believe) the source of why he calls it
    Crispin> "domination" to be prohibited from doing that which there
    Crispin> is no natrual barrier to doing (copying software) and
    Crispin> every economic incentive to do so.

The same thing can be said about high school girls having babies, if
you substitute "natural drive" for "economic incentive."

    Crispin> By analogy, I can imagine a world in which no one ever
    Crispin> tried to market software; it was always free content
    Crispin> created to encourage sales of hardware and/or to carry
    Crispin> advertisin media.  I am unconvinced that it is
    Crispin> *necessarily* the case that that would be a poorer world.

Sure it is.  As long as one person is willing to pay someone else to
customize one of the free programs, your world either disappears when
they make the contract, or involves preventing those consenting adults
from consummating their contract.  If you weaken the word "always",
we're back in my world, where the question is one of proper balance.

    >> whould we have Gnome and KDE in their present state, if it were
    >> not for the competition of proprietary software ?

    Crispin> Would the Sun NeWS windowing system have died on the vine
    Crispin> had Sun not made the mistake of attempting to keep it
    Crispin> highly proprietary?

I thought that was Sony's mistake.

    Crispin> The free software model suggests that if there is a
    Crispin> mass-market need for software, then either someone will
    Crispin> write it for fame and glory, or a hardware vendor will
    Crispin> write it to sell their hardware.

The free software model suggests no such thing.  The rationale says
that these are two tendencies that will mitigate the decrease in
production of software due to loss of the profit incentive.  There is
no statement that all programs will benefit equally from these
incentives, nor that they will counterbalance the loss of the profit
incentive.  Nor even that these are all of the mitigating factors.
(Discovering more mitigating factors, and discussing how to realize
them, is the raison d'etre of FSB.)

What could make up for that loss is the gain in reuse efficiency.  But 
there is no reason to suppose that guarantees that all programs that
would be produced in the proprietary regime would be produced in the
all-free regime.

University of Tsukuba                Tennodai 1-1-1 Tsukuba 305-8573 JAPAN
Institute of Policy and Planning Sciences       Tel/fax: +81 (298) 53-5091
What are those two straight lines for?  "Free software rules."