Subject: Re: Open letter to those who believe in a right to free software
From: "Stephen J. Turnbull" <>
Date: Tue, 26 Oct 1999 17:34:58 +0900 (JST)

>>>>> "rms" == Richard Stallman <> writes:

    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]

    rms> You seem to be making three assumptions here:

    rms> 1. That the program is proprietary.

No.  This was stated in footnote [1], which you deleted.  The argument
is more transparent if the program will be free and a bunch of
public-spirited citizens get together to pool their funds and pay the
programmers to do the work.

I'm just counting beans: hours of wage-slave coder time to produce the
release version of the source (no entrepreneurial property-right-
wielding developers allowed), and whatever commodity the coders are
paid in.

    rms> 2. That the people in the scenario accept the legitimacy of that.

A fortiori, no.

    rms> 3. That who gets how much money is very important.

No, there is no "money" here.  Only real resources.  No capital; only
current accounts.

That 3. is assumed is true, in the sense that anybody who cares about
how their scarce resources are transferred to others should be aware
of the real accounting implications of sharing copies of programs.

However, my values are such that I personally consider this very
important when my action results in a transfer from other people to me
and my buddies: I have an ethical burden to justify such an action.  I
put much less weight on it in the opposite direction.  The only
ethical burden I place on others who behave in that way is that I am
less likely to associate with them.  Even that is not a certainty.

    rms> 4. That the money paid for copies goes to pay for the development.

Once again, no "money" is paid, certainly not for copies.  Real
resources are transferred in ways that are in principle arbitrary.  I
only require that you pay careful attention to what happens when in
the specific case where you remove a person from the group of those
transferring resources to the worker.  Either the worker gets a lower
wage, or one or more of those remaining in the group of payers must
pay more, or both.

You can add the money and other trappings to interpret it as "buying
copies" or "sharing copies," but those are not the only
interpretations.  There are many others.

    rms> When #1 is false, then the whole scenario is not even meaningful.

Wrong.  It's not an issue of surpluses like profit.  It is purely an
issue of material balance, of real resources, either productive ones
like programmer labor or consumption goods, like whatever units the
programmers' wages to compensate them for their labor are paid in.

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."