Subject: Re: A company's appeal to the community
From: Brian Bartholomew <>
Date: Tue, 18 Jan 2000 02:51:15 -0500

Karsten writes:

> What if the source were currently available, but not under free
> software licensing terms?

With sufficient money, strategic appeal, and NDA, you can look at
Windows source code.  There are several companies who have done so.

For merely a weak academic NDA and some cash, you can look at
the source of commercial Unix distributions.

...and so on down the line until you get to GPL or BSD at the bottom.

The degree of goodwill I assign to a specific instance of source
availability depends on how good of a deal I think it is.  My measure
of being a good deal is closely tied to *both* price and freedom.
Maximum goodwill is granted to a charity.  A business cannot be a
charity, but I would like to see businesses compete for how close they
can get.  There is an enormous middle ground where software companies
can offer better deals than they do now.  For starters, how about
offering a guarantee that their product will work as advertised?

> The question "what is the point of free software" is personal dialog
> the company has to have with itself.  The answer need not be public.
> Companies looking to use free software should not have to be held to
> some higher standard, beyond license compliance.
> Companies looking to benefit from free software development in their
> own products need to see that they're generating trust between
> themselves and their development community.

License is not sufficient to guarantee a good deal.  Consider all the
business plans to pervert the GPL social expectations, while remaining
within the words of the license.  If a company wants to earn my trust,
they can start by making a sales pitch to me why I should trust them.
License is one part of that pitch.  A business model that appears to
work, and doesn't have "selling out and screwing me" as an exit
strategy, is another part.  Earning a customer's trust is basic stuff,
and the rules haven't changed with software or the Internet.

A member of the League for Programming Freedom (LPF)
Brian Bartholomew - - - Working Version, Cambridge, MA