Subject: Re: Value returned from free(d) software
From: Brian Bartholomew <bb@wv.com>
Date: Thu, 4 Dec 1997 13:56:35 -0500

> using game theory in economics is switching from the complex problem
> which is difficult to solve to a simpler one which can be solved.

I partially agree.  Even considering a lifetime of acculturation, it's
a marvel that everyone isn't completely selfish ("rational") all the
time.  I think the less moral and the more "rational" the people under
study are, the better an approximation game theory becomes.  The
saving grace is that a system that functions for "rational" people
will also work for moral people.  So if we can solve the game theory
version (which can be very, very hard) the problem is solved.

> That said, one game theory model of libre software is simply the
> GPL.  Consider a market in which all software happens to be under
> the GPL.  Can that world be invaded by a non-GPL program?

Sure.  Someone can break the GPL and hoard a proprietary improvement.
An all GPL world is unstable against lawbreakers that are hidden or
small.  Once the conspiracy of doves is broken, the world rebalances
to its current proprietary/libre mix.

> I'm arguing that in certain cases--those cases where the late
> adopters have money to burn relative to the size of the market--it
> can be rational for the late adopters to join together to create a
> libre anointed market leader themselves.

Sounds like the gTLD-MoU (Global Top Level Domain Memorandum of
Understanding) to me.  It doesn't solve any problems of the current
NIC arrangement, but the big companies are in on the ground floor of
the new namespace land rush.

> I expect that some entrepreneur would acquire the plans somehow,
> start selling the duplicators, and would make a killing.  Then the
> economy would collapse, but it wouldn't matter as much since the
> duplicators would be widely available and prevent the worst
> side-effects.  Then the environment would collapse in heavily
> populated areas, probably followed by large scale migration
> accompanied by ethnic and religious warfare fueled by cheap weapons.

Yes, I find this to be very plausible prediction.  War may come to the
third world before the first world economies collapse - they have more
reason for war and less political will to stop it.  The first world
economies may not collapse or war because there isn't enough stress on
the now uniformly well-fed populace to start one.

Consider the laws against manufacturing or possessing a piece of steel
that just happens to be the shape of an automatic weapon part.  People
will go nuts in their basements building all sorts of illegal toys.
In many cases just because it's fun to build something prohibited, not
like you really have the space to play with that 50 cal. machine gun.

> The cygwin32 (POSIX environment for Windows) license essentially
> permits people to buy out of the GPL, so I don't think it could be
> fairly described as creating an artificial scarcity, nor as minimally
> libre.  The code is still under the GPL for anybody who chooses to
> use that version.

Please describe this situation in more detail.  It sounds from your
description that in two years the GPL version will be obsolete, and
there will be no useful libre version anymore.  This should serve as a
useful warning that the copyright holder has ultimate control.

> You suggest that Cygnus should put the GNUPro release up for FTP, but
> why should Cygnus do that?  It is a cost to Cygnus for no benefit.

They should because the GPL requires them to.  I'm surprised nobody
has shaken a lawyer at them yet.

> In these comments about Cygnus, I stress that although Cygnus is my
> employer, these interpretations of Cygnus's actions are entirely my
> own, and are certainly incorrect at least in part.

Of course.


Another member of the League for Programming Freedom (LPF) www.lpf.org
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Brian Bartholomew - bb@wv.com - www.wv.com - Working Version, Cambridge, MA