The Catallactics of Free Software
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Table of Contents
The Catallactics of Free Software
To be continued...
More to come...
In June 1995, I had a very fruitful exchange of ideas with
Dr. David Philip Quinn
(then in Hong-Kong, now at the
Illinois Institute of Technology);
we intended to write together an article on the economics of free software,
but the event did not happen, to my great disappointment,
since our points of view were apparently divergent.
After all these years,
and being encouraged by the constant misunderstanding
of the free software phenomenon
by the growing public that comes to be aware of it,
I've decided that I might as well recycle the notes
that I wrote during this collaboration,
and publish a remastered and augmented version of them,
taking into account what I learnt since.
I've begun writing this article on 1998-06-13,
and it's still mostly a draft...
The Catallactics of Free Software
Catallactics and Freedom
is the theory of exchange of services,
which brings a broader and more accurate point of view
than common Economics on economic phenomena,
for it does take into account exchange situations done
by negociated or forced agreement,
where not everything is tradeable for money,
where a common currency might not exist yet,
where exchanged services may not be legally acknowledged or explicitly stated,
where law might not exist yet,
where the terms of exchange contracts may not be well defined,
where property rights might not exist yet.
Even when currency, law, and contracts may be well defined,
Catallactics may still take into accounts other exchanges
that may happen outside of the currency system, outside of the legal system,
without consideration of property rights.
It is a more general and more accurate point of view than common Economics
on the phenomena at stake in the social, economical, and other
interrelations between humans, or members of a same society in general.
This article will try to study the catallatics
of the free software phenomenon,
whose success is perfectly suited
to question the common purely economical point of view on resource management.
It will be an occasion to reassert the advantages
of freedom versus hoarding, of property versus plunder.
For the case about Free Software is that of
free trade of software services versus protectionism of software services,
so we could take any
generic article about free trade,
and adapt it directly to the subject of Free Software.
As for specificities of software,
since software is only a generic case of information,
and free software a particular point of view on science,
we could also take any existing article about science,
change a few words, and republish it as an article about the software!
Free Software, not Software for Free
Free software, in its strict meaning,
is information that everyone is free to use, republish, and modify,
though usually with restrictions involving
not being able to abuse people with or about the authorship of the information,
and not being able to further restrict the liberty of users of the software.
The word "free" here, means "free of rights";
it is related to freedom and civil rights,
and corresponds to the french word "libre", as in Liberty.
It does not mean "free of charge",
nor does it refer to costlessness (or even cheapness),
which would in French have it be translated as "gratis";
copies of free software can very well be sold;
they have been sold and are being sold on a regular basis;
only no one has exclusivity
on selling copies of free software or on improving it.
Free software as such
was first theorized in the early/mid nineteen eighties
by Richard Stallman, founder of
the GNU Project,
the Free Software Foundation, and
the League for Programming Freedom.
We can, however, consider that it was practised much earlier,
and it can be considered as
always having been the norm thoughout academia,
since freely usable, publishable, and modifiable information
is the very mechanism by which science is built.
If we generalize the concept
from mere "computer software" to any and all possible information
(and considering AI and expert systems or documentation,
there is no sensible limit between the two concepts),
the phenomenon is as old as science itself,
and was fully grasped at least since the works of
The theory of Free Software does not in any way oppose to liberal economics;
this appears clearly in the very founding
GNU Manifesto itself:
it considers that services, such as research and development,
installation, guaranteeing fitness or availability, fixing bugs,
providing support, teaching, etc, are the productive activities
that add value and should be rewarded,
and subject to the usual laws for evaluation and exchange of services.
What it opposes is ownership of software,
which prevents free and fair evaluation and exchange of such services,
and constitutes an anti-social act, that should be avoided and discouraged;
some, among which I am, go as far as to claim
that law institutions should forbid it, or at least,
that it should cease to provide artificial protection to it,
and provide incentives for it.
Free Software, for Free
Now, it so happens that most free software existing these days
was developed literally for free (here, as in free of charge);
that is, the service of developing the software was done
in the spare time of programmers not having been paid in any way for it.
Even when free software is written as part of a paid work,
it is seldom acknowledged as a significant part of that work,
since acknowledgement by the management
too often entails want of proprietarization of the software.
Certainly, there has been some amount of free software
that was developed out of an explicit, knowledgeable funding;
but support of free software
in the corporate (or even official academic) world
is mostly non-existent.
Most businessmen, politicians, or journalists
have hardly heard about its existence;
and very few heard what it was really about,
not to talk about knowing or understanding it.
Awareness of the phenomenon is increasing rapidly, though,
so perhaps the above statement will be obsolete by the time it is read.
Nonetheless, it is remarkable that despite
this almost total lack of acknowledgement and funding
by established social and economical infrastructures,
the free software phenomenon has grown to such a size as it has,
providing software among the finest that exists,
and in many domains, unprecedented and unrivaled software.
Undoubtly, such a success implies that
free software must have some relative superiority or advantage
as compared to other resource-attracting phenomena;
it is the purpose of this article to analyze
what this superiority of advantage is.
Skilled Programming Time
Programming is an activity that demands some non-negligible human capital
before it may be undertaken;
it relies on the comfort of the most advanced modern technology
and on a certain amount of education, be it academic or self-taught,
all of which takes money or equivalently time to acquire.
It more importantly requires some dedication, like all arts and crafts,
and a mind oriented towards abstraction and learning.
All in all, only a combination of financial and intellectual elite
has access to this activity;
yet, an excess of wealth in either finance, intellect, or both,
will likely result in one not ever approaching computer programming either,
or one rather developing traditionally money-friendly proprietary software.
The Free Software phenomenon
is even more selective as to who can actively participate,
since it is based on peer review
of globally (well, largely enough) freely shared code,
and eliminates both those who don't have access
to means of global code sharing (aka the Internet),
and those whose skills do not suffice to adapt to the existing software base
and build from it software susceptible to raise a large enough interest.
Actually, there might well be people writing free software
that is not available on the Internet,
or that isn't of much interest besides it's author's own;
it wouldn't benefit as much from the advantages of Free Software development
(it could still benefit from the free software code base),
or contribute as much to it (it would still be part of it however);
but it would still have the constraints of free software.
To summarize, software development is
an intrinsically costly (and hopefully valuable) activity,
it is skilled labor time.
Free software tends to raise this cost (we'll see about value),
yet rejects any hope of direct a posteriori financial retribution
in the forms of license fees.
Unpaid free software raises this cost even more,
since it requires being done by people who be otherwise rich or skillful enough
to have the spare time necessary to program without being paid.
Yet again, most free software development is unpaid these days,
so the mystery about it deepens; or does it not?
Lack of Financial Expectations
Most contributors to Free Software projects
have been doing their free software development work
without any hope of payment in the foreseeable future.
Or rather, without any hope of financial payment.
For not all goods are easily convertible in money.
This only hardens the constraints on free software programmers,
since not only must they be highly-skilled people,
but they must also earn a comfortable enough living
so as to have spare time in which to write free software;
actually, the burden may be pushed towards their families,
who'd otherwise provide them means of subsistance,
or to their companies, when free software is a byproduct
of their professional activity.
In any case, the lack of possible compensation in today's settings
for most free software development does impose a high barrier of entry
to the writing of free software.
Yet this writing happens!
Of course, there has been a growing quantity of free software
being developped under explicit funding, including key technology,
(for instance, Cygnus has been
a major actor in the development of GCC and other free compiler technology).
TO BE CONTINUED...
Here are random ideas to include (or not) in the article:
The above doesn't make saints out of Unpaid Free Software Programmers;
they are still egoistic agents trying to maximize their self-interest
as they understand it (strictly rational utility maximizers, says Dr. Quinn).
Only the current economical system of software hoarding
mostly prevents them from making regular money out of their skills,
so they may only enjoy the side effects of those skills.
And when technology allows easy sharing of information with the Internet,
freedom makes these side-effects great enough so that it overwhelms
for the programmer alone (not to talk about other people)
the incents to not develop software or to not freely release it.
When technology does not allow easy sharing,
much fewer people develop free information for free;
instead they'll develop proprietary information,
or will try to acquire externally developed proprietary information;
that's because in absence of free information technology,
the expected feedback of releasing information is null,
or even negative (because of prosecution for various reasons
or censorship, patent infringment, non-disclosure, libel, etc).
Because authors of free software are not acknowledged as such,
they must hold a job doing something else, so they can survive and develop.
It must be a job that gives them enough free time to develop free software;
such a job greatly limits the production of such people.
In the best case, writing free software
may be an unacknowledged but tolerated part of their job.
In any case, free software writers have mostly been burdened
with the need to live by other skills
than their direct free software writing skills,
which burden includes the cost of both acquiring and using such skills,
and maybe excludes a non-negligible amount of people
from expressing their potential in free-software writing.
Yet, despite all these problems, a large quantity of quality free software
has been written...
Free software developers appear to give valuable time;
but this time would not have been as valuable (for them, for other people),
if not spent developing free software,
and that, even though the developers are most likely to have
skills that are socially acknowledged and financially appreciated
so that they live and have enough free time to develop.
This is actually the main reason why those people developed the free software
to begin with!
The fact that software hoarding excludes financial acknowledgement
of programming skills by not letting proficient people hack the sources
is indeed a great factor why people's proficiencies can't flourish
in purely professional matters, and must be expressed in alternative ways.
It is current intellectual property laws that make free software
an alternative way rather than the norm, as should be.
We should consider a theory of equilibrium where we evaluate the stability
of various processes in the short run as well as in the long run;
stability at some scale can only be created by some kind of positive feedback
on the given process;
stability in the long run can only be possible for processes that are
stable in the short run;
there is a competition for resources between stable (and instable)
processes, by which the most stable win.
We shall then explain how freedom makes stabler processes in general,
and concerning software services in particular.
For a simple model by which people do maximize utility by producing
free software rather than proprietary software,
see articles by Jean-Paul Smets-Solane.
Of course, a more accurate model would take into account
and some game theory about who will first invest in free software,
as well as current complete lack and possible future sophisticated existence
of structures to facilitate information-sharing;
for that, it should consider how risk-aversion affects
the behavior of actors in a world full (or not so full) of uncertainty
Dr Quinn says it's crucial to justify why they "work for nothing".
But actually, they do NOT work for nothing; only for no direct money.
The most successful programmers are contacted by people ready
to fund further enhancements, to register a version as commercial,
to publish documentation, or to talk at conferences (see Linus' world tours).
In Dr Quinn's words, "Some people are allocating their time
(which is in limited supply and is valuable)
to the free project in order to maximize their expected utility".
Most people won't allocate much time to it.
But the more technical are the needs of people, the more they will,
because when you're doing special things,
you can't find what you need in existing commercial offer at affordable price;
as you can't reliably build from proprietary software,
you'll build from free software if available,
and you'll build free software if none was available yet.
Dr Quinn insists that the "utility functions [of unpaid programmers]
are purely based on their own material consumption
without any concern for philanthropy or public good.
We assume that producing free goods is work, not fun".
I'd say that they produce free (of charge) services,
independently from the software being free (of rights),
which has to be somehow rewarding (whether this be "fun" or not), too,
even though it is hard work,
since it isn't socially (and financially) acknowledged as work.
As of philanthropy or public good, we know that statistical laws have people
adapt to maximize public good without the need for philanthropy
("evolution competitively selects cooperative patterns"),
while philanthropy can lead to great disasters if it tries to manage the
economy rather than to contribute to it.
People doing research in universities and related research centers
often publish the software that results from their research as free software,
and the free spirit is largely developped inside universities;
somehow these people get paid for producing free software, even though
the software is only a side-effect of their research.
Now, research is a necessary part of university life,
and cannot be done as well with confidential software.
The question of whether free software would exist without universities
is moot, since computers and software in general would not have appeared
without them, and most would-be programmers would cease to learn their trade
without them, too.
As of expected payoffs of writing free software,
people proficient in developing quality software
are seldom proficient in making millions out of it, anyway.
Assiduous craftsmen necessary to develop quality software
are likely to find more interest in achieving the quality software
than in running after millions.
There is no structure for personal software to be sold if not free
(one can't expect to live out of say shareware, because one has mostly no way
to predict how much the shareware will yield, unless one already wrote
lots of shareware, which is an unlikely circular condition).
And of course, in many cases the software just has to be free to have
any utility (see below), all the more when the author cannot expect to
fully develop the software alone, whereas making it free can help him
gather workforce from the Internet.
Again there is currently no structure receive small payments (say $1),
and even less to judge what share of such payments multiple authors over
the internet would have to receive.
Unless there exist structures making fine-grained payment of software
development possible, there will always be software development done
free of charge.
Dr Quinn: "The central thing we have to explain is effort with little
apparent payoff. We have to link it to some expected or possible payoff
down the road, maybe the small chance of a huge payoff or a likely
small gain in terms of some other profitable activity."
Again, we mustn't think in purely financial ways,
as not everything that has value is convertible into money
(all the less with intellectual property laws preventing
conversion of software proficiencies into money).
Then, we should consider the fact that unpaid programmers use available time,
that might have even lesser payoff in non-programming activities.
Finally, we must not forget that these people develop software that is
directly useful to themselves, providing them features not otherwise available
at affordable price.
So, payoffs include:
- they feel useful, which is important to their self-respect
- they write software that is useful to them anyway.
They would tend to write it even if they didn't publish it;
and they don't (most of the time because they can't)
expect any money from that.
[Note that by a "shipwreck survivor effect",
we only happen to see the software that was published,
even though it would be a small share of total software written].
Publishing for free brings them fame, which can bring material advantages
later (job opportunities, invitations, salary increase, donations, easier
position in front of people of the same job).
By publishing software, people can also contact other people with the
same tastes and ideas as them, to whom they can teach and be useful
(again feeling of utility), and who can teach them and be useful to them.
By publishing code, you obtain permanent free feedback and contributions
you couldn't ever expect on proprietary code; your code grows better much
quicker than if you didn't publish it, so it can be more useful to you.
People do not decide to publish free software for the fun of it:
they have another motivation for writing software, and publishing it
for free is a way to obtain better software than keeping it secret.
What do you think I'm doing currently with this article ?
I see not much difference between this article and a piece of free
software I'd be writing ! And I'm not expecting any money out of it
(though I won't spit on it if there is any ;).
Dr Quinn wanted that we stay with the "pure greed" idea.
I wanted to promote memetical ideas: selection of the fittest memes.
The global condition to be fit is that the meme
will have positive feedback on its own existence, or be positively correlated
anyhow to a such meme.
Greed is a strong such meme: locally, after having experienced the
benefit of self-indulgement and egoism, people tend to continue.
Globally, greed of people is an example to other, so it spreads in space; but
it also helps people find ways to indulge themselves, and thus benefits them,
so it spreads in time.
But it surely is not the only meme
strong enough to survive and develop.
For instance, I'm sure most people have other motivations
than greed to get married, be it love or lust.
And marriage certainly isn't something economics should neglect.
A meme is any recognizable pattern in a dynamical evolving system.
is the study of memes and laws that rule their evolution.
Meme organize in traditions. The strength for a meme is its correlation
to its own reproduction/regeneration. For a meme to survive, it must have
some local strength. But among the surviving memes, those with the greatest
global strength will eventually spread and overcome. Non-competing memes
can live together. Parasite memes live upon other memes. Somehow, all
memes are parasites: they can exist only in some memetical context.
Parasite memes that tend to destroy the memes they live upon faster
than these memes can reproduce eventually kill themselves
(which I call ecological disaster). etc.
Dr Quinn: "The person writes software
because that is the most efficient way he
has of maximizing his expected utility of consumption.
Economics is about greed and scarcity."
By using unqualified present tense and "expected", you seem to imply
that people do rationally try to maximize their utility, which is false.
I'm not saying that rationality is no active part of people's personalities,
but that it is only a small (but sometime decisive) part of it. People
also and mostly follow traditions. And these traditions are subject to
natural selection, which selects the most self-reproducing. On the
long run, the useful indeed are the most self-reproducing, so if they
are locally stable, they will globally win.
People write free software because this is a powerful enough meme
(that is a tradition that is strongly correlated to its own reproduction).
Catallactics is about memes that share limited resources and compete;
memes and scarcity, not just greed and scarcity.
A few fundamental theorems of memetics:
Note that you cannot define "public good" as a one absolute scale (total
ordering), but only as a collection of individual scales (partial ordering),
representing the various interests of each individual. Then, selection of the
fittest will have people able to satisfy and be satisfied survive and spread,
so public good will increase, until it eventually dies because of an
ecological disaster (waste of resource, in its most generic, higher-order,
- On a small memes that can cooperate with each other can have a
better self-reproduction yield that memes that don't cooperate
- On a large scale, blindly cooperating is an expense of resource
that has very random yield. So people who are blindly philanthropic
only lose resources (however, the meme that people with more resources
than the average have some philanthropic behavior is strong, because
it helps the society develop, with tradition of such behavior).
- Organizing the system according to philanthropical principles
on a large scale only leads to a waste of resources, because the
system's use of information is unadapted, and the informational
bandwidth is reduced; information is lost.
Free software in a world of cheap communication (the Internet)
has synergetical effects, whereby its existence encourages
production of more free software, even free of charge;
it creates self-fulfilling expectation of people writing free software
and contributing to free software by using, reporting bugs,
contributing patches, etc;
their is a culture of free software;
it is the culture of shared knowledge, of science.
A crucial point of course it the communication structure,
Free Software exists because the internet allows easy communication
and sharing at low to negligible cost (as compared to other costs involved
in acquisition, use and development of software).
Non-internetted parts of the world have not contributed to
the free software movement.
A very important magnitude that this cost must be compared to is the
cost of doing commercial publishing: if it was cheap reliable and yieldful
to get paid for software development (be it free or proprietary software),
people would do such development instead of developing free software for free.
It would mean reliable, copyright-aware, fine-grained
publisher- and user- secure software modules. Technologically, the
copyright-aware is the most difficult points; the other points will
eventually come in next decade(s).
Note that there are also people working for free developing
non-free software (unpublished software, shareware,
software that doesn't come with source, or software
with drastic usage conditions);
only such software doesn't benefit from
the synergy of the free software movement, and doesn't get to evolve
into anything technically interesting,
because no one is willing to contribute to software if a simple
decision (or lack thereof) of the software proprietor could void the efforts.
That is, frictions introduced by "rights" in software development
are such that any limitation in the right to modify and redistribute
voids any interest of making contribution in other people
in proportion to the volume of fees that would have to be collected
for the contribution to be felt useful by the would be contributor.
This discouragement which grows linearly with the expected gain
from the software proprietor, notwithstanding the fact that
proprietary software means that access to the source is very difficult,
which also discourages contributions.
These frictions are the barrier to entry that free software
strives to fight.
As of organization of unpaid software projects,
it appears that the communication structure also has impacts:
e-mail allows for slow exchange of rational arguments,
but doesn't allow for reasonably fast collective decision making;
hence all decision making has to stay personal in an internet project,
least video conferencing becomes cheap, or a particular project
happens to have a core of developers physically connected to each other
(for instance, students or researchers in a same university or laboratory).
This is a break to close complementarity of proficiencies in a project,
and also to real originality in free software,
to risks being taken in design of free software
(more exactly, to software with novel design benefitting from
much contributions from the free software world;
still both the short-term and long-term tradeoffs
remain in favor of free vs proprietary software even in this case).
Private research labs as well as public ones often publish
free software out of works that cost millions of dollars.
Free software allows easier development of products,
confrontation with other prototypical products;
they allow new standards to appear for cutting-edge domains,
they increase the positive image of the company/university,
and are an incentive to buy associated commercial services
(books, support, etc).
Even Intel publishes a lot of useful free software,
that works only on their hardware;
Sun develops free software about Java,
but intend to lead the market of commercial Java products and services; etc.
To sell services, you must help generate a need for them;
and free software is the way.
Let me insist on the cutting-edge aspect of free software.
Surely with free software, by definition, only new software need be done;
but conversely, when there's a new kind of software to appear,
nobody can predict the cost;
no committee can gather and even less agree, and settle a standard
by lack of experience and knowledge, by the high cost of such gathering,
by the divergence of opinions about such novel things.
Hence, the only way for a standard to emerge is a de facto standard;
and because of the high cost with poor yield of experimental things,
only free software is affordable by all to become de facto standard.
See all the RFC's on Usenet...
Most people writing commercial software are bad.
Most people writing free software are not better.
Proficiency IMO is independent from commercial or free.
However, positive feedback for free software is directly
correlated to objective software usefulness,
hence to author proficiency,
whereas this is not the case with commercial software,
so that the *selection pression* is more biased toward
objective quality in free software.
there are lots of non-software-writing-related
proficiencies that are required for marketing commercial software,
whereas they are not needed for free software.
Hence, lots of people who could never possibly market their software
are able to write free software.
[Hum, conversely, lots of people who could not write free
software do write commercial stuff; I'm not sure quality gains].
Other factors, like the fact that an editor would basically
steal your work out of you, prevents many software authors from
calling the service of marketing-proficient people to sell their
software. Such factors are influenced by the lack of acknowledgement
of free software by the financial world.
We must keep in mind that even when interest is involved,
it doesn't take the hope of earning millions to justify some activity;
all it takes is sufficient motivation for someone to undertake the activity.
Successful free software requires that enough people share similar interest
to somehow cooperate on a project.
Now, successful proprietary software requires that enough people share similar
interest to buy licenses, but they cannot communicate efficiently (and early)
enough to cooperate instead.
As far as secrets go, financial, legal and medical work
could be made to follow the rules of free software:
people could consult free databases of financial, legal or medical rules,
and pay only real work, not just access to the free database.
Note that this means that the official bulletin, legal texts
should actually be free,
and that's what the rule "nobody should ignore the law" suggests --
for people not to ignore the law, they should know it, hence have free
access to it.
By moving financial stakes from services to proprietorship,
laws on intellectual and industrial property
completely bias the market;
they encourage selling of licenses instead of service,
living on acquired rights instead of developing new technology,
gathering rights into monopolies instead of building proficiencies.
I don't want to force people to publish their information.
I want to not allow them to prevent other people to use information
that be somehow available. I also want to exclude work contracts that
require employees to surrender their soul to employers as far
as information is concerned.
If someone finds advantage in keeping things secrets,
then the burden to keep that thing secret is on him,
not on the public who is victim of the secret,
which is what information priviledges do.
Of course, competitive advantage lies in its ability to exploit
the human capital of a company, not in its raw available information.
Ending information priviledges will only encourage this ability,
to the benefit of everyone.
It's really but liberty vs protectionism
as applied to software-related services
(and nowadays, all services are somehow software-related).
A few years ago there were no free software company in France,
and maybe only Cygnus in the States. A few years later, the increase
has been more than exponential! And it's only a beginning.
Even now, with proprietary software, the biggest computer software companies
in the world do NOT make money principally from software publishing
(except perhaps for the racket-levying M$); they sell *services*.
See CapGemini-SOGETI, and even IBM, etc.
Making all software free (or rather, ending intellectual property priviledges)
won't remove one cent from this very profitable market;
on the contrary, it will open lots of new opportunities!
Intellectual property does NOT give an incentive to create. Lack thereof DOES.
Because only innovation (== writing *new* code, which is a service)
will be paid for, not publishing racket (== levying money on *old* code).
If you intend to sell a significant amount of new technology,
as compared to just selling old technology to the decreasing few
who haven't got it yet, or the non-increasing ones who want to replace
old and broken devices, then you'd better invest in new technology.
Plus if you're the one who does, you'll be the one with the know how
and the advance in the timeline. This is quite enough of an incentive
to push manufacturers to pay for research, even though information be free.
Pharmaceutic firms will invest in medical research
even without patents of medicines.
Maybe they'll invest less. So what? Maybe the same money will be better
invested elsewhere? Maybe there are other things in life more important
than saving a rich old man, like educating a poor old boy? Surely
the end of IPs will induce shifts in capital deployment.
I'm convinced it will be for the better!
FJC3 about software creation incentive:
A. The liberty to recoup the investment costs on a large software
project by charging a large number of customers a little. (You
propose that one customer gets charged the cost to develop the first
copy, then the rest are free.)
Example: Microsoft Windows
What do you propose as an alternative to A? Taxes?
Bad example. Linux and X-Window are free, and better than MS Windows.
And that, even though the current model shifted capitals out of Linux
and X-window development! Imagine how even better it can be, when
paid development of free software becomes the normal industry practice!
The key point is: with free software and appropriate development tools,
software development is INCREMENTAL.
Taxes can sure help for fundamental research actions.
As for practical software development, existing free software shows
that the market can very well support quality development of free software.
FJC3 about software creation incentive:
B. The incentive to develop a large project on speculation for a
market where there is no one customer willing to pay for the
Example: Any commercial software startup who will sell licenses.
What do you propose as an alternative to B?
That's a better example. But again, there are many solutions.
One solution I haven't excluded in my Manifesto is to keep some sort
of royalty system, bounded to authors' recovery of development costs.
But even then, I'm convinced that we don't actually need even this
limited kind of intellectual priviledge:
a. you can convince user consortiums of the advantage of your method,
and get a development contract, perhaps under warranty of results.
b. consortiums of users have permanent prizes for those who make
c. last but not least, the perspective of selling those massively profitable
services associated to the deployment of new technology
will encourage potential service providers to develop the new technology.
A cultural shift in software development practices.
Such a shift would *automatically* follow the legal end
of intellectual priviledges. If laws do not come first,
the shift will happen anyway, although much more slowly,
until the time is ripe, and the priviledges fall by themselves.
See Forrest J. Cavalier III's
Would you accept to be paid more for a job that's dull and depressing?
for a job that's stressful and unrewarding?
for a job you think is immoral?
Well, if not, then you should understand some reasons
why many people prefer unpaid free software development
to a carrier in proprietary software development.
If any programming effort disappears
due to the fall of intellectual property "rights",
it will be redundant efforts made unnecessary by sharing,
and should be accounted as saved efforts, not as unattained results.
[Imagine 3 fourth of programmers being laid off,
because people now use well-designed high-level programming languages
instead of crappy language like FORTRAN, COBOL, C++, VisualBasic, Java, etc;
it would be a net gain, not a loss, to the overall economy!]
There is competition, even in free software:
competition between features that may be implemented,
but only a few of which are, because resources lack.
Existing development frameworks, with their low-level interfaces,
force a lot of redundancy in efforts,
a lot of dissipation in irrelevant details,
a lot of stupid low-level incompatibilities,
and result in less features being coded.
Free software helps eliminating a lot of redundancy;
but it suffers the limitations of underlying frameworks;
however, it will also allow to leverage the advantage
of higher-level metaprogramming platforms,
whereas closed-source systems won't be able to.
Like any protection, Information Priviledges create a bit of visible wealth
at a few spots, and destroys ten times more invisible wealth everywhere else.
For any given software, protection encouraged its creation once,
then encouraged lack of further creation indefinitely.
Reread ANY argument of liberty against protectionism.
Reread "that which is seen as that which is not seen"
Insert data from mail to Charlie Nestel on 19981221.
The Internet allows exchange of data and data-treatment services
to be fast and extensive with very low overhead.
The monetary payment system as exists has much too much overhead
to be used in these conditions.
Even if the overhead was much less (allowing mini-cent payment and such),
the mere act of having to determine price and handle monetary transaction
would still be far more than payment is worth, unless it could someday
be automated in a trustworthy way (a doubtful hypothesis at best).
Hence, most of the little ev'ryday services will stay essentially unpaid.
This exchange of small unpaid services
is much like the benevolent attitude of people in the physical life:
letting tools or books to neighbours, letting one's seat in the metro
to people older or wearier than you are, smiling to the strangers around you,
welcoming people home, etc. None of these are paid, yet they participate
in a general climate that globally benefits to everyone,
whereas an adverse attitude of self-defense (up to paranoia)
costs a lot in cautions took, and doubting refusals of benevolent gratuitous
services from strangers.
Certainly, the attitude of people is somehow distributed at random,
and it is likely that malevolent people will be as many as benevolent ones.
In physical life, this means that the need to resist this malevolent behavior
limits the amount of benevolence you may have to total strangers,
and requires quite some overhead as a minimal self-defense system
(that the presence of social regulatory powers like the police and the
justice systems are meant to keep as low as possible).
Nevertheless, in the long run, the benevolent effects tend to add up,
whereas, unless consciously directed by some vicious leader,
the malevolent effects will fight each other,
so that progress may hopefully happen.
Now, in electronical life, the amount of physical damage incurred
by letting people publish data is little.
Well, better have regular backups, a good firewall,
and use cryptography, anyway, but the overhead for it relatively little,
since (using free software OSes at least) it can be essentially setup once
and be kept running a very long time for lots of people,
without having to run after upgrades.
Plus these redundancy and authentification methods are required
to avoid "normal" failures and general "noise", anyway.
All in all, there is an essentially constant overhead
for a quasi indefinite amount of information exchange.
Due to lack of incentive, data breakage is unlikely to be led
in a determinate way, unless in specific (e.g. banking) databases,
that induce direct control over physical property;
software is particularly unlikely to attract malevolent interest.
The result is that the hopeful slow long-term phenomenon expected
in physical exchanges happens surely and fast in the short term,
in information networks:
the benevolent attitude of hackers who build software
adds up essentially without having to fight direct adverse effects
(it must still adapt to an adverse environment,
but this is an essentially passive adversity, not an active one).
Integrate data from discussions on firstname.lastname@example.org
in march and april 2000.
In reply to DDFR laws_order
Copyright is not as easy as DDFR would make believe.
Inventions protected for a time proportional to their making?
No, because this time is not even measurable,
because the marginal in ....
The overall utility IS the incentive to research/create in a free market.
Any protectionist trick can but bias the market.
Secret software is different from proprietary software.
Keeping information secret, and require payment from those who ask for it
isn't against liberty.
On the other hand, claiming proprietary restrictions on released information
is an attempt to third parties' liberty.
It is evil to release software with a proprietary license,
unless the software is also available with a free software license.
Liberty is to reject the legitimacy of force
as a means to prevent voluntary exchange,
but it is also to reject the legitimacy of force
as a way to enforce involuntary exchange.
If someone is ready to pay for another one's work
at writing yet unreleased software,
let that one people pay, and the worker earn due compensation;
and let the amount of this compensation be freely negociated by both parties,
so that neither party be wronged.
Just because the abstract notion of a property
on "an idea" or an "expression of an idea" is conceivable
doesn't mean that this property belongs to anyone in particular.
It is conceivable that one had a monopoly on trade with India;
or that one has the right to sleep the first night with any serf bride in fief;
or that one holds a vast area of land as given by the conqueror king.
Just because such property is conceivable and has been seen in the past
doesn't mean that it can legitimately claimed by anyone.
Indeed, it is obvious that such property rights, when enforced,
are but theft, by force, of the rights of person correspondingly deprived:
in the case of a trade monopoly, people prevented to honestly earn
their lives with a competing trade, or to honestly seek a competitor
to provide him with foreign goods;
in the case of a supposed
jus primae noctis,
the right of the lord to every bride's first night is
but theft by force of each bride's right to her own first night;
in the case of land given by a conqueror king or other government,
it is similarly land stolen from the many people who used to own the
occupied parcels and from the many people who first would have peacefully
colonized the unoccupied ones.
In all these cases, we see that the claimed property right
by one is but a collection of smaller property rights that otherwise belong
to other people who have to be deprived for the claimed right to be enforced.
In a free society, the claim would be laughed at at rebuked,
because there is no way that the claimer can legitimately purchase
all these rights from the collection of people who individually hold them,
most of them yet unknown or even unborn
(the potential competitors and their customers,
the future brides, the future colonists).
However, where there is government intervention,
these claims often find support from the political powers,
because they can show a one great obvious benefit to the claimant,
which benefit can be used to bribe politicians,
whereas the victims are poor people,
who each have but a small claim,
who don't know each other and are disorganized,
who are sometimes born after the fact,
facing an established privilege,
and living in a world where the Rule of Law,
worse than not being taught, has been corrupted in the minds of people
into the Law of Mightiest, the Law of the Political Power.
This kind of plunder will tend to win ever more
in as much as the spread of the victims is wide
and the spread of the beneficiaries is narrow,
so they the victims have more difficulties defending themselves,
whereas the plunderer has a greater expected gain from this deed,
which both increases his interest and activity, while giving him
means to bribe politicians, and a spectacular focused visible positive side
to the transaction whereas the negative side is nowhere to be seen.
Well, Intellectual Property is typically this kind of mass-stolen property:
robbery of everyone, each from a relatively small right,
for the huge benefit of a small number of people.
Price that are set rather let emerge from a free market are fake.
They are wrong, and do not correspond to any reality whatsoever.
The discrepancy between the set price and the reality
destroys opportunities for creates an opport
The victims are the consumer who pays too much when the price is high,
the producers who receive
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