open software (88)

Tue, 7 Feb 89 19:32:07 EST

Humanist Mailing List, Vol. 2, No. 571. Tuesday, 7 Feb 1989.

(1) Date: Mon, 6 Feb 89 23:03:23 CST (43 lines)
From: Richard Goerwitz <>
Subject: open software

(2) Date: Tue, 7 Feb 89 14:34 EDT (25 lines)
From: Joe Giampapa <GIAMPAPA@brandeis.bitnet>
Subject: Re: intellectual property

(1) --------------------------------------------------------------------
Date: Mon, 6 Feb 89 23:03:23 CST
From: Richard Goerwitz <>
Subject: open software

Richard Stallman has some very attractive ideas. Although I don't
yet hold strong enough ideas on the matter to take one side or the
other, I've noticed that information does not flow as freely as it
might when commercial interests are at stake.

This feeling of withholding was particularly strong at the SBL meet-
ings (Society for Biblical Literature) this last fall. The academics
would get up, and tell us what they did and why. They'd also answer
any questions anyone cared to ask about the implementation of search
algorithms and what not.

Then the folks with commercial ties would get up and give their demos,
using SBL time to make money for themselves. In return, we expected
to hear from them something of what they were doing and how. Instead,
we got the clear message: "It's proprietary."

My own feelings were that such messages were contrary to the whole
point of a convention. Presumably we were all there to share know-
ledge. Sharing was simply not on the agenda of some of the business
interests represented there.

What made the whole thing kinda funny was that the commercial people
hadn't made any major breakthroughs. Their technology represented at
best a refinement of what many of us already knew about. It surely
would have been useful to discuss implementation specifics with them.
But their steadfast determination to hang on to "proprietary infor-
mation" still struck me as out of step with with the tone of an aca-
demic conference, and with the nature of their contribution.

Although I think people should have a right to make money off of soft-
ware they have written, I also feel that the rest of us should be
granted the right to be annoyed when such activities begin to stifle
the free flow of information at an academic conference.

-Richard L. Goerwitz

(2) --------------------------------------------------------------29----
Date: Tue, 7 Feb 89 14:34 EDT
From: Joe Giampapa <GIAMPAPA@brandeis.bitnet>
Subject: Re: intellectual property

I cannot speak for Stallman. However, my feeling is that the article was
sensationalized and glossed over some rather important historic details.
My suggestion for people is to read Steven Levy's _Hackers_ (the last chapter
mainly), which is where the article writer probably got most of his info

For people who are interested in how copyright laws apply to "intellectual
property" and software, I might be able to provide some additional information.
I am an executive committee member of "Computer Professionals for Social
Responsibility" (CPSR), the Boston chapter. One of our guest speakers was
the copyright lawyer who drafted Stallman's GNU distribution policy/copyright
notice. While our "library" is not very coherent, I might be able to find
some references and articles on this subject.

In the meantime, I will forward this notice on to RMS and/or FSF. I have
communicated w/ him before, but not in any "successful, verbose" way, so
I cannot promise a response.

Joe Giampapa