open software, cont. (195)

Wed, 8 Feb 89 23:26:39 EST

Humanist Mailing List, Vol. 2, No. 574. Wednesday, 8 Feb 1989.

(1) Date: Wed, 8 Feb 89 14:33 EST (30 lines)
Subject: Access, innovation, proprietary SW

(2) Date: 08 Feb 89 15:26:04 EST (26 lines)
From: Malcolm Hayward <MHAYWARD@IUP.BITNET>
Subject: Intellectual Property

(3) Date: 8 February 1989 14:40:03 CST (56 lines)
From: "Michael Sperberg-McQueen 312 996-2477 -2981" <U35395@UICVM>
Subject: lucre, filthy or not

(4) Date: Wed, 08 Feb 89 16:28:39 EST (16 lines)
From: Stephen Clausing <SCLAUS@YALEVM>
Subject: free software?

(5) Date: Wed, 08 Feb 89 21:13:10 GMT (32 lines)
From: Mark Sacks <AP02@IBM.LIVERPOOL.AC.UK>
Subject: Re: intellectual property (246)

(1) --------------------------------------------------------------------
Date: Wed, 8 Feb 89 14:33 EST
Subject: Access, innovation, proprietary SW

Two more viewpoints on intellectual property vs. development, etc.
Last year I kicked around an idea on the MED-SIG on Compuserve that
"someone" should develop a public domain medical records system so
that all these small shops wouldn't have to reinvent the wheel,
with, hopefully, an improvement in energy devoted to improving
medical care, consolidating epidemiological info, etc. Many people
pointed out that such a system (namely, COSTAR in MUMPS) was done
in 1975-or-so, and that most users preferred to buy a commercial
version that included support, upgrades, etc. over essentially the
same thing for free. That is, of course, a high-stakes arena.
Proprietary vendors, on the other hand, sometimes seem to get
so paranoid that they cut off their own air supply (lessons here
for the USA as a whole vs the world, anyone?) I once spend a full
day at IBM's offices with them showing off their latest database,
word processing, etc. It only took 5 minutes or less in each area
before I was asking "How do I..." about some feature that was quite
prominent in other products on the market, and IBM looked blank and
surprised and replied "Well, you can't do that yet..." Apparently
they totally isolate their development teams so nothing can
"leak out" -- nor, apparently, IN. I suspect it's not just IBM --
I asked digital about a feature that was trivial on a Macintosh, and
got a blank look,like, what's a macintosh...
I'm not sure what that leads to, but I thought I'd share the
Wade Schuette,
Johnson Graduate School of Management @ Cornell U.
(2) --------------------------------------------------------------30----
Date: 08 Feb 89 15:26:04 EST
From: Malcolm Hayward <MHAYWARD@IUP.BITNET>
Subject: Intellectual Property

I am in strong agreement with the sympathies Stallman expresses
towards the sharing of software. While it is quite reasonable to
protect unique and individual products of a creative mind (novels,
poems, art works), it is an antisocial act to lock away ideas
or to make them accessible only to those with money--lots of money,
in fact. The production of software should be in the same class as
the production of scholarly and scientific ideas, i.e., freely
available in journals or books. I think this is particularly true
in the case of materials produced by academics. The other day I
was copying a program (so shoot me) for a friend in an eastern
European country. This program would have cost him his salary
for a few months--though an academic from the States could have
afforded it easily enough. In other words, making software
expensive is one more way of distorting the world, making sure
the haves keep on having, etc. None of us want that, do we?

I remember a point Buckminster Fuller made about most forms of
material wealth being expendable, depletable, but metaphysical
wealth, ideas--that's different. With ideas, the more you have,
the more everybody will have. It is a renewable form of wealth.
That is the model for software that we should adopt.

(3) --------------------------------------------------------------60----
Date: 8 February 1989 14:40:03 CST
From: "Michael Sperberg-McQueen 312 996-2477 -2981" <U35395@UICVM>
Subject: lucre, filthy or not

There are a number of ironies about the way we all view software and
intellectual property generally. Academics are usually fairly aware of
intellectual property rights for authors, at least to the extent of
disapproving of pirated editions and pressing for the reform of the U.S.
copyright law to close the loopholes that made it possible (for example)
to pirate Tolkien's work in the U.S. But disapproval of piracy doesn't
connect, somehow, to the mass photocopying of class readings from books
that are still in copyright (or even still in print). And we hardly
need to tell each other how widespread software piracy is on campus, and
not because academics are making a principled stand for freedom of

I find myself torn. It seems to me only fair for someone to be able to
ask for royalties in exchange for using the fruit of their labor, and I
believe piracy should be treated with the same seriousness we bring to,
say plagiarism. (Not the same penalties, necessarily, but the same

On the other hand, who wants to be a policeman? I wouldn't want to try
to make money off of software development, if only because I don't want
to find myself thinking more about ways to limit unauthorized copying
than about ways to use computers in textual research, or having to say
"Oh, I can't tell you about that, it's proprietary" at a conference.
We had an eloquent posting some time ago from Jim Coombs about giving
up a development project out of the realization that a commercial product
aimed only at academics was suicidal.

I admire the reasoning that leads Stallman, for example, to his current
heroic endeavors, and I savor the stories of his exploits. It's not
*strictly* true that making copies of software doesn't cost anything
(you have to have the system in the first place), but the marginal cost
is really pretty low, and the renunciation of royalties is a good way to
help make the machine a leveler, not a toy only of the rich.

There was a time, of course, when all or almost all software *was* free.
The courts forbade that in the course of one or the other of the
anti-trust suits against IBM. Has that really helped us, or the
computer industry? One long-term result in mainframe computing is that
IBM, now convinced that system-level software is "strategic", refuses to
distribute electronic source code even to licensees. Result: it's
harder to maintain and harder to find and fix bugs.

Whether one is convinced by the idealistic arguments or not, the general
rule is correct: if software were free (i.e. if software development
costs were absorbed as overhead where not volunteered by individuals)
many things about the world could be nicer.

[The opinions expressed are not necessarily those of my employer, who
needs every nickel it can find, and not even necessarily what I will
think after I meditate on this some more.]

Michael Sperberg-McQueen
(4) --------------------------------------------------------------19----
Date: Wed, 08 Feb 89 16:28:39 EST
From: Stephen Clausing <SCLAUS@YALEVM>
Subject: free software?

I think it is unrealistic to expect commercial software programs to exist
without the profit incentive. Many of these programs require years of work
from professional programmers with families to support and these people have
to be paid. The real issue is whether we in the academic community should be
going after the dollars or whether our software should be free. After all, we
already have jobs and can afford to be generous. The problem is that we still
need promotions, tenure, merit pay, not to mention respect and a pat on the
back now and then. I don't see much of any of this in my own work and my
experience from talking to other academic software developers is that they
feel the same way. I recently won an EDUCOM award but I would gladly trade
my prize money for tenure. Since I cannot get the first, I might as well take
the second. This is sad.
(5) --------------------------------------------------------------46----
Date: Wed, 08 Feb 89 21:13:10 GMT
From: Mark Sacks <AP02@IBM.LIVERPOOL.AC.UK>
Subject: Re: intellectual property (246)

Debate Re Mr. Stallman's COPYLEFT

Apparently Mr. Stallman's critics object to his ideas, claiming that
protecting intellectual property is vital to encouraging innovation.
This sounds like a view from deep inside a particularly mercenary point
of view. The notion of intellectual *property* is dubious. I am much
more comfortable with the notion of intellectual *authorship* or
*rights*. But of course not all rights are property rights.

For better or for worse it is probably the case that protecting authorial
rights is vital for the encouragement of innovation. Egos will be egos.
But it is not clear that to protect those rights we must introduce the
notion of property rights, with the related financial stakes.
Fair attribution, and a degree of fame, would probably be enough.
Mr. Stallman might want to deny that even that much was necessary.
But it is difficult not to notice that that very stance has already
given him the kind of profile that assures fair attribution in his case.
In the relevant sense, Mr Stallman already owns his ideas.

There is no doubting that programmers should be paid to do
what they do, just as much as anyone else. Nor is there any doubt that
an author must be recognized to have certain rights over his or her
work. But there is every doubt as to whether the rights to intellectual
or artistic results (assuming a difference between them) need be
interpreted as property rights in order to encourage or indeed protect
innovation. In fact, if the stakes were reduced, innovation would not be
such a risky business.