"rights" and "freedoms"

Justin Wells jread at semiotek.com
Thu Oct 14 22:09:40 UTC 1999

On Thu, Oct 14, 1999 at 01:30:05PM -0700, L. Peter Deutsch wrote:

> That's the issue in a nutshell.  The Free Software movement verges on taking
> the position that the only legitimate way for programmers to make money is
> to provide services.

You're being a little extreme here. I don't think the FSF ever said that 
non-free programming was illegitimate. 

Also, hardly any programmers have any right to receive royalties derived
from the works they create. It's very rare. The vast majority of programmers
exchange a programming service for a regular paycheque, and grant all rights
to their work to the company that pays them.

For most programmers, signing away their rights to the software under the
GPL is hardly different than signing it away under an NDA. It's just a 
slightly different business model for turning the service into cash. 

> I make the analogy with composers of music and writers
> of fiction.  I have yet to hear a persuasive explanation of why Free
> Software advocates think it's OK for authors of fiction to be paid for each
> copy of their work, but not programmers.

First, I think the FSF probably thinks it is "OK" to receive royalties for
programming work. They would just rather see more people do it the other way.

Second, there is no reason why musicians and authors couldn't adopt the 
same business model as free software developers. In the past it wasn't 
possible because it was expensive to create and distribute physical 
media. Now with MP3's and websites, it's just as cheap to distribute an
essay or song as it is to distribute software. 

Why wouldn't some musicians and authors decide to release works to the 
public for free? Their idea being that, like free software developers, 
as their reputations grow people will come along and pay them to create
works for special occasions, and pay them to come and speak or perform 
at special events. 

In fact, this is more or less how authors and musicians made their living
for most of recorded history. It's only been relatively recently, since 
the industrial revolution, that it's been any other way. Perhaps that was
just a brief detour in human history and we're about to move back on track.

> Why is software different?  And if it isn't different, why are
> software authors singled out?

Software isn't different. It's just that Stallman and friends are 
programmers, and the 'S' in FSF stands for "Software". I'm sure they 
would approve of someone founding a FFF (Free Fiction Foundation) or 
a FMF (Free Music Foundation) with a similar ideology. 

Once again, recall that the business model advocated by the FSF is exactly
the way musicians and authors have earned a living throughout history. It
isn't something new.


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