"rights" and "freedoms"

L. Peter Deutsch ghost at aladdin.com
Fri Oct 15 13:34:22 UTC 1999

>> 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.

This doesn't defuse my comment, it just pushes it back one level: they are
being paid by the *company's* ability to charge per-unit fees for the
software.  (This is for externally sold software: see below regarding
internal software.)

You can't get something for nothing.  A FS/OSS distribution company like Red
Hat can't hike the prices for its value added high enough to employ a large
development staff.  If they do, they'll eventually be undercut by someone
who doesn't.  Paying a premium for the brand name only stretches so far.

> More than that.  Something like 90% of programmers are working on software
> for internal company use only.  How is free software going to take away
> these jobs?

By reducing the amount of effort required to work around the problems of the
black-box environments in which those programmers are having to solve their
problems today, by reducing the number of those problems in the first place,
and eventually by producing better environments.  It won't take away all of
them, but it will take away some of them.  Also, as FS/OSS catches on, some
of that software that would be useful to others will become openly
available, reducing the "reinventing the wheel" that goes on now and further
reducing the need for programmers.

To the extent that FS/OSS makes good software available more widely and more
cheaply, it will put programmers out of work or at least cut their incomes.
The claims that lowering the cost of software will result in more software
being produced are just that -- claims.  There is no evidence to back them
up, only general economic hand-waving.  If it results in more units of the
same piece of software being bought (at a lower price), that doesn't produce
more software.  It might increase the productivity of the *buyers*, but that
would require evidence that use of software increases business productivity,
and from what little I know about this topic, the evidence is mixed.

It still floors me that the FS movement effectively values the activities of
distributors (who are entitled to be paid by the unit for providing FS) more
highly than those of programmers (who aren't).  But maybe that is an
accurate reflection of the value perceived by the user.


L. Peter Deutsch         |       Aladdin Enterprises :::: ghost at aladdin.com
203 Santa Margarita Ave. | tel. +1-650-322-0103 (AM only); fax +1-650-322-1734
Menlo Park, CA 94025     |        http://www.cs.wisc.edu/~ghost/index.html

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