"rights" and "freedoms"

Bernard Lang Bernard.Lang at inria.fr
Sun Oct 17 08:37:10 UTC 1999

On Fri, Oct 15, 1999 at 02:38:45PM -0700, Derek J. Balling wrote:
> At 03:01 PM 10/15/99 -0600, Richard Stallman wrote:
> >Peter Deutsch wrote:

> >       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.  If the
> >     distinction is between a "purely expressive" and a
> >     "functional" work, how about authors of cookbooks?  Authors of
> >     how-to books of all kinds?  Authors of reference works?

> I mean, if that Frozen Chicken Enchilada isn't JUST the way you 
> like it, you have no ability to tinker with the recipe and make it what you 
> want.  Perhaps a General Food License should be established, requiring that 
> the recipe of instructions for how to make any prepared food be available 
> upon request.

> Peter's point is valid -- a freedom is a freedom is a freedom, regardless 
> of the forum in which that freedom is used.

Well ... NO. Freedom is based on social contract... unless you want to
be free in the jungle, struggling by yourself and for yourself,
without your fellow human beings (free software would then not even
make sense)
  And the social contract defines your freedom in various
ways. Someone said, for example, that it stops where the freedom of
others begin (you are not supposed to shoot your schoolmates). It can
also be based, limited (it is necessarily limited anyway) by general
interest of the community you live in, according to rules considered
adequate by this community (maybe not by you). And, since you freedom,
or your restrictions on the freedom of others (by copyright, patents,
etc...) are enforced or protected by the structure of the community,
you do not get that much choice, except seeing how it can be best
adapted to what you believe in (which RMS has wonderfully done) or
trying to convince your fellow humans to do differently (which
Staline, and Pinochet on a smaller scale, have not so wonderfully

So what should be free and what should not will be primarily based on
what the community decides is best for whatever reasons are considered
essential. That is how the copyright and the patent system were
created to begin with, not so long ago, and there are no other real
justification for their existence.

  In the case of software, there are some excellent reasons (possibly
not those of Richard). One reason is that, like many sciences,
software develops most effectively in the free model. Hence free
software means better software, and everybody benefits.

  The you tell me, why not in other engineering or scientific domains.
Why patents here and not there... That is exactly the arguments of
lawyers and PTO and EPO and other bodies. One size fits all, and that
is why french schools in the Carribean have excellent heating for
winter, but no fans  (same as in north of France).

  But if you analyse the economic interest of the community, you
realize that one size does not fit all, by a wide margin. It is
largely a question of incentives, and cost of investment for creating,
disseminating, and bringing to market. It is huge for drugs, and tiny
in comparison for software. Hence medical drug research would not even
be considered if it were not for investment protection.

 An alternative could be to have the research paid by the community,
the state, and it is done to some extent. But, if the results are
free, the research is not any freer because one need support (from a
limited supply) to conduct it. And some consider that there are other
drawbacks in the necessary decision making.

  There are other issues. Some things are not essential enough for the
community that there is no really useful point in depriving the author
of what he considers his. And it might lso cause a disincentive for

  Well... this is much too short ... but should give the general idea.

Bernard.Lang at inria.fr             ,_  /\o    \o/    Tel  +33 1 3963 5644
http://pauillac.inria.fr/~lang/  ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^  Fax  +33 1 3963 5469
            INRIA / B.P. 105 / 78153 Le Chesnay CEDEX / France
         Je n'exprime que mon opinion - I express only my opinion

More information about the License-discuss mailing list