25 May 2009

RMS and His Magic Bread

One of the reasons I admire RMS is because of his complete integrity and consistency. He simply will not compromise on his principles, even if it leads to the loss of support from those who are not so rigorous. I'm also impressed by the steadfastness of his vision: he does not flit from one trendy idea to another, but sticks unswervingly to his core beliefs.

But even I am astonished by this July 1986 interview with him, which could have been conducted yesterday:


BYTE: Given that manufacturers haven't wanted to fund the project, who do you think will use the GNU system when it is done?

Stallman: I have no idea, but it is not an important question. My purpose is to make it possible for people to reject the chains that come with proprietary software. I know that there are people who want to do that. Now, there may be others who don't care, but they are not my concern. I feel a bit sad for them and for the people that they influence. Right now a person who perceives the unpleasantness of the terms of proprietary software feels that he is stuck and has no alternative except not to use a computer. Well, I am going to give him a comfortable alternative.

I was particularly struck by the following passage:

Stallman: I'm trying to change the way people approach knowledge and information in general. I think that to try to own knowledge, to try to control whether people are allowed to use it, or to try to stop other people from sharing it, is sabotage. It is an activity that benefits the person that does it at the cost of impoverishing all of society. One person gains one dollar by destroying two dollars' worth of wealth. I think a person with a conscience wouldn't do that sort of thing except perhaps if he would otherwise die. And of course the people who do this are fairly rich; I can only conclude that they are unscrupulous. I would like to see people get rewards for writing free software and for encouraging other people to use it. I don't want to see people get rewards for writing proprietary software because that is not really a contribution to society. The principle of capitalism is the idea that people manage to make money by producing things and thereby are encouraged to do what is useful, automatically, so to speak. But that doesn't work when it comes to owning knowledge. They are encouraged to do not really what's useful, and what really is useful is not encouraged. I think it is important to say that information is different from material objects like cars and loaves of bread because people can copy it and share it on their own and, if nobody attempts to stop them, they can change it and make it better for themselves. That is a useful thing for people to do. This isn't true of loaves of bread. If you have one loaf of bread and you want another, you can't just put your loaf of bread into a bread copier. you can't make another one except by going through all the steps that were used to make the first one. It therefore is irrelevant whether people are permitted to copy it—it's impossible.

Books were printed only on printing presses until recently. It was possible to make a copy yourself by hand, but it wasn't practical because it took so much more work than using a printing press. And it produced something so much less attractive that, for all intents and purposes, you could act as if it were impossible to make books except by mass producing them. And therefore copyright didn't really take any freedom away from the reading public. There wasn't anything that a book purchaser could do that was forbidden by copyright.

But this isn't true for computer programs. It's also not true for tape cassettes. It's partly false now for books, but it is still true that for most books it is more expensive and certainly a lot more work to Xerox them than to buy a copy, and the result is still less attractive. Right now we are in a period where the situation that made copyright harmless and acceptable is changing to a situation where copyright will become destructive and intolerable. So the people who are slandered as “pirates” are in fact the people who are trying to do something useful that they have been forbidden to do. The copyright laws are entirely designed to help people take complete control over the use of some information for their own good. But they aren't designed to help people who want to make sure that the information is accessible to the public and stop others from depriving the public. I think that the law should recognize a class of works that are owned by the public, which is different from public domain in the same sense that a public park is different from something found in a garbage can. It's not there for anybody to take away, it's there for everyone to use but for no one to impede. Anybody in the public who finds himself being deprived of the derivative work of something owned by the public should be able to sue about it.

A little later on, he returns to that loaf of bread:

Stallman: More people using a program means that the program contributes more to society. You have a loaf of bread that could be eaten either once or a million times.

It's an important point, and one I think we could usefully employ to get across what is at stake here.

Imagine that you are in a world where people are starving. Imagine you have some bread, and you were confronted with starving people: most would feel a compulsion to share that bread. But imagine now that you had RMS's special kind of bread that could be eaten once or a million times: how much greater would the duty to share that bread with the hungry be? And how much more despicable would the person who refused to share that bread be?

Translate this now to the realm of ideas. We are surrounded by people hungry for knowledge, and we do possess that magic bread - digital copies of knowledge that can be shared infinitely without diminishing it. Do we not have a similar moral duty to share that magic bread of digital knowledge with all those that hunger for it?

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70 comments:

Vonskippy said...

Unlike Stallman, knowledge has matured over time. Today, making significant gains in any field of knowledge takes plenty of manpower and money. Who in their right mind would invest that time and money if the profit was to be zero. Stallman and anyone who follows his nonsense needs to GROW UP.

glyn moody said...

Well, I don't think that's true, actually. The rise of the Internet, plus collaborative tools like wikis make it much easier to create digital knowledge. That, in its turn, makes its hoarding even more reprehensible.

As to why anyone would invest time and money to create if profit is zero, I think Bill Gates asked this question a couple of decades ago - and received an answer with the rise of free software, which has been steadily eroding his empire.

If you're interested in the motivations of people who write things for free, you might browse through some of the other posts on this blog, many of which discuss this very topic. Needless to say, they're all freely available.

Crosbie Fitch said...

Don't forget, it's not about giving your work away without payment.

Free as in speech, not as in beer.

There's nothing wrong with exchanging the value of your work in a free market.

All that disappears is the monopoly (the suspension of others' liberty), not the ability to sell your work.

glyn moody said...

Indeed - thanks for that reminder.

Bill Hooker said...

[this is good]

Don't have anything substantive to say, just enjoyed the post very much.

glyn moody said...

Thanks: I appreciate the feedback - and do spread the meme....

Renich said...

really cool article...

I wish we could keep focus on "useful" and not "$$$".

Thanks to the FOSS community for their efforts and giving me the privilege of using the FOSS I use today!

glyn moody said...

Thanks for that.

guido i said...

@Vonskippy:

Well, consider this:

Encarta is dead.
Wikipedia is alive.

Solaris was deading, until it was opensourced.

Proprietary Unixes... mmmh... where is Irix?

And consider this:

Android i s free software
Symbian will be free software
Who needs Windows mobile?

Firefox and Google is free software. How needs IE?

And so on.

Simply, you are in the 20th century.
Update yourself please.

Anonymous said...

Am I the only one that read that as "RMS and His Magic Beard"?

gus3 said...

"I think that the law should recognize a class of works that are owned by the public, which is different from public domain in the same sense that a public park is different from something found in a garbage can. It's not there for anybody to take away, it's there for everyone to use but for no one to impede."

That's an interesting take, vis-a-vis street gangs who take over public parks as their own playgrounds. Someone always spoils it for everyone else, be they street gangs in parks, or cyber criminals using Linux.

jezuch said...

Vonskippy: Also don't forget about unversities. They have an obligation to advance knowledge in exchange for our tax money (and/or tuition, depending on where you live). Now it would be nice if they also published that knowledge, but I'm aware that there's a recent trend to "monetize" it instead. More money!!

Carl said...

Excellent post. I do believe RMS is someone who is way ahead of his time. The number of open source projects and the active development in places like github is something he'd be proud of. I agree with him, though I cannot say that I am as principled as he is. What I can say is that I do believe knowledge should not be restricted and should be freely shared. Now, software is knowledge too - just in a different language. Why should it be treated differently?

Agus said...

Thanks for this post.

Certainly, RMS is someone to look up to when it comes to being true to oneself.

I may not agree with everything he says but no one can deny his coherence and integrity.

glyn moody said...

@anon - nice one

glyn moody said...

@Agus: yes, RMS has always struck me as a good example of "to thine own self be true".

sergej said...

another point of view why to share your work for free. You all know Start Trek. So there was a Parts where Enterprise by accident comes in to the past and they helps an inventor of Warp engine to finish his work. And thay are telling about the future and that there is no money in the future. One of the people from the past, was wandering how it is possible and why do they work and do anything if they have no profit. The answer was simple: "We are working to make the World and our lives better". So if you have virtually accesses to anything than the profit turn's out to mean nothing. You can't by anything because everything is available for free. You can have anything, any information you need. So in turn you share your own work, because it becomes natural. I thing it's a good idea, of course it's an utopia but I'm sure every one fells that's a right think. And it's for me the mane reason why do I use GNU/Linux. Maybe it will become a basis for the better World for all of us, who knows....

Anonymous said...

RMS is a sad story, a very smart man with almost perfect SAT's, an intelligent physist and scientist, and probably a fair programmer.

And what does this giant brain spend his life doing ?

Being an activist, Hmm big deal.

All that brain power waisted.

And I notice with amusement his comments on copyright, only later to develop the GPL which is basically a copyright based contract. (if anything, apart from viral).

So sadly, RMS has been flogging a dead horse for over 20 years. The GPL license/contract has yet to be proven out court.

GPL is so far behind everyone else,
EULA
BSD (OSx)
apache 2.0 (Google)
Linux (GPLv2)

So as far as market share goes, the GPL has equal bottom with google !!.

This shows to me (and the world) RMS's GPL model is flawed, and in over 20 years has yet to get off the ground..

Niki Kovacs said...

@Vonskippy:

"Who in their right mind would invest that time and money if the profit was to be zero. Stallman and anyone who follows his nonsense needs to GROW UP."

One out of many examples. The french Aérospatiale industry mainly develops software open source.

Recommended reading: "L'économie du logiciel libre" (François Elie)

surjagain said...

I wonder what would have happened if RMS did not come along and start the free software movement. Imagine if there were only companies who made proprietary software. Would this be a better world then? Would computing be where it is now? Would piracy decrease? Would it be easy to learn about software?
Let's just be glad there was a free software movement(free as in speech).

glyn moody said...

@anonymous: I don't think a life spent bringing freedom to people can be said to be wasted.

As to the GNU GPL, it has been tested in German courts and upheld (http://news.cnet.com/2100-7344-5198117.html).

Yonah said...

You've got to be joking here. You actually liken Richard "Needs a Shave" Stallman to Jesus Christ? I'm speechless. I'm not a Christian, but I'm simply stunned you have turned an ex-software programmer turned activist zealot into a Christ like figure. It's truly disgusting. You show exactly how Linux and the FOSS group that worships it has turned into a sort of cult.

glyn moody said...

@Yonah: where did I do that?

blackbelt_jones said...

Should I bother to reply to Von Skippy. I think he probably skipped away long ago. Greedy people like to think that if not for greed, nothing would ever get done. They pretend it's a philosophy, but it's just a rationalization. Greed hasn't made the use health care system more efficient. It didn't make the banks prudent when they made all those toxic loans that we're all paying back now.

Which is not for a moment to say that profit isn't a crucual engine of society, but if we're going to thrive in a changing world we need new ideas.

FOSS is an engine for generating software. If you're a programmer,. software that you can alter and redistribute is more useful, and therefore more valuble. Traditionally, the profit is the main point, and the software is secondary. Proprietary software means the software is rendered less useful and less valuble to protect the profit. It's exactly what stallman says it is, destroying two dollars worth of weath to claim one dollar.

Yonah said...

Try this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Feeding_the_multitude

Jesus fed 5,000 people with 5 small loves of bread and 2 fish and still had leftovers. Obviously, it would be impossible to feed this many people with so little substance, but just like Stallman's magic bread you refer to, in the hands of Jesus the supply of food is enough for everyone.

blackbelt_jones said...

All that brain power waisted.You gotta love this guy.

We're communicating on software he made made possible, Einstein! It's on the international space station, It powers the internet. Its on laptops all over the world. The army uses it. Very few activists ever have this effect on the real world. Richard Stallman may be a little crazy, but his effect is felt on everybody's life, everyday. Billions of times a day. And what he started continues to grow. So just go ahead and be amused, look down on people who really change the world, be amused, and whatever you do, please don't learn how to spell!



And I notice with amusement his comments on copyright, only later to develop the GPL which is basically a copyright based contract. (if anything, apart from viral).Copyright? Or patents? Not the same thing, you know. I'd explain it to you, but I think I'd just be "waisting" my time.

Anonymous said...

Glyn, nice post...
It obviously hit home since you drew in so many trolls. Nice going. I wonder if some group is searching for stallman's name to post rubbish whenever published.

Again. Keep up the good work.

glyn moody said...

Yonah, yes, I know the story well. But I didn't refer to it: I merely talked about bread.

It could have been carrots, or prawn cocktails, but bread was what RMS mentioned, and stands as a kind of universal symbol for food. So what's wrong with that?

glyn moody said...

@anon: thanks. Yes, it's interesting how strongly people are responding.

Jose_X said...

Glyn, thanks for that. RMS, thanks as well (duh).

>> Today, making significant gains in any field of knowledge takes plenty of manpower and money. Who in their right mind would invest that time and money if the profit was to be zero

Who in their right mind thinks RHT is not making a profit, nor its employees making a living?

Who in their right mind things that scientists and doctors and many other professionals that share their contributions can't make a living?

Who in their right mind thinks that lawyers share and build a common work yet don't make money?

Who in their right mind thinks that people contribute to FOSS yet not indulge in the much larger contributions of every else?

>> ..street gangs who take over public parks as their own playgrounds. Someone always spoils it for everyone else, be they street gangs in parks, or cyber criminals using Linux.

Yes, we need to clean up after all the cyber criminals, whether they use Windows, Apple software, or FOSS.

Great idea.

In fact, Linux+FOSS has a head start over the closed source vendors here by giving idle minds and frustrated geniuses a great way to shine through and make a name for themselves positively.

Only FOSS gives you so much for free.

Here's a toast to FOSS for helping to eliminate reasons potential criminals might have to want to steal and damage those with more things than them.

>> And what does this giant brain spend his life doing ?
>> Being an activist, Hmm big deal.

Perhaps if the anonymous poster of this comment had a giant brain, (s)he'd realize the satisfaction in giving and not live life from fix to fix and trying to amass money that will never be used while missing out on all the free things life has to offer.

RMS (and anyone else) gets more accomplished if others join than if they don't.

>> And I notice with amusement his comments on copyright, only later to develop the GPL which is basically a copyright based contract.

He'd probably consider that Plan B: a band-aid measure to make the growth of FOSS more likely to thrive earlier.

In fact, he may have even underestimated the potential of the GPL.

>> GPL is so far behind everyone else,
>> EULA
>> BSD (OSx)
>> apache 2.0 (Google)
>> Linux (GPLv2)

This picture is missing information and important players.

Importantly as well, it is missing trends. Please come back in 3 years with your new graph.

It is also missing (perhaps most importantly of all) the number of distinct, personalized, better-fit, free, supported software in existence primarily because of the GPL. Eg, there is only one OSx, you have to pay for it, and you are very limited in what you can do with it. There are hundreds of useful and personalized Linux distros.

Jose_X said...

>> Obviously, it would be impossible to feed this many people with so little substance, but just like Stallman's magic bread you refer to, in the hands of Jesus the supply of food is enough for everyone.

Yes, RMS c-a-n-n-o-t duplicate bread (in his hands or through any other means).

RMS does not equal Jesus. I thought the essay was clear.

What RMS and everyone else on the planet can in fact duplicate is software and information stored inside a computer.

RMS is no more capable than you or I.

This aside, there was Biblical imagery, I thought.

Like if that never happens.

Maybe we can raise a fund to sue Glyn.

glyn moody said...

@jose_X: or maybe Biblical imagery is in the mental eye of the beholder...

Ochilblog said...

I've often thought that RMS is informed by works such as "Bread and Factories" by Kropotkin. This seems to confirm that stance (and it's only 1986 when he's speaking, don't forget). Copyright is not a problem - patents and DRM in the age of digital reproduction seem to me, ultimately pointless.

Anonymous said...

while(true){
std::cout<<"bread"
}

Roger Lancefield said...

Jose_X wrote:

"Maybe we can raise a fund to sue Glyn."

Er, for what? *Allegedly* appropriating a superstitious tale for use as a metaphor in a reality-based context?

Good luck with that Jose_X.

glyn moody said...

To be fair, I think Jose_X was joking....

Roger Lancefield said...

Blimey. Re-reading the comment it is obvious enough. Somehow I conflated Jose_X with Yonah up above.

I'm having a bad Internet day. Typos, misreadings, sticks grabbed at the wrong end. I think it would be best if I just yank the ADSL router cable out of the Internet for the rest of the day and go and get some sleep.

Of course it all started going wrong for me when I gave up the alcohol...

glyn moody said...

Ha! Very good.

The Mad Hatter said...

Glyn,

Nice article. No let's make that excellent article.

Right now Microsoft (and several other companies) would like to make the use of the GNU General Public License illegal (hopefully moving GPL licensed works either into the Public Domain, or a BSD styled license). For example see the letter that Darl McBride the SCO Group wrote which asserts that the GNU GPL violates the U.S. Constituion. This is because they can't use "Stallman's bread".

For while the GNU GPL that Richard Stallman supplies bread to the masses, this bread is so good that Microsoft, SCO, and other companies are loosing sales because of their inability to design a bread that is competitive with Stallman's bread. The SCO Group is in Chapter 11 bankruptcy at present, and the Trustee has proposed that it should be put into Chapter 7 bankruptcy. Microsoft is in deep trouble financially. Read their SEC filings.

Indeed the entire idea of "Free Culture" (including computer programs) is antithetical to most companies that make money from culture, such as the film and television industries, the music industry, the news industry, etc. The problem is that most of these companies cannot see how to make money in a free culture society. They would like to see the Creative Commons licenses, the GNU GPL, and other licenses that are designed to protect the user made illegal to use.

This is because they don't really understand the business that they are in. Take Redhat for instance. Redhat makes a lot of money by giving their product away. Consider Star Wreck, a film made on a budget of 17,000 euros which is a free download (or you can buy DVDs, Tee Shirts, and coffee mugs).

Those who understand the business of Free Culture will do well. Those who don't will die. On their way down they will try and convince the politicians that they deserve support, and we may end up with the equivalent of being forced to carry buggy whips in our cars, and having to take the care to the blacksmith once a month to inspect non-existent horse shoes, unless we are vigilant and let the politicians know that they shouldn't waste our money this way. Think of it as Evolution in Action.

glyn moody said...

Thanks for that thoughtful analysis.

stiiixy said...

All this talk about bread and sharing reminds me of an old Aussie classic 'The Magic Pudding'. Worth a read for both comedial, literary and relevancy reasons.

Otherwise, a worthy read and a great reminder of why sharing and caring gets more done than the new/old corporate drudgery with a sense of self-worth and satisfaction, flame-wars inclusive =)

Xhl4HkE63tmUVCMWfPHltOIZbOmDK2iYgQ-- said...

I strongly believe in freedom. And I like much the GPL license, however unlike what asserted by FSF also this license is not a completely free license. If you create a system and part of it contains GPL software then the entire system must be GPL. This is a fair tradeoff, it is necessary because freedom must be defended.

So, the GPL license is perfect for general software, for well supported software, like OS, Browser, Office tools, and so on. But I think we need also other types of free licenses that are able to solve several issues of the GPL. Let's make some example.

A developer believe in a new project. He worked 3 years over it making a nice GPL software, with much work and much sacrifices. Most probably he didn't got much support because new, unknown, a niche and simply because most projects don't get a support. Still his software is very nice. One day day a publisher company see that software, makes a CDROM out of it, print 10000 copies and sell it well in most computer shops and supermarkets of the country. The publisher has the money and know HOWTO but it's a greedy publisher and he doesn't give back a cent to the developer. GPL allow it but is this correct?

Right now a guy is selling several GPL software on E-Bay. He specify all the nice features but not the name of the software, selling it for like $10. After you bought it you discover that you got a well known software already on your computer. Is this correct?

I found a nice GPL software that was copied, renamed, changed a little bit to give a different look and sold as a proprietary software. It's a violation, but it is happening. The original author is just a sole developer without funds and power to stop that, even then sometimes it's not easy because such a bad guy stays in another country. Is this correct?

A single developer is creating a free nice software, every month 20,000 users download it but he get an average of only $50 in donations, because it's a niche software for a small market. And mostly because our world still don't believe much in donations. His wish is to make the software better but he can spend only some spare free time over it because he must work to maintain his own life. He feels unhappy for not having more time to improve it in a more extensive way. If only a 1% of the users would donate him $10 this would be enough for a full time development and a much better software. But even less would be enough for to support well the development of new features. Is this the correct way to go on with free software?

I'm not criticizing the GPL license, I'm saying that we need also other "free to use" licenses that can solve those issues, that are suitable for small free projects. I want a license where at least 99% of the users can use the software freely but 1% support it with what they can. A license where everyone making money out of it support the software too (proportionally). A license where someone could possible not steal easily the software and sell it. All this should happen naturally in an ideal world, without the need of a license at all, just public domain should be enough. But today this is not happening, so we need a license that help small developers/publishers all around the world.

Two last notes, first that when we buy a bread we are not paying only the flour+water+oven heat but we are paying also for who prepared the bread, even and especially for his capacity to make a good bread from the same things. For the same reason we should support who develop softwre. And at last I fully agree that software or generally speaking knowledge should be give to the whole community, should be owned by the whole community.

Andrea

glyn moody said...

@Andrea: you're right that there are situations where the GPL may not meet everyone's requirements, although equally a number of ways of making money from GPL software have been devised.

And yes, infringement does happen, although court cases are now starting to appear in some jurisdictions to fight that.

Nobody says bakers shouldn't get paid, but magic bread has properties that make it trickier than for the other kind.

The Mad Hatter said...

XhI whoever,

Off course it isn't completely free. For a completely free license you want something like the BSD or MIT license. It does however do what it set out to do, which is to ensure that the code is kept free for people to modify as they want. And that it does quite well.

If you know of GPL software where copyright infringement has occured, you should send an email to the author, and cc the Free Software Foundation. If the author wants to take action, but isn't able to afford to, the FSF will be willing to help (and if the author doesn't know this, this is a polite way of telling him/her).

As to people selling GPL software, there is nothing wrong with this. I sell CDs and DVDs of GPL software myself. I charge $10.00 for a DVD full of Windows versions of software that I've found really useful to people with no computer knowledge. I also sell Linux Distro CDs and DVDs. I charge them $20.00 per hour to come over and install the software, setup the computer, etc. I'm not going to get rich doing this, but it covers my costs. I also provide support, which is really useful for those who aren't computer literate, and have gotten into help (usually because Windows is such a piece of junk).

I try to contribute back where I can, doing various things.

If there's someone who's making a lot of money and not contributing back, in my opinion they are scum. But how do you know that they aren't contributing back? Have you talked to the author to find out? Possibly they don't care. Possibly the seller is making donations to the author. And of course, possibly they are trying to become the next Microsoft (in which case they deserve being placed in the Ninth Circle of Hell).

I don't think we need another license. Let's face it, the Windows license is restrictive as hell, and people still steal and sell it.

What we need is more honest people. It's too bad we aren't likely to get them (yes, I'm a cynic).

Yonah said...

Jose_X,

Your comment has me stunned. You actually believe I think RMS is being compared to Jesus in terms of their ability to perform miracles with bread? Not even remotely close.

My intention was to show how some in the FOSS community (this is directed at you Glyn) treat RMS as if he were a messiah or savior. Jesus was saving people from eternal damnation. Stallman is saving people from the evils of proprietary software. The miracles that Jesus performed are used to incite followers, just as this article intends to do with it's followers. The intermixing of religious tactics and software does not sit well with me. Glyn might have us believe this is pure coincidence, but regardless of intention, the methods used in propaganda like this can be disturbing to both religious and secular alike.

glyn moody said...

@Yonah: I certainly don't regard RMS as a/the Messiah, nor a Saviour in the religious sense.

I do think he is a remarkable person whose ideas will have a profound impact on the world in the next few years (if we're lucky) - and I'm not just talking about software. That's enough to be going on with, no?

an Indian student said...

But will anyone out of all these Free S/W supporters tell me one thing: What will the makers of free s/w eat?? In one way or the other, you're selling something (support etc)to generate money to eat. Now how come that support doesn't come under Knowledge?? You people are against DRM. Then what would the creators of music eat? A loaf of bread can be sold as it cannot be reproduced. S/W will not be and cannot be sold if people are not refrained from copying it. Tell me how you differentiate between a product and a piece of knowledge.. Everything is Knowledge if u see to it that way.. I've read many blogs but no one really cares about feeding the family.. I guess all live in rich countries like America where you can feed and provide shelter to family by just waiting in roadside restaurant for 3 hours a day..

glyn moody said...

That's a good question. The answer is that you sell the thing that can't be shared - stuff like personal appearances (for artists) or personal support. It's not so much the knowledge that is being sold, as you providing that knowledge on a one-to-one basis. That's scarce by definition, and hence something that can't be replicated or reduced to zero value by technology.

That's the great thing about the economics of digital content: it actually makes the analogue aspect *more* valuable.

Crosbie Fitch said...

I refer the honourable gents to the answer I gave some moments ago.

It is possible to sell intellectual work even if it is not possible to sell copies. There's a good market for good work, but a poor market for copies.

This means that coders are still going to earn a living, but those corporations that make a profit by selling copies at monopoly protected prices are going to have to find other work.

Individuals get paid for their work. Corporations survive on profit. The former will still have a market for their work. The latter won't, but then they don't starve if they go out of business. Let's not shed crocodile tears for corporations that have been exploiting an 18th century monopoly.

an Indian student said...

@glyn moody
Thank you first of all. But, i'm talking about something like an Android or an iPhone app. That doesn't require any personal support or any support at all, mostly. And if i'm allowing users to legally make copies, no one (other than the first one) is going to buy from me.
So, i still don't understand Mr. Crosbie Fitch's line "It is possible to sell intellectual work even if it is not possible to sell copies." I exactly want to know HOW. I've been looking for this very mechanism for too long and i think now i'll get it from you.. :)

glyn moody said...

I think the secret is to look at the big picture. Many of the best free software coders have been offered well-paid jobs on the basis of their code.

I imagine something similar could happen with Android apps: think of it as an extremely effective way of advertising your coding skills to every software company in the world.

In the same way, everything I write on this blog is freely available, but it shows what I can - or maybe can't do - as a writer and commentator.

Does that help?

The Mad Hatter said...

But will anyone out of all these Free S/W supporters tell me one thing: What will the makers of free s/w eat??

Food. A lot of us work for corporations who pay us to work on Free Software projects. Others get paid for going in and fixing things. Believe me, there's a lot of money in Free Software.

In one way or the other, you're selling something (support etc)to generate money to eat. Now how come that support doesn't come under Knowledge?? You people are against DRM. Then what would the creators of music eat?

Food of course. You may be blind, but Advance Patrol, Nine Inch Nails and a lot of others see how they can make money by releasing their music without DRM on the most infamous bit torrent site of all, The Pirate Bay.

A loaf of bread can be sold as it cannot be reproduced.

Yes, yes, yes, we've heard this whine before.

S/W will not be and cannot be sold if people are not refrained from copying it.

Ah, you work for Microsoft!

Tell me how you differentiate between a product and a piece of knowledge. Everything is Knowledge if u see to it that way. I've read many blogs but no one really cares about feeding the family. I guess all live in rich countries like America where you can feed and provide shelter to family by just waiting in roadside restaurant for 3 hours a day.

Yep. This guy works for Microsoft. Another bloody troll.

glyn moody said...

I think that's a little unkind. It can be quite hard for someone brought up on the traditional, proprietary software world to grasp the profound differences free software implies. We just need to explain things better.

The Mad Hatter said...

Anonymous an Indian student said...

@glyn moody
Thank you first of all. But, i'm talking about something like an Android or an iPhone app. That doesn't require any personal support or any support at all, mostly. And if i'm allowing users to legally make copies, no one (other than the first one) is going to buy from me.


Prove your thesis. Seriously. Prove it. Meantime, I'll believe Apple. Apple sells music in DRM free MP3 files. By your logic Apple would have closed the Apple store by now, and they haven't, it's been an enormous success.

So, i still don't understand Mr. Crosbie Fitch's line "It is possible to sell intellectual work even if it is not possible to sell copies." I exactly want to know HOW. I've been looking for this very mechanism for too long and i think now i'll get it from you.. :)

Ah, but you aren't looking for that at all, because it's been explained to you, hasn't it Mister Microsoft Troll. You just want to spread FUD about a very successful business model, which is in direct opposition to the business model your company follows. A business model that will kill your company. A business model that is already killing your company.

I've read your SEC filings. Your company is in big trouble based on the information in those filings.

Crosbie Fitch said...

@an Indian student:

All we need is a means of enabling a software developer's customers to exchange their money for software. Copies don't come into it.

I'm working on such a facility at the moment, i.e. ContingencyMarket.com.

glyn moody said...

Really, the best way to respond to FUD is to give the facts; indeed, the great thing about FUD is that it provides another opportunity to rebut arguments and present alternative views.

glyn moody said...

@Crosbie: looks fascinating. At the risk of sounding rather conventional, how do *you* make money from this system (to pay for the web site etc.)?

The Mad Hatter said...

Glyn,

Yeah, I'm unkind. I've been fighting these guys for the last several years. The wording they use is consistent across sites, worldwide. I don't know if you saw Trolls and Linux and Oh Hell both of which discuss the issue.

This guy uses the same terms, the same wording, the same arguments as other trolls I've run into. While my suspicion is that he's backed by Microsoft (because he's mostly interested in software). And because he seems unable to understand simple explanations. This is a common disability that all trolls have.

So maybe I'm being nasty. Maybe I'm right. I think I'm right.

glyn moody said...

I appreciate it's frustrating, but I think getting annoyed plays into their hands. To outsiders, it confirms a few prejudices and stereotypes about the hacker world, especially the part that cares about freedom.

I've found blogging quite a good discipline for dealing with it; I've learned - I hope - to breathe in deeply, count to a large number, and to try to respond coolly and rationally.

Doesn't always work, of course...

an Indian student said...

Oh my God… I can’t believe people thought of those things reading my question. First of all, I'm very sorry if I sounded like a "troll". I don't work for MS. I'm just a kid fresh out of my engineering and just getting AQUAINTED with the words "Free s/w" and "FSF". I want to also clear one thing that I live in India where in our engineering colleges; we don’t get exposed to many concepts like free s/w and etc that are not there in theoretical syllabus. So you all BELIEVE IT OR NOT, I’m really not equipped enough to understand the “Simple Explanations” that all the articles and blogs that you skilled people write have to offer.

I’m very amazed to know that I use the same wordings, same arguments as that of the “trolls” that you know but I really don’t know that because just for the past 2 days, I’ve started reading articles about free s/w after realizing that I know nothing about how that works.

Now, Matt says, “By your logic Apple would have closed the Apple store by now, and they haven't, it's been an enormous success.” I’m telling you I really don’t understand how this works (remember, I haven’t used the iTunes store once. I still don’t own any iPods or Mac. They are much expensive in India if you know INR. I used to get all my music on Cassettes and nowadays, at the most, from some friend who is enthu. enough to buy a CD, or just download ILLEGALY). That is exactly one of the things I want to know…  Is it like, “the music in the iTunes store is so low in cost that no one thinks of copying it from neighbor, but just buys a legal copy out of the store”? Is it the mechanism? I really want to know this. *And even if you don’t believe it, No, it hasn’t been explained to me yet by anyone.*

Now, you still haven’t explained the BASIC MECHANISM. Now, Matt says, “A lot of us work for corporations who pay us to work on Free Software projects.” Now, till you explain me how those companies make money while making the software open to all, I won’t be able to understand this statement. Because, at least in India, most people don’t buy Windows as it is not affordable. So they literally use a pirated copy. So if suppose MS only had Indian home market (not even corporate, coz they buy legal), then MS will really go bankrupt because 90% home users use a pirated copy. Same is here with Music. We just copy music from our friends, free or ILLEGALY if you want to put it that way.

“Believe me, there's a lot of money in Free Software.” I’m asking you HOW? I don’t know the bands Advance Patrol, Nine Inch Nails. You are frustrated?? I’m frustrated Doubly than you reading those vague statements like the ones Matt uses for 3 whole days of my reading… At least tell me a place where these things are explained for a naïve. FSF was no help.

I’m begging you to believe me and explain this BASIC thing.

an Indian Student said...

Also i don't understand how an analogy of freedom of being able to express your thoughts applies to all this. It's about being able to sell a product and make a living. Especially read the "MS Windows and Music Piracy in India" part of my comment submitted before.

an Indian Student said...

Ya, and the Contingency Market may be one such mechanism that i sought. Congrats and cheers, Crosbie..
And i'm also going to read some other posts in this blog as you said, "If you're interested in the motivations of people who write things for free, you might browse through some of the other posts on this blog, many of which discuss this very topic."

glyn moody said...

I quite understand that some of this stuff is hard to grasp - it's pretty counter-intuitive at first. Here are two great expositions of the basic ideas on how people can make money by giving stuff away.

The Magic Cauldron, by Eric Raymond, is specifically about software:

http://catb.org/esr/writings/cathedral-bazaar/magic-cauldron/

The Grand Unified Theory On The Economics Of Free by Mike Masnick is more general, but highly relevant:

http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20070503/012939.shtml

hope that helps.

an Indian Student said...

(Sigh!)Thanks a million.. I'll read that..

an Indian Student said...

One last trouble to you.. Could you just explain the iTunes Music store thing?

glyn moody said...

Certainly, it's pretty simple: most people are honest. When music tracks are fairly priced, people don't mind paying for them. Moreover, they generally don't hand them around, because they recognise it's not fair.

But when music companies don't make music or films available, or only in an inconvenient form, or very expensive, the connection is broken, and people get the content from somewhere else - typically P2P networks.

So it comes down to striking a fair bargain with consumers: if, as a compay, you do that, they generally tick to that bargain, whether or not there's DRM. And the people who don't stick to it are likely to be the ones who would break the DRM anyway, so what's the point?

the same student said...

Or are people lazy enough not to take the pain to get it from someone else if they can download it themselves in no time for as little as 99 cents?? :)
Also i don't think even then, i've to face it, ordinary Indians would pay anything if they can get it for free. One reason also being that if We want a good collection, we want at least 15-20 GB of songs that include our Regional language, the old Bollywood, the recent Bollywood and the popular English (rock etc) songs. That would cost much. We didn't use to have a collection in Cassette days because even if they were reasonably priced, no one was able to purchase that many songs. Since easy copying of digital data came along, people carry whole discographies of many artists. So unless you mandate them to pay for it somehow, you'll really be selling only 1 copy of your content. S/W or Music. Any content that can be easily reproduced. And aren't we depending upon people's honesty to get paid for the copies?? Isn't it like living on donations?? If something is not compulsory, it's null and void. Nobody is going to do that. Everybody's responsiblity is nobody's responsibility. So is, ultimately, this whole free s/w thing standing upon people's honesty?
And how about analogy between freedom to express your view and free s/w? S/W is analogous to a car made by many people in a factory. How with speech? On the other hand car, even if can be studied and modified, cannot be resold in thousands, just like bread. And still, that field has copyrights. How they do it is open, for e.g. Quattro, but no one is allowed to copy it. So s/w should be the first thing to be tried to be protected.
I better read those essays.. :)

glyn moody said...

It's a question of what's a fair price: you can't expect people with limited disposable income to pay unreasonable prices. And remember: it costs effectively *nothing* to make a digital copy of a music file, so prices can be incredibly low and still make money for the companies. Currently, prices are still too high for many nations, which is why unauthorised copies are so common.

I do think people are basically honest, but no, free software doesn't depend on that. It does depend on there being enough people who want to write software and given it away, which is the other side of that honesty, but in this case it's not a matter of *not* taking, it's a question of *giving*.

Finally, profitable open source companies like Red Hat show that independently of all these factors, it is still possible to make money giving away stuff - you just have to charge in a different way.

Crosbie Fitch said...

Glyn, I'm intrigued by your apparent assumption that copyright infringement is dishonest.

Copyright is an 18th century reproduction monopoly granted to (commercial) printers. It was never recognised as a natural right, and so never envisaged as a law that would demarcate right vs wrong for the individual's cultural actions.

That you have also acceded to the monopolists' programming that 'infringement=theft' and 'sharing=dishonesty' and perpetuate this isn't encouraging. :-(

Let's distinguish between the heartfelt wish to reward artists for their work, to incentivise them to produce more, from the printer's privilege of suspending the public's cultural liberty (in order to sell them copies they can now make themselves).

glyn moody said...

No, I didn't say it was dishonest, but it's factually against the law as current written, and against the implicit bargain - long ago broken by the intellectual monopolists - that copyright is based upon.

And note that I *never* call it "theft", always copyright infringement....

I'm a big fan of sharing, and always put copyright as currently structured in the wider context of sharing being a good thing.