GPL not encouraging new technology

Niall Douglas s_fsfeurope at
Thu Dec 5 22:44:38 UTC 2002

On 5 Dec 2002 at 12:01, MJ Ray wrote:

> > I was more meaning the supplier to the most people ie; industry
> > leader.
> Depends what you are describing as "industry" here.  Are we trying to
> get share in an existing market, or replace one market with another,
> or...?

Is it me or are my commonly used terms not commonly used on this 
list? Ah well. I mean, as I've explained in previous emails, software 
industry = support, writing and users ie; more or less anything to do 
with software.

Now in this you could argue embedded devices running some bespoke 
solution are far more numerous than PC's. However, RedHat and 
Microsoft compete in more or less the same area, and yet RedHat could 
hardly be said to remotely rival Microsoft in terms of distribution 
of product portfolio. While certain free software products rule the 
roost in niche areas (eg; Apache), overall they most certainly do not 
despite often offering superior implementations of the same 

> > Ah no - structural changes and disturbances *upset* the status quo
> > of rich people staying rich and getting richer. Without them in
> > fact, the elite would remain impermiable.
> So why do you discount the possibility of causing structural change? 
> I think a lot of your plan has been "this is the world we live in and
> we must interact with it" rather than the commonly-held view of "we
> must construct a robust new method".  Elsewhere you talk about
> replacing the current system of capitalism, but here you are trying to
> conform with it in the smallest details: contradiction?

Yes in terms of overall wish but not in terms of pragmatism. I might 
not like the current system and indeed have visions of it being 
replaced, but I know it won't happen in mine nor your lifetime. The 
effects of the free software movement on the software industry will 
be felt within my lifetime, so therefore I'm far more concerned with 

The reality is that so long as capitalism exists, we have to play by 
its rules. Free software in this respect is perhaps too ahead of its 
time because culturally, I don't think it's viable in the long term. 
Someday perhaps - when people can motivate themselves without the 
dream of riches, but it's at least a generation away.

> > No, I'm trying to compare the overall long-term consequences of each
> > ideology.
> But your history for comparison can only consist of about 20 years,
> which is not really long-term.  I know computing is often said to move
> fast, but this is economics and business science.  Your forecasts are
> likely to have a very large margin of error.

In this you are absolutely correct - I could be completely wrong. 
However, I am just as likely to be wrong as anyone else with a 
business model for software - so on this logic, *any* business model 
for software is equally wrong. I don't think this is a sound basis 
for further argument! :)

> >> 1. There is no *the* free software business model;
> > "the" usually means the most common one which is what I meant here.
> Sorry, I've not ever seen that definition.

I meant the English common usage. When I say *the* Queen I may refer 
to any one of a number of queens, but I'll usually mean the most 
common one. In the UK, Canada, Australia and US, this means the 
British Queen but in Spain I'd mean Queen Sofia.

Hence *the* free software business model is the commonly used one 
which AFAICS involves charging for commercial use of the software but 
is free for non-commercial use. There are others too, but it's the 
most common AFAIK.

> > In the end, I foresee the same as you - this thread will peter down
> > to a point where it becomes a question of faith - do you believe or
> > don't you because as was previously said, this argument is probably
> > unwinnable for either side.
> I think that we are starting to explore the real reasons for your
> views, rather than the superficial expression of them in a complex
> non-free copyright licence.  One thing troubles me, though: do you see
> this argument a battle you are fighting that can be lost or won?

Well, I like to have my fundamental beliefs challenged. Occasionally 
I'm wrong, so therefore I can have them put right. If not, it's still 
a stimulating test.

No argument IMHO is a battle - merely a contest, most of whose value 
comes from the process not the end result. I can't prove I'm right 
ultimately unless I develop some software, sell it under my model and 
see if it replaces the current proprietary model. This could happen, 
but it would take a few years at the least.

OTOH free software is already selling and is evidently vibrant. I 
personally believe that's because the current proprietary model is so 
crap for everyone and it's easier to seek refuge with an existing 
alternative than to reform an existing bad one. I think of it similar 
to the reformation - first protestants split from catholicism, then 
catholicism realised its days were numbered and reformed itself. I 
reckon the same thing will happen here.


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