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Proprietary Text Editor: some free software humour

category: general [glöplog]
Joghurt: if cars were given for free (again, as in beer), they would probably NOT allow you (legally) to go anywhere else for fixing, which was my point... they make money for selling the cars, even if they didn't fix them (which they -also- do).
added on the 2009-04-06 19:06:26 by Jcl Jcl
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About giving a copy to a friend.. well, I've done this plenty of times too. What I would say is this: If you and your friend are musicians, and you are sharing a music program you will use a lot, then you have just stolen 1 copy of the software from the developer, and taken his money. I don't see that there's any other way of seeing it.


I am sorry, but this is a very weird way of seeing it. Stealing is taking something away. Copying is not stealing, no matter how you put it. It might be "stealing" if people who took a copy would've bought the copy instead. Of course, they wouldn't have.

You do have a point that if you like the software, it is ethical to reward the developer - since now he deserves the money. However, you can either deserve gratitude or demand it. Can't have both.

In the world of free software it is easy for anyone who loves the software to send money to developer - and not only once! Voluntary payments is one of the schemes that works well once the software is well established and is globally used.
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what are you trying to insinuate here?


Well, don't the Dutchmen have a lengthy history and a reputation for trade ?) Surely that wouldn't spark any silly stereotypical jokes about that particular nation in the Europe, no way.

Seriously speaking: when I've discussed the topic with the former MSX sceners, they still saw it perfectly natural to charge for demos. Which might not tell so much about Dutchmen, but more about the isolation of the particular scene and its practices that seem so alien to the rest of the demo folks. They were a lot closer to the commercial side of the MSX world: many groups ended up doing games.
added on the 2009-04-06 19:11:54 by Marq Marq
Lougi: generally, the price for everything depends on the number of customers it potentially has.

Windows (for example) is cheap, if you compare the amount of money put on its development, but that's because there's many potential Windows buyers.

If people actually bought the software they use (how many people has illegal copies of photoshop?), that software would probably be cheaper (and/or better, since more money could be put on its development).
added on the 2009-04-06 19:18:12 by Jcl Jcl
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why is making proprietary software evil? because it divides people. it tells them - if you want to use our software, you should sign up that you will not copy it to anyone. in other words, the premise here is this: for us to get more money, you should promise you won't give a copy to your friend so that he will be forced to buy it. If he can't buy it, he will not use our software. Does that sound ethical to you?


huh? i thought "proprietary" said something about rights ownership. i can perfectly well make software, keep all the rights to it, not give out the source, and still license you (and anyone) to give it to everyone. it's actually quite commonplace, called "freeware". by your logic, that's not evil at all. as such, you're not actually against proprietary software. clearly, you don't even know what it means

i don't know about you guys, but i think it's quite funny that the only one around here passionately on the free software side actually completely overlooked the beer/speech part :-)
added on the 2009-04-06 19:25:19 by skrebbel skrebbel
There are other development models that have contributed to the free software pool in addition to the aforementioned working for free, service-based income and donations. Companies have in-house projects that they publish for free, since they don't have the need or will to start commercialising them. Companies also support foundations producing open projects that support their core business. They even contribute code such as drivers for the same reason. Giving away a product for free has the notorious reputation of driving the competitors out of business too. Abandoned projects that might be useful but don't any longer have commerdial value can be released to the community. The academic world has always had close ties to oss - often the code written in research projects is published under an open license.
added on the 2009-04-06 19:25:35 by Marq Marq
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Stealing is taking something away. Copying is not stealing, no matter how you put it.

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It makes me laugh. The part I don't understand, the dude is trying to act like I went to his house and took it from his computer.


\o/ timbaland == richard stallman! i knew it! \o/
added on the 2009-04-06 19:28:47 by skrebbel skrebbel
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I am sorry, but this is a very weird way of seeing it. Stealing is taking something away. Copying is not stealing, no matter how you put it. It might be "stealing" if people who took a copy would've bought the copy instead. Of course, they wouldn't have.


Depends how you look at it. Of course it's not the same as stealing a physical item, but the effect to the people selling it is the same - you walk away with the product you spent time and money creating, and give nothing in return. For somebody interested in ethics, you're not showing any here...

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You do have a point that if you like the software, it is ethical to reward the developer - since now he deserves the money. However, you can either deserve gratitude or demand it. Can't have both.

In the world of free software it is easy for anyone who loves the software to send money to developer - and not only once! Voluntary payments is one of the schemes that works well once the software is well established and is globally used.


Sure, because lots of people would donate lots of money, and we'd all be rich! Or, back in reality, my children would be starving, and lots of people would be using my software and not giving a fuck.

These idealist dreams are fine in theory, but in practice all that happens is a lot of people get fucked, and a very few get some fame and glory. I'm not saying the current system is perfect, it isn't, but it's the best we've got until somebody figures out an alternative that might actually work.
added on the 2009-04-06 20:46:20 by psonice psonice
skrebbel: the problem with discussing matters like free software is that the theme is actually very complex and has a lot of details and sides to it. So it happens that each time you say something, your argument is taken to an absolute, as if it is the only thing you are saying. The argument you commented on was specifically talking about the economical side of things, above in the same topic I spoke of freedom sides of things. It is much more complex than saying - free software is this, free software is that. If it would've been so obvious and easy to analyze, it would've not been a subject of such an interesting (imho) discussion.

psonice: you say "These idealist dreams are fine in theory, but in practice all that happens is a lot of people get fucked". This is not true and voluntary payments are not theory - they are practice. But, as I've said, voluntary payments work once the project is pretty known. I do not wish to go into other economical schemes that can fund free software, it's too big a topic, I am afraid it will blow up this discussion in volume of text and I don't think anyone needs it now.

Now let's speak about what you said here:

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Of course it's not the same as stealing a physical item, but the effect to the people selling it is the same - you walk away with the product you spent time and money creating, and give nothing in return.


First of all, the well known common idea that "hard work has to be payed for" is generally not true. Good work has to be payed for. Hard work is irrelevant to clients. If you worked hard, but came up with a dreadful application, you are not entitled to any compensation - this is how it works. Think about it. However, many people keep concentrating on the difficulty of their work. People are not paying for hard work, they are paying for a good result. Unfortunately, hard work doesn't always result in a good result.

Second, let me repeat this very very important argument: in a world of software, where copying requires a couple of mouse clicks selling copying should not be a business. The more sophisticated technology gets, the more difficult it is to stop people from copying - because it is so easy to do. Denying copying is like asking everyone to not use airplanes and instead go back to several months trips on horses.

Do hear me: developers have to be payed. But first of all, there is no need to make software development a Klondike thing, no need to make anyone rich. Providing a living (like most jobs do) is enough.
And second - selling copies of files with the technology which we have is absurd. If developers want to make their apps cheaper and at the same time lower their investments, they should let their software be distributed more freely, so that they don't spend zillions of money to put in useless defenses, ship their cds to shops all over the world, etc. Because this is what really makes up most of the price.
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added on the 2009-04-07 08:13:04 by LiraNuna LiraNuna
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Of course it's not the same as stealing a physical item, but the effect to the people selling it is the same - you walk away with the product you spent time and money creating, and give nothing in return.


It's not the same effect, since if you steal the object is lost from the one you took it from. If you make an illegal copy what is probably lost is a potential buyer. Why "probably"? Because some still buy the product after they used the illegal copy for a while. Why "potential"? Because not everyone using an illegal copy would buy it if he/she had to.

So stealing and copying are two different things.
added on the 2009-04-07 09:10:58 by Salinga Salinga
This thread has now turned into this thread, so I'll just repeat myself:
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Property is also intellectual property, it doesn't have to be something physical.. something I guess the pro-piracy people should have a good grasp on by now. :) When it comes to TPB and this case, the pro-piracy people are equal (or greater) in their douchebaggery to their anti-piracy counterparts. It's great fun :)

One part tries to re-define "theft", while the other part tries to re-define it in the other direction - both wrongly. If I made a movie which was commercialy available and someone copied it (not breaking into my house and taking the only master files) and made it available on TPB, I'd say that's still theft/stealing. If someone copies that, it is also theft/stealing, because the original work was available for purchase.

Of course, the argument from the movie and music industry that every copy = the value of the CD/DVD is utter bullshit. If I download "Random Generic Seth Rogen Movie 5" via TPB, the people who made it haven't lost any money, because I would never see it in the cinema or buy the DVD anyway. That sort of thinking has to end.
added on the 2009-04-07 09:31:36 by gloom gloom
Louigi: you seem to think of "software" (at least, for many many things you have said in this thread) as of "massively used software".

Where developers make most of their money on, is when doing small (or not so small) specialized applications, which more often than not can only be used by not all that many users.

Piracy is then a major issue if you live (and spend all your work time on) developing that software. If you have a potential customer base of 100 users (because you make... let's say: a software for shoe makers which works using the Spanish laws, and there are only 100 shoe makers in Spain), you spend two years 8 hours a day 5 days a week in it (this is a very common scenario, very likely to be found in the real world)...

1) Probably not many open-source fans around the world are interested on making a Spanish-shoe-maker-specific software, so it leaves you alone making it (because you like Spanish shoes very much)

2) You can do it in your free time, as open-source... taking it would take you (i'm speaking of an individual... since a software developing firm making only free software doesn't make a lot of sense... they would be bankrupt by the fifth month, and that's being lucky) 2 yrs 8 hr/d 5 d/wk... if you make it in your free time, don't ever expect any Spanish shoe maker using your software in the next 10 years.

3) You can give the software for free and charge for consulting... but hey! you made a oh-so-great software that doesn't require any assistance, at all. All the money you have invested (as a risk) during those two years would just never be recovered, your children starving, your house auctioned, yada-yada-yada.

4) You can charge for the software... something reasonable so you can recover the monetary inverstment you made during those two years, and give you enough to start another specialized project. Shoe makers are happy pauing for the product since it solves their problems and makes them more productive (which is what this kind of software should be for).

If you have any other point here, make sure to add it... but I find 4 much more than reasonable, and not at all unethical.

Now, I don't know where you live... but be 100% sure that if I go for #4, and I "open-source" the software (i.e., I make it free to use), I'd probably get any money from -1- customer... because all the others would use it for absolutely free, and more than probably wouldn't pay any money for it. That one which pays should have to pay for the whole development so that all other 99 Spanish shoe makers could use it for free (either that, or would let me die from hunger)... do you find that more ethical?

The fact that many free software fans think they can charge for consultancy and assistance, only makes me think they know in advanced that their software is FLAWED. Software, ideally (although not reallistically) should be so good that a user should never need any kind of services afterwards.

And make sure, that although I just made it up... making a specialized software for 100 potential buyers (or even less) is a VERY common real world scenario. I've worked at many software developing firms and have done so many times.

Not all software is OS's, general-use tools, or games. In fact, most of it isn't... it's just that you don't get to know all that specialized sofware floating around, since it doesn't become famous and get slashdotted on teh intahweb.
added on the 2009-04-07 09:34:43 by Jcl Jcl
Jcl: yes, I absolutely agree with you! And so does mr. Stallman and all the FSF along with him. We ARE speaking about massive software. Specialized software can be closed and sometimes even should be closed, like in the example you mentioned.

in fact, most programmers in the world are working on custom software, not releasing the code of which harms noone.

So when we are speaking about proprietary software - we are speaking most of the time about software that is used by a lot of people, rather than some specialized software, interesting only to some people of some field.
yeah, just so that people know - this difference between massive and custom software was not just made up by me, it is very clearly made by the FSF. (its also common sense, as Jcl mentioned).

It's also a good example of the fact that as you get into the question deeper, like we have in this conversation, suddenly we see that the question is not so obvious, there are lots of special cases and most importantly - we can see that we are not so disagreeing anymore.


As for the copy-piracy stuff(the pic is pretty funny), declaring copying a piracy is a very lazy way to go. If publishers lose money because people copy, these publishers are only themselves to blame. Instead of rebuilding their business processes as new technology emerged, they continued to use old schemes that don't work and now try to call everyone in the world criminals. Piracy is attacking ships on the sea, not copying a file.
Well, then, I don't get it... except for the fact that, in case of charging money for the license and/or copy (those are not the same thing), you would probably charge much less if your potential userbase is 50 million, instead of 100...

... making software, is making software, and it requires the same dedication, specialization and time.

So I just don't see the difference (maybe it's just me).
added on the 2009-04-07 09:55:56 by Jcl Jcl
at that point I am a bit confused at what you do not get. if you are really interested, we can exchange emails or smth, because these kind of forum discussions make it difficult to not get confused.
yeah, and the best reference is gnu.org They have FAQ, which covers a lot of the tricky questions, lots of articles to study. The material provided there may be enough for those who are interested in understanding rather than simply rejecting.

The discussion here is great, but because conversations get mixed up and older messages get hidden on previous pages, several times here I felt that new people who come to the conversation start attacking only one part of the problem, thinking its the only part of the puzzle or the only thing I am speaking about. But its impossible to repeat the whole thing in every post.
http://www.gnu.org/licenses/gpl-faq.html
louigi: I still don't get how you expect people to make free software and live. As an example: I write software, and sell it. If people think the software is good, they will buy it, I can go pay for food etc., everyone is happy. I don't sell any services with my software, and because it's good, people don't need support for it.

So, I make it free and open source. I'm sure many more people would use it, but far less people would pay me any money. Worse, competitors that currently have worse products than mine can easily copy the best bits - best case, I get even less money, worst case the projects get merged together and I have to share any income with other people.

For the customers, they get the huge benefit of not paying for my work + ideas. They also get the "benefit" of access to the code, but I can guarantee that none of them will look at it because they're not programmers.

I'm not seeing a lot of benefits here.. I'd earn less money, spend a lot more time doing things because I'd have to document everything clearly, and my best ideas would just get copied by other programmers.

If that was the way it worked, guess what? I wouldn't write the software in the first place, because I could do stuff that's a lot more fun and also won't pay for my bed + food, like making demos. Lots of other people would do the same, and all that good new software would never get made in the first place. Take a look at a lot of the OSS stuff - how much of it is great, original new software, and how much of it is just a copy of something that somebody made and sold? People need rewards to produce exciting new things, and I don't see what you suggest offering much at all.

So, go on: how do I continue making new apps, and also feeding my family, without charging for it?
added on the 2009-04-07 10:51:36 by psonice psonice
psonice: You just don't understand that open source is the future and that people who charge for their products are capitalist swine who needs to die slowly. And why would you need to make money when you can just grow a beard like Richard Stallman instead? Are you stupid or what?!
added on the 2009-04-07 11:08:14 by gloom gloom
added on the 2009-04-07 11:16:07 by Spin Spin
psonice: valid points. I will try to comment on them to the best of my knowledge and understanding.

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So, I make it free and open source. I'm sure many more people would use it, but far less people would pay me any money. Worse, competitors that currently have worse products than mine can easily copy the best bits - best case, I get even less money, worst case the projects get merged together and I have to share any income with other people.


GPL does not allow people to take your code and put it into a proprietary programm. If they use your code, they have to release software under GPL as well. This is the beauty of a copyleft principle.

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I'd earn less money, spend a lot more time doing things because I'd have to document everything clearly, and my best ideas would just get copied by other programmers.


You don't have to document everything clearly - at least under GPL you are not obliged to documenting. In fact, other people can do it.
As for your best ideas, you are forgetting that you are not the only one giving. Other programmers will share their best ideas as well and together everyone will create very good software. Actually, we all are always basing our work on ideas of other people. This is how it always works. Sharing your best ideas with other people is a very good thing.

It doesn't mean you have to give away them for no charge. There are many ways to make a living in a free software world. What are they?

1. Selling software packages: discs+manuals. People would buy a package. Moreover, here is a live example - several months ago one of the largets software ditribution companies in Russia, 1S, has released an Open Office package, along with a beautifully printed manual and a subscription to a two month tech support. The fee was substantial and the package sold very well. So selling packages works - selling file copies doesn't. In other words, the package makes software more "material".

2. Dev support. Not answering questions but adding features for a fee. Works for any kind of software, even multimedia. For instance, you are using a dj mixing software and there are buttons to make 4, 8 and 16 beat loops. But you need to make 2 beat loops instantly - so you need such a button. You call the developer company and say that you need this feature. They say how much this will cost, you pay, they implement the feature. (this scheme is virtually impossible today. if you ask a proprietary software company to implement a feature for you, chances are you'll never see this feature even in future versions). I believe that practically this is the most strongest feature of a free software world.

3. Copyright for software. Software is different - there are practical tools, like Photoshop, like Microsoft Office, and there are entertainment stuff, like games (and demos) - those do not have to go open source immedeately, since withholding code from a game for some time will not hurt anyone. A period for two years is suggested for such software. Besides, making money from a game without forcing everyone to pay for their copy is more than realistic and is done by many copies. Plus, many people would want to buy it to see it first. It is also possible to not allow commercial distribution of any software for about two years, but allow verbatim non-commercial distribution. Disallow support forthe product for some time and allow the developer company to make their money in this niche.

4. Voluntary payments. Instead of forcing people not to share with their neighbour, the message can be changed to: have you supported a developer this month? Software you use everyday may have a small box there "Send $". If you enjoy the program, it won't hurt you to send a dollar every now and then. In fact, you would be happy to do so, knowing money goes directly to the programmers. If the software is common and used globally, the amount if income from such payments is huge and also constant since support goes in all the time - not just once. Keep in mind that developers do not have to spend money on expensive anti-copying solutions which only make things worse (see Spore game case) and no need to ship software all over the world, which takes up lots of financial investment.
This method however proves effective when the software is already known and is used globally.

5. Custom jobs. Apart from a developer company providing feature additions, programmers can make money by studying existing software and offering their services to companies which need to rework software for their businesses. I can supply my own experience here - I was hired to customize a free software web application, because the company required substantial changes in some modules to suit their business. It was a fullfilling and well paid job. Today proprietary software used in most offices does not allow to do that.

These are the 5 methods which readily come to mind. Even these methods are strong mechanisms to allow any developer earn a living - if his software is good of course. I do not think this is a complete list, but I can draw out the general specifics of a free software world as I see them.
First, the amount of software developed will be smaller, although the amount of programmers will not go much down. Less development because there will be no need to duplicate the existing software. In many cases a company has to hire people to develop smth from scratch, because they cannot use the ready solution which is on the market since they need to modify it, but they can't. So thousands of man hours is spent on useless work, realizing the same software. So, free software world will be more effective.
Second, software will steadily improve in quality. Apart from all the ideas being there, programmers will have to compete by coming up with really good software. Nowadays it is not the main issue. If you look at Microsoft products, they are pretty average. Their marketing and vendor lock in politics, on the other hand, are perfect. Such things will be almost impossible with free software. To dominate, you'll have to come up with a really good program. It will be a real competition, not politics like now.

These are practical stuff. I am not even mentioning that with free software noone will sue you because you gave a copy of software to your friend, noone will have to control your computer to make sure you don't copy and the company can sqeeze one more dollar at the expense of your freedom.

But we do not live in a free software world. The competition with proprietary software often (but not always) results in free software duplicating what is there already. One should not see it as an organic characteristic of free software as it is. Some thought shows that. Some research reveals a lot of generally unknown software which is very good and does not copy anything.

Eh. I guess that's all I have to say on the subject. I ask not to rush with conclusions, but to consider the ideas above carefully. It took me about a year to analyze the free software philosophy, explore various situations and understand for myself whether I agree with it or not.
spin: good one :) But I think Stallman is suspicious anyway because of his yeti beard thingie.
added on the 2009-04-07 13:23:07 by bartman bartman
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1. Selling software packages: discs+manuals.


Why, when it's so easy to distribute over the network? I can only see this working if you've built some huge app that needs a big manual, and even then most would prefer to download it and use online help. There's also the huge cost involved getting everything manufactured, and the risk that you won't sell it to get your money back. In most cases, this is a step backwards...

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2. Dev support. Not answering questions but adding features for a fee.


Quality software should have these features in the first place, really. There's some market for it, but only for a limited subset of apps. Besides, there's nothing stopping me doing this already if there's demand - then I can earn money from sales, and still earn money for adding features. Another step backwards..

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3. Copyright for software.


I don't quite get the point here. Is it that I can make the software free after a certain time? If so, yeah, I'll certainly do that, once sales fall off and I make little money from it. If I do it sooner, I'm losing money, but when people stop buying it I'll make it free, if there's any point (if there's no interest in it anyway, there's no point).

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4. Voluntary payments. Instead of forcing people not to share with their neighbour, the message can be changed to: have you supported a developer this month?


Nice theory, but it's not a reliably income. I've seen a lot of projects that do this, and there are quite a few problems. First is that most people won't bother, so your income will be less. Second, the people that do pay will tend to do it when there's a lot of hype around something, so you'll get a spike of income, and then the odd small amount. Also, people won't generally donate for every app they use, but just the odd one or two. It would definitely be a good way to earn less money, another step backwards..

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5. Custom jobs.


Yes.. except that like most people doing this kind of stuff, I already do that. After seeing the other stuff I've done, people ask me "could you do something like this..", or perhaps ask for a customised version of an app (hasn't happened so far, as there's generally not much need). So this is just income I already have.

Well, unless there's more on the list, that looks like a good way to earn a lot less money doing the same work, or to put it another way, a very bad idea.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not totally against free / OSS software. For some cases, it's definitely the way to go (apache is a great example - that would fit your model nicely, and they could make a living from it, while I'd trust an open source web server more than a closed one). But to try and apply it everywhere is just never going to work.
added on the 2009-04-07 14:29:33 by psonice psonice

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