Women in Technology

Hear us Roar

  Freedom or Power?
Subject:   Software is not a product
Date:   2001-11-23 04:21:21
From:   paulprescod
Response to: Software is not a product

"""Because you can hold a CD in your hand, there is an obvious analogy at hand (pardon the pun) to think of software as a product. But once you move beyond the purchase of one packaged version for one fee and into the real world of using software, the role of software as a product breaks down. There are versions and patches in the real world, and these things give us a peek at the continuous development which is the real activity of making software."""

The product-ness of software is not really relevant. Software is part of our capitalist system whether you call it a product or a service. The fundamental basis of the capitalist system is voluntary contracts. Tim O'Reilly says that I should be able to enter into a contract with you that disallows you from redistributing my code. Stallman says no, that should be disallowed. Tim O'Reilly says I should have the choice of giving you as little or as much of the useful information as I like: all of the source or just the binary. Richard Stallman says no, I should be forced to give away the source code. None of these issues change if you think of software as a product, a service, a recital, a practice or a religion.

"it's audacious, even hubristic, to charge money for software as if it were your own produce."

The question is whether it is ethical and whether it should be illegal. If I write a five-line script that solves someone's problem and is based upon thousands of person-years of operating system, what's wrong with me charging for my five-line script? How is it different than a book author writing an annotated version of Shakespeare that obviously depends heavily on the original Shakespeare?