More on Protecting Source Code

James J. Besemer jb at
Tue Sep 17 04:14:30 EDT 2002

Oren Tirosh wrote:

>Yes, there are narrow-minded people on both sides of the intellectual
>property debate.

Reasonable statement.

>I don't think that software 'ought' to be this or 'ought' to be that. In
>other words, I believe in freedom.

Reasonable statement.

>I don't think anyone would disagree with that. 

Reasonable statement.

>The disagreement seems to 
>be whether information is property or not. 

Wow.  I didn't hear anybody say this (though, sadly, perhaps this is the 
real agenda).

>By its nature it isn't 

Wow.  An even more amazing statement.

Information BY IT'S VERY NATURE is not property.

How the hell do you figure?

You saying the thoughts in my head are public domain? I certainly hope not.

Or if I reduce those thoughts to paper or to software or to wood and 
metal that somehow everybody else is entitled to share the benefits of 
my possibly substantial endeavor?  

What a load of bullshit.

An artist who creates an image or the specifications for a musical 
performance has every right to own his creation and benefit from its 
use.  This is no different for a programmer and code of his own creation.  

Even if you go back to the early industrial age, key products of 
industry was intellectual property.  E.g., engineers had to produce 
drawings and written specifications before they could build a bridge or 
a mousetrap.  That "information" was every bit their property as the 
more tangible artifacts they later sold commercially.  An unscrupulous 
competitor could use the IP to recreate the commercial artifacts at a 
fraction of the original owner's cost.  Or he could reverse engineer the 
IP and again enjoy an unfair  advantage.  That's blatantly unfair and 
it's a good thing we have laws to protect against such theft.

Now if somebody elects to give away their IP -- out of charity or in 
hope of scoring points in some circles -- that's fine.  But if he 
instead elects to profit from it, in a free world, that should be 
perfectly reasonable and respectable also.

>but it
>can be made more property-like by laws that restrict people's freedom to
>use information. 

Copyright laws have precedent dating back to pre colonial England. 
 Interesting new books and music were intrinsically hard to create but, 
(after Gutenberg) once created, they were easy for the unscrupulous to 
copy and receive full benefit of their publication.  Robbing the 
creators the fruits of of their labor is inherently unfair.  Not only 
does the IP thief unfairly benefit from work he did not perform he also 
robs the real owner of income he otherwise would have received.  

Thus IP laws naturally evolved to protect rightful property owners. 
 It's meet and good.

People fought and died (and more importantly prevailed) in defense of 
the rights to be free and to own property.

Now I don't necessarily support some of the more recent changes and 
extensions to copyright laws.  Some maybe go a step too far.  However, I 
don't think they can or should be rejected altogether.  At their core 
they're not arbitrary; rather in protecting the works' creators they're 
the epitome of fairness.

>The state has given you the 'right' to use the power of its court and 
>police to forcibly restrict people that use information you have created 
>in violation of copy-restriction laws.

Yeah, sure, in your dreams we could instead have laws that say all 
information was free.  I submit that such a situation would actually 
stifle innovation.  Sure a few dreamers would still invent but the 
volume and time to market would be greatly diminished.  

Lack of ownership is precisely why most socialist countries soon became 
and forever remained vast economic wastelands.  Denying individuals any 
incentive for working harder than others, the economy soon deteriorates 
to where it can hardly provide the necessities of life let alone invent 
clever and innovative luxuries.  Worse, collectivist economics are 
unnatural in that they fly in the face of most human instincts.  Thus it 
requires a large and oppressive government to enforce collectivism and, 
in practice, those governments typically become corrupt.  In any case, 
economies invariably, immediately revert to capitalism soon as the 
communist/socialist oppression ceases.

It is precisely the promise of commercial reward that makes America the 
incredible fount of invention and creativity that it is.  The simple 
formula of rewarding people for their own hard work is what made America 
the worlds only superpower.  Not only do we have the most powerful 
military in the world our people also enjoy one of the world's highest 
standards of living.  Most socialist countries have had to choose one or 
the other or don't have the choice of either.

I just don't get you folks who push this Communistic view of economics. 
 It's childish.  Marx sounded good on paper 100 years ago and yeah we 
all believed it when we were idealistic teenagers. At the cost of 
hundreds of millions of citizens (murdered by their own government) and 
a significant fraction of the 20th century's world's human resources, we 
gave Communism every chance to succeed.  After almost a century of 
experimentation with collectivist economics, the results are all in and 
the bottom line is that it simply doesn't work.  The net cost to The 
People in the long run is always greater than the net benefits.  If you 
don't understand this then you really haven't been paying attention to 
recent world history.

The problem with Capitalism is that not everyone shares equally in the 
wealth.  The problem with Communism is that everybody DOES share equally 
in the misery.  I prefer Capitalism.

>But that is not enough for you. You also want the 'right' to complain about
>something that was given to you freely and expect that righteous rants 
>about your view of intellectual property laws will somehow compel people 
>to modify it to your specification without compensation.

You're being unfair.

Mr. LeBlanc was not complaining about anything that I could see.  He was 
merely describing a tangible shortcoming of Python (one which launched 
this entire thread) that restricts its use for some purposes.  He 
further, humbly suggests how it might be made a little more useful to 
commercial users.


James J. Besemer		503-280-0838 voice
2727 NE Skidmore St.		503-280-0375 fax
Portland, Oregon 97211-6557	mailto:jb at	

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