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[Freeciv] intellectual property

[Freeciv] intellectual property

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To: freeciv@xxxxxxxxxxx
Subject: [Freeciv] intellectual property
From: Martin Horsch <horsch@xxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Thu, 20 Jul 2000 09:18:01 +0200 (CEST)
Reply-to: Martin Horsch <horsch@xxxxxxxxxx>

Please excuse this off-topic remark, but the comparison of Free
Software to "Communism" appears to be a means of propaganda (maybe
because after the McCarthy era nobody in the US dares admit tolerating
communism). Compare the Perens cite at the bottom (from the fortune

Additionally, one should mention that there *are* many other 3rd way
concepts (such as free economy) that differ from capialism as well as
communism, but they are ignored, which is US propaganda, too ;)
So, the simplification to capitalism against communism, as made by the
US, might be false.

The core point at this discussion is the fundamental difference between
the economy of source code and, for instance, computer chips or houses.
Property over houses is well-defined, because a house:

(1) cannot be copied
(2) is a physical object
(3) the donator loses his copy of the house if he decides to give it
away to a friend

While (3) appears ridiculous when applied to a house, it's daily praxis
when software is concerned and it is a key fundament of Free Software
development. So, maybe, the difference is not between Communism and
Neoliberalism, but rather between to topics that are comparable only
with difficulties. Why this? Because a computer chip, when transferred
to his new owner, disappears at his prior location, whereas source code
does not.

This given, what is the propaganda? It is, as RMS explained, the
terminology consisting of words like "property", "owner", "piracy",
"theft", that fit very well with physical objects (since a stolen loaf
of bread disappears), being applied to software.
The term "intellectual property" unites two terminologies that simply
don't fit together. What if e.g. Karl Marx had patented his idea of
communism? The same theory, described with other words (an analogy to
freeciv<->Sid's Civ, which is based on different code) would have been
In communism, there is no property over means of production; but
software cannot be compared to means of production, it cannot
effectively be compared to physical objects of any kind.

When software is copied, it does not disappear at its origin;
therefore, the donator suffers no harm by giving it away to a friend
(and we're all friends here, aren't we ;-). The Free Software economy
is, as suggested by Eric Raymond, a donation economy. A donation
economy always develops when there is enough for everybody; and because
software can be copied very easily, there is always enough.

Now, the Economy(and, consequently, the US government) tries to enforce
the rules of the conventional economy on the distribution of software.
There means to do so is applying all those terms that deal with the
free market (of course, where there is a market, there is not enough of
a product - if everybody could receive food from nothing, noone would
pay for it) to software distribution. This, however, is propaganda, and
the users of Free Software should employ terms of a more suitable

Of course, anybody who dares ;) may write proprietary software and
require its users to pay him money and sign nondisclosure agreements.
Only, the Free Software community will liberate ;) these users by
writing analagous but GPL'ed software. The most prominent case is, of
course, the GNU system (and Linux), consisting of programs that (as
opposed to freeciv) really imitate or originally imitated their
proprietary originals. And although there are really many of these
tools, nobody was sued for writing them.

And even if such cases had existed, if we know that the intentions of
the Freeciv project are worth being pursued, why should Hasbro stop us?
The money spent in trying to stop PGP was enormous and it still
exists... ok freeciv is not that useful, but still, "Civilization should
be free" - if there is a free make, why shouldn't there be a free Civ?

What Microprose or Hasbro get paid for, is not the idea (=ruleset) of
Civilization but their implementation of it. Since there existed
"Civilization" the board game before and Sid Meier commited the same
"theft" as anyone else who cloned the idea thereafter (SMAC, Birth of
the Federation, any round based strategies) - the idea of patenting
round-based strategy is ridiculous.

Although the DOC and PDF formats are proprietary, there are many free
programs creating such files; the rules (what a program must do to
create such files) were developed by companies, but as long as the code
implementing them is new, the software may be free.

I'm a Sid Meier fan and have no problems with paying him money for his
ideas; only, nobody using Freeciv can be forced to do so, neither can
the developers or those who distribute Freeciv.


Martin Horsch
Mail: horsch@xxxxxxxxxx
Tel: 0711-4799527

"The reason for the success of this somewhat communist-sounding
strategy, while the failure of communism itself is visible around the
world, is that the economics of information are fundamentaly different
from those of other products."

  -- Bruce Perens, on Open Source software.
     (Open Sources, 1999 O'Reilly and Associates)

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