[thelist] [OT] Gift Culture on the Net: A Rant

Dwayne dwayne at iconys.com
Sun Aug 19 13:40:42 CDT 2001

i used to think euthanasia was a hot button issue, until i came across this 
one... skip to the bottom of you just want the tip.

On Sunday 19 August 2001 09:06, Raymond Camden wrote:
> While I liked Frank's email, how can one go from "It's nice to share code"
> to "It's ok to take code." There is a big difference between a Gift
> Culture, in which people _choose_ to share, and an Entitlement Culture,
> where people feel they are entitled to code.

there's a wider spectrum of issues there than is implied in the jump from 
sharing code to taking code. there's rather a large philosophical, and 
practical, difference between reverse engineering (decrypting CF code) and 
infringing copyright (distributing warez).

when we're talking about decrypting CF code, or decrypting/decompiling any 
piece of code to which you have access, we're not talking about theft, but 
about pulling something apart to see how it works. the entire idea that this 
might be wrong is a very new one. until recently, it was impossible to 
prevent someone from taking a working thing apart to see what made it tick, 
so the ethical question of whether you should never really came up.

i think it's important to differentiate the issues:

1) reverse engineering. i think this is what Frank was getting at. pulling 
things apart to see how the work. learning from working systems.

2) intellectual property. can you own an idea, especially relatively mundane 
ones? patent law effectively gives you an exclusive license to exploit an 
idea that is not mundane, but it doesn't prohibit others from knowing about 
it, or from pulling apart your product to see how you're idea works. (note 
that i'm not making any comment here about the (effective|broken)ness of the 
patent system or IP law).

3) copyright. having the right to control the manner in which your work is 

my own position is not particularly original. any creator should have the 
right to control how their creation is distributed, and whether or not they 
are compensated for said distribution (ie, copyright infringement is wrong). 
also, anyone has the right to investigate how the world works, and this 
includes how things made by man work (ie, preventing reverse-engineering is 

> I want you to tell me, to my face, that you have the right to my source
> code even if I don't want to share. Yes, I would be a better person if I
> shared, but if I don't, that's my choice.

that really depends on what you mean by "the right to my source code". i 
would assert i have the right to pry it apart and peek inside if i have a 
legally obtained copy, just like i have the right to do that with my computer 
hardware, my television, my leaky faucet. i most certainly do not have the 
right to spread your code around without your permission.

in short, nothing should interfere with the creator's right to distribute his 
work as he sees fit, and nothing should interfere with the users right to use 
that creation, including as a learning tool.

- dwayne

sending mail in perl, without using outside applications:

if the libnet bundle is installed (not in the standard distribution, but it's 
almost everywhere), you can use Net::SMTP. (this is stripped down. check the 
module documenation for error handling info)

use Net::SMTP;

my $message = "To: $to\nFrom: $from\nSubject: $subject}\n\n$body";

my $smtp = Net::SMTP->new ($mail_host, Hello => $sender_domain);


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