UCITA: Meeting to be held in Tuscon

Scott Walters phaedrus at
Thu Jul 25 18:14:10 CDT 2002

Howdy folks.

This is off topic.

Slashdot ran a story (today?) about lawmakers, lawyers, business men
meeting in Tuscon to unify UCITA so that it can be adopted by all states.
I wrote a hasty rant and proceded to send it to all 200 or so email addresses
listed. I've gotten a remarkable number of replies. Most of them are
out-of-office notices. Whoeever collected the email addresses did an
incredible job. No one who supported the legislation had any interest
in debating the issue, of course, but I got several notes like
the one attached.

I thought some of you might find this encouraging in a call-to-arms
sort of way.

A lot of law markers are well informed about the issues. Some are
looking the other way. Some don't quite understand how imporant
not having a shrink wrapped license is to software that is
distributed without cost and over the Internet, or that most
applications downloaded fill a nitch far too small to be of
interest to any commercial vender, or that code sharing
is not just swapping apps, but is critical knowledge sharing for
IT professionals. 


---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Thu, 25 Jul 2002 17:57:57 -0500
From: "Tennessen, Robert J." <Robert.Tennessen at>
To: Phaedrus the Blunt <phaedrus at>
Subject: RE: UCITA statement from Illogics Software

Thank you for your letter.  Although I and other Minnesota Commissioners voted against UCITA when approved in 1999 and still oppose it, the Conference is not likely to reverse the '99 decision.  You and others opposed to it should oppose it through publication of your views and through your vigorous opposition in the state legislatures.

-----Original Message-----
From: Phaedrus the Blunt [mailto:phaedrus at]
Sent: Thursday, July 25, 2002 8:34 AM
To: Tennessen, Robert J.
Subject: UCITA statement from Illogics Software

You're well familiar with the idea of volunteering legal services
for a good cause.

I'm a programmer, like thousands others, who find that the world -
especially the business world - benefits from me sharing the work
I've already done.

Most businesses are extremely hesitatent to purchase or develop
software they need because of the prohibitive cost. Having worked
at Motorola, Mayo Clinic, and various other companies, I can tell
you, companies have an extreme distaste for IT because of the
excessive cost and horrible budget overruns. Software is deployed
only a small fraction of the places where it would be useful.
"Enterprise knowledge management" is dodgy at best.

The solution to this problem is *not* to punish people, like myself,
who are extremely productive programmers, and share our "better
mousetraps" with the world at large.

Free Software:

1. Allows nitches to be explored where commercial markets have not
   yet been realized. 

   All of Microsoft's products came about this way. 
   Before Mosaic and then Netscape, no one *realized* the idea
   of a web browser, and therefore there was no product. Now the
   Internet is a multi billion dollar industry. Nitch products 
   create markets. BIND, Gopher, FTP, Telnet, and the rest of
   the programs that the Internet was built on were all freesoftware.

2. 70% to 90% of software is never fit to be sold! Most software 
   is not written as a product, but to fill to a very specific

   This software is not marketable nor commercial by natuture. It
   would be impossible to market this software due to the huge
   number of possible applications for a computer program in
   a business. Sharing these this kind of unpolished work 
   helps programmers in similar situations by giving them a
   starting point. This dramatically reduces the overall cost of IT labor
   within a company. Tens of thousands of websites and dozens of 
   magazines distribute this form of software. 

   Making Free Software authors liable for errors dispite disclaimers 
   would be akin to making book publishers liable for the enevitable
   errors that emerge.

3. By sharing software, independent programmers like myself can make
   a name for ourselves.

   Most of the successful consulting businesses were founded by
   well known consultants who had made a name for themselves by
   sharing their work. By giving away the program they write in
   their own time, they create a market for themselves where they
   are the expect. If you write a software package, and 10 companies
   realize its exactly what they need, it is far, far too small to
   market commercially, but a single person can make a living 
   supporting companies that started using it because it was free.

4. Free Software authors are good samaritans. 

   There are *always* exceptions under which software will not function.
   While cars are highly reliable, there will always be exceptions
   that will cause cars to stop working pending repair: dead battery,
   flat tire, bad sparkplug. These things are entirely out of the
   control of the manufacturer. Giving the manufacturer to define
   exactly what a car does and does not do is the only only
   reasonable arrangement! Sueing General Motors because you couldn't
   make it to a job interview because your car had a flat tire is
   entirely unreasonable.

   Not being able to process a dataset and suing the developer of a
   free database application for the amount it was worth to the
   company is flawed for exactly the same reason, and in the same way.

   GM provides transportation. I provide software. I don't provide
   end results, and I don't provide an insurance policy. It is
   critical to understand this.

5. Free Software frequently provides superior quality

   Sometimes quality isn't important. Sometimes it is critical. has recorded their first prrofitable quarter after
   switching from Microsoft's OS and webserver to the Linux operating
   system and Apache webserver. Each of those record an exploit that
   a hacker could take advantage of about once every 1-2 years, instead
   of every month. They can be heavily modified, running a complex
   mix of software without this impacting their uptimes. Being able
   to keep a Microsoft server running without human intervention
   requires that no users have access to the system, and that it run
   as little as software as possible. Obviously, the amount of
   supervision required for a system to operate dramatically impacts
   the cost of providing services for a company. While the UCITA
   would greatly benefit Micorsoft and a few propriatary venders,
   it would do more harm to software quality than good by punishing
   the people that work to build better systems. has more information on security vulnerabilities:
   it is the most popular site for security experts to track 
   exploits as they are discovered.

The rules that Compaq, Microsoft, and other large corporations would
have the world play by with the UCITA would give them control for
their markets, but it would stagnate all new markets at the same time.
This is ignorant, nihilistic, and destructive for their own growth,
and for the growth of the world market. This is asking that ALL
software industries sustain heavy damage as they know they will
fair better than everyone else, thereby being on top. Legislation
that is openly destructive is not good legislation.

The fact that Free Software poses such a significant threat to them
is clear illustration that inovation and quality products do flow
from Free Software authors. It is natural and normal that a company be 
subject to competition! Its the definition of the free market.

Thank you kindly for your time and attention.

-scott walters
Illogics Software

Po Box 692
Tempe AZ 85280

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