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Re: Free Software Guidelines Question

On Thu, 4 Apr 2019 01:59:31 -0400 Wade Pinkston wrote:

> Hello, and thank you for taking the time to read this (and hopefully
> respond:)

Hello Wade!

> My company manufactures high-end IR sensors, IR Quadrant detectors, IR
> PSDs, and associated electronics. I have recently been getting more and
> more requests to release a Debian package to help our customers interface
> with our hardware in the Debian environment.

That's interesting and good to hear: I hope you are going to satisfy
the needs of your customers in the best possible way.

> We have no issue with offering a free software
> package usable in Debian, and would very much like to make it available.

This looks like great news.

> The issue is our commercial competition.
> So my question is this- Is there a way to release a free software package
> for Debian, but maintain IP rights to it?, or at least make the code
> unavailable. If so , what is the best way to do this?

What you are asking for seems to be inconsistent with the very concept
of free software.

In a nutshell, free software has to be distributed while making source
code available, and legal permissions to
use/study/adapt/copy/distribute/modify the code have to be granted.
Otherwise, it's *not* free software.

You can find many explanations of what free software is.

One such explanation was written by me: you can read the whole [essay],
if you are interested.

[essay]: <https://www.inventati.org/frx/essays/softfrdm/whatisfree.html>

Please note that releasing free software does *not* correspond to lose
the copyright on it. The copyright owner *can* release free software,
while keeping his/her/its copyright on it (on the part he/she/it
developed): it's just that others will get permission to do a number of
things with the software.

If you are worried about the competitors, one possible strategy is to
compete by being the free-software-friendliest vendor in your market.

If you hardware works perfectly with free firmware and free software
(and does not require any proprietary firmware or software), if the end
user just has to install a package from the official Debian
repositories and is ready to go, then your hardware will be the most
convenient for your potential customers, who will prefer your hardware
over the competitors' products.

Your competitors will have the possibility to follow behind and make
compatible products, if they want to, but you'll have the possibility
to better support your customers (by being the first to innovate on new
hardware products, which will be well supported by free software from
day 1, by being the most knowledgeable about the free software you
develop, so that your customers will be better supported than those who
buy from your competitors, and so forth...).

I hope this reasoning makes sense to you and you end up deciding that
releasing free software is the best way to go.


 There's not a second to spare! To the laboratory!
..................................................... Francesco Poli .
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