Are you one of those people who think all software should be free? I don’t like you. But that’s besides the point, I’m going to look at how your views might apply to other very similar products and maybe that will be interesting.

In the paragraphs below – when I say positively ethical I mean progressively ethical, that’s as in more than just ok.

Book authors
A writer sat locked up in his house for a year, and wrote a book. He then took that book to a publisher, who thought it would sell, and got an agreement to receive royaltees off book sales for his writing.

Is it positively ethical for you (another publisher) to buy one copy of the book, print a few thousand copies, and sell them at half price paying no royaltees to the author who spent a year on it?

Car designers
I don’t know what they’re called – the people who actually draw the shape of a car. You are a designer working for Porsche, and you drew up the 911 (those photos don’t do it justice). You wasted a tonne (literally, a tonne) of paper going through contless revisions, to make it perfect. Porsche made it happen, and sold one to Ford Motor Company.

Is it positively ethical for Ford to copy the car’s design, make fifty thousand Ford 912s, and sell them half price, without paying a dime to Porsche?

Fashion designers
You are Calvin Klein. You work for a year coming up with the definition of style for the next few months. You sell one set of clothes a fashion junkie, who is actually working for a chinese sweat shop.

Is it positively ethical for the chinese sweat shop to make ten thousand copies in a few days and start selling them in stores at 5% of your price before you even get your stuff in stores?

Electrical and Electronic Engineers
Say you’re AMD. You designed the Tauron 25GHz processor. You sell one to Intel.

Is it positively ethical for Intel to use their magic 1-minute reverse engineering tool (say there was such a thing) to copy your design, make five hundred million Pentium XXV processors, and sell them at a discount, since they didn’t spend any money on design?

If you answered yes to any of the above – you’re a sad, pathetic human being. You have no marketable creativity, and maybe you’re not very bright. You just aren’t capable of understanding the value of talent, and the ammount of effort it takes to put an abstract set of ideas into a less abstract (but still not physical) design. You should be ashamed of yourself.

If you answered no to all of the above, then tell me – how is software any different? I’m all for hobbyists giving away their work if they please (I do it myself quite a lot), but what gives you the right to say that anyone who isn’t willing should work for free?