Why I think RMS is a fanatic, and why that matters.

One of my commenters reports that he showed my essay on evaluating the harm from closed-source software to Richard Stallman, who became upset by it. It shouldn’t be news to RMS or anyone else that I think he’s a fanatic and this is a problem, but it seems that every few years I have to explain the problem again. I make the effort not because of personal animus but because fanaticism does not serve us well – we’ve made huge progress since 1998 by not repeating RMS’s mistakes, and I think it’s important that we continue not to replicate them.

When I was say that I judge RMS is a fanatic, I mean something very specific by that. I cite Santayana’s definition: “Fanaticism consists in redoubling your effort when you have forgotten your aim”. By his own account of his road-to-Damascus experience, RMS started out attempting to solve a problem; there was this broken printer driver that he couldn’t fix because he couldn’t get the source. RMS correctly identified source secrecy as a damaging practice leading to bad outcomes.

Unfortunately, RMS made an early decision to frame his advocacy as a moral crusade rather than a pragmatic argument about engineering practices and outcomes. While he made consequentialist arguments against closed source (and still does) his rhetoric and his thinking became dominated by terms like “evil”, to the point where he repeatedly alienated potential allies both with his absolutism and his demand that anyone cooperating with him share it.

I think this is precisely the sort of displacement Santayana had in mind – means overwhelming ends, rhetoric taking over and trapping the fanatic in a position where the harm he was originally reacting against is forgotten. Instead the language of revelation, virtue, sin, purity, corruption, and redemption dominates. RMS parodies this aspect of his own propaganda when he presents himself as “St. Ignucious”, but the parody does not banish the fact that he is in fact living the role of ascetic holy man bent on purging sin from the world.

There are some advantages to this strategy. It taps into old, powerful emotional responses in human beings – the same responses that give messianic religions their power. As a way of recruiting a small hard core of dedicated followers it’s tough to beat, and sometimes – if you’re, say, the Gautama Buddha or Jesus or Mahavira – you can make it scale up. But I described it as a trap for a reason – most such attempts do not scale, remaining tiny marginal cults.

By the late 1990s, after having observed RMS’s behavior for more than a decade, I had long since concluded that the Free Software Foundation’s moralistic rhetoric was serving us badly. The problem with it is the same problem with messianic religions in general; for people who are not flipped into true-believer mode by any given one, it will come off as at best creepy and insular, at worst nutty and potentially dangerous (and this remains true even for people attached to a different messianic religion).

I was not the first or only person to diagnose this problem, and note that it was severely damaging our ability to talk people outside the hacker community into giving up code secrecy. I was the first person to devise a solution, an entire discourse that could compete with the FSF’s – the rhetoric of “open source”, and determinedly pragmatic arguments for it centered in engineering and economics.

Fifteen years later I think it is clear from results that teaching the hacker community to stop alienating potential allies with terms like “evil” and the rhetoric of sin and redemption was very effective. Understanding that RMS is a fanatic matters, because it reminds us that we have achieved an unprecedented measure of mainstream success by not replicating his rhetoric and his mistakes, and that we need to continue not to replicate them.

It shouldn’t need saying, but this criticism is not personal. I still try to be a friend to RMS on the rare occasions that he permits it. He’s done amazingly good technical work, and is without doubt one of the heroes of our culture. He has the virtues of his vices; he’s a man of unshakable honesty and integrity. But for the sake of the future – indeed, for the sake of RMS’s own original objectives – I have to call him on his fanaticism. There is too much at stake for me to be diplomatically dishonest about this – it did immense damage to the cause of openness, and I had to spend a good many years remediating that damage.

Its is still theoretically possible that RMS and the FSF could clean up its act. A good first step would be to stop characterizing people who refuse to use the rhetoric of moral evil as unprincipled and traitorous. It would be better to drop the quasi-religious rhetoric entirely. But I don’t expect this to happen; too much history and personal investment locks RMS and the FSF into their position. Thus, I expect to have to keep pointing out periodically that it’s fanaticism and that such fanaticism does the open-source community more harm than good.

676 thoughts on “Why I think RMS is a fanatic, and why that matters.

  1. Interesting, but what exactly should be done about people and corporations that distribute non-free software? Isn’t the goal that people should be taught not to deal with them and instead use only free software? That’s not being a fanatic, it’s being realistic.

  2. >Isn’t the goal that people should be taught not to deal with them and instead use only free software?

    It’s not RMS’s goal I’m rejecting, but the style and fixations of his propaganda. I’ve tried to teach the same lesson. I think I’ve done it more effectively.

  3. It usually takes a personal example of the damage ones fanaticism is causing to realize one is practicing fanaticism. Something must happen to the fanatic that they must deal with, no one outside the group can simply rationalize the irrational away.

    Not that you shouldn’t write more about it.

  4. @James Tall

    Build software with open source that is so much better that you outcompete them and steal their customers.

    The best revenge is living well.

  5. James: Pragmatic considerations mean that for most people, the choice to stop dealing with people and corporations that distribute non-free software is not a choice at all. Stallman does not recognize this reality, and so he simply gets ignored by people who think, correctly, that he does not understand their situation nor does he care to. Thus, he has nothing to say to them that they will listen to.

  6. If RMS being given the Linus Torvalds award for software development didn’t faze him, nothing will.

    And good on him for it, honestly. Open Source has won the messaging war, but I don’t imagine it has all that much more to accomplish in the real world than it has already done. Having RMS continuing to Quixote like all heck is inspiring to those people who are willing to overlook such realities, and I’m glad for it.

  7. But I don’t expect this to happen; too much history and personal investment locks RMS and the FSF into their position.

    It’s much more than that, it’s a fundamental part of his character. I was part of the non-Symbolics Lisp Machine community during the relevant period, he was in my social circle and we were even roommates when he launched the GNU Project in mid-late ’83. And later I went to work for the licensee of Gosling Emacs (the developers’ Laserprinter was named Software Hoarder, although Unipress shipped source along with binaries when they could). And when I showed up in 1979 his character was already infamous.

    He’s not going change absent something major, not when he’s been this way for well more than 3 decades.

  8. I think you need both view points. It’s essential that RMS is a fanatic to be the anchor of the movement. There are times where the moral viewpoint is essential in debating free or open software. Enterprise may only want the pragmatic version of the story, but there are a lot of people who do actually believe in the thought behind the fsf.

  9. In reply to James Tall’s Qs >but what exactly should be done about people and corporations that distribute non-free software?

    There is a beautiful concept in Vedic philosophy, “All is That”! All that is in the universe, good or bad is part of the Divine… (hehe no pun intended on ESR’s allegory to religious fanaticism) … which has led to one of the most open societies on Earth. India today epitomises the concept of Unity in Diversity, and diversity is built into nature, we have no choice but to embrace it. What is more difficult is to accept the diversity and respect other people’s views, customs, beliefs, however well founded our understanding that they may be going astray. This is the source of Unity.

    Coming back to the question, there is nothing we ought to do about people who push non-free software, give them your blessings in fact, and keep developing and reinforcing the open movement. No one can make someone change, a person can only change by themselves, and it is by forging on that we can slowly get people to see the benefits of open dev, for in the long term it is the only development that is truly sustainable.

  10. >There are times where the moral viewpoint is essential in debating free or open software.

    I occasionally hear people assert this. But nobody ever explains why – it’s just handwaved, as though it’s so obviously true it doesn’t need a demonstration.

  11. I disagree with you on one point. I agree that RMS is a fanatic, at least as far as I can tell. However, I think there is some value in having an intelligent, thoughtful spokesman for the fanatic viewpoint on free software. He goes too far some times, but his alarms are early warnings on a lot of issues. His story The Right to Read was a warning about the dangers of extending copyright and applying DRM to it at a time when even a lot of the geekiest of us were only dreaming of usable e-book readers.

    The only danger I see in his more fanatical stands is if they are mistaken as widely held positions. Some of his views are very widely held, some aren’t. He is no more the sole spokesman for free software than you are the sole spokesman for open source. Yours are two of the most influential voices, both worth listening too. The primary reason I take both of you seriously, is that you both espoused one of the most important facets of the hacker ethic. You saw a problem and actually set about building parts of a solution.

  12. ESR is learning the lessons he himself wants to learn. People who get what hardcore principled organizing is about understand the value of RMS’s stance and role in information freedom. And in fact, others do too, now. It is true that RMS was marginalized until around 2004, but now he’s recognized and respected and the old arguments ESR trots out here no longer have the corrosive effect they used to have. ESR should learn about principled organizing so he can see how much RMS has actually accomplished and made possible, which his “pragmatic” approach could never have accomplished. Just the flip side to this old hat nonsense ESR still clings to. We no longer have the old flame wars we used to have, and that’s because some hardcore organizer types helped facilitate the proper recognition of what RMS does. RMS has blown up at me when I have been less than principled, but I never faulted him for it. Even in the old world where we constantly had this same old nonsense ESR’s now trotting out all over again, people debating tactics and framing, I knew that RMS was doing the key thing — what spin doctors can’t really recognize: building an army all over the planet of principled advocates, a constituency that now speaks up with solid message on far more of the issues as they arise, than before. My guess is ESR would claim that’s because of his efforts since 1998. But the truth is, the “open source” framing didn’t solve the problem; there was still all the old flame warring that essentially stopped after 2004, and the advocates, wherever they work in the arena of information freedom, don’t disparage RMS. Even Torvalds has yoked it back a bit. ESR is telling an old story that misses the clue.

  13. His story The Right to Read was a warning about the dangers of extending copyright and applying DRM to it at a time when even a lot of the geekiest of us were only dreaming of usable e-book readers.

    Meh… I remember at the time where DRM was just becoming a thing, and pretty much all of my (geeky) friends were discussing exactly the kind of distopian future that RMS wrote that story about. RMS isn’t unique in his ability to see these things. He did a very valuable thing for the world in the 70’s and 80’s with giving us the GNU toolchain, and he was the first to mobilize against software suddenly becoming proprietary and the like, but I think his continued activism is of dubious worth.

  14. Difference: Hardcore principled organizing also brought us the current Community Organizer-in-Chief. Please forgive me if I disagree with you that that is a bug, rather than a feature.

  15. >Please forgive me if I disagree with you that that is a bug, rather than a feature.

    Right, but I already had Difference sussed when he used the term “hardcore principled organizing”. That kind of rhetoric only comes out of the mouths of people with the psychology of cult followers or would-be cult leaders.

  16. This quote by RMS encapsulates why I’m glad that he is who he is.

    “I am a pessimist by nature. Many people can only keep on fighting when they expect to win. I’m not like that, I always expect to lose. I fight anyway, and sometimes I win.”

    The virtue of his vice, as Eric says.

    I agree that Eric’s approach wins more often, though.

  17. [ESR responding to the argument that " the moral viewpoint is essential"] — “I occasionally hear people assert this. But nobody ever explains why – it’s just handwaved, as though it’s so obviously true it doesn’t need a demonstration.”

    It is essential because the ideological framework identifies an ideal goal — that is, Ideally, all software regardless of its origin will be partnered with its source code. In setting this stance, we push the Overton window further to our side, allowing pragmatists to be able to say, “We’re not extremists, like Stallman” and gain more credibility.

    If the concept of Free software doesn’t exist, then it is Open Source that is controversial rather than mainstream.

  18. I read your post, and thought “whatever”.

    I believe our current internet-enabled economy wouldn’t even exist without RMS adn his direct “messianic” influence on certain kernel-smiths.

  19. >In setting this stance, we push the Overton window further to our side, allowing pragmatists to be able to say, “We’re not extremists, like Stallman” and gain more credibility.

    This is actually reasonable. I’ve used Stallman this way myself – he more or less begs for it. But I don’t think you’re answering the usual intent of the claim “the moral viewpoint is essential”, which has nothing to do with anything as cold-blooded as gaming the Overton window and everything to do with deep-seated convictions in the speaker.

  20. >>There are times where the moral viewpoint is essential in debating free or open software.

    >I occasionally hear people assert this. But nobody ever explains why – it’s just handwaved, as though it’s so obviously true it doesn’t need a demonstration.

    The problem is that the moral viewpoint for open source / free software is quite often not particularly strong. Besides the consequentalist analysis presented by ESR it is still a fact that it is a private property of the author and it is a fundamental property right to decide to share it or not, and to engage in contracts accordingly. (To have laws that enforce IP is a different matter, let’s not discuss it for now, let’s just stick to this personal decision and contractual enforcement.) I am trying not to be some kind of Rothbardian fanatic who sees everything from the exclusive viewpoint of property rights, thankfully I grew out of that, but can’t we just all agree that property rights are an important part of freedom and any morality that enforces sharing should rather make a strong case for it, that is should be an exception, not a rule?

    Plus if it is a moral question where to draw the line – only shrinkwrap, or also SaaS, or even every in-house used software contain a whole lot of business secrets, even when it has some very narrow interface with customers? At the end of the day if it was a moral requirement to share the source of every software it would mean there is a moral requirement to share every kind of knowledge and how-to – and does anyone really seriously say that?

  21. Your previous essay, on harm, categorised well why “closed source” is “evil”, it is harmful. Now, that harm might be acceptable in some cases (lesser evil) but, well.

    I also have to question how well the whole free software/open source software movement(s) would have got without the “off topic” message of ethics. (I would be interested in a debate between people who were there. I’m far too young.) I guess you think it would have gone further and faster?

    (And @Vrata, seriously? India open and diverse? What about castes, the whole Pakistan mess (from before partition until now), continue mistreatment of Muslims, continued mistreatment of “blasphemers”, government censorship, etc. etc.?)

  22. >>There are times where the moral viewpoint is essential in debating free or open software.

    >I occasionally hear people assert this. But nobody ever explains why – it’s just handwaved, as though it’s so obviously true it doesn’t need a demonstration.

    Most people are too stupid or too unwilling to actually think, they need some absolute pronouncements they can adhere to.

    Heinlein’s most accurate quote was, “Never underestimate the power of human stupidity.”

  23. Casimir, don’t read more into Linus’s adoption of the GPL than actually is there. He was not influenced by the Stallmanite ethos.

  24. Why does it have to be one thing or another? Can’t the FSF do good work in its own way while other people do good work in other ways?

    Some coders only use free licenses, and presumably some only use non-free open source licenses. Many other developers use both types of license, depending on their goals and the nature of their software. When you write something that plugs into a framework, you typically use the licenses that framework uses. In other cases you can do other things. I really like what Zed Shaw had to say about this: http://zedshaw.com/essays/why_i_gpl.html Note that Shaw has Mongrel2 on BSD in addition to Lamson on GPL. It’s possible for developers to take part in both segments of the community.

    RMS doesn’t often acknowledge the good that non-free open source licenses have done, and that’s in keeping with the “fanatic” label. It seems precarious, however, to claim to be above fanaticism and then not acknowledge the good things that he and the FSF continue to do. Projects choose the GPL, LGPL, and AGPL all the time, due partly to the licenses’ viral nature but also for other reasons, including the advocacy of RMS. As uncomfortable as modern sophisticates are with the word “evil”, rhetoric that isn’t squeamish in that way speaks effectively to many people. Those who can’t handle it should change the channel.

    My question: stipulating that RMS acts in a fanatical fashion, what real harm (i.e. let’s exclude “hurt feelings” or “truth”) is done by that? What interests about which I or any developer should care, are diminished by the actions of RMS and the FSF?

  25. @esr

    Is it out of cowardice that you mention Gautama Buddha, Jesus, and Mahavira, but not Muhammad?

    I think you’re better than that, and expect a correction.

  26. I think the thing with you and RMS is that you both came into this for different reasons.

    From the history I’ve read RMS came into this in part because closed source fragmented his community that revolved around what he loved, writing software. It was the community he wants.

    For you it seems like you came into this because if was depriving you of your personal freedoms.

    For him, the only way to get his community back is to convert others to his cause. Your motivation is your(and others) personal freedom, which can be achieved in many ways beyond just free software.

  27. Ignatius: Boy, are you leveling that accusation at the wrong guy…considering that Eric has had actual death threats leveled at him by Islamofascists, and his response to them…

  28. Although I don’t agree with some things RMS says on a personal level, he was damn right to turn it into a moral crusade.

    Consider tivoization – something that open source advocates are alright with. If I buy a piece of computer hardware and I’m not allowed to use it the way I want because the manufacturer doesn’t want me to – it **is** evil. I bought it. Not rented it. It’s mine. Yet, my ownership rights were taken away. Unjustly.

    Now if you get back to the RMS’ printer – imagine that he *did* get the source code, but that he wasn’t able to use it to fix the problem, as the computer system he was using was locked down. Yes, he got the source code, but the result is the same – the printer is still broken. “RMS made an early decision to frame his advocacy as a moral crusade rather than a pragmatic argument”? Sure, it is moral crusade, but how is this *not* pragmatic?

    Let me correct one thing:

    > RMS correctly identified source secrecy as a damaging practice leading to bad outcomes.

    This is wrong. The secrecy wasn’t the problem. **Even if you have the source code if you can’t actually use it there is no point**. The problem was that the printer’s manufacturer stripped away the user’s freedom. Hence, his enemy isn’t secrecy – it’s dictatorship.

  29. @ Jess

    As I said in the previous blog, a “free license” that is more than 5000 words (not characters) long, and has an FAQ and a guide for its use is not “free” – its freedom is all about restrictions and responsibilities and rules (huh – the 3 “R”s of non-freedom).

    My view is that the GPL isn’t free, it is a guide to a moral philosophy. I recognize that there are many developers that say things that start with “I don’t want my code used by…”:.

    Perosnally, when I write Open Source software, I use (a slight variation of) the MIT licence – I want my sottware to be used by ANYONE that finds it useful.

    I believe (but wouldn’t be surprised if I am not really right) that RMS was the single most important person in the early days of free software (the days when he was fighting the use passwords on accounts) – he wrote a vast amount of code for all of us.

    I believe that RMS is still important in the community of hackers, if only because he has quite a number of hackers that look to him as their leader.

    The problem is how he comes across to corporations.

    The harm done by RMS is that (I assume at least some) corporations think he is nuts and that Free Software is highly questionable at best and nuts at worst. I assume that at least some of these corporations don’t draw a distinction between FSF and OSI – we all get painted with the same brush. RMS’s fanaticism hurts Open Source.

  30. To clarify, although I don’t really see the point, I have nothing agains developerst that start sentences with “I don’t want my code used by…”

  31. @esr:
    >>There are times where the moral viewpoint is essential in debating free or open software.
    >I occasionally hear people assert this. But nobody ever explains why – it’s just handwaved, as though it’s so obviously true it doesn’t need a demonstration.

    The moral viewpoint is essential because, while CSS is not per-se evil, attempts to make money off of it are associated strongly with many things that are either flat-out evil or strongly morally suspect (DRM, government sponsored monopolies through copyrights and patents and the associated regulatory capture, etc.). FOSS is a practical way of preventing these evils. So you have both a practicality argument (about the use of FOSS instead of CSS to prevent certain things) and a morality argument (about what needs to be prevented). While I think large parts of the OSS community (including you) definitely understand that things like DRM are moral evils, I think it ends up understated in OSS rhetoric (whereas the FS community overstates the moral evil and extends it to things that aren’t evil in and of themselves).

    (In the above, I use “FOSS” to refer to the broad concept of open-source software and “OSS” and “FS” to refer to the separate philosophies held by advocates for that broad concept).

  32. To me RMS is a great person the world will always remember of course, you can’t judge RMS for being a little extreme about our cause, as we all know RMS is a man of unshakable honesty and integrity as what you said too yourself, without the way he handled our cause and without all the contributions he made on multiple levels “not only technical levels but also philosophical and educational efforts and contributions” the whole computer industry wouldn’t be as it is today.

  33. I’m not sure I agree. A lot of stuff RMS says is true, needs to be heard, is best delivered in the preachy style he’s often criticised for. Much of his rather non compromising stances which seemed silly have been vindicated too. However, I’m not really interested in debating this since it’s not going to change viewpoints or the good and bad that the Free Software and Open Source communities are doing.

    What really rings a bell in my head is how closely your charactertisation of RMS and Free Software enthusiasts as a charismatic religious leader and his cult of followers describes the Apple and their true believers. The religious motifs seem much more pronounced there.

    Not totally relevant to the discussion at hand but something that struck me.

  34. “As a way of recruiting a small hard core of dedicated followers it’s tough to beat, and sometimes – if you’re, say, the Gautama Buddha or Jesus or Mahavira – you can make it scale up. But I described it as a trap for a reason – most such attempts do not scale, remaining tiny marginal cults.”

    The German Pirate Party regularly poll over 10%; I regard that as successfully scaling. More importantly, its high enough that bad copyright and patent laws, of the sort that harm open source, can probably be got rid of.

  35. Phil: “its high enough that bad copyright and patent laws, of the sort that harm open source, can probably be got rid of.” I’ll believe that when I see it and not a moment before.

  36. @Jon Brase
    (In the above, I use “FOSS” to refer to the broad concept of open-source software and “OSS” and “FS” to refer to the separate philosophies held by advocates for that broad concept).
    [sarc]
    And you use CSS for Cascaded Style Sheets?
    [/sarc]

    I did figure out that you meant Closed Source Software, but it took me a moment.

    On the general subject of RMS and fanaticism…I realized a few weeks ago that about half of my meatspace friends don’t even know that Open Source exists. I had a hard time explaining why I distrust Windows systems and iPhones. (Even though I have had to use both of them on the job…) They think I use Linux for geek-cred points.

    It is one of those things where non-tech-geeks don’t even understand what software is. They purchase software like they purchase appliances. If I used RMS-style arguments, they would think I was insisting that I should be able to walk into the store and walk out with a microwave without paying for it.

    Of course, that has as much to do with misunderstanding what software is as it does with RMS and his fanaticism. But I can’t fix that by being a fanatic.

  37. You mention a lot of “problems” but don’t really mention any specific points or examples. This appears to be more of a rant than anything. It’s true that Richard is very opinionated. If you’ve watched or had the luck of attending one of his speeches in person, they are excellent. The guy is brilliant and when you think about how much he has done for open and free software, it’s mind boggling.

  38. Jay Maynard: (replying to my prediction that the German Pirate Party are doing well enough to scrap bad copyright/patent laws) “I’ll believe that when I see it”

    Fair enough, but it seems to me to be a big enough vote share that either (i) the Pirates will be invited into a coalition, where scrapping said laws will be part of the coalition programme, or (ii) the other parties will move their policies in the direction of the pirates, to avoid losing more votes to them.

  39. Phil: The problem is that the politicians are good at co-opting movements like that. I predict they’ll find themselves in a coalition that promises to push their program, but doesn’t push hard, with the excuse being that they’ve got bigger fish to fry.

  40. @Jay,

    If the Pirate Party accomplishes its putative goal, it then becomes an entity that has no reason to exist.

    What are the odds that they will accomplish their goals fully?

  41. “Open source!” the imperative has become much more accepted because it asks a lot less than “Free software!” the imperative. “Free software!” has become about more than software: it’s about the sociology of computing and the bargains consumers make to consume the programs and services of corporations and other makers. And it’s about social control in a way that “Open source!” makes no statement on.

    I also feel like “Open source!” is, in a sense, well done. Mission accomplished. But the philosophical issues raised by “Free software!” are still with us. If you don’t like the way FSF puts it, what about the Electronic Frontier Foundation? It’s many of the same positions without the good/evil rhetoric.

    Stallman knows exactly what his aim is: to put control of computing (in a broad sense) in the hands of individuals. He thinks this is good and control by elites, corporations, and governments is evil. That’s the moral question that he’s grappling with.

    Why is the moral viewpoint helpful? Because hey, we’re now all dealing with these moral issues in everyday life. This technology is pervasive and is altering our brains and perspectives. Looking at how and why and what to do about it is par for the course.

  42. Karre: I’d say about 25%. It depends on a lot of external factors that boil down to how badly one of the bigger parties needs their votes.

  43. > >There are times where the moral viewpoint is essential in debating free or open software.
    >
    > I occasionally hear people assert this. But nobody ever explains why – it’s just
    > handwaved, as though it’s so obviously true it doesn’t need a demonstration.

    Ok, let me try to explain. Hot example, is facebook open source company? Why to fuck don’t they give us important data? Forget about libs and PR stuff, talking about database here. It would be great source of knowledge and wisdom to scientist, think about it. Instead they sell their data to govs, corps, …. So, sorry, but fuck that. At the same time they *can* call themselves open because they gave few libs and apps to community. Yeah right.

    Btw i also think rms is fanatic, but atm his points are very important because open source model is conquered by big corps and we all know what that means. Internet is first medium in history of human kind that could finally change paradigm from “divide and conquer” to “collaborate and prosper”. Be pragmatic, ignore some fanaticism and accept what is important ;-)

  44. @Brian Marshall:

    I realized as I was writing how loaded the terms “free” and “non-free” are, but we must draw a distinction somehow if we’re to have a discussion. For those who really want to know why the GPLs are as long and complicated as they are, there is a great deal of documentation and argumentation, but for those who don’t care… that’s OK. Use the license you prefer, no matter the basis of your preference.

    As for the opinions of corporations, I trust the market will get it right, eventually, after it’s tried every conceivable wrong thing. Companies that can employ a different cohort of PHBs, who happen to have their heads inserted into a slightly different crevice than the previous generation had, will eventually use superior tools regardless of outside recommendations. Companies that can’t, might very well die, unmourned. But I think you still haven’t identified the relevant interest group. You care about companies using open source because you might get a job as a result (me too!). But we have to switch hats from “potential employee” to “FOSS coder” before judging how important company opinions are. We don’t care who uses our code, or how. We care that it be kept free, a concern to which all others are secondary. A company that cannot build on free code in a free fashion is a problem for that reason only, not because they make a profit or build deathterrordrones or experiment on puppies or whatever. Companies that can abide the GPL are more likely to contribute significant pull requests anyway.

  45. @Mike:

    From the history I’ve read RMS came into this in part because closed source fragmented his community that revolved around what he loved, writing software. It was the community he wants.

    From the history I witnessed it would be almost as accurate to say that when the vast majority of Tech Square LISP and OS hackers decamped for Symbolics he no longer was able to easily find peers to have lunch or dinner with.

    He had multiple reasons, some good, some bad, some debatable (as noted above, “free” is not a word many would use to describe the GPL); the official morality tale only provides some of the picture.

  46. I met Richard Stallman (RMS) once. Actually sat down to dinner with him at the same table but I didn’t realize who he was. He was poorly dressed, unkempt, needed a shower, and his conversation was both confused and confusing. I later learned that he was always that way. When he got up as the speaker for that afternoon, I said to myself, “Huh? Who is this guy that he’s being allowed to speak dressed like that?” After about five minutes, it finally dawned on me that this was the guy behind the GNU/GPL movement but he spoke like an insane, raving mad man. After about half an hour of listening, I came to the conclusion that he fits the stereotype of “prophet” – like those found in the Bible – only he’s got the software angle.

    Ignore that lunatic. He’s completely nuts.

  47. I agree, the extreme stance of many of the software development movements has bothered me for some time. If you want to get things accomplished it is much easier to go with the underlying grain, not against it. Not only does this simplify the effort, but it also allows for the surplus to go into producing higher quality works. RMS had a legitimate problem, but I think that the modern ‘fanatical’ solution to it is counter-productive in a whole bunch of ways. I proposed an alternate:

    http://theprogrammersparadox.blogspot.ca/2012/02/software-clearing-houses.html

    but it doesn’t seem to appeal to those swayed by all of the rhetoric. Still, I think it would solve the original problem and get some financial freedom out there to allow for more experimentation. Both would be good things right now.

    Paul.

  48. @Jess:

    We don’t care who uses our code, or how. We care that it be kept free, a concern to which all others are secondary.

    But if I add my code to your code, there are three possibilities: either (a) I distribute the result as source, or (b) I distribute the result as object, (c) or I don’t distribute the result. In case (a) I have arguably increased the viability of your code, by making one more place where it can be downloaded from, but cases (b) and (c) are indistinguishable from each other for the freedom of your code, but are treated completely differently by the GPL.

    Companies that can abide the GPL are more likely to contribute significant pull requests anyway.

    I think that’s just wishful thinking unless you can provide some sort of accurate citation. How do you think Python, Apache, LLVM, etc. are developed?

  49. @ Jess

    As for the opinions of corporations, I trust the market will get it right, eventually,

    A lot of folks are using Firefox without any idea that it is Open Source or what that means. If I try to explain that it is free and was written by people, almost all of whom are working for free because they want to – they just assume that I must have misinterpreted something somewhere – they don’t even begin to “get it”. Many are very happy to use Firefox, however – particularly when they learn that it is a lot safer than using MS IE.

    I don’t know to what degree corporations have embraced Firefox. It is the best thin edge of the wedge to date, in my opinion.

    And now for something completely different…

    Is it just me, or does the Firefox logo look like the fox is… uh… enjoying a very intimate relationship with the world. The Thunderbird seems to have the same sort of relationship with the letter in its logo.

  50. > I don’t know to what degree corporations have embraced Firefox.

    It and Chrome are both considered anathema by the site IS manager where I work (so happens he is my boss). He calls Firefox a virus, and claims Chrome destroys the Windows systems it is installed on. I just laugh and use Chrome anyway.

    But there are a number of places where things are designed to work with IE, so that is a requirement. Very annoying.

  51. This discussion reminds me of 2 Indian freedom fighters of late 19th century. Tilak vs Agarkar. Tilak espoused a more hardline view of immediate freedom from the British While Agarkar was ok with freedom through the path of social/political reforms. Both were closest friends since young age. The animosity caused due to divergent viewpoints made Tilak skip even meeting Agarkar on his deathbed.

    I hope RMS agrees with ESR that there is nothing personal in this debate.

    PS: People in India remember Tilak more than Agarkar today. :)

  52. My favorite example of the fanaticism of RMS/GNU/the FSF and how they have lost the plot is the Savannah website. A couple of years back I was looking at moving a project off Sourceforge, and Savannah seemed like an attractive alternative. Savannah is used to support official GNU projects, but it’s open to registration for non-GNU projects as well.

    I quickly discovered that it would be an impossible option when I read the hosting guidelines. You can read them here:

    https://savannah.nongnu.org/register/requirements.php

    In brief, the following things (among others) are forbidden for any hosted project:
    * Free Software that only runs on a non-free OS (eg. Windows)
    * Free Android apps
    * Free Software that works with “non free formats” like Flash.
    * Using the term “open source” on websites or in documentation.
    * Using “Linux” instead of “GNU/Linux”
    * Manuals that aren’t licensed under the FDL

    To me this serves as a good summary of the fanaticism of the FSF. There is no conception of agreeing to disagree and letting people make their own choices. It should be obvious that providing developers with the tools they need to develop Free Software ought to be the most obvious and effective technique to promote Free Software development. Instead this comes second place to their own narrow political ideology.

  53. It takes a fanatic to balance a world where so much weight is in the wrong side. If we focus only on RMS is easy to see him as a messianic guy, a mystic, but he’s counterbalancing a lot of power: without the energy of people like him things simply won’t move. And that amount of energy is only produced through some kind of fanaticism.

  54. “Nobody ever got fired for buying Microsoft” is an often heard phrase in a lot of companies, oddly replacing the earlier “nobody ever got fired for buying IBM” (possibly because someone eventually did get fired :-)

    In terms of ‘freedom’, as a commercial developer the products I’ve worked on do make some of their revenue from software licensing, so for most of the companies I’ve worked for GPL is considered ‘toxic’. It is of no more use than code coming from MS. Also, but not always, the LGPL is considered questionable, so it too is avoided. Something isn’t free if there are strings attached …

    Paul.

  55. @Patrick:

    “Companies that can abide the GPL are more likely to contribute significant pull requests anyway.” — I think that’s just wishful thinking unless you can provide some sort of accurate citation.

    How about this: the companies I can think of who have contributed to non-free open source licensed projects (Red Hat, IBM, Novell, Intel, etc.) have also contributed to free software projects. Can you identify a corporation that contributes significantly to non-free open projects but won’t touch free projects? Are that company’s contributions valuable enough to trash RMS over?

    How do you think Python, Apache, LLVM, etc. are developed?

    I read the python dev lists pretty religiously, so I think I have some clue on that one. Off the top of my head I can think of people who work for Google and Canonical, two companies who clearly have no problem with free software.

  56. >And that amount of energy is only produced through some kind of fanaticism.

    The success of the open-source rebranding proves that’s not true. Nowadays we have major mainstream acceptance of open source; we didn’t, back when moralistic fanaticism was the only rationale on offer.

  57. “[...] such fanaticism does the open-source community more harm than good.”

    I occasionally hear people assert this. But nobody ever explains why – it’s just handwaved, as though it’s so obviously true it doesn’t need a demonstration.

  58. >Nowadays we have major mainstream acceptance of open source; we didn’t, back when moralistic fanaticism was the only rationale on offer.

    All that says is that moralistic fanaticism is not sufficient. It doesn’t rule out that it might be necessary. (I say that half as a devil’s advocate, half seriously. I don’t quite believe that fanaticism is necessary, but I do believe that somebody arguing from a moral viewpoint is).

  59. Regarding the recurring discussion of why the irrational/messianic rhetoric is important/useful/whatever:

    There are indeed some very specific situations wherein a pragmatic appeal based upon past experience isn’t possible, and wherein the theoretical arguments on either side are equally convincing.

    For instance, Linux came into being at a time when of the two large free UNIX implementations, one had no kernel at all (HURD) and the other was the result of a hurried reverse-engineering and reimplementation of parts of a commercial system subject to an arguably perfectly valid lawsuit (BSD) — hardly a particularly stunning argument for the pragmatic value of freely licensed UNIX clones when the big players were commercial and the small players were MINIX. While I realize that Linux was originally postcardware and that the transition to the GPL was not the result of some deeply-held moral conviction about the natural state of software, the transition to the GPL was in part a result of Linus not being particularly worried about the problem of Stallman’s various pet classifications of software license freedom and allowing himself to go along with the decisions of people with Stallman’s messianic zeal — and it paid off. Because it paid off, other things are licensed freely.

    For something a bit more recent, take the idea of open hardware. Rationally, it doesn’t make a great deal of sense from the perspective of business, and it doesn’t really fit in with existing modes of hardware development. You can’t release early and release often when you’re releasing an IC die. The software used for board layout produces blobs, or maybe semi-human-readable ascii junk that should by no means be edited by bald apes (who should clearly stick to simple things like postscript). During those rare periods when hardware is designed in something that looks like a programming language, it’s done in a variant of Ada and half the stuff is simulation of how it should work rather than logic dictating how the FPGA will wire the gates together; you can use revision control for this stuff, but you’ll have to teach the electrical engineers how to use it and why it’s no good for their autogenerated layouts and object files. To push a thing like open hardware, it takes a nearly blind faith that open hardware will be as good as open software.

    We have a similar situation in creative commons land, specifically with regard to audio. People have been remixing video since the beginning of cinema, but the idea that audio can be chopped up and reused in new contexts (and that it should be) goes back maybe to Burroughs and Gysin, and at the earliest does not predate magnetic tape technology (putting it somewhere in the 60s). It didn’t hit commercial music until the early 80s, and since then an ecosystem of commercial remixing (with lots of money passing hands, and lots of lawsuits, but mostly a harmonious orgy of mutual appropriation of noises) has grown up and become calcified. The idea that audio should be freely redistributable and freely remixable is nonsensical from the perspective of people inside the friendly ecosystem of commercial music (up until they get sued by a much wealthier record company, as The Verve did between releasing Bitterweet Symphony and dropping off the map for looping a four-second sample of a track by a band whose key figure had been dead for twenty years already); if they want to sample, they merely organize with the representatives of other groups or depend upon their record company to defend them in the case of some eventual suit. It’s nonsensical from the perspective of a normal person (who does not generally think about what is involved in isolating a sound from its surroundings mechanically and inserting it into a new context). It only makes sense to people who have the equipment and intent to remix other people’s sounds within an ecosystem of mutual appropriation not greased by money or large organizations — and even punk bands got signed! But, it’s been fairly successful because of a confluence of factors: better and easier to use audio editing software, bigger and cheaper hard drives, faster network connections, no discernible dip in the cost of good-quality recording equipment, and the rise in popularity of amateur video editing leading to a demand for royalty-free library music. In 1999, it took crazy faith to think that free licenses on music would be a good idea, with your 56k modem and your four gigabyte hard drive and your copy of sox. Now, people occasionally eschew the music industry entirely.

  60. Fanaticism is a recurring element in social evolution and likely serves some beneficial function; perhaps as a analog of disease morphology or mutation propagation.

  61. @Jay> considering that Eric has had actual death threats leveled at him by Islamofascists, and his response to them…

    And here you ignore that Eric has issued actual death threats against a couple people. But hey, he’s your friend, so it’s OK, right?

    All said, I’d rather have dinner with RMS than ESR.

  62. @Jess:

    How about this: the companies I can think of who have contributed to non-free open source licensed projects (Red Hat, IBM, Novell, Intel, etc.) have also contributed to free software projects.

    Anecdotes. Huge ones, to be sure.

    Can you identify a corporation that contributes significantly to non-free open projects but won’t touch free projects?

    I can identify several. But it’s not my job to laundry-list here; you made an unsupported assertion.

    Are that company’s contributions valuable enough to trash RMS over?

    I have absolutely no clue what you mean by this, but assume due to its tone that you’re channelling the messiah or some-such bullshit.

  63. @Jess:

    And to be clear, I put “contributions to Linux” in a completely different bucket than “contributions to random GPLed projects.” Linus made sure to point out that he’s not interested in turning every app that touches his OS into proprietary code, and that he thinks that GPL v2 is good enough.

  64. >And here you ignore that Eric has issued actual death threats against a couple people.

    That is not true. Not even to any single person. Those who claim otherwise are grandstanding.

  65. >I occasionally hear people assert this. But nobody ever explains why – it’s just handwaved, as though it’s so obviously true it doesn’t need a demonstration.

    Fail. I spent 1997-2003 demonstrating this.

  66. Here’s a view from outside the “movement”:

    I don’t have any aversion to the existence of dogmatic idealists. I tend to sympathize, in a vague way, with big-haired prophet types. But to actually get me to *use* open-source software, you have to make a pragmatic case to me.

    From the perspective of a literate user (someone who can program but isn’t a real hacker), the risk of trying a new tool is always the fear that it won’t work. I don’t want the hassle of fighting with a tool that won’t install properly. I don’t want the friction of learning my way around a tool that’s tricky to use. I have immediate needs and obligations, and I’m not going to try software if I can’t get it to work. A moral case holds little weight with me: not because I’m a generally immoral person, but because I have a much more direct “moral obligation” to get my work done effectively than to contribute infinitesimally to a beneficial social movement.

    When I’ve chosen open source tools it’s because they’re free (as in beer), or because they’re better. When a sizable population of serious programmers use open source tools, sometimes the open source choice is simply the default, or the most popular, or the best documented. But if the open source option looks obscure or hard to use, I’m just not going to take the risk. It’s not a good use of my time to bash my head against a wall. My knowledge is often limited, and my bias towards convenience is necessary.

    I can’t judge if RMS is beneficial or harmful. Speaking for myself, he hasn’t turned me off; if anything, I sympathize with his idealism. But if you want John and Jane Doe to use open source software, you’ve got to offer pragmatism as well.

  67. “…for people who are not flipped into true-believer mode by any given one, it will come off as at best creepy and insular, at worst nutty and potentially dangerous..”

    There’s yer 1000 yard headshot FTW ;)

  68. Under the fanaticism is a deeper and more subtle layer of righteousness. This is the achilles heel of every culture that can find its roots in Abraham.

  69. esr,

    While I mean you no disrespect I still agree more with rms on these points than with you. Freedom is important and I think that is a root issue that will always exist. Open Source stands on technical merits. It is frequently true that “open source” software is technically superior to its closed-source counterparts…but not always. One thing that is true is that it’s better to have freedom than to not. That will always be true. If you need proof just look at what Microsoft is trying to do with UEFI and the way Apple deals with their iThings. I used to be a proponent of Open Source (because it was the only thing I was exposed to) until I heard about free software. I can’t go back to the beliefs of Open Source. The beliefs of open source are missing a vital principle…Freedom.

  70. Eric, your article seems to imply the unstated assumption that moralistic and pragmatic arguments are mutually exclusive, and that the Open Source / Free Software community has to pick one. Why? Why can’t different activists push different arguments in some kind of good-cop, bad-cop division of labor?

    Other reform movements seem to have used such a division of labor quite productively. Take the suffragettes, for example. They had their “fanatics” like Alice Paul, who turned up the heat on the gentlemen’s club that was the Washington DC of the early 1900s. They also had conciliatory factions that made sure president Wilson could eventually get behind the 19th Amendment without losing face. A similar division of labor seems to exist in the gay-rights movement, which cherishes both its provocative drag queens and its clean-cut civil-rights lawyers. So why couldn’t it work that way for your own movement? Why couldn’t there be a fruitful division of labor between dogmatic Free Software activists and pragmatic Open Source salesmen?

  71. A point of clarification, after reading the comment about pushing the Overton window and Eric’s response to it: The radical feminists and the pragmatic ones appear to have resented each other. Their division of labor was completely unintended, but nevertheless real and successful, in a sort of Adam-Smithian, invisible-hand kind of way. (Similar for the gay community, as I understand the situation.) So I’m not asking if the Free-Software people and the Open-Source people could forge some kind of alliance, but rather what the harm with the split is. On the historical evidence, I suspect it’s a boon, not a harm.

  72. >http://lists.debian.org/debian-user/1999/04/msg00623.html

    Right. That’s a death threat. Find better drugs, fool.

  73. >Eric, your article seems to imply the unstated assumption that moralistic and pragmatic arguments are mutually exclusive, and that the Open Source / Free Software community has to pick one. Why?

    It’s not so much that they’re mutually exclusive, it’s that fanatical moralizing is bad strategy even in isolation. It scares off too many potential allies.

  74. @Matt:

    The beliefs of open source are missing a vital principle…Freedom.

    I think you mean it’s the beliefs of the FSF that are missing freedom. If I receive software under the MIT license, and software under the GPL, guess which piece of software I have more freedom with?

  75. @youlysses:

    ROFL.

    Some days I say worse to three people before breakfast.

  76. @Thomas Blankenhorn:

    A point of clarification, after reading the comment about pushing the Overton window and Eric’s response to it:

    A strong case can be made that RMS’s preaching is the primary, maybe even only, reason there is any Overton window to push. He scared a bunch of pointy-haired boss types shitless.

    Without RMS, assume one of thes same bosses found out that the hackers in the back room were quietly sharing website code with all the other hackers, and called one of the hackers to task for it: “You’ve been giving code away??!?” “Well, yeah, it started with bugfixes, but then I created a module.” “You need to stop doing that!” “OK, do I need to stop using all the code that others have given to us?” “Legally, that would be best. How long would it take you to rewrite it?” “About 30 years.”

  77. Just like religion, his fanaticism also gives him moral cover for acting like a complete asshole and an egotistical sexist. By casting the world in moral terms, anything he does becomes “good” by definition.

  78. >A strong case can be made that RMS’s preaching is the primary, maybe even only, reason there is any Overton window to push. He scared a bunch of pointy-haired boss types shitless.

    That’s right. If there hadn’t been the GPL and this lurking fear of shifty, ideologically-driven communards…well, let’s just say there’s five years of my life I wouldn’t have had to spend dispelling it. And widespread commercial open-source development that much sooner.

  79. @esr> Right. That’s a death threat. Find better drugs, fool.

    Who said this?

    “I’m going to make another threat now, and I’m not going to be subtle about it, and I’m deliberately doing it with witnesses. If you are ever brave enough to make your contemptible assertions to my face rather than from a safe 3000 miles of distance, I will physically assault you and beat you to within an inch of your life. Then I will accept any legal consequences of my actions with my head held high.”

    As a hint, he only lives about 1,500 miles from you now.

    Your day is coming, Eric.

  80. Without RMS, assume one of thes same bosses found out that the hackers in the back room were quietly sharing website code with all the other hackers, and called one of the hackers to task for it: “You’ve been giving code away??!?” “Well, yeah, it started with bugfixes, but then I created a module.” “You need to stop doing that!” “OK, do I need to stop using all the code that others have given to us?” “Legally, that would be best. How long would it take you to rewrite it?” “About 30 years.”

    Errr… you think that doesn’t happen anyway?

    “You’ve been incorporating GPL into our project?”
    “Well yeah, it started with snippets but then i downloaded a module”
    “You need to stop doing that.”

    About the only advantage to the GPL scenario was that it ended with “technically speaking so long as you farm it out to a shared DLL we’re probably ok”.

  81. P.S. @Patrick i’m pretty sure i misread your comment. Assuming you were arguing down the value of GPL then i’m in violent agreement.

  82. >Who said this?

    Still not a death threat, since I specifically said I didn’t intend to kill Jim Thompson, just give him a sound and richly-deserved thrashing. I’m clear about the difference between a threat of violence and a threat of death; is it really mysterious to you, or are you just reaching for anything to slang me with? Never mind, I know the answer.

    That promise is still pending. Thompson has to my knowledge refrained from scurrilous insults since, so it seems to have had the desired effect. Weirdly, he occasionally sends me emails in which he seems to be trying to be chummy with me. I don’t answer them. I don’t think he’s right in the head – the way he oscillates between viciousness and suckup seems to me creepy and deranged. He’s the closest thing I’ve encountered to the classic celebrity stalker.

    If I were ever to make a death threat against anyone, there wouldn’t be any ambiguity about it. My notion of honor would require that I make my reasons and intentions publicly clear. But it’s not something that would happen unless I believed it were my duty to seek redress for a really awful crime, something on the order of the rape or murder of one of my loved ones, and the criminal justice system had failed me.

  83. You need to consult that lawyer wife of yours on what constitutes a premeditated threat to do violence against another individual.

    The record is clear, Eric. You’re a menace, and if Thompson is right, a liar.

  84. Eric;

    Source code is nice, but when a project reaches any size, design information becomes important too. I recall one project where the company had bought the rights to the source code, but didn’t pay the extra fee for the documentation. One can flounder around for weeks trying to find the place where the work is done. If the code is opaque enough, you will never find it before the time and money runs out.

    The code I worked on included supposedly meaningful variable names, and the few comments that the seller deigned to put in the code. I was completely at sea with no previous exposure to the system, until a very busy person was assigned to mentor me for a while. Finally, I was able to make some sense of things, but only one area, and I never did get a sense of the over all design and concept of the system, even after working there for almost two years. This was a proprietary system of several hundred thousand lines of code. You just can’t start at “main()” and work your way through that much code, any more than you can drink a swimming pool, even if someone held it to your lips.

  85. >You’re a menace, and if Thompson is right, a liar.

    You can call me a menace if and when I ever actually commit an act of violence that is not clearly morally justified.

    Hint: this has never happened, and is quite unlikely to in the future. It is not much more likely that I will ever commit justified but illegal violence, though I can imagine circumstances in which I might and have spelled out one.

    Whether or not I ever commit commit culpable violence, you have repeated accusations that don’t square with the observed facts of my behavior. And Jim Thompson is a stalker and a borderline nutcase whose word on anything is hardly to be trusted.

    I take my responsibilities as a martial artist and a man very seriously. It’s not my problem that you’re so confused and weak-minded that you see death threats where I have uttered none – if you really do; I think you’ve been dishonest in your accusations, simply throwing mud and hoping it will stick.

    You’re either a posturing piece of trash puffed up on faux outrage or a blithering idiot incapable of comprehending what I’ve actually said and written, and I don’t give a damn about your opinion either way.

  86. I have proof that RMS is not a complete fanatic. He granted me use of his story in the song “it gpls me”…

    under the terms of the comedic license.

  87. >Your day is coming, Eric.

    On reflection, I’ve decided that I should be more overtly insulting about this, pour encourager les autres.

    Yes? And are you going to bring it to me? Big, bad Nick Raggio. Oh, wait. By your expressed standards, you’ve just uttered a death threat. No worries, I’m not going to call the police – unlike Bruce Perens, I’m neither a snivelling coward nor willing to pretend fear I don’t actually feel in a sneaky attempt at reputation damage. I’ll simply invite you to Malvern to discuss the matter.

    But that won’t happen. I have your number – you’re some contemptible little shit sniping from your mother’s basement or the close equivalent thereof. Brave, brave Nick Raggio, abusing me with false accusations on my blog – I’ll bet your masturbating hand is noticeably bigger than your other one. Were you actually jerking off when you typed “Your day is coming”, or just pumped up on your own imagined righteousness?

    Don’t imagine this is a threat. I don’t soil my fists on garbage.

  88. @esr
    “>There are times where the moral viewpoint is essential in debating free or open software.
    But nobody ever explains why – it’s just handwaved, as though it’s so obviously true it doesn’t need a demonstration.”

    I can make a try to explain why a moral stance is often necessary. I had no time to reread all your writings from 1997-2003, so you might already have covered it.

    All humans are moral, maybe excluding some psychopaths. One use of morals is pressuring for social conformism as morals demand to be extended to others. The common example is that if I do not like broccoli, I do not care whether you eat it. If I do not like stealing, I do care when you do it. That may lead to the fanatic part of RMS’ behavior. But this is not the moral function I want to discuss.

    The evolutionary/cultural advantage of using morals for a individual are clear: To make a “canned” judgment in cases where the consequences are beyond an individual’s understanding.

    We disapprove of stealing by default, and we are in general unable to fully comprehend the consequences and how a theft may hit us back. The more we are able to weight the consequences, the more we are able to weight consequences and different morals against each other. E.g., the case of a parent stealing cheap food from a shop to feed starving children. Many people will be weighting the consequences for the shopkeeper against the life of these children.

    Your assert that:
    “means overwhelming ends, rhetoric taking over and trapping the fanatic in a position where the harm he was originally reacting against is forgotten.”

    This position assumes that you are indeed able to make a correct judgement about the consequences of your actions. You say that by being pragmatic in certain cases, your actions will do more good to the aims you want to achieve than they do harm.

    But how can you be sure the benefits outweigh the harm? How can you really determine all consequences and weight their value?

    In almost all cases, it is prudent to put a conscious limit on what you can predict. You can use logical arguments to plan your actions for consequences that you understand. But you can only use moral judgement for anything that goes beyond your view. That is where morals come into a discussion. If freedom is good, you need hard evidence to do things that might harm it in the short run. A moral stance is justified when predicting possible harm is beyond our capabilities.

    Obviously, everybody fools themselves into believing that they understand much more than they actually do. So people can hold each other to be rather conservative about their powers of reasoning.

    Nothing in this comment is about whether or not RMS is a fanatic nor whether his actions did more good or harm in the balance.

  89. I think it’s sort of funny how the fanatics and haters really do swarm to writings like these. Spewing garbage and bring forth a lot of accusations. (*cough* “death threat” *cough* (super silly accusation)).

    This writing was in my opinion well versed and I’ll have to say it’s resonating well with me.

    I’ll point out a few trivial things though, which I always like to do;
    1) Second paragraph; I struggled a little bit reading “When I was say that I judge RMS is a fanatic”, maybe word it differently? Or is it missing a ‘to’ between ‘was’ and ‘say’?
    2) Last paragraph; An extra ‘s’ slipped into “Its is still theoretically” making it “It is is still” – unless I’m missing some interpretation of “Its” or It’s”.

    Cheers!

  90. >>There are times where the moral viewpoint is essential in debating free or open software.

    >I occasionally hear people assert this. But nobody ever explains why – it’s just handwaved, as though it’s so obviously true it doesn’t need a demonstration.

    Really? Do you know what moral means? A very simply definition is “right and wrong”. From http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/why-free.html:
    “As a computer user today, you may find yourself using a proprietary program. If your friend asks to make a copy, it would be wrong to refuse.” On that website, there are many many other specific points that relate to “right and wrong” in the proprietary/free software debate. Honestly, I think you are the one doing far more hand waving.

  91. RMS views are extreme but probably rest of us can’t follow the principles in such a strict and adamant manner.I’m pretty sure there are extreme people out there who advocate closed source. Each community needs/have such extremist views. I do believe we need people with such extreme/fanatic views.

  92. >The evolutionary/cultural advantage of using morals for a individual are clear: To make a “canned” judgment in cases where the consequences are beyond an individual’s understanding.

    I have proposed an account of morality almost indistinguishable from this more than once – possibly on this blog. But I don’t think it applies in the present case. While foreseeing the detailed harms that individual bugs may do is impossible, foreseeing the general, qualitative bad consequences of closed source is not at all difficult.

    I know that it isn’t difficult because I’ve had teach lots of people who are instinctively conservative and not very bright to foresee those consequences. And they generally get it. The only factor that predicts failing to get it isn’t low intelligence, it’s being emotionally invested in the superiority of one of the lock-in gangs – Apple, or Microsoft.

    So my puzzlement can better be expressed as “The pragmatic explanation is easy and effective. Because that’s true, the ordinary reasons for using a deontic-moralist style of argument don’t apply. And nobody has supplied any other reasons.”

  93. @esr
    “I have proposed an account of morality almost indistinguishable from this more than once – possibly on this blog.”

    Not unlikely that I got these ideas from you then, at least partly.

    @esr
    “While foreseeing the detailed harms that individual bugs may do is impossible, foreseeing the general, qualitative bad consequences of closed source is not at all difficult.”

    Indeed. But the point was in more less clear decisions.

    Say, for example, the decision of Miguel de Icaza to support .Net and Silverlight with Mono and Moonlight.

    Miguel always argued he made a deal with the devil (MS) because this would allow more people to use Free software (Mono) and therefore, it would help the cause of freedom. The counterargument was that Mono would give MS a patent booby trap in free software they could detonate at any time.

    The moral argument was that a deal with the devil is always wrong. Such a proprietary system can never become really free.

    The reasoning of Miguel was sound for the short term. However, we know that almost no one has been able to survive a partnership with MS. So, for the mid-term, history tells us that morals are right and Miguel slept with vipers and would be bitten at some time. For the long term, the jury is still out. Silverlight is dead, and .Net is not what it was (it changes every few years). Mono still lives on.

    RMS had difficulties about Mono. He said Miguel de Icaza “is basically a traitor to the Free Software community”.
    http://techrights.org/2009/09/21/rms-on-miguel-de-icaza/

    But the opinion on Mono is more “balanced”, or dare I say, “pragmatic”:

    The danger is that Microsoft is probably planning to force all free C# implementations underground some day using software patents. (See http://swpat.org and http://progfree.org.) This is a serious danger, and only fools would ignore it until the day it actually happens. We need to take precautions now to protect ourselves from this future danger.

    http://www.fsf.org/news/dont-depend-on-mono

    Until [MS grant the public an irrevocable patent license for all of its patents that Mono actually exercises], free software developers still should not write software that depends on Mono. C# implementations can still be attacked by Microsoft’s patents: the Community Promise is designed to give the company several outs if it wants them. We don’t want to see developers’ hard work lost to the community if we lose the ability to use Mono, and until we eliminate software patents altogether, using another language is the best way to prevent that from happening.

    http://techrights.org/2009/07/17/fsf-vs-microsoft-community-promises/

  94. @Patrick Maupin: My experience, having worked at a global engineering corporation, is that pointy-haired boss types aren’t scared shitless of RMS. They tend to be ignorant of both RMS and ESR.

    At our place, use of Open-Source software was driven by its free-as-in-beer nature. Any contributions of bugfixes were initiated by the nerds, acting on their own initiative under an informal don’t-ask-don’t-tell policy with the suits. Contributions of entire programs would have been governed by corporate policies similar to the ones governing the publication of research in scientific journals. (Not sure how much of it actually happened, but the processes were in place.) Fear of Free-Software fanaticism never figured into any of those decision processes. But of course, other companies’ mileage may have varied.

  95. I came to linux, because linus’s mail were fun, and the kernel a wonderful toy. I almost gave up free software when I heard FSF ranting against linus. Affterwards, RMS told me I was evil for telling I use free software because I am lazy, and it was fun.

    I became pretty disliked in my country in free software community (I chose very soon to support free software vs open source, and openly made clear I disliked RMS). Years later I was told being a castrator of free software (by a member of CC speaking for himself), small c*ck, traitor … by a member of a chapter of FSF speaking for himself and I don’t bear any grudge, because, I had fun, and it still is fun to tell :)

    Rule of thumb #1 : the bad guys are on the side of seriousness.
    Rule #2 : having fun is what matters the most.

    btw since your hacker emblem is a glider, I am currently working on a game of life console for fun.

  96. “My experience, having worked at a global engineering corporation, is that pointy-haired boss types aren’t scared shitless of RMS. They tend to be ignorant of both RMS and ESR”

    Quite. It is quixotic Manichaeism to think that most companies were cowering in the corner, trembling against the smelly bearded man, until ESR came swooshed in with his lance of libertarian pragmatism.

    Most companies didn’t know, and hardly gave a damn if they did. And, believe it or not, this is still the case.

  97. Pingback: Open Source, Free Software & Fanaticism - un|we|sen

  98. @Patrick Maupin
    You have argued several times that the GPL is shunned by businesses by fear of retaliation. Either retaliation by patent trolls or some kind of “copyright Ragnarok”.

    That paints a pretty bleak picture of US businesses. They seem to be ruled by fear, not by opportunity.

    The funny thing is, I see very little of this fear in Europe. On the contrary, everyone is talking the praise of FLOSS, whether honest or not. The EU even formulated their own translated Copyleft license, the European Union Public Licence
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/EUPL

  99. How about this:

    I think the only opinions worth hearing on this matter are those of people who have had their children die of diarrhea.

    Why this? Because these people have experienced a very terrible and incredibly preventable way for their children to die. These people are living in societies that don’t have a proper water sanitation or infrastructure.

    Programmers are spoiled. We can’t think of anything but ourselves and how we might make a living tomorrow. We don’t want to think about the true power and responsibility we might have in today’s society and it’s future infrastructure, and instead we all want to co-opt the wonderfully profitable fate of a few startups.

    So, I think that the legal choices we make for software are very important and influential, and that if you are a white male you should probably not really have a say. The people that our decisions truly affect don’t even have internet.

    RMS is able to extrapolate what’s going on, and he is actually able to think about the restrictions that a majority of children today live by. He also knows how badly people want to make a profit, and how easy it is for software development to get stuck focusing on the small sector that possesses a relatively large amount of money.

    So, pretend all you want that he doesn’t understand society. But I want to be clear: he’s thinking about people you don’t.

  100. @Winter:

    You have argued several times that the GPL is shunned by businesses by fear of retaliation.

    I never argued that. Try again.

    Either retaliation by patent trolls or some kind of “copyright Ragnarok”.

    You’re conflating multiple unrelated things I have written.

    First of all, patent trolls don’t “retaliate.” They “suck blood.” I’m sure you know the difference. Many companies (primarily hardware companies) publish their datasheets under NDA. Please don’t tell me you’ve never heard of this practice.

    The question is why they do this. The simple, obvious, and wrong answer is that it keeps their competitors from being able to copy them. All the competitors already have the datasheet. They got it from their Chinese or Korean customer, who was demanding that the competitor step up to the bar and provide the same feature.

    No, apparently there is some case law that makes it much easier to sue somebody for patent infringement if their datasheet is legitimately publicly available than if it is a trade secret, and was surreptitiously received from a source that was under NDA. BTW, contrary to your assertions, it’s not just American companies who have this fear of sharing datasheets sans NDA.

    For the same reasons, I have known companies (usually large hardware companies, who had been involved in several patent fights already) who were reluctant to share code, except under certain necessary circumstances (e.g. bug-fixes or drivers for Linux) because of possible patent issues. But this reluctance is completely orthogonal to the kind of open source license used, and is merely about not giving the patent trolls the ability to extort money when you don’t have to.

    Except… GPL v3 is probably poison to any company which values their software patents. It would be far too easy to inadvertently contribute to a project that infringed a patent and thus “bless” the use of the patent in open source code:


    My satisfaction with this aspect of GPLv3 is partially offset by my concerns that the patent provisions in Section 11 will impede the overall success of the GPLv3 license itself. I have fought over the years about the wording of many a patent provision in many an open source license, and I have discovered that some provisions make licenses unacceptable to big patent holders—and thus impede adoption of open source software. Simply put, companies can conclude that free software is not worth the loss of their patent portfolios; if those companies are your potential customers or business partners, they may not accept your software under your GPLv3 license.

    Finally, GPL used to be shunned by several businesses, not because of fear of retaliation, but because of fear of losing control of internal source code. This fear was greatly fanned by RMS’s early pronouncements. It was only when Linux became popular and the businesses had to confront their fears that they learned through their lawyers that RMS was full of shit.

    But it was never about “retaliation.”

  101. @Patrick

    Maybe “retaliation” was the wrong word. But you added several cases where fear of patent suits makes businesses stay away from sharing anything, including FLOSS. The fear of GPL(v3?) was grounded in the believe the FSF would sue them to get their “IP” published.

    This is exactly what I was arguing. But it seems it is less “retaliation” as well as fear that “no good dead goes unpunished”.

    Companies outside the USA, but who trade with the USA, will fall under the same fear. So that is not an argument.

    I know many European companies are wary of sharing information. But that seems to be more based in a culture of secrecy and “need to know”. Generally evidence that they cannot compete on quality. Security by obscurity never works. The real good ones cannot be beaten by getting hold of some obscure secret.

  102. @JonCB:

    Assuming you were arguing down the value of GPL then i’m in violent agreement.

    Yeah, I was arguing that the sharing will happen anyway, regardless of whether or not the code is under a license that is designed to disallow arbitrage.

    Many observers think that the GPL is designed to avoid free riding. Nothing could be farther from the truth. The GPL license, FAQ, and environs all encourage free riding — the giving of other peoples’ software creations to those who can’t possibly give back. In this respect, the GPL license itself is no different than any permissive license, but the surrounding moral rhetoric exhorts an imperative to share. This imperative is utterly unnecessary, because when allowed, most people will share anyway.

    But the GPL does disallow many forms of arbitrage. Pure economic theory tells us that legal restraints on arbitrage will create inefficient markets, for many reasons. But the simplest and best reason to allow arbitrage from a free software perspective is that, if multiple entrepreneurs take a free codebase and add value to it and make multiple proprietary derivatives, the free software programmers will more quickly find out which features are useful and valuable by finding out which entrepreneur guessed correctly and is actually making money selling software. Thus can a closed source entrepreneur unwittingly help free software people figure out the correct feature set for software in a given problem domain.

    Some may argue that the harm done by disallowing this sort of arbitrage is more than made up for by, e.g., the patent protection in the GPL. But in the real world, there are already so many useless software patents that the only choices for would-be free software contributors are either to ignore all of them, or to give up and stop developing.

    Too many people use the GPL because they are worried that someone else will take their software and make money with it. If they thought hard enough, they might realize that any proprietary advantage will only be temporary. Unless, of course, the proprietary advantage is in a market segment so small that no free software programmer is going to address it anyway. In which case, the ability to leverage open source to create closed source actually makes the world a better place, by providing the end customer cheaper, higher quality software than if the programmer-entrepreneur had to start from scratch.

  103. @Patrick

    “If they thought hard enough, they might realize that any proprietary advantage will only be temporary.”

    The exchange of monies between two parties does more than just a single transaction. If you buy something from MS, you have several methods of recourse available to you when there are problems that don’t exist if you just get something for free from somebody else. So it is not just the actual acquisition and usage that matters, but also the longer-term responsibilities too. It is for exactly this reason that many IT shops feel way more comfortable paying for software from a vendor, then just downloading it from some relatively unknown party off the internet. One can argue that this advantage is often not as solid as they think it is, but regardless it influences a considerable number of people out there. This also pays out in ‘brand awareness’. People associate a big brand with a stronger sense that their purchase will be ‘fair’ (less risk). These factors make a huge difference to those that do not have the in-depth knowledge to assess the real underlying strength of their choices.

    Paul.

  104. @Patrick Maupin

    “I think you mean it’s the beliefs of the FSF that are missing freedom. If I receive software under the MIT license, and software under the GPL, guess which piece of software I have more freedom with?”

    The only “freedom” you’re “missing” with the GPL is the freedom to restrict others the freedoms you were given under the GPL. If you’re touting the MIT license as being more free than the GPL then your intentions to restrict others can be the only reason for this. Freedom to restrict others is not why free software exists and if you want to do that you can use whatever license suits you best but don’t confuse issues.

    Aside from this the MIT license is considered a free license. It’s just not copyleft. I personally prefer copyleft. You may prefer MIT and that’s fine. I think your response to me is a prime example of where “Open Source” has left people confused. I also think posts like this from esr, pointed directly at an individual, are some of the reasons for the animosity in our community.

  105. @Paul W. Homer:

    That’s a good point, and one I didn’t fully cover. Assume for a moment that vendor A starts with open source and creates a package, and vendor B starts from scratch and creates a competing proprietary package, and vendor A and vendor B both enjoy good reputations in the market place.

    Economic theory would predict that vendor A’s product sells for less. It is very similar to a free product, and for those who cared, the free product could be upgraded to a very similar offering for about the cost that vendor A incurred (which, one would hope, is much less than vendor B would incur).

    In fact, one would expect (in a competive marketplace) that the cost of A’s software offering trended towards zero, and A made most of its money off of the promise of support and the other intangibles you mention. That is exactly how Red Hat works.

    Economic theory would also predict that the mere presence of product A would depress the price of product B, and we have certainly seen this with Windows on netbooks.

    But in a less competitive market category than operating systems (a niche market), allowing arbitrage from open source to closed source would still capture most of these effects, by allowing vendor A to not publish its source code, which would allow it to capture a larger share of the market as paying customers. This would, again, force vendor B to drop the price a bit to compete, thus reducing the average price paid in that market segment considerably.

    And as I already mentioned, if A = “open source + incremental improvement” and B = “completely different codebase,” guess which one would be easiest to recreate as a full open source project — if there was enough demand to do so.

  106. Matt: And that is why the GPL does not promote freedom, no matter how much Stallmanites may think otherwise. Contrary to your assertion, I have no intention of restricting others. However, I also recognize that the freedom to do so is a vital, necessary component of freedom itself, and destroying that freedom simply is a destruction of freedom in general. You do not advance the cause of freedom by destroying it.

    FSF advocates’ imputation of evil motives to others, as you did by saying that “your intentions to restrict others can be the only reason for this” is just as much a cause of the animosity in the community as you claim posts like this are.

  107. @Matt:

    If you’re touting the MIT license as being more free than the GPL then your intentions to restrict others can be the only reason for this.

    Bullshit. When I give someone software, I give it to them. They don’t have to worry about sharing it, modifying it, whatever. It is so easy to technically violate the GPL that it isn’t even funny. The only safe thing to do with GPLed stuff is to tell your friends to get it from a repository and not give it to them directly, unless you always provide the source. Even then, you’ve done them a disservice if you give them a source CD and they don’t realize they have to pass it on with the object CD.

    Freedom to restrict others is not why free software exists and if you want to do that you can use whatever license suits you best but don’t confuse issues.

    I’m not confusing any issues at all.

    Aside from this the MIT license is considered a free license. It’s just not copyleft.

    Everybody here knows that.

    I personally prefer copyleft. You may prefer MIT and that’s fine.

    And it’s fine for you to prefer GPL. Just don’t lie about what it does.

    I think your response to me is a prime example of where “Open Source” has left people confused.

    No, it’s RMS’s misappropriation of the word “free” that is confusing.

    I also think posts like this from esr, pointed directly at an individual, are some of the reasons for the animosity in our community.

    No, it’s RMS calling regular programmers “evil” that is responsible for animosity.

  108. @Patrick Maupin

    Can we please stop confusing economics with sociology? Economics is not the study of human behavior.

  109. @Jay Maynard

    >Matt: And that is why the GPL does not promote freedom, no matter how much Stallmanites may think otherwise. Contrary to your assertion, I have no intention of restricting others. GPL is that you have the right to restrict freedom. If you think that MIT is in fact better than the GPL then this must be your reason to think so, whether one intends to do that or not.

    >However, I also recognize that the freedom to do so is a vital, necessary component of freedom itself, and destroying that freedom simply is a destruction of freedom in general.FSF advocates’ imputation of evil motives to others, as you did by saying that “your intentions to restrict others can be the only reason for this” is just as much a cause of the animosity in the community as you claim posts like this are<.

    If you prefer the MIT over the GPL then what other motivation is there than to have the ability to restrict the next user's freedom? I'm not saying that you intend to do that right now and I don't think a person is a bad person for choosing it. I don't agree with the choice to restrict a user's freedom but I don't have any power to restrict you from that…unless it's my code and I put it under the GPL or another copyleft license. If it's your code and you put it under MIT then at least you're nice enough to share at all. I would hope you don't restrict someone in the future but it is your code.

  110. @ Paul W. Homer

    Pretty much all software, except a few edge cases, come with no warranty implied or otherwise. The perception may be to some, due to their own personal beliefs, that making a purchase forms some type of social contract of support. But do not confuse this with actual support or value.

    I’m saying your assertion of human behavior is not accurate. But we need to be careful about mapping certain personal beliefs that influence behavior, with the actualy situation and/or result.

  111. The only “freedom” you’re “missing” with the GPL is the freedom to restrict others the freedoms you were given under the GPL.

    No.

    The freedom i’m missing is the freedom to copyright my own software modules however the hell I like if i statically link anything GPL into it. In doing this, the FSF is specifically reefing from me a right that not even RIAA or the MPAA would consider taking away from me.

    If you’re willing to give up your rights on the basis of religious rhetoric then so be it. I am not.
    But don’t come here acting like you’re some sort of saint for doing so.

  112. *I’m _not_ saying your assertion of human behavior is not accurate.

    typo sorry.

  113. @JonCB

    >The only “freedom” you’re “missing” with the GPL is the freedom to restrict others the freedoms you were given under the GPL.

    No.

    The freedom i’m missing is the freedom to copyright my own software modules however the hell I like if i statically link anything GPL into it. In doing this, the FSF is specifically reefing from me a right that not even RIAA or the MPAA would consider taking away from me.<

    Don't underestimate what the RIAA or MPAA might do and I think you're being a bit over dramatic to contrast those two things.

    If you would go about not violating the terms of the GPL you'd be fine. The rules with the license are simple and easy to follow. If you take from the community under that license and you decide to share it then you pass on the same rights to the next guy. No one says you have to share it. If you keep your module that contains GPL code all to yourself(or within your compnay) then you can do whatever you please with it. Share it with the world and you cannot restrict them the rights you were given.

  114. @Patrick,

    One of the problems with economic theory is that it is a rather loose ‘formalization’ being applied to a rather informal world, thus it doesn’t account for the many irrationalities that often become significant variables in the behavior of these types of systems.

    There are two options: A reduces it price or A takes a bigger profit. Getting back to brand awareness if A drops its price significantly from B, it runs the danger of the market thinking that its product is inferior (it can be seen as ‘cheap’). Pricing often shows up in ‘bands’, so if you want to compete effectively in one of these bands, you have to restrict your price to it. If the entire ‘band’ becomes commodified, then the whole band will get lower, but that is usually a full scale restructuring of all of the bands.

    Company A could recycle its extra profits into research and development, but it’s more likely that they’ll just use the excess to make the shareholders and execs happy.

    What I’ve found about technology, in general, is that once it gets ‘good enough’ the impact of its quality becomes increasingly diminished. At that point it’s all of the other aspects of the larger context that come into play in the market. So it’s quite possible that the ‘perfect’ program could lose to something that is simply ‘good enough’ solely based on some attribute as shallow as its brand name.

    Paul.

  115. > you’re some contemptible little shit sniping from your mother’s basement or the close equivalent thereof.

    hotel in San Francisco at the present.

    As for the rest of your diatribe, my methods seem to be working. Malvern? No, I’ll see you in a more public forum, thanks.

  116. If people are truly about free, why even bother using the MIT license or similar? The only truly free licenses are ones like Creative Commons Zero, or the Do What The Fuck You Want To license (you just do what the fuck you want to!).

    All this restricting that people must put your name on the software, or whatever, that’s restricting true freedom. If you really wanted to give something to someone without restrictions, then you would do that. But saying you are giving someone the code, without restrictions, and then turning around and saying, “but be sure not to remove my name now”, that’s, well, you know.

  117. @Mike

    “Pretty much all software, except a few edge cases, come with no warranty implied or otherwise.”

    Consider yourself making a choice between two restaurants for dinner. The first restaurant is a large well-known chain. You know the food will be reasonable, but nothing exceptional. The second choice is a small, possibly family owned restaurant that to you appears eclectic. Its styling is complete unfamiliar. It holds the promise of an amazing meal, but it also holds out the possibility of food poisoning. If you are not a chef or a food inspector, which restaurant do you choose? To add to it, the chain is reasonably crowded right now, while the other restaurant is basically empty …

    If you did get food poisoning at either restaurant, which one do you think will be sympathetic to your plight? Which one will make changes, so that the next time this doesn’t happen again (assuming that you made the rather ill advised choice to go back).

    Paul.

  118. > If you did get food poisoning at either restaurant, which one do you think will be sympathetic to your plight?

    I honestly don’t know. And for most people this is a matter of their personal beliefs. Some people trust mom and pops and fear large corporations. Other prefer the scale and structure of large corporations. It is very difficult to predict human behavior on these matters. Especially on the scale of millions or billions. What’s more, historically, public preference on things like this change over time. Not to mention regional differences.

    Attempting to use any type of policy to effect large scale human behavior is very very complicated. Not to say it shouldn’t be attempted. But we should be careful when making attempts at predicting human behavior like this.

  119. @Mike:

    Can we please stop confusing economics with sociology?

    Who’s doing that?

    Economics is not the study of human behavior.

    It sure as hell is, in some spheres. Unlike sociology, it doesn’t claim to have all the answers, but it has a lot more testable questions.

    @Matt:

    The rules with the [GPL] license are simple and easy to follow.

    That may be, but many don’t. Did you ever burn a Ubuntu CD and give it to a friend? Did you accompany it with a written offer of source? Did you tell your friend that he had to do the same if he passed it along?

    @Paul W. Homer:

    Company A could recycle its extra profits into research and development, but it’s more likely that they’ll just use the excess to make the shareholders and execs happy.

    This misses the point completely that by entering into a market with company B, competition goes up and the price that the average user pays will go down.

    What I’ve found about technology, in general, is that once it gets ‘good enough’ the impact of its quality becomes increasingly diminished.

    Sure. For some definition of quality.

    At that point it’s all of the other aspects of the larger context that come into play in the market.

    Those aspects are also qualities. Just maybe not the ones you’re interested in.

    So it’s quite possible that the ‘perfect’ program could lose to something that is simply ‘good enough’ solely based on some attribute as shallow as its brand name.

    This is a huge problem if the difference between “perfect” and “good enough” is a data jail or spyware. Otherwise, there’s no real harm in letting some segment of the market pay extra for signalling.

    FWIW, even there, I think that hybrid open/closed source can be much healthier than pure closed source. Case in point is Android vs. iOS.

    @Michael:

    All this restricting that people must put your name on the software, or whatever, that’s restricting true freedom.

    Sure, but it’s something the GPL does as well, so I hope you’re not advocating that as a solution :-)

    If you really wanted to give something to someone without restrictions, then you would do that.

    I think something like the unlicense or the creative commons public domain dedication is great, but there are possibly some problems with that. What if somebody strips out the header, and one of his recipients is damaged by the software, and then that recipient sues you? Sure you added a liability disclaimer, but you didn’t put any legal teeth demanding it stayed with the software, and then it was removed…

    This probably isn’t a problem, but I don’t know. A few years ago there was a lot of gnashing of teeth about whether it was really possible to prematurely dedicate something to the public domain.

    I will also note that for most MIT/BSD contributors, the use of the copyright notice serves a purpose normally served by trademark by providing information about the provenance of goods (but at zero cost). On a related note, if I “give” something to you “free from restrictions”, you might think (innocently, or more likely, not) that included the right to copyright it yourself. Which might be fine until other people I gave it to thought the same thing. I think a minimal copyright notice helps to forestall this possibility, and the resultant lawsuits and acrimony.

  120. “…What if somebody strips out the header, and one of his recipients is damaged by the software, and then that recipient sues you? Sure you added a liability disclaimer, but you didn’t put any legal teeth demanding it stayed with the software, and then it was removed…”

    This is something I have thought about too – the whole enforceability/liabilty aspect of GLD’d/OSS code. The term “non-repudiation” keeps hoving into view.

    If I go around blagging open source code (stripped of headers, per your example), then can I really claim to have any guarantee of quality or suitability for purpose in a court of law?

    Similarly, if I strip out all headers/identifying comments from some GPL code, and compile it into my own…how can it be proven that I didn’t receive the code on an anonymous coders forum, or via email etc? There doesn’t seem to be any legally concrete way to prove that I “should have known” it was GPL’d.

    Personally, I think the whole open source licensing scene is held together by some form of ‘honor system’ more than anything else. Maybe a form of ‘cyber-shunning’ is quite effective.

  121. @Patrick

    > It sure as hell is, in some spheres. Unlike sociology, it doesn’t claim to have all the answers, but it has a lot more testable questions.

    I find it hilarious that the same people who feel that economic free markets are better than government decision making also believe that government policy via economic policies are perfectly valid.

    Economics absolutely is not the study of human behavior and this latest wave of arm chair economists trying to understand the effects on society of the GPL(something that is based on identical rules as proprietary software) is flat out ridiculous. The GPL is nothing different than Apple, Sun or anyone else with an EULA, NDA or anything else. To predict it’s effects is absurd.

    It’s the owner/creator of a work placing a restriction on what someone can do with the work. The GPL preserves the freedoms of future users and protects the gift of time, energy and money by creators. Just like Apple preserves the value of it’s IP to it’s shareholders, employees and bonuses.

    The difference is the GPL preserves the freedoms of those not directly involved as opposed to preserving the rights of the direct creators and stakeholders.

    Nothing more. Nothing less.

  122. “….Economics absolutely is not the study of human behavior….”

    Really? I don’t know how you can divorce the concept of ‘value’, and its importance in differentiating multiple choices of resource usage, from ‘human behavior’.

    Finite resources vs human needs/values – primal drivers of economic activity.

  123. @Patrick

    “This misses the point completely that by entering into a market with company B, competition goes up and the price that the average user pays will go down.”

    No, I was trying to make the point that this is not universally true. I do realize that this is well-tread dogma, but I’ve been around for a while and have see a myriad of examples where this rather rigid myth fails entirely. The real world is considerably more complex than our theories of it allow for. No doubt it’s some aspect of the human condition that we peer at multidimensional problems, but then throw out vast numbers of the variables when we are trying to explain their behavior. A localized theory based on a limited subset often doesn’t hold when scaled back to the original problem.

    Paul.

  124. @Mike
    “Economics absolutely is not the study of human behavior and this latest wave of arm chair economists trying to understand the effects on society of the GPL(something that is based on identical rules as proprietary software) is flat out ridiculous.”

    Not?

    I support the GPL, but I do think that Economics is all about people, and only about people.

    The fact that some visitors of this site use a small subset of economic models and theories as a dogmatic ideology says nothing about the state of Economics in general.

  125. All these My license is freer than thine is just another “X washes whiter than white”

    If you do not like a license, code your own stuff from the ground up. Or join others who like the same license as you do.

    I have specific reasons to prefer the GPL. Mostly about protecting the users of my software and other stuff. Protected like I would have wanted to be protected in the past when there was not so much free software. And also because I hate secrecy and lock in (Secret knowledge is lost knowledge).

    These are my considerations, and they are personal. Everyone else can publish under their own favorite license and I will happily help other people out with free software under a different license if they need it.

    This whole My license washes whiter than thine is just comical.

  126. @

    Economics absolutely is not the study of human behavior

    A great book (great as in important, not that I actually cared enough about it to read all of it) is a 3 inch thick book by IIRC Ludwig Von Mises whichlays out the groundwork for what I believe is the “Austrian school” of economics. Its title is…

    Human Action

    and believe me, that is what it is about – why people do what they do in real life in the real world.

  127. I realize that I am just repeating what I have already said in a slightly different way but…

    If you give someone software under the GPL, you are not “giving them freedom” – you are giving them 5000+ words of rules/restrictions/responsibilities plus FAQ plus user’s guide to it all. Do you explain or otherwise draw their attention to all this? If you don’t, (and quite likely, even if you do) there is a moderately good chance that down the road, that person will violate some part of the GPL.

    When I make code available under the MIT license, the only restriction that I am trying to enforce is that (I paraphrase)… “This stuff is AS IS so don’t try to sue me”. (I realize that this language isn’t legally bullet proof, but I try.)

    To say that passing out MIT’d software is not passing on freedoms is… simply nuts.

    Sorry to keep hammering on this, but… any child capable of reading the GPL and MIT can tell which one is more “free”.

  128. Doesn’t the latest version of the GPL have provisions about not robbing liquor stores and making sure your kids get enough vitamin C?

  129. OK, so RMS is a fanatic…but a harmless one. He’s managed to marginalize himself pretty well. Treat him respectfully, applaud him loudly when he speaks, bury him richly when the time comes, just don’t really pay him any mind.

  130. “If you give someone software under the GPL, you are not “giving them freedom””

    Yes, absolutely agree. As I said earlier I can’t use anything GPL, I’d be unemployed if I did. The copyleft aspect is a mighty hefty string attached to the code, so even if I’m not paying cash for it, there is still a ‘price’ to be paid. That’s not true however of the Apache license. I can build on any of their works without worrying about getting caught up into some ill defined legal messiness.

    What I’d prefer though is that I don’t have to care, that the code out there is truly free or if it isn’t that there is some reasonable price to be paid to a very small number of other parties. My life would be considerably simpler if I could just get a nice menu of what’s available, and then use it without fear of consequences. Ironically that’s what RMS wanted, but somehow in all of the commotion he managed to keep it from me. Using existing libraries is a major pain, and all of the FUD makes it even worse. All I really want to do is build great tools for people and not retire into poverty.

    Paul.

  131. @Paul W. Homer

    Why do business type invariably think that the world revolves around their employment and/or business. There is much more to life, and software, than a business.

  132. As ESR in the OP/Essay said, he is not harmless because of the opinions important people in business form about him, free software and Open Source (with a major problem being that they don’t recognize the difference between the FSF and the OSI. That is what this whole tread is all about.

    Why do business type invariably think that the world revolves around their employment and/or business. There is much more to life, and software, than a business.

    Businesses are extremely important because they provide folks with the money they need to survive and also pursue the finer things in life, like software.

  133. @Mike,

    Great question. First of all I am not a business type, so I think my answer is only really a perspective on what they are thinking. Myself, I am really just a creative, a builder. I like building things and to keep being able to build things (and to have a decent work-life balance) I find it useful to get paid frequently (my wife likes it too).

    From a general perspective, I’d say the answer lies in history. The 19th, 20th and 21st century all appear to pivot around the rise of capitalism. I’m not a fan, but that’s the direction pretty much everyone is headed. It’s a very simple system where everyone competes to make as much money as possible, so that they can buy as much useless stuff as possible. Winning seems to be defined as sitting on the biggest pile of ‘stuff’.

    Given that almost everybody really loves this game, and it has gradually worked its way into just about every dark corner of the planet, poor sods like myself have essentially given up trying to rail against the system. A very smart boss told me when I was considerably younger that I’d have to learn to ‘pick my battles’. Capitalism is cruel, annoying and a whole lot more, but it is most likely here for my whole lifetime.

    Now, when I’m not confined to being a wage slave I like to do all sorts of other things: writing, photography, eating, traveling, films and even some mathematics. I fell in love with computers when I was young and some of the magic still remains, but these days I am more entranced by what I can do with the software (help people), then by the construction of it. And I’ve found that I’m just as happy using wood to build decks, as I am using bytes to build systems.

    However, to avoid a rather brutal old age, I find it necessary to spend the vast majority of my life creating things that make other people gobs of money. You’d think it would be easy, given my skill set, to get all of those gobs for myself, but it turns out that the world revolves around business and those often frustrating business types are much better at the game than I am, so inevitably I find myself subject to their whims (and extremely unhappy about it). If I knew of a way out, I’d take it (lottery tickets just don’t seem to be working :-)

    Paul.

  134. Personally, I think your explanation is really unnecessary. Anyone who describes entering into a free will transaction as “evil” is just plain nuts in my opinion. That is true whether the transaction is buying Microsoft Word downloading the GIMP, or any of the other things outside of software, such as two men having sex, one guy smoking a joint in his basement, or me buying medical insurance that doesn’t cover Viagra.

    In fact, to me whenever someone uses the word “evil” it is a pretty strong indicator that religion is going on.

    John Wayne Gacy — Evil? Definitely, for sure.
    ASP.NET — Evil? What are you smoking?

  135. As right as you are about RMS as wrong you are about God. In fact you are doing similar mistakes that you complain RMS does regarding God. Take a look into a real bible (not Hacker’s Bible or so). Hey, and he loves you in spite of what you think about him, I am not so sure if this is true for RMS regarding you.

  136. Hmm. There’s also a turtles-all-the-way-down argument that starts to bother me, too.
    We want access to source for software on a general-purpose computer – fine it’s easy to replace.
    We want a completely free BIOS because, well, it might have bugs in it and it’s important – fine I can get an EEPROM flasher.
    What about CPU microcode? Well, maybe we can fake that.
    What about defective ICs on the motherboard – should we only use motherboards which have all of the ICs in sockets so we can replace them with new ones if we find problems with the old ones?
    What about the implementation of the ICs themselves – should they all have to be FPGAs so we can re-layout the logic if something in them doesn’t work right?
    How about the silicon? How to you alter that if it’s been manufactured correctly?
    How do you change the electromagnetic constants of the universe?

    At another point, there’s a cost to manufacturing products which are alterable. The socket on a motherboard is a non-zero cost. This is why embedded CPUs are designed to be soldered to the board – it reduces costs.

  137. One aspect of this question that hasn’t been mentioned yet is the moral case for *closed* source.

    We often hear from intellectual property advocates that if somebody created a program, piece of music, document, etc., that they have a “natural right” to it and to control the use of it.

    They say that it is *theirs*, and that they put a lot of hard work into it, and that nobody else has a right to take it without permission.

    The moral arguments of the free software movement serve to balance and discredit these moral arguments. They stop closed source advocates taking the moral high ground. Even if intellectually unsatisfying, these arguments have a place in a propaganda war.

  138. There’s one simple reason for people to cling to the “Free Software” bandwagon rather than “Open Source”, that is actually found within ESR’s own documents.

    I’d summarize OS as “Releasing software with source and freely redistributable is usually in the enlightened self interest of the programmer (or business employing him). So we don’t need moral arguments or copyleft anymore.”.

    But “usually” is not “always”. In The Magic Cauldron (CatB Part 3), there was a section citing DOOM (at the time it was new), and an obscure industrial optimization program as things were closed-source was actually in the best interest of the author.

    But the FS camp is not content to let those ones go. FS rigidly focuses on the perspective of the software consumer and whether he is hurt by a programmer’s choice. Not on whether that choice was smart or stupid for the programmer.

    One other thing to consider. I think people in both the OS and CS camps think that were copyright to be unavailable, the majority of the good software that would otherwise be available on CS terms would simply not be written at all – so the overall effect of copyright on cheapskates is almost neutral.

    In contrast, FS types usually program to handle their personal needs and then later consider possible redistribution. So they tend to see the CS option as something that “intercepts” code that would otherwise head to the free pool, and thus something that produces a significant net harm.

  139. In fact, to me whenever someone uses the word “evil” it is a pretty strong indicator that religion is going on.

    John Wayne Gacy — Evil? Definitely, for sure.
    ASP.NET — Evil? What are you smoking?

    Can we at least agree that the term “evil” clearly applies to VBA?

  140. @Paul

    I think you do not understand Capitalism.

    Property rights are at the root of capitalism. What you make or trade for is yours, to use as you wish. You can choose to sell it or to give it away.

    A programmer spends effort writing software. If the result is useful, it may have value to others besides himself. It is up to him if he makes it available and under what terms.

    The Free Software movement wants to expropriate a programmer’s rights to the product of his labor. It seeks to alienate him from it for the greater good. Sound familiar?

    One can make a case that to purchase software without accompanying source is to make a bad deal. I believe Open Source makes that case. The FSF adds unnecessary moralism.

  141. I’m not sure if Kirby intended his post as satire. I hope he did. It’s quite nasty.

  142. It is true that the cause of the freedom is an obstacle to the cause of the openness. But the cause of the openness, the way it was formulated by the Open Source followers, is also an obstacle to the cause of the freedom.

    Is this important? Yes. Freedom automatically includes openness, while the opposite is not granted. Think TiVo, Microsoft Shared Source etc. In the best case these are of rather limited use, and in the typical case they are as good as the typical closed source proprietary software.

    For this, reason, open source is better than the classic closed source, but not by much. It is an useful step away from closed source, but if you stay there, you remain on the stairs. It is true that both open source and free software have their uses and complement each other. However, eventually Stallman’s free software morality is more useful than the open source compromises. Half freedom is better than none, but worse than true freedom.

    Said that, I agree that Stallman sometimes takes the things too far. However, his mistakes are well visible and don’t lure people into false calmness. In a sense, Stallman is funny about the petty things but firm on values, while most open source followers are firm on a rather petty thing (source code availability), but compromise over values. Again, think TiVo etc.

  143. @Bob

    > Property rights are at the root of capitalism. What you make or trade for is yours, to use as you wish. You can choose to sell it or to give it away.

    This is quite a bold statement. A government granted monopoly on a non-tangible object is the root of capitalism? I think you may be taking a bit of a leap between two points. So a recipe is anti-capitalist?

  144. Nick Raggio said: And here you ignore that Eric has issued actual death threats against a couple people.

    And then changed his mind to: You need to consult that lawyer wife of yours on what constitutes a premeditated threat to do violence against another individual.

    I see the difference between “death” and “violence”. ESR does, as well, given his statements pointing out the difference.

    Mr. Raggio appears to conflate them at will.

    (Mr. Raymond has already addressed the rest of this, but I felt it useful to explicitly contrast the two moved goalposts in one post.

    And for full disclosure – I find that such threats declasse, even when fairly richly deserved.

    But I know a moved goalpost when I see it, and the sheer blatancy of it in this case irked me.)

  145. @Bob

    I think you are right. I definitely don’t get Capitalism. How it’s defined and what its actual impact is in the real world don’t seem to match very well. It is one of those many things in this world that are cloaked in reasonable sounding theories that I suspect exist to only to hide their true nature. Like one of those TV commercials where they are extolling the virtues of a bad consumer product in the hopes that their marketing expenditure may just provide one last wave of revenue before the public really figures out that it is crap. I don’t get that either :-)

    I guess that’s why I stick to building software …

    Paul.

  146. Bob’s post is exactly why the FSF asks people never to use the phrase “intellectual property” (outside scare quotes, of course).

    If he assumes that copyrights are first-class citizens alongside money, land, and physical objects as property, then any libertarian type will feel compelled to defend the right to release software on a proprietary basis, as Bob does.

    However, if he holds that only non-copyable objects can be property, then it is just as obvious to him that copyright should be abolished. When an end-user can’t buy a “pirate” edition of a program, that’s a government enforced monopoly. If he manages to get one anyway and is detected by the “owner” and sued, then that is government redistribution of his money.

    (Note I’m not myself libertarian. Many FS types, including myself, tend towards the left end and would support copyright abolition no matter how it’s phrased. But I suspect RMS himself is best understood as an anarchist who only accepts non-copyable objects as property.)

  147. Don’t underestimate what the RIAA or MPAA might do and I think you’re being a bit over dramatic to contrast those two things.

    Oh i’m no fan of RIAA or MPAA. In generally i think they are scumbags with no sense of proportion or self respect. But i chose the example specifically, in this specific case they are the white knights of liberty and FSF is the scumbag organisation trying to restrict my rights.

    If you would go about not violating the terms of the GPL you’d be fine. The rules with the license are simple and easy to follow. If you take from the community under that license and you decide to share it then you pass on the same rights to the next guy. No one says you have to share it. If you keep your module that contains GPL code all to yourself(or within your compnay) then you can do whatever you please with it. Share it with the world and you cannot restrict them the rights you were given.

    The scenario i’m talking about is that i’ve created a piece of software that needs to include a (for the sake of argument) zip library. I don’t need to modify the zip library and i’ve got no problem adding a thing to the help saying “i used the zip library from here”. But there’s a requirement that it has to be statically linked.

    Under MIT or BSD. No problem. Go for your life.

    Under GPL… Woah there pardner. You’ve got two basic choices.
    * Write a new zip module thus excising GPL. (Thus restricting my ability to re-use software)
    * Release the whole thing as GPL (Thus removing my option to copyright my software as I like)

    The problem is not with the original zip library. The problem is the GPL license on the zip library infects the rest of my software. This is by specific design. And i defy you to tell me what is so morally reprehensible with what i’d be doing in this scenario.

    The further issue is that half the software in the world is for internal use but “we may sell it in the future”. At this point it doesn’t matter if we intend to share it right now or not. We have to act like we intend to share the software because otherwise we’re foreclosing on our options prematurely.

  148. Again, think TiVo etc.

    To be fair i’ve never understood what the big brouhaha about TiVo was.

    Functionally there’s no difference between a TiVo and being on a mainframe where i’m not root. And i don’t see FSF arguing that it’s immoral for someone to not have admin access on every box they can get on.

    It’s like my phone. Great phone but motorola were/are morons and locked the bootloader so it’s difficult/impossible to root the thing. This is their prerogative, it just means i’ll buy elsewhere (or check more carefully) next time.

  149. @Michael Deutschmann: I always find funny when free software guys are considered leftists.

    A protected recipe is anti-market, being a monopoly tool. And the capitalism is “the worst system ever, plus free market”. The free market is what makes capitalism better than any other system. And monopolies are incompatible with the free market.

    The intellectual property is a law-approved monopoly, since the intellectual property is inherently monopolistic. If you own a Beatles “Help” CD, this doesn’t stop anyone else to own their copy. However, if you own the rights over the Beatles “Help”, nobody else can own them. And if someone pretends that AC/DC are an adequate replacement for Beatles, or vice versa, s/he mus be born deaf. Some minimal start “IP” period can be allowed for intellectual products, to allow the authors to profit, but until 70 years after their death? Or 95 years for corporation movies, given that they make 99% of their profits during the first year? This is already not capitalism. It is thinly painted feudalism.

    The same is even better visible with software patents. The patents are a monopoly, and are allowed to exist for a small time to give the inventor the opportunity to profit from his invention, and then to be available to the society for a long time. However, every invention has a life – who needs the steam locomotive technology anymore? In software, the typical lifetime of an invention is about 15 years, and the patent monopoly lasts 20 – that is, it is effectively forever. Is a society built upon monopoly rights capitalistic? I don’t think so.

    I don’t know what is the proper political definition for the free software suporters – maybe some kind of libertarians. But they are very definitely not leftists by their FS association.

  150. @JonCB: If you bought that mainframe with your hard-earned money, but still aren’t root on it, then there is no difference.

    Some people, however, would insist in this case to have a root access. They are the ones who raise all that brouhaha.

  151. I never said anything about copyright. I said ownership.

    If you make something, it’s yours. You can sell it or give it away.

    If you write code, it’s yours. The software’s practical use and what you can get for showing the source to others or letting them have a copy of the binaries varies. Software is a little more tangible than music, where one performance can release it into the wild.

    Copyright was invented when reproducing something like a book or sheet music required capital equipment and setup time.

    Software has some similarity to music. It would be crazy to charge people for singing the songs they heard performed.

    You own your big toe. Unless you can tie nots and button and unbutton clothing with your feet you may not be able to monetize it. That does not eliminate your ownership of it.

  152. Matt, once again, you miss the point.

    “If you prefer the MIT over the GPL then what other motivation is there than to have the ability to restrict the next user’s freedom?”

    Simple. The motivation is to maximize freedom for all. Including developers, and including people who don’t agree with me about how software is to be licensed.

    As I said before, I consider freedom to be the closest thing to a holy concept as I recognize. Maximizing it is good. Taking it away while falsely claiming to maximize or preserve it is bad.

    It’s really that simple.

  153. @Grigor:

    Some free software types are socialist, some not.

    It’s easy to see how socialism leads to FS. If a socialist thinks “intellectual property” is real, then he sees selling licenses to proprietary software as a clearly bourgeois mode of living.

    Also, conventional socialism’s soft underbelly – the question “What do you do when the sum of everyone’s legitimate needs exceeds the sum of everyone’s actual ability?” is nicely avoided in the free software world, since software is not consumed and can be infinitely copied. We can tolerate an infinity of leeches.

    In fact, FS has had the socialists so thoroughly in the bag from day 0, that this is actually a practical political drawback. Right wingers are dominant in the US, and a legitimate political worry is that they will see the left-FS connection and then reject FS out of partisan pique.

    Thus it’s better to point out that copyright enforcement is state intrusion, both more dramatic and less necessary than the interventions that protect legitimate (that is, physical) property.

  154. It seems like it must be awfully tedious to have to have this argument.

  155. I look at RMS as being similar to the Pope (I’m a non-Catholic, BTW): You don’t follow everything he says, and some of his ideas are even head-scratchers, but he serves as a touchstone, or a point on our moral compass.

    No doubt ESR is beyond reproach, but my sense, for what it’s worth, is that he could be bought if the reward is high enough — I know I could. For RMS, however, it would tear a rent in the space-time continuum.

  156. The problem is not any failing of RMS, it is the fact that RMS is a hero and a genuis and many small minds are not smart enough to understand him.

    In addition to his many technical acomplishments, without which we would be nowhere, such as gcc and gnu, RMS invented absolutely revolutionary social-political-technical inovations such as the concept of the gnu project, and the GPL. Although some may eclipse him in the area of techical development, no one has ever been able to touch the feet of RMS in the area of engineering technical-social institutions! Professional attorneys, interested in promiting techical freedom, have admitted that they did not have the wit to invent something with the subtile power of the GPL. The GPL is hated precisely because it frustrates propriatary software, and resists the false wisdom of those who would compromise.

    In the addition to his inventions, RMS has the uncommon ability to be immune to social presure, and to know when compromise is just a clever way of disguising long term defeat.

    In short, RMS is better than his critics.

  157. I actually have come to like linux – the software environment, what it allows me to do, the fact I can get a consistent full-featured operating system off the internet that runs on a surprising amount of hardware (something that I emphatically did *not* expect to be well done by a volunteer effort).

    I’m an amateur programmer myself. I’ve mostly written math stuff in C, python, and matlab for engineering problem solving. I was considering starting a more serious project revolving around meshing and general partial differential equation solving, and came across something from the FSF that I did *not* appreciate at all: the GPL3 license.

    It said that if my software called any of the libraries that it made available in any way, that I was under an obligation (the legal force of which might be arguable, but that’s not the point) to put out any of my own work under the same license, and people using my software theirs and so on. I was not free to try to sell my own work for profit if it ever became valuable enough and I believed I had a chance to do so.

    This was a rather unacceptable breach of my freedom, IMO. The products of *my* effort are *mine* $%#it! If I decide to share them (as I probably would have under a license of *my own* choosing) (That is, if I ever got something together enough that I felt anyone would be interested in it) then I would. If I decided there was a chance I could earn a ton of money, I would definitely go for that, and not live in semi-poverty. But that choice should be mine. GPL3 was attempting to claim large parts of the Linux operating system, the compiler toolchain, and a lot of scientific libraries that I would have to rewrite from scratch if I wanted to have any freedom over *my own* software. At the time, that turned me off writing it for linux, and I started brushing up on the windows API (ugh, what a fugly mess). Windows doesn’t care if I might make money someday, just as long as I pay Microsoft for their OS.

    That and other aspects of the FSF mentality bother me. The nannyism and warning screens that come up when I try to use *non-approved* software with certain distributions. Err, what? I thought the whole point of having this operating system was to avoid Orwellian entanglements with what other people thought you *should* be doing with your computer. My computer is *mine*. If I want to run commercial software, that is *my* business.

    So some freedom is more free than others, or something. That’s why I like non-fanatical OS better than the free-software movements meddling.

  158. Jonathan Story: Your argument sounds pretty close to “everyone’s useful, at worst as a bad example”. Anyone could agree with that. The question is whether that usefulness (in RMS’ case, the insights he brings us) is enough to overcome their hindrance.

    Paul Homer: I’m sorry you don’t get capitalism. Tell you what, though: hang around this forum. When it comes up (rather often), this crowd is pretty happy making the case for it, and even has a few anti-capitalists and objectors to debate the point (and comb out any of the crappier arguments). If you suspect it’s flashy advertising hiding a pure lemon, all I can say is, take the arguments at face value; there’s also a consensus here that you’re never expected to accept anything purely on authority. I can tell from reading your posts that you clearly understand how incentives work, and that you’re comfortable with microeconomic arguments; IMO, I’d say you’re overlooking some existing incentives, and you’re likely interpreting “biggest pile of stuff” as money and material goods, instead of how we interpret it: anything anyone considers valuable.

  159. In short, RMS is better than his critics.

    No doubt that he brought us further than just about anyone (although the efforts of Linus are comparable and maybe even more – not more technical benefit, but the benefit of Linux existing – it has changed (some of) the world.

    In any case…

    It is not the critics (that’s us tech folks) that are the problem. The problem is that he makes business people think that he, and therefore the FSF and therefore the OSI are nuts. That is not good for the OSI. We want to see Linux used, not ignored as nuts.

  160. The world is a big place. RMS is a unique vibrant individual that brings a unique perspective on software that we don’t hear from anyone else. Why not appreciate each piece of nature for what it is? rather than try to say all flowers should be red and smell nice because that is more practical.

  161. The thing is RMS wants code to be free under all circumstances possible, as free as possible so that the knowledge is available to everybody if they wish.

    The freedom that he wants you, the end user or programmer, to sacrifice, is that of making others’ open source code closed. I don’t see how this is such a big deal or amounts to hypocrisy. If you don’t agree with his philosophy, avoid using others’ GPL code and write your own. Don’t whine about the GPL. Release your own code under a license of your choice.

    The fact is, RMS is clear about what freedom he is propagating and the GPL is a clear indication of it. It appears that others in the OSI community aren’t really sure whether they’re protecting the code, the programmer or protecting the user.

  162. I respect the principle of “Freedom of Speech” here in USA when persons like yourself and Richard Stallman openly and honestly express their views irrespective of the consequences politically.

    However a trend has developed when many of those criticizing RMS on this fanaticism or “extremism” by a few, fail to apply the exact same criteria for such label to individuals and companies from the proprietary world who spare no effort to demonize and even illegally thwart “Free/Open Source Software ” on every turn.

    As long as the effort is equal in going after – rhetorically – those commercial, proprietary entities whose behavior and practices can for all practical terms be considered and described as “evil”, then there is a reasonable balance of name calling.

  163. Paul Elliott said: The problem is not any failing of RMS, it is the fact that RMS is a hero and a genius and many small minds are not smart enough to understand him.

    You see this argument among religious fanatics all the time: “The Rules are not arbitrary and stupid. They are the work of a Vast Intelligence whose purpose our poor human minds cannot comprehend.”

    Uh, no….People are smart and stupid at the same time. RMS is very skilled at computer programming, but at the same time, very stupid about human motivations and relations. A lot of computer geeks are like that, and think he’s a genius because he thinks like them. The rest of the world knows better.

    I like to think of him as the Bobby Fischer of software.

  164. Some people, however, would insist in this case to have a root access. They are the ones who raise all that brouhaha.

    And those people agreed to a license that says “no you’re not allowed to have root access”. And just like me with my phone, those people have a choice to not buy a Tivo given they’ve been burned.

    I disagree with Apple that the walled garden is a good thing. However unlike RMS i recognise that it _is their right to do so_. And if i’m wrong they’ll maintain a significant market share, and if they’re wrong their market share will fall.

    Actually the part I do sympathize with is that developers who felt that the price for using their hard work (e.g. code in linux) was that they could get control of the device if they desire and felt betrayed that it was perfectly legal for Tivo to renege on that. And so we come down to the fundamental point that unless you’re building your own stuff, control is always fleeting. This is simply a fact of life and alienating 80% of the planet because you don’t like that fact is self defeating.

    Which leads us neatly back to ESR’s point.

  165. @JonCB
    “And so we come down to the fundamental point that unless you’re building your own stuff, control is always fleeting. This is simply a fact of life and alienating 80% of the planet because you don’t like that fact is self defeating.”

    The price of freedom is eternal vigilance. If anything, RMS is vigilant.

  166. And those people agreed to a license that says “no you’re not allowed to have root access”. And just like me with my phone, those people have a choice to not buy a Tivo given they’ve been burned.

    I disagree with Apple that the walled garden is a good thing. However unlike RMS i recognise that it _is their right to do so_.

    That’s quite a bit of question-begging there. It’s contentious enough to make the argument that users should not, e.g., be able to jailbreak iOS running on an their iPhone (that is, they have to run it as-is or not at all). It’s another leap entirely to claim that there’s legal, ethical, or moral justification for preventing the owner of a piece of hardware from reprogramming it with her own software (no copyright issues) to do what she wants with it.

  167. It said that if my software called any of the libraries that it made available in any way, that I was under an obligation (the legal force of which might be arguable, but that’s not the point) to put out any of my own work under the same license, and people using my software theirs and so on. I was not free to try to sell my own work for profit if it ever became valuable enough and I believed I had a chance to do so.

    This is a little bit incorrect, and I feel a little whiny. You are free to build your software from scratch if you wish, but if you build *YOUR* software on *OTHER* peoples hard work, and then have the gall to be angry at them for telling you that you should show other people the same courtesy you were shown, then you are in my opinion impolite and extremely ungrateful.

    There is nothing about the GPLv2 or GPLv3 that says you cannot sell your software.

  168. Leaving aside the asinine “my licence is better than yours” debates, the fact is that those of us who use linux on any of our systens owe that freedom in no small measure to a movement founded by RMS. The fact we are able to do so while also enjoying the very significant benefit of contributions from Big Blue and others must equally be recognised as the result of ESR’s efforts.

  169. Leaving aside the asinine “my licence is better than yours” debates, the fact is that those of us who use linux on any of our systens owe that freedom in no small measure to a movement founded by RMS. The fact we are able to do so while also enjoying the very significant benefit of contributions from Big Blue and others must equally be recognised as the result of ESR’s efforts.

  170. It’s contentious enough to make the argument that users should not, e.g., be able to jailbreak iOS running on an their iPhone (that is, they have to run it as-is or not at all).

    Now hang on… the ruling states “while a copyright owner might try to restrict the programs that can be run on a particular operating system, copyright law is not the vehicle for imposition of such restrictions.””. What this means is that it’s not illegal via the DMCA to jailbreak your phone, it doesn’t mean there’s any cloud of illegality on contracts saying that you void your warranty and access to the app store if a jailbroken phone is detected. It’s also not contentious that apple is well within their rights to update their phone to modify its security measures at any point (which may end up bricking your phone if you’ve modified it).

    These are both things that Sony have done within the same lifespan as the “hey it’s legal to jail break things” ruling and the class action went nowhere.

    Ultimately if it’s so contentious, why are there more fanbois than water drops that appear out of nowhere to defend apple’s walled garden every time it comes up?

    The price of freedom is eternal vigilance. If anything, RMS is vigilant.

    I don’t deny that. It’s just that he’s so derided that he could say water is wet and the planet at large would ignore him. Eric is also vigilant. He also has a sense of proportion as to what to explode about which gives him (IMO) more street cred.

  171. I was an RMS admirer then this feeling became tepid when I realized in many ways he did more harm than good. I began joking that I would contribute money both to have him killed and for a statue to him. That until I visted his site. What I saw was the site of a deeply repellent man. One of those “blame America first, Bad, nastyu America and nice, good Khmer Rouge and Al Quaidists. Last but not least, his support for the Palestinians. You know, those people who dance in the streets when a baby has had his throat slit and have told they want not merely the end of Israel but exterminate the Jews. Not a word about Soudan where people have been being killed for decades at a rate of one hundred peole (women and children not terrorists). These people, people who don’t dance in the streets and don’t try to blow maternities (the womand who tried to do it is a national hero between Palestinians) don’t interest him. His compasssion goes only to those who have told repeatedly they want to finish Hitler’s work. Nowadays I am ashamed of myself for having followed him..

  172. What this means is that it’s not illegal via the DMCA to jailbreak your phone, it doesn’t mean there’s any cloud of illegality on contracts saying that you void your warranty and access to the app store if a jailbroken phone is detected.

    Strawman: The entire issue of “Tivoization” and the rationale behind much of the GPL3 is precisely the attempts by hardware vendors to prevent even wholesale replacement of software on their machines. Regardless of your particular opinion of RMS’s approach, the UEFI time bomb demonstrates that he was right to be concerned.

    It’s also not contentious that apple is well within their rights to update their phone to modify its security measures at any point (which may end up bricking your phone if you’ve modified it).

    It’s not their phone, the “measures” aren’t about “security”, and I’d be interested in seeing precedent that such bricking is considered acceptable. You’re arguing that Microsoft has a right to brick my Linux laptop whenever it wants to update its Windows 7 “security” measures.

  173. Eric, would you consider turning off the automatic “smart” quotes in the comments?

  174. I understand your reasoning and expected nothing else given your standpoint. But comparing ethical standpoints with a pure practical view will never work.

    To take it to an extreme, if I morally declare that killing is wrong, I cannot have the practicality of waging wars or executing the death penalty. The implications on the latter do not automatically invalidated my moral belief.

    This is not me pointing out that you’re standpoint on the software issue is wrong, but you are using your pragmatic perspective to validated RMS’ actions, which is not logical.

  175. >Eric, would you consider turning off the automatic “smart” quotes in the comments?

    Sure, if there’s a way to do it in WordPress.

  176. For what it’s worth, I’ve spent a full day with RMS and, after accepting his Asperger’s-eque behaviour, achieved a very pleasant equilibrium and learned far more than I expected. I was also inspired by the extent to which he lives his principles – which are extraordinarily well examined. I cannot imagine anyone being a deeper, more insightful thinker. Yes, he’s cantancerous, but he’s also almost always right because he’s much more focused, and capable of greater objectivity, than anyone else I’ve ever met.

    Based on my personal experience, I consider @Paul Elliott’s post to be the most accurate in this entire discussion.

  177. @Guy (and others)
    “But comparing ethical standpoints with a pure practical view will never work.”

    But there is an incongruity here.

    The GPL has a pragmatic “carrot and stick” approach to software freedom. Many opponents here seem to oppose to the GPL and copyleft out of a moral objections to using a stick to promote software freedom. “Freer than free” licenses like the MIT license are not promoted because they are empirically found to promote software freedom better than copyleft, but because they are morally better.

    RMS takes a moral stance to never use software that forbids him to “help his neighbor” where he can. Those opposed to the GPL now criticize RMS for taking a moral stance against limits to his freedom. The fact that he tries to convince others to do the same is nothing to blame him.

    So, at one hand there is moral “outrage” against provisions in the GPL that seem to work empirically. On the other hand there is pragmatic “outrage” against the moral stances of RMS.

    And about the pragmatic value of the licenses in promoting software freedom. We have three nice case studies: BSD versus Linux, OpenOffice versus LibreOffice, PostgreSQL versus MySQL&Derivatives.

    In all cases, it seems the GPLed version attracts more developers and users than the “Freer” licenses. So, I still do not see the downsides predicted of using the GPL.

  178. @Bob:

    I never said anything about copyright. I said ownership. … Software is a little more tangible than music, where one performance can release it into the wild.

    Bull@?#! Software is no more “tangible” than any other set of recorded instructions for producing a specific effect; like a recipe, sheet music, or the instructions to play a game. Which is to say that their “tangible” aspect is only the recording media, whether that be ink on paper or the magnetic state(s) of a metallic film. You can certainly own the media, but to say you own the “meaning” of those marks — and thus copyright — is a far different argument. Nothing other than legal fictions makes sheet music or programs or patent applications have a special “meaning” which can be owned. In the real world, any such meaning is intangible, reproducible without recording (i.e. oral transmission), and thus ineligible for ownership in the ways you imply.
    “Transmitting” software orally might be tedious and seem pointless, but after the implementation of RFC 1149 I’d not be surprised to see someone do it to prove a point.

  179. @Winter

    The FSF and RMS published which freedoms they feel are ethical imperatives. The GPL is just a tool to achieve those. Not including copyleft clauses in a ‘Free’ license would result in the possibility of non-free derivates, which is contrary to their moral belief.

    Which is also why I would not release any patches under a non-copyleft clause.

  180. @JonCB: Currently, TiVo is in practice a monopoly in its field. Touting the power of the market freedom where there is a monopoly is not a compliment to your position. And neither is touting the idea that one might choose to stay without movies access, TV, Internet, grid power and water supply. Sorry, this doesn’t hold water.

    What does hold water for me is fighting to have a real user freedom. And that is what Stallman does. Yes, sometimes he is funny about some details (“Never have children” etc.) But he is firm on the real values, while most open-source people make compromises over them, and stay firm on easily circumventable positions, like that of the source code availability. Stallman’s funnyness eventually brought us things like the Software Freedom Law Center etc. And the open-sourcers flexibility brought us lockdowns like TiVo and Android.

    (I overemphasize the difference to show better my point, exactly like ESR does in his article – however, unlike him, I admit my distortion. It is true that the open-source crowd does much more good than harm. However, Stallman also does. Unless you understand this, you risk ending with an one-sided position.)

  181. Winter, I’m not criticizing RMS for taking his own moral stances. I’m criticizing him for attempting to force his moral stance on others – just as I would in any other arena. He can use whatever software he likes. What’s wrong is that he attempts to coerce others into his utopia.

    You’re reading far too much into the Linux vs. BSD and PostgreSQL vs. MySQL market share differences. Both are influenced by may other factors than the choice of license. In particular, it’s a matter of record that, had BSD not been embroiled in its lawsuit with AT&T, Linux would not exist. If that were the case, the Stallmanites would be voices in the wilderness, instead of having bamboozled a large number of developers.

  182. >>Eric, would you consider turning off the automatic “smart” quotes in the comments?

    What’s the problem? There are very few browsers that can’t handle unicode these days, those that are should be IMO considered a bug in the browser rather than in the content. Typographically correct quotes get a bad reputation because Microsoft implemented them in Word [reasonably, for the purpose of preparing documents to be printed, where interoperability isn't a concern] before support for them was ready in the rest of the software ecosystem, but now it _is_ there.

  183. > I’m criticizing him for attempting to force his moral stance on others [...]. What’s wrong is that he attempts to coerce others into his utopia.

    How has he “forced” anything on anyone? What coercive methods has he used?

  184. The GPL’s viral nature is designed to crowd other licenses out of the marketplace independently of its relative value. As it infects other code, the choices diminish.

    Further, forcing others to release their own code is coercion. Note the word “force”.

  185. @Jay Maynard I strongly disagree with that opinion. The GPL protects my contributions against future use in closed-source products. While licenses like BSD and MIT may lead to your code being used in a closed-source product where you have no rights whatsoever.

  186. Further, forcing others to release their own code is coercion. Note the word “force”.

    You’ve not established that he’s _actually_ forced anyone to release their own code. If they don’t want to release their code (in fact, it doesn’t require distributing to anyone, it only restricts distribution without source code, but that’s hairsplitting since I know what you meant), they’re free to not take advantage of the terms offered to them (i.e. not include code from existing GPLed works).

    I thought you libertarians believed in freedom of contract.

    “As it infects other code, the choices diminish.”

    I am reminded of a discussion in an earlier thread about how the government should or should not restrict the marketing of products with added sugar. Since you think that people shouldn’t want what they are choosing, do you likewise advocate government regulation against the GPL?

    “Guy: How are you harmed if your software is used in a closed-source product?”

    It’s his property, doesn’t he have a right to choose how people may use it?

  187. @Jay Maynard
    1/ If you tout freedom, I should have the option not to want that
    2/ I make code free for the greater good, not corporate greed. Consider this, if I donate a box of clothes to charity and a second hand store steals them, I’m not harmed either.

  188. >Further, forcing others to release their own code is coercion. Note the word “force”.

    I am stating that in my view, and purely theoritically, that it is legally unenforceable in most circumstances. If I take a 100 line GPL program and added 990 lines to it, would I be protected under this principle: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Substantial_similarity ?

    I am not aware of how US copyright law works, however. If there are any precedents to this effect that the coercive part of the GPL is legally valid, I would be glad to be educated.

  189. I mean, once I take a GPL program and add a lot of code to it, it would no longer be “substantially similar” to the original. Since GPL derives its power from copyright law, would the GPL override statutory copyright law in this case?

  190. If you donate that box of clothes to charity, then they’re the charity’s to do with as they wish. If they turn around and give that same box of clothing to the secondhand store for no return, are you still as annoyed?

    I tout freedom. I believe in freedom. I believe in freedom for *everyone*, not just users. In particular, I believe in freedom for developers, too. RMS doesn’t. He doesn’t care about freedom for developers. He says so.

    Basically, Guy, you’re annoyed, but not harmed, by someone using your code in a closed-source product. Your users are not harmed either. Therefore, while you have the right to prevent yourself from being annoyed (which is different from a putative right not to be annoyed), that is in no way at all an advancement of the cause of freedom.

    Choose the license you like. Don’t claim you’re advancing the cause of freedom. You’re not.

  191. “If you donate that box of clothes to charity, then they’re the charity’s to do with as they wish. If they turn around and give that same box of clothing to the secondhand store for no return, are you still as annoyed?”

    Yes, off course. And secondly, doing so would be fraud by the charity under Belgian law…

  192. > If you donate that box of clothes to charity, then they’re the charity’s to do with as they wish. If they turn around and give that same box of clothing to the secondhand store for no return, are you still as annoyed?

    I think that this is a bad example because the purpose of my giving to charity is for it to reach the poor and needy and I expressly give it to the charity on the assumption that they will do so.

    If the charity doesn’t do that and instead uses my donation for other purposes I would question their bona fides and bring it to public light. They would be guilty of misusing public wealth, for example if they got money out of me and used it for the trustee’s individual’s private purpose.

  193. Note that when I say “I donate to a charity” I impliedly mean “I donate for a purpose for which I hold the charity as an intermediary/trustee responsible for how my donation is used.”

  194. “I think that this is a bad example because the purpose of my giving to charity is for it to reach the poor and needy and I expressly give it to the charity on the assumption that they will do so.”

    Not really, if I write free code, I wish for everyone to have access to it, making closed derivates is misusing my contribution.

  195. Guy: Wrong. Your code will always and forever be freely available, regardless of what anyone else ever does with it. Even those who buy the closed-source code with yours in it can still obtain and use your code.

  196. @Jay I know it will, but the derivate from my effort is neither available to myself nor the general public, which is something I find morally unacceptable. Hence the difference between Free Software and Open Source Software.

  197. Guy: And that’s where the difference does indeed lie. You are taking steps to prevent others from annoying you. That’s your choice. It is not, however, a choice for freedom. It is a choice for restriction and coercion. Calling it freedom is not only false advertising; it is harmful to the cause of true freedom.

    Soi-disant “free software” is an oxymoron.

  198. @Jay, and with that, we end at the basis of the disagreement between both movements. It is highly doubtful that we will find an outcome for that.

  199. Indeed. So long as RMS insists on argument by redefinition, and cloaking his anti-freedom message in the mantle of freedom, he will have people who treat him as the fanatic he most certainly is – and hence we come to the basis of ESR’s essay.

  200. > Calling it freedom is not only false advertising; it is harmful to the cause of true freedom.

    So true freedom lies in restricting others from benefitting from the same freedom and benefits you yourself enjoy? This is a fringe issue and most Open Source advocates are making a huge deal of it.

    > Soi-disant “free software” is an oxymoron.

    RMS is clear that he wants the software to be free and absolutely unencumbered in order to benefit end users and he wants the end users to propogate that benefit by passing them on. His take on freedom is that of knowledge and information to benefit everybody and not of individual’s freedom to restrict others from enjoying the same benefits derived from a third party. So free software is really far more accurate description because it’s not “Free users” or “Free developers”.

  201. That is your opinion. Mine is that code is knowledge, and locking it down is inherently immoral.

    Given that moral stance, closed source is inherently immoral and the GPL is a tool to protect against it. Freedom is in this sense not defined as ‘doing whatever you want, regardless anything’.
    In a morally just world, we would not need the GPL as copyright would not exist.

    Again, moral argument versus practical reasoning.

  202. True freedom is the ability to act in the broadest possible range of ways, limited only by the requirement to not initiate force or fraud against another. Note that that does not include the freedom not to be annoyed.

    The one who actually restricts others from using his software is of course not advancing freedom. However, the one who distributes his software under a BSD/MIT license is, because he is placing no restraint on the ability of others to use it. The one who distributes his software under the GPL is not, because he himself is restricting others.

    Freedom is not a fringe issue. It is the central issue of our time.

  203. > Freedom is not a fringe issue. It is the central issue of our time.

    It is minor and matters only to developers who are concerned with writing closed source applications on the back of open source code.

    The only freedom the GPL asks you to give up is the freedom to restrict others from enjoying the same freedom that you enjoy.

    Both GPL and other non-copyleft licenses benefit the non-programmer end-user equally well.

  204. “True freedom is the ability to act in the broadest possible range of ways, limited only by the requirement to not initiate force or fraud against another.”

    We disagree on this too, probably completely different political views too. You can do harm without commiting fraud.

  205. Guy: If, as your comment earlier implies, you’re from Belgium, it’s almost axiomatic that you and I differ politically, simply because I am a Republican. (Eric: Is there any work showing the political leanings of soi-disant “free software” advocates vs. open source people? I suspect Stallmanites are much further to the left, insofar as a single axis can represent them.)

    Hari: There you go again. *sigh* No, I am not interested in writing closed source applications on the back of open source software. Please stop telling me that I must be because I support true software freedom.

  206. @hari:
    > It is minor and matters only to developers who are concerned with writing closed source applications on the back of open source code.

    This is a false statement. It might very well matter to me that my code will be used as widely as possible – including proprietary products and inside companies which are too scared by FSF’s rhetoric to use GPL code.
    Therefor even if one does not want to write any proprietary code per se, one still can be concerned by using any GPL code in whatever quantities in his work.
    The viral nature itself, which means it’s enough to link to a single small library to spoil the entire work is enough for me to avoid using that GPL library.

  207. > Hari: There you go again. *sigh* No, I am not interested in writing closed source applications on the back of open source software. Please stop telling me that I must be because I support true software freedom.

    I didn’t mean you in particular. I meant that the GPL enforcing its viral nature is hugely demonized when in fact, in my humble view, it is a relatively minor point. And moreover, I feel it might not even be legally enforceable if the code is substantially dissimilar to the original even though it might be derivative. I still await clarification on that point.

  208. @Guy

    Since your from Belgium I should explain that a Republican in the US is really just a term for a very easy to trick sucker who votes against their own and their families best interest.

  209. Guy: And Mike’s statement is very typical of the kind of leftist who thinks he has the right to tell others what their best interests are whether they agree or not.

  210. Just to clarify, I absolutely detest communism in any form whatsoever. So it doesn’t follow that if you approve of certain of Stallman’s views, you MUST be a leftist.

  211. @Jay Maynard

    I’m not really that political, I just think you guys are bizarre and hilarious.

  212. Guy: If, as your comment earlier implies, you’re from Belgium, it’s almost axiomatic that you and I differ politically, simply because I am a Republican. (Eric: Is there any work showing the political leanings of soi-disant “free software” advocates vs. open source people? I suspect Stallmanites are much further to the left, insofar as a single axis can represent them.)

    I doubt there is that much correlation between “free” vs. “open source” and political ideology. Part of that is because in the United States, hackerdom in general is overwhelmingly left-leaning. Hackers have seen the consequences of putting Republicans into power: war, torture, increased surveillance including warrantless wiretapping of Americans, being questioned, fingerprinted, and otherwise harassed at the border, bankers and CEOs growing ever richer while the middle class dissolves — and it’s pretty much the opposite of everything they stand for. So they ran like hell in the opposite direction.

    Yes, I know a lot of this continued under Obama. That’s because Obama, like Bush, is an idiot who desperately wants “President of the United States” on his CV. He wants the job but doesn’t want to do the job — so the job, by and large, has been left to the Bushite loons who filled the administration after all the right-thinking people quit under Bush’s watch, with a resultant continuation, if not worsening, of Bush-era conditions.

  213. @Mike
    > I’m not really that political, I just think you guys are bizarre and hilarious.

    Bullshit. You’re engaging in a classic maneuver by attempting to blindly ridicule and discredit someone you disagree with politically. You’re either a fool (excusable, fixable) or dishonest.

  214. That’s another bizarre Republican thing.

    Barak Obama has been been center-right on the majority of his decision making(immigration, iraq/afganistan, bank bailout). Even the health care plan was modelled after the recommendations of a conservative think tank.

    But they hate him. I mean really deeply, passionately hate him. Like the most evil man in the world. Just bizarre.

  215. @jsk no I sincerely think it’s one of the most puzzling and fascinating phenomenon of my life time. I actually look forward to reading the history of this in 20 years as people smarter than me put together how it happened. It is really very confusing to me.

  216. The one who actually restricts others from using his software is of course not advancing freedom.

    The GPL explicitly does not restrict the use of software — only its distribution. This distinction is subtle but should be maintained; as for me I always Zlib-license my software where I can because I don’t want to cause problems for people who wish to distribute my software, either.

  217. But they hate him. I mean really deeply, passionately hate him. Like the most evil man in the world. Just bizarre.

    Because he isn’t one of their good ole boys. The same thing happened in the nineties with Clinton. Except this time, you are absolutely fooling yourself if you don’t think skin color has something to do with it. (Hint: A popular bumper sticker slogan in the South and even the more rural parts of places like Pennsylvania is: “2012: Don’t Re-Nig”.)

  218. I actually look forward to reading the history of this in 20 years as people smarter than me put together how it happened. It is really very confusing to me.

    The Christian nutcases whom Barry Goldwater feared would take over the Republican Party, did take over the Republican Party. I don’t know the exact details of how it happened, but I suspect it really got rolling when certain Christian groups observed the overwhelming success of the leftist hippie movement and began applying some of its propaganda techniques, creating the “Jesus People” and other such evangelical movements which appealed to the moral conservatism of a broad spectrum of the American population. Anecdotally, Christian nutcase and Internet legend Jack T. Chick claims to have derived his cartoon tracts from Chinese communist leaflet propaganda in comic form.

  219. @Jeff Read

    There are probably a lot of these things that I guess have added up to this frenzy of hatred. I mean, I remember when liberals didn’t like Reagan or conservatives didn’t like Clinton, but this is different. This is hate. Like deep hate. Even hatred of the poor. Just lots and lots of hate that was never there before.

    Strange times indeed.

  220. Jeff, you keep getting your head handed to you on this blog, and yet you still argue that hackers are leftists?! You’re as blind as the leftists you associate with.

    Insofar as hackers have political philosophies, they’re more likely to be libertarian than leftist. Statist leftists, especially, are rare in hackerdom.

    The reason Obama’s kept a large number of Bush policies – not coincidentally, the only ones that are working for him – is that he discovered he couldn’t jettison them when he got into office and found how things really work. And as for your racism, I will simply note that I’d oppose Obama even if he were a WASP from an old family. It’s his policies, stupid.

    Mike, you give your own game away when you say that Republicans work in opposition to their own interests. I am a Republican because I see that as most consistent with my own interests, a strong national economy and a strong national defense heading the list. I don’t need government health care. I need an economy that works well enough that I can make enough money to pay for my own health care. Yet Obama took his eye off the ball in his first year and rammed through Obamacare instead of paying attention to the economy. Not only that, but his answer to helping the private sector is raising taxes on it to hire more government unionized workers! That way lies Greece.

  221. I mean, I remember when liberals didn’t like Reagan or conservatives didn’t like Clinton

    You must have missed the undercurrent of the nineties when John Birchers, anti-semites, and other assorted hicks organized into militias: ignorant, armed, pissed, and crazed bands of thugs training to make war if that’s what it took to stop peace and progress. Makes the Tea Party look downright peaceable. Prior to 9/11 the most successful terrorist attack on U.S. soil was the bombing of the Murrah Federal Building, perpetrated by two such hicks.

    Thankfully, George Bush got the Supreme Court to decide the 2000 election in his favor. After that the militia movement just sort of evaporated. But whenever I hear a Republican say “fight the terrists” I wonder why he doesn’t suggest starting with his own kind. There have been far more domestic terrorism attempts than foreign ones on U.S. soil since 9/11, mainly by right-wingers motivated by racial hatred or ideology (e.g., abortion clinic bombings). And part of the reason why the left sides with the Muslims is simply because they are the lesser of two evils. Shari’a law has stringent ethical standards for financial institutions that are enforced by boards of Islamic scholars sitting on every bank. Evangelical Christianity has no such corresponding framework. Republican terrorists would kill the infidels and loot the poor.

  222. @Jay Maynard

    So when you get sick and it ends up costing $500,000+ you think it’s in your best interest for your insurance company to drop your coverage? You think it’s in your children’s best interest to shoulder $120,000 of debt to enter the workforce? Do you realize that when you are over 65, private insurance companies would not cover you? Obamacare was originally proposed during the Clinton era by Republicans and is based on the Heritage Foundation proposal.

    What’s more is that all of these things would not cost you an additional penny.

    Can you explain how Barak Obama’s foreign policies(Iraq, Lybia) and immigration policies differ from your own?

    All of this is confusing to me. I know I am missing some of it for sure, but I don’t see how these things make your life worse.

    The only people that seem to have something to lose from his policies are those who make the majority of their income in capital gains, of which their taxes will go up quite a bit after the Bush era tax cuts expire. I guess it’s possible that this is how you make most of your income.

    I mean, I understand if you have some philosophical view against community and concern for others. That part is obvious. But I’m just not sure how this stuff actually hurts you. That’s the confusing part.

  223. @Jsk
    But you are. If I try to explain the political views aired here at home, people think it is a comic routine. They cannot be convinced you are setious.

  224. Jeff Read> Hint: A popular bumper sticker slogan in the South and even the more rural parts of places like Pennsylvania is: “2012: Don’t Re-Nig”.

    I guess Texas is not longer part of the south. I live here, put almost 3000 miles/month on my car, and I’ve never seen this “popular bumper sticker.”

    I have seen lots of “ObamaNos” stickers though. I’m sure that’s a redneck term.

    Mike> There are probably a lot of these things that I guess have added up to this frenzy of hatred. I mean, I remember when liberals didn’t like Reagan or conservatives didn’t like Clinton, but this is different. This is hate. Like deep hate. Even hatred of the poor. Just lots and lots of hate that was never there before.

    Only because you aren’t old enough to remember Carter. The reaction to Obama is almost EXACTLY the reaction to Carter, except this time, rather than the left accusing the right of hating farmers (peanut farmers, specifically), now they’re accusing them of hating blacks.

    There truely is nothing new under the sun.

    I suspect the results will be approximately the same this time as last, and the left will spend the next decade rebuilding from the ashes.

  225. > and the left will spend the next decade rebuilding from the ashes.

    Like this. What is this like the apocalypse?

    It’s a presidential election between two fairly centrist candidates. There really isn’t going to be anything massively different than it was. Even what apparently is the most horrible thing in the world, the heath care plan, isn’t really all that different from what we have now.

    Just bizarre.

  226. @Don
    > I guess Texas is not longer part of the south.

    Texas was never part of the South, hush your damnable lies! Texas is Texas. The South is over thataway.

    @Winter
    Not sure if you meant to respond to me; not sure what you’re referring to.

  227. jsk,

    Touche! I was talking about them damned yankees always saying Texas was part of the south :^).

    mike,

    Do you REALLY think that, if as happened in ’80, Obama loses by a landslide (electorally), that the Dems in Congress won’t also pay a price? In ’80, the Dems, in general, took a beating that it took them 6 years to even begin to recover from. The party was in ruins in 1980. It was 10 years before they got enough power back to make a real difference in the governance of the country.

    I predict a similar effect this time around, for the simple reason that Obama’s policies have scared the hell out of many people to the right of center and will motivate them to get out and vote in the same way that GW’s policies scared the hell out of those to the left of center and got them out to the polling sites in 2008. Only, there’s numerically MORE right of center folks in the country. Couple that with the fact that the far-left is pissed at Obama for not delivering on so many promises that were never even remotely possible (e.g. carbon-credits) and you get a 10-20 point loss for the Dems.

    This is like watching a remake of a bad movie. The actors are different, and the scenes have been modernized, but the plot hasn’t changed and the end will ultimately be the same.

    “The one who does not remember history is bound to live through it again.”

    Wash, rinse, repeat.

  228. And mike, please note, I didn’t talk about “Romney” WRT to the vote. You could run Gillighan as the opponent to Obama and he’d win. The only potential candidate that the Republicans could run that would lose would be Sarah Palin, because she’s the only one who could possibly motivate enough lefties, and demotivate enough righties, to make the calculus work out in the Dem’s favor.

    No Apocalypse necessary.

  229. @Don

    It’s very obvious that people are terrified of Barak Obama as president. It a viable frenzy. I can’t can’t find the policies that would insight such frenzied hatred. Mitt Romney is a very liberal Republican. He was governor of one of the most liberal states(if not the most liberal) in the country. He was the first governor in the country to put in a public health care plan. Mitt Romney may actually be more liberal that Barak Obama on almost everything but taxes. He’s talking about a trade war with China. That’s typically socialist union talk.

    I’m not saying any of them are great. I’m saying that this deep hatred of a man that is very similar to the man that most of the people who hate him so much are going to vote for.

    Don’t you find that odd?

  230. going back to the question of what use is a moral view on software such as RMS’, I can add my own personal experience: for me, it reveals the wider implications of existing technology, something I would have no way/interest to discover on my own.

    For example: I think ESR mentioned software in elevators as a clear case where moral judgement can only be ideological. I trust Eric’s judement on this, but not my own: what do I know about elevators, anyway? I trust RMS and the FSF in providing at least a plausible argument as to why I should care about this case. (Mind you, I would then make my own judgement about the issue, but I know I would never give it any attention without a public denunciation such as those coming from the FSF).

    If I am not alone in using RMS’s rants this way, that means that for some the FSF has the same value of an advocacy group: they may over-reach most of the time but are useful in bringing to light cases that would otherwise escape public attention.

    And of course, since we are talking about proprietary software, we are facing an industry that does not want you to know all the possible harm from their products. The point I think is missing in Eric’s OP is that it is not so straightforward to assess “possible harm” in a world of close-source software. Watchdog groups are fanatical by definition, but being fanatically obsessed seems to be a prerequisite for effectively carrying out a through evaluation of such a complex, wide, fast-changing system such as the current IT industry.

  231. >But they hate him. I mean really deeply, passionately hate him. Like the most evil man in the world. Just bizarre.

    A lot of Republicans, I think, just think they’re getting their own back for how Bush was treated. Try going back four or eight years and applying that to Bush and the Democrats rather than Obama and the Republicans.

    Seriously, the left can be extremely hypocritical when it comes to hatred and intolerance.

  232. Jon: Amen. We heard enough “Chimpy McBushitler” to hold us a lifetime. The Left made their bed; they are now lying in it.

  233. Ok… I’m off topic and this is getting terrifying. I was just hoping to hear about the actual reason for hating him. Not lefties, burning in ashes etc. I was honestly just asking a rational question.

    Sorry guys, I’ll leave it be.

  234. But they hate him. I mean really deeply, passionately hate him. Like the most evil man in the world. Just bizarre.

    And just who printed up all those “Bushitler” bumper stickers, again? If that isn’t hate speech, I haven’t ever heard it.

    And no, I don’t think it should be against the law.

  235. @Mike

    Ok… I’m off topic and this is getting terrifying. I was just hoping to hear about the actual reason for hating him. Not lefties, burning in ashes etc. I was honestly just asking a rational question.

    It was a metaphor for the sad state of the Democratic party after the 1980 election.

  236. @Jay Maynard you didn’t answer my question – what coercive means does RMS or any of his followers use to “force” people to release their code? You’re free to _not_ derive your software from a GPLed work.

  237. I agree with Jay Maynard’s responses re: the GPL.

    Yesterday I strongly favoured the MIT license over the GPL. But the more I think about this…

    Today, I hate the GPL and I am REALLY tired of people claiming that it advances freedom. What it does is advance the philosophy of RMS (root mean square? – just kidding).

    I think that it is highly damaging because, however many people think it is about freedom, it hinders developing software that is close-source on Linux. Which (I imagine) is great in the view of RMS.

    I deeply sympathize with ams, who is writing software which he might want to sell if there is enough demand, perhaps binary only with a closed source license. The reason he might want to do that is presumably that he prefers to acquire and use food, gasoline, shelter etc. Money does make the world go round – it is only people that have an adequate supply of money that can afford to, for instance, write open source software.

    To find his post, search the web page for some part of…
    “I was considering starting a more serious project revolving around meshing and general partial differential equation solving, and came across something from the FSF that I did *not* appreciate at all: the GPL3 license.

    It said that if my software called any of the libraries that it made available in any way, that I was under an obligation (the legal force of which might be arguable, but that’s not the point) to put out any of my own work under the same license, and people using my software theirs and so on. I was not free to try to sell my own work for profit if it ever became valuable enough and I believed I had a chance to do so.”

    I personally have never taken that path – I have always released under the MIT license and hoped that someone would want to give me lots of money to help them do things for them.

    And what about this… In a post here in early December 2011, I said I had written the cutest, tiniest, most elegant little double-entry bookkeeping system based on two text files (chart of accounts and transactions) and a handful of shell scripts that run awk (I didn’t refer to it as gawk). Someone suggested that I make it available and I whipped it up into an Open Source project in a few hours. It is licensed with (basically) the MIT license. I would think that this is a borderline case – there is no executables – the shell scripts containing the awk scripts are both the source and the files the end-user uses. But I have MIT-licensed a collection of scripts that run gawk which is (I assume) licensed under the GPL.

    This software, call deawk (double-entry awk) is available from the “deawk” web page at:
    http://www.agt.net/public/bmarshal/deawk/
    to which there is a link from my home page at:
    http://www.agt.net/public/bmarshal/

    If anyone finds my code useful, that is great – that is why I made it available in the most free form – the MIT license basically only tries to restrict you by saying, in effect “this stuff is AS IS – don’t try to sue me”. That is freedom.

    If anyone thinks that I should stop making my software available or release it under a GPL license can go fuck them selves. I have had it with all the blather about GPL passing on freedom.

    I think some of us should start a project to circumvent the GPL. I have no problem with application software being under the GPL. I strongly oppose basic libraries and low-level stuff like awk being under the philosophy of RMS.
    – If parts of the GPL are unenforceable, let’s hear about that
    – if code can be obfuscated and de-obfuscated in such a way that
    it isn’t a copyright violation, lets make the way available
    – If the language of the GPL is fraud or the practice of the FSF violates some anti-trust law or any other legal way of stomping on the FSF if it tries to stomp of developers, lets know about it

    In short, if someone want to write closed source software on Linux that uses sed, grep, sort, awk or basic language libraries, they should be able to dot that. Lets make sure that it is possible. The more people use Linux, even with closed source software, the better it is for Linux and hacker in general.

    I don’t know if ESR would have given me a “Hacker” ribbon (and I don’t know how much this post will affect his opinion of me). But, as I have said, I have had it with the idea that the GPL is about freedom – it is about restricting what developers can do. Many developers really like the whole GPL philosophy, but they should stop lying about freedom and start broadening their philosophy to include the world of business, money, profits which is to say eating, driving, shelter, etc.

    I want to be able to develop on Linux without the GPL hanging over me. Some folks will say, “Well no one id forcing you to use all the tools under the GPL”, which is true. But wouldn’t it be better to share boroadly, not just with those developers that like the GPL? Wasn’t the whole idea about freedom and sharing?

  238. @Brian Marshall

    Mind taking a break from exclaiming your love for all things yourself. We get it, we get it. You care _a_lot_ about yourself. Thanks for letting everyone know.

  239. A lot of the commentators who claim that BSD license is “more free” than GPL seem to have a poor understanding of “freedom”. There are different types of freedom. BSD is about individual freedom and certainly provides more of this than GPL. You can do whatever you like with the code. GPL, on the other hand, is about common freedom, which I consider much more important. If individual freedom is the highest ideal, then anarchy must be the most pure form of freedom. Unfortunately, individual freedom is often at odds with a free society. Falling back on the common car analogy, if everyone were allowed to drive any speed they liked and ignore intersections, then it would reduce the freedom of others to drive. Freedom doesn’t necessarily imply unrestricted individual license, it means operating on a level field sharing a common set of freedoms, responsibilities, and restrictions as everyone else. The GPL provides a better framework for this than most other OSI licenses. If BSD is anarchy, then GPL is a constitution.

    If anything, this is why Stallman’s appeals fail. People have a fundamental misapprehension of the core values he is advocating.

  240. “Since you’re from Belgium I should explain that a Republican in the US is really just a term for a very easy to trick sucker who votes against their own and their families best interest.”

    @Mike: Since you’re from the US, you should have learned by now that our people don’t go for Marxist-style class warfare. By and large, our voters tend to choose people that they think will be best for our society as a whole. You may not like their decisions, but that does not mean that they are wrong. The electorate tends to be wiser than you think.

  241. @LS

    “Marxist-style class warfare.”

    Do you seriously believe that there is “Marxist-style class warfare” occurring in one of the most free market capitalist societies in the developed world? Seriously? Like the communist revolution is about to overthrow the government and we’ll all be speaking Russian?

    Bizarre.

  242. I mean if Missisippi got what the voted for, and cut federal spending the way the candidates they vote for want, the majority of their schools, fire departments and police departments would pretty much shut down do to lack of federal aid.

    Am I the only one who thinks this is really odd?

  243. I mean Mississippi got like $18,000 per person in federal aid in 2009 and the median income there was like $36,000. Why in the world would they vote like they do? It’s seems really, really odd to me.

  244. Mike: Where did that money come from? It doesn’t grow on trees. It was taken at gunpoint from productive people. Taxation harms production by taking away capital used to enable it. Instead of depending on federal largesse, why not simply let the economy work?

  245. @ Mike

    Hey, sorry man.

    I obviosly have a thing about the GPL, and that argument was going back and forth between Jay Maynard and Guy for a bunch of posts. I liked what Jay was saying.

    And I honestly don’t know if my deawk software is in violation of the GPL. It uses awk with an MIT license

  246. @Jay Maynard

    But why would they vote for that? Their state would collapse. It would be catastrophic for them. And ironically, the wealthier liberal states would actually have more money, because they would not longer be supporting those poorer conservative states.

    To be clear, I’m not debating which is right or wrong. I just can’t understand why a state would vote for it’s own demise. I really must be missing something here. I just don’t get it.

  247. @Jay Maynard

    >Where did that money come from? It doesn’t grow on trees. It was taken at gunpoint from productive people. Taxation harms production by taking away capital used to enable it. Instead of depending on federal largesse, why not simply let the economy work?

    I’ve been trying to learn a bit more about economics recently, largely because of conversations on this blog.

    The key insight that I have had is that governments do not have any money. They can only spend money by taking it away from people who earned it. By doing this they – by definition – take it away from being spent on things that the people actually *want* and divert it to things that the people in power think the people should want.

    Because government spending does not have access to the information supplied by a price mechanism, government will never be able to match the free market in allocating resources in a way that matches people’s real needs and wants.

    Therefore taxation will always distort the economy and make it less efficient.

  248. That’s because you’re not looking at the whole picture. You’re only looking at the federal largesse, not counting its cost in economic damage or in direct reduction of available money. It makes no sense at all to send money to Washington only to have less of it come back with a whole shelf full of regulations on how it can be spent. Why not cut out the middleman and keep it there in the first place?

  249. @Jay Maynard

    I just mean that federal taxation on domestic affairs is essentially a welfare system for the poorer conservative states paid for by the wealthier liberal states. Beyond the military and social security/medicare that’s basically what it is.

    Isn’t it odd that the people actually paying for it are fighting to keep paying for it, and the people who are actually getting the money are fighting to get rid of it?

  250. That’s because you’re still missing the point, looking only at the spending side of it. As long as you do that, you will continue to have the inaccurate picture you now do.

  251. @Mike

    >Isn’t it odd that the people actually paying for it are fighting to keep paying for it, and the people who are actually getting the money are fighting to get rid of it?

    I don’t find it at all odd.

    The people who are fighting to get rid of the money understand that overall everybody is hurt by government interference in the economy. Nobody benefits from poorly run public schools that are making it impossible for the free market to provide good solutions.

    It’s hardly surprising that people in what you call ‘liberal states’ are fighting to keep hurting themselves, because their beliefs are informed by a dangerously inaccurate and incomplete understanding of economics. If you are misinformed then you are going to make bad choices.

  252. >Isn’t it odd that the people actually paying for it are fighting to keep paying for it, and the people who are actually getting the money are fighting to get rid of it?

    That is because the only thing stupider than a Republican is a Democrat.

  253. Never mind the money, where did that number come from? A bit of googling for data found ‘America’s fiscal union’, a 2011 article in The Economist. The chart in it shows 239 billion in net federal transfers to Mississippi from 1990 to 2009. Population in 2000, 2.8484 million. That’s $4400 per person, not $18000 per person…

  254. @Jay Maynard

    But most of rural Mississippi will be without a police and fire department. That isn’t ideology, that’s the reality of what would happen to them. If I lived there, I don’t think I would want to be without a police department. And have my water treatment plant shut down. That doesn’t seem like something I would vote for if I were in that situation. Most of those people would have to leave there homes and land and move to other wealthier cities and states.

    Now you can definitely argue that this is a good thing for society as a whole. And that’s not what I’m discussing. I just don’t understand why they would vote for that. I mean if they wanted there land to become worthless and be forced to move to the cities in the north, wouldn’t they have already done that? I’m talking about the individual in that situation. Why would that person vote for that?

    @billswift

    I’m not saying one is smart or the other stupid. I just think it is in general a very strange phenomenon. On both sides. Does that make sense?

  255. Mike,

    > Do you seriously believe that there is “Marxist-style class warfare” occurring in one of the most free market capitalist societies in the developed world?

    You would have to be blind to think otherwise. What do you do think all ‘tax the rich’ rhetoric is about? It is all designed to promote class envy. Since we are both, at this point, saying “Seriously?” to each other, can you please advance some evidence or argument for your statement as I did in the previous two sentences.

    Yours,
    Tom

    Yours,
    Tom

  256. Sorry about the double signature. Please mentally apply the second one to this comment.

  257. @esr:
    > I occasionally hear people assert this. But nobody ever explains why – it’s just handwaved, as though it’s so obviously true it doesn’t need a demonstration.

    I deal with a lot of incipient programmers, people who don’t think their code is going to call a lot of attention, and think that it’s more feasible to think that their code is going to get stolen and used without their consent, and think they have no power to enforce their rights on their work, even if it is only to have their name printed on a screen, manual, readme file, etc.

    Among them, it is hard to make the case for open software because it will get better, faster. No, no, it is far easier to tell them that it is “the” Right Thing. A moral argument, to introduce them; it’s mean to hide the stuff from others, not to help. The only thing for evil to triumph is for good people to do nothing.

    Then comes the pragmatism: it is easier to get known if your code is open, even those who will seek to do you harm will know who did the real work, others will work on the code and improve. While this argument usually good for people with a healthy ego (my code will call attention, my code will be used) or who are scratching their own itch (someone might help me get this done faster so I can scratch my itch faster and more fully), when people are coding for someone else the “right” and “good” versus “wrong” and “evil” works.

    I don’t like leaving people in half, so I usually point them to your “How to be a hacker” essay, and CatB… but by then they are already doing the right thing for good reasons.

  258. @Mike

    >But most of rural Mississippi will be without a police and fire department. That isn’t ideology, that’s the reality of what would happen to them.

    No, it’s not.

    If the state-provided fire service were to shut down then that would create an opportunity for somebody to establish a privately operated fire service.

  259. @Tom

    I live in a town that had a basically private fire department back in the day. You know what happened? It burnt down. The whole thing. You know why there wasn’t a private fire department? Because there wasn’t enough money in the town to afford one. Do you seriously think there are companies that can be profitable servicing poor rural Mississippi. Again, you can’t be serious.

    And again, yes many private companies would step up in wealthy liberal cities and states, and again, poor rural conservative towns would once again be left without basic necessities, just like the were before federal aid came in a hundred or so years ago.

    For the last time, I’m not talking about your ideology or right and wrong or whatever agenda you have. I’m simply talking about a person in their family in rural Mississippi and their choice of candidates.

  260. “…(Hint: A popular bumper sticker slogan in the South and even the more rural parts of places like Pennsylvania is: “2012: Don’t Re-Nig”.)…”

    Wow. That’s one helluva claim, Jeff. “Popular”? I’m from VA and I have never, ever seen any such bumper sticker.

  261. And you’re still missing the point. The facts are that those subsidies would be replaced by increased economic activity and the simple fact that Mississippi’s money would stay in Mississippi.

  262. @Jay Maynard

    You do realize that Mississippi gets $2.47 from the federal government for every $1.00 is pays in taxes, right? I think it’s safe to say that every dollar(and then some) or Mississippi’s money stays in Mississippi.

  263. @Mike

    >For the last time, I’m not talking about your ideology

    I’m not talking about ideology either. I don’t have an ideology.

    What you are failing to understand is that cutting federal spending doesn’t happen in a vacuum. It has knock-on positive effects in the economy. If you cut spending then that money doesn’t just magically evaporate. It goes back into the free market and is efficiently allocated by a price mechanism in order to satisfy needs.

  264. @Tom

    Again, rural Mississippi. They would have to move. The individual would have to move or be without basic services. I’m not talking about macroeconomics. I’m talking about a single person and how that person votes.

    All this dramatic economic activity would actually benefit the wealthier urban liberal states much more than it would rural conservative states. The same as it did after the Civil War and other times in US history. Companies historically have never invested in rural America. What would have been the point of the Rural Electrification Act if companies were falling over themselves to invest in rural America? This was how the town I grew up in financed their utility company. And even in Mississippi the lion share of economic benefit will be in the cities.

    I am talking about that one person and how they vote. Not your ideology about economics.

  265. “…I think it’s safe to say that every dollar(and then some) or Mississippi’s money stays in Mississippi….”

    I daresay this could be true for several less-affluent states.

    However, it isn’t “Mississippi’s money” – it’s individual people’s money…shame it couldn’t have simply remained in their hands rather than being recycled through the DC redistributionist laundry service.

  266. Mike, I don’t suppose it’s occurred to you that the people of MIssissippi see their vote the same way Tom and I do? Or are you being deliberately obtuse and trolling for effect?

  267. @Jay Maynard

    Honestly, the issue is one of the more interesting an puzzling things. Maybe I should reveal that I don’t disagree with many of the things you believe about economics. That reductions in government spending is indeed picked up by private industry and that increased economic activity can boost an economy.

    What I’m saying is that free markets are very hard or rural areas. Free markets typically follow the 80/20 rule and rural American is unfortunately the 20. For better or worse. I actually feel that rural living is very inefficient and those people should move to the cities.

    I’m just saying that that individual is voting in an odd manner in respect to their best interest. That individual.

  268. And what I’m saying is that you are disagreeing *with them* about their best interest. If they believe it in their best interest to cut the Federal funding in order to have the other effects, then who are you to tell them they’re wrong?

    And before you think I don’t know about rural living, my current residence is in a farm town of 11K people that’s the biggest for 50 miles in any direction.

  269. @Jay Maynard

    Ok. So a man voting to have his family forcibly uprooted and moved to a new area seems perfectly rational to you? I’m not trying to argue, but this seems really hard to believe.

  270. @Jay Maynard

    With a median income of $36,000, the median Mississipi resident pays an effective tax rate of around 8%-10% ish. You’re going to lose you fire department, police department water treatment etc and probably force yourself to move to a city over $3,000 a year?

    This really sounds like a rational choice?

  271. Mike, there’s no discussing with you. We’ve explained over and over again how your premise doesn’t fit the actual facts, and you persist not only in repeating them, but in imputing raw stupidity to those who don’t see them the same way you do. I’m done.

  272. > With a median income of $36,000, the median Mississipi resident pays an
    > effective tax rate of around 8%-10% ish. You’re going to lose you fire
    > department, police department water treatment etc and probably force yourself
    > to move to a city over $3,000 a year?
    > This really sounds like a rational choice?

    There seems to be quite a few fallacies in what you’re saying here. First, that the things you say will be lost will be lost. Second, that you seem to assume there will only be one person paying for these services.

    The infrastructure is already there, the overhead cost is trained personnel and maintenance. The personnel are also already there. You’d need to show that that 8-10% of annual income will be necessarily inadequate when spent on the upkeep of existing utilities and labor instead of going to taxes. I’d need to see numbers to the effect that the existing infrastructure costs each person >8-0% of their income, along with the potential difference in cost if the utilities were managed privately.

    You’re making way too many leaps.

  273. @jsk

    My leap was only that rural areas did not have any of these thing until federal aid. It seem like it’s quite a leap to believe it will continue after that aid is gone. And rural Mississippi median income is apparently closer to $18,000 which actually puts their effective tax around 0%.

  274. Paul Elliot said: In addition to his many technical acomplishments, without which we would be nowhere, such as gcc and gnu

    pcc, the ol’ BSD compiler.

    Next?

  275. > It seem like it’s quite a leap to believe it will continue after that aid is gone.

    By all means provide some numbers substantiating otherwise, and also try to show that other, privatized means (loans for initial infrastructure build-outs, for one example) would be inadequate.

    End of my work day, so bowing out now and heading home.

  276. @jsk

    Rural America would have already had electricity before the Rural Electrification Act if what you are saying about private investment is true.

  277. But why would they vote for that? Their state would collapse. It would be catastrophic for them. And ironically, the wealthier liberal states would actually have more money, because they would not longer be supporting those poorer conservative states.

    To be clear, I’m not debating which is right or wrong. I just can’t understand why a state would vote for it’s own demise. I really must be missing something here. I just don’t get it.

    To argue this in your own terms (taking this quite purely at face value, just for conversational purposes) to make it easier to understand:

    Because not everyone believes in being the maximally virulent parasite.

    Among other things, you are taking for granted that *everyone* believes it is OK to vote to take things from others, to give them to yourself. So naturally, in this case, it would be insane for a person to vote to take away less from others, to give yourself less.

    Some people don’t want to be parasites at all, and don’t think anyone should be a parasite. And they vote that principle. In the US, that position/value/belief used to be the universal default.

  278. Rural America would have already had electricity before the Rural Electrification Act if what you are saying about private investment is true.

    Not necessarily. The costs of expanding the grid to rural areas have declined significantly since those days. There is no reason to believe that “Rural America” would not have gotten wired up in the absence of fedgov aid.

    We wire up new rural areas privately and cheaply every day.

  279. What’s the problem? There are very few browsers that can’t handle unicode these days, those that are should be IMO considered a bug in the browser rather than in the content. Typographically correct quotes get a bad reputation because Microsoft implemented them in Word [reasonably, for the purpose of preparing documents to be printed, where interoperability isn't a concern] before support for them was ready in the rest of the software ecosystem, but now it _is_ there.

    I’m not recommending stripping them from comments; I’m recommending not altering comments’ contents in the first place. Let browsers send tilted quotes if they like, but especially on a technically-oriented blog, altering quote characters is a Bad Thing. (Not to mention, of course, that “smart” quotes are notorious for faceplanting on common edge cases, such as “up and at ‘em”.)

  280. >Some people don’t want to be parasites at all, and don’t think anyone should be a parasite. And they vote that principle. In the US, that position/value/belief used to be the universal default.

    And, I think, will become so again in the near future. The collapse of the entitlement state is accelerating; relatively soon, the parasites will begin to starve, riot, and die. Looks like a tossup whether we’ll see the endgame first in Detroit, Athens, or the circum-Parisian slums. Perhaps Kipling put it best:

    And that after this is accomplished, and the brave new world begins
    When all men are paid for existing and no man must pay for his sins,
    As surely as Water will wet us, as surely as Fire will burn,
    The Gods of the Copybook Headings with terror and slaughter return!

  281. @Greg

    Then why do they take the money? These poor conservative states are, and have always been, a drain on the productive states. Practically since this country was founded, we’ve had to baby sit the south. From the sound of this conversation we should just cut them off. Most people in the northeast and the west would cut their tax bill almost half without having to support these southern welfare states.

    If you guys want it so bad stop taking our money. Seriously, one of these days we’re going to wake up and just give you what you want so badly.

  282. @Mike

    You’re talking this way because you see everything in terms of government. Just because the governments in rural southern states are a net drain on the federal treasury, it doesn’t mean that the underlying economy isn’t productive.

  283. Mike, be sure to wave down at us peons the next time you’re 35000 feet over our heads on your way to the other coast.

  284. Actually, one of the reasons Mississippi’s economy is so bad is because it is always near the bottom of the Economic Freedom of North America indices. The only one worse is West Virginia, and unlike WV Mississippi doesn’t have coal to bring in outside money. I’d rather try to go work in Chile or Botswana than Mississippi. The state government, and at least many of its people, have decided to be leeches rather than producers.

  285. One reason I agree with Eric that the collapse of the welfare state is likely is that a very large minority, if not an actual majority, of people, in America and Europe, have become addicted to it. And eventually “The Gods of the Copybook Headings” will indeed return. Unfortunately, they seem able to kick the can down the road pretty effectively, so I think things will get much worse, probably for another decade or more first. But the stresses don’t just go away, part of the current economic mess has been building up since the seventies, and the government didn’t let things adjust, so they are still building up.

  286. @Mike

    It seems to me that you think life is a zero-sum game; that for anyone to get more someone else must get less.

    Some of us understand that another way to get more pie is to bake.more. That won’t happen if the government confiscates too large a share of the ingredients.

  287. @Jay Maynard

    “Freedom is not a fringe issue. It is the central issue of our time.”
    I totally agree with you here. Well said.

    “True freedom is the ability to act in the broadest possible range of ways, limited only by the requirement to not initiate force or fraud against another. Note that that does not include the freedom not to be annoyed.”
    That works. No need to argue with that.

    “The one who actually restricts others from using his software is of course not advancing freedom. However, the one who distributes his software under a BSD/MIT license is, because he is placing no restraint on the ability of others to use it. The one who distributes his software under the GPL is not, because he himself is restricting others.”
    If you release your code under something like the BSD or MIT license and a subsequent developer uses your code in his non-free program then releases that to the public, thereby restricting their users, then you are by proxy restricting those users. Had your code been under the GPL that would not have happened. This goes beyond just being annoyed. I think this goes to the point of caring deeply that your contribution to help society is not misused. If the MIT (or any other non-copyleft free license) given to the subsequent developer is used in a manner that restricts users then I care. I don’t feel it’s right to restrict the users freedoms especially in such an artificial manner.

    If you don’t like the GPL don’t use it. I don’t understand why you must go on about how bad it is when you have other options. If I release my code under GPL and you don’t like it then respect my right to annoy you. Complain if you want and I can respect your right to annoy me. Illogical for you to worry so much but whatever.

    I see people here complaining that they are “restricted” by GPL code because they can’t put it in a project that they’re working on for their employer. Who is really restricting you? The GPL or your employer? Does your employer let you read playboy at work? Is that Hugh Hefner restricting you because he printed nude pictures in his magazine or your boss because you brought a magazine with nude pictures?

    The thing that originally sparked such a debate about licenses was rms’ ideals. Back to that. I don’t think you and the folks in your side of the debate are going to agree with me and the folks in my side of the debate over what we have to say here. You may never agree. If you ever do it will be something much larger than text typed back and forth in a heated effort to change the opposing parties’ minds. I don’t think you properly understand what rms is doing though. He really has nothing to gain from pushing his ideas. Society does. Argue that if you must but I can tell you that the Linux kernel wouldn’t have the GNU operating system to nest in if there was no rms. Our debate today would look much different if that were the case. We would probably just be arguing over whether Apple was superior to Microsoft or not.

    I think we all agree about freedom. I feel that here and I like it. We all agree it’s a good thing. Agreeing on the best way to implement it and to define the finer details is the real issue. Jay you go ahead and release all of your code however you like. Good for you if you make money with it or don’t. Good for you if you’re happy. I’ll use the GPL and if you want to share my code you can respect the GPL when you use it. Otherwise you may write your own or borrow from someone using a license you like.

  288. @Matt:

    I’ve had real work to do, so I’ve been ignoring this whole thing for a couple of days, but I really cannot let this pass:

    If you release your code under something like the BSD or MIT license and a subsequent developer uses your code in his non-free program then releases that to the public, thereby restricting their users, then you are by proxy restricting those users. Had your code been under the GPL that would not have happened.

    You just said that I’m responsible for what someone else does with my software. You don’t seem to be trolling, so that just leaves one option.

    I think we all agree about freedom.

    Apparently not.

    Agreeing on the best way to implement it and to define the finer details is the real issue.

    There’s no fucking way I’m “agreeing” with your definition of “freedom” if you think I’m responsible for what someone else does with software I give away to the public. You obviously wouldn’t know real freedom from a hole in the ground.

  289. @Patrick Maupin

    It’s not like you’d be held responsible in court for some type of crime regarding restricting users. Government’s not that bad…yet. You don’t have a legal responsibility, so relax. I’m just saying that you made a choice that allowed the next consequence to take place. You had the opportunity to stop that from happening with your code (in our hypothetical situation) but you chose to use a free but not copyleft license. Thanks for using a free license rather than a non-free license. I appreciate that. No thanks to the guy that just used your code to restrict me.

    By agreeing about freedom I meant that we all agree that freedom is a good thing and we are arguing about the details of what freedom really means.

  290. @ESR – “The collapse of the entitlement state is accelerating; relatively soon, the parasites will begin to starve, riot, and die.”

    A lot of activity in game theory modeling has been focused on evaluating this scenario. Most of the high probability outcomes foresee relatively little chaotic social disintegration. Rioting (even when small scale) always draws a lot of media attention and tends to be portrayed to an exaggerated degree. In addition, the US is an obese nation with enormous food production capabilities; consequently true widespread starvation will require some effort. In nature, parasites tend to evolve in a symbiotic relationship with the host.

  291. This debate over the relative “freedom” quality of using either the GPL or BSD(/MIT/Apache) isn’t new in the slightest, but it really appears to me that there’s always been a ships-passing-in-the-night feel to it. Given the assortment of individuals advocating each position, it’s clear that the disagreement isn’t a result of either boneheadedness or stubbornness, yet the argument doesn’t ever seem to “mesh”; in fact, it seems much like the debate over abortion, where although the political and media rhetoric focuses on “women’s rights”, the actual underlying disagreement is over when a {zygote,embryo,fetus,baby} is endowed with humanity (basically, the modern version of ensoulment).

    It seems that the disagreement over which licensing scheme is more “free” may be reducible to a question over whose freedom we’re discussing. Obviously, the original author is free to license her code however she wants, and that fact is typically a first- or second-round throwaway line. However, the BSD camp appears be considering freedom from the perspective of other developers, emphasizing the freedom to incorporate BSD-licensed code into another system, without imposing conditions on that other system. Effectively, BSD accepts some level of defection from the community by developers (e.g., Apple) in exchange for lower barriers to the use of a common codebase. The GPL camp, conversely, focuses on the perspective of downstream users, emphasizing that GPL’d code can’t (easily) become the basis of a locked-down, unmodifiable, or (especially) incompatible system, accepting the costs of developers who choose to route around the GPL via reimplementation in exchange for higher barriers for those who want to lock their customers in.

  292. A couple of quick comments (even though I said I was done with this stuff)…. Hopefully this won’t be interpreted as more patting myself on the back…

    The most important part of “copyleft” is the “left” part, and it is frequently supported by folks that, implicitly or explicitly question the value of business and/or property. The GPL scares businesses.

  293. @brian marshall
    “implicitly or explicitly question the value of business and/or property”

    Only for some very specific values of “business” and “property”. Values that are in use in certain political circles in the USA.

  294. @Bob
    “Copyright was invented when reproducing something like a book or sheet music required capital equipment and setup time.”

    Actually, it started as a tool for political censorship.

    But this whole if I write a book it is my property is part of a reification fallacy. Look at the picture of Margitte Ceci n’est pas une pipe.

    If you write a book, it is yours. But if you buy a book, it is never written by the author. It is printed in a shop by people who did not contribute to the formulation of the text. The object you buy was not created by the author. The author only supplied the arrangement of the characters in the text part. Every physical part of the book was created by other people.

    Making a leap from the fact that the author told the printers how to arrange the letters in the printing to giving the author “ownership” of the book is quite a large one.

    It is like saying that if you tell a person how to fish, every fish he will ever catch is yours. And, if anyone looks at this fisherman to learn how to fish, all the fish this third person catches are yours too. And if anyone takes a fish from them and breeds new fish in his own pond, any fish he breeds are yours too. That is how copyright law works at the moment.

    In practice, it is almost never the author/creator who owns the copyright. Just as in the early days, when copyright law was drawn up to control publishers, in all but a few cases, it is the publisher who ends up with the copyrights and 99% of all the profit.

    Copyright is not a “property”. It is a government granted monopoly for intangibles aimed at stimulating a certain market for services, eg, publishing texts or music. As it involves quite drastic control of what people can say and do in the privacy of their own homes, and involves non-exclusive services, this can never be a simple exclusive “property” like an apple.

  295. @jsk
    “@Winter
    Not sure if you meant to respond to me; not sure what you’re referring to.”

    Sorry, I was refering to
    “Bullshit. You’re engaging in a classic maneuver by attempting to blindly ridicule and discredit someone you disagree with politically. ”

    From where I live, there is no need to “ridicule” the ideas you print here. I have gone to some lengths trying to explain them to some of my compatriots. They really did not want to believe they were serious and that any sane person could defend them. I stopped trying.

    You must note that these anti-statist ideas are largely confined to certain sections of the USA. For very sound (historical) reasons, the rest of humanity considers them utopian in the worst sense, if not downright insane.

  296. > I see the difference between “death” and “violence”. ESR does, as well, given his statements pointing out the difference.

    The courts don’t see your goalposts. If Thompson doesn’t die, Raymond has promised to hold his head high while spending the rest of his days in jail, and turning over all of his assets to Thompson, or Thompson’s survivors, assuming Raymond actually kills Thompson during the assault, even if accidentally.

    http://law.onecle.com/pennsylvania/crimes-and-offenses/00.029.006.000.html

    http://law.onecle.com/pennsylvania/crimes-and-offenses/00.009.001.000.html
    http://law.onecle.com/pennsylvania/crimes-and-offenses/00.027.002.000.html

    The first is aggravated assault. The last two combine for “attempted murder”.

    Assuming Thompson doesn’t die during Raymond’s assault, Raymond will still do serious jail time, in part due to the obvious malice aforethought, and Thompson can pursue Raymond’s assets (including assets held jointly with Raymond’s spouse, as well as his copyrights, etc.) in a civil case.

    I’m sure Raymond knows all this, or if he doesn’t, Mrs. Raymond can explain it to him in plain language.

  297. @Jay Maynard
    “You’re reading far too much into the Linux vs. BSD and PostgreSQL vs. MySQL market share differences. Both are influenced by may other factors than the choice of license.”

    Whatever you think of it, it shows that the GPL does not chase away developers nor users. Those coding Linux, MySQL, and LibreOffice chose the GPL while they knew about the MIT/BSD licenses. And that choice did not seem to have damaged their project relative to the competition.

    So any claim that the GPL is bad for a project’s future is empirically falsified. If the BSD/MIT is indeed a better license to promote software freedom, it is so only by a small margin.

    But the arguments against copy-left that are disguised here as “pragmatism” are all based on a rather extreme moral stance against enforcing reciprocity. At least, against any enforcement that cannot be payed off in money. The deeper conviction seems to be that money is the great liberator of Libertarianism.

  298. @ Winter

    re: “implicitly or explicitly question the value of business and/or property”

    I was over-generalizing. But a lot of people, young people in particular, are into the “left” and, as part of that, not recognizing that the kernel of freedom is property and that businesses are good inasmuch as the provide a living for folks.

    I believe that “copyleft” and the GPL in particular present more danger to the future growth of the OSI and the use of Linux than RMS and his fanaticism.

  299. @Christopher Smith
    Comment at
    > http://esr.ibiblio.org/?p=4386&cpage=1#comment-381724

    This is the best and most enlightening comment I’ve read in this thread. All other positions against the GPL are mere rhetoric. The point is, the whole “freedom” restriction issue with respect to the GPL is blown way out of proportion when the restrictions of the GPL affect a tiny minority of developers whose main purpose is to benefit from somebody’s hard work without giving back.

    In all other respects, the GPL is as free as any other open source license for the end-user.

  300. I want to clarify that really I have no strong views on the GPL either way. The old GPL vs BSD debate frankly bores me and it amuses and irritates me when people uses rhetoric and high-sounding language to attack or defend it. What is particularly funny is the Open Source advocates suddenly turning around to fanatically defend “Freedom” because the GPL restricts it in some minor, inconsequential way. and at the same time bash RMS for being a fanatic.

    To me the actual issue is really small and not of any consequence. Not many people in the real world know or care about the fine distinctions.

  301. The point is, the whole “freedom” restriction issue with respect to the GPL is blown way out of proportion when the restrictions of the GPL affect a tiny minority of developers whose main purpose is to benefit from somebody’s hard work without giving back.

    Don’t underestimate those costs of using GPL’d code–they’re absolutely real. Many companies, especially ones where the decision-makers aren’t familiar with the open-source ecosystem and culture, are extremely wary of dealing with GPL’d software, especially in that middle ground between writing and submitting a quick patch and being a major player in software’s management (e.g., Red Hat with a number of enterprise pieces).

  302. Don’t underestimate those costs of using GPL’d code–they’re absolutely real.

    To clarify, I’m using the term “cost” primarily in the sense of transaction costs: Managers have to make decisions about how they’ll interact with GPL’d software at the time they start working with it that, under a BSD license, could be punted off to the next guy in a few years. Furthermore, there’s an effect similar to the impedance mismatch with procurement procedures Simon Phipps noted regarding release of internal code: Even more enlightened in-house legal counsel has a tendency to have mental short circuits at the prospect of releasing homegrown code into the wild.

  303. >In nature, parasites tend to evolve in a symbiotic relationship with the host.

    But they don’t start that way, and a lot of parasites and hosts often die evolving to that point.

  304. @ Jay Maynard
    > Where did that money come from? It doesn’t grow on trees. It was taken at gunpoint from productive people.

    “Gunpoint” – really? You Murkans are an odd lot indeed.

  305. This is your funniest thread yet, Eric.

    Keep up the good work!

    Stephen

  306. @TomM:
    So, where you come from, what does happen when you don’t pay your taxes?
    I guess at some point you are going to be arrested. Possibly at gun point.

  307. @tom
    “Because government spending does not have access to the information supplied by a price mechanism, government will never be able to match the free market in allocating resources in a way that matches people’s real needs and wants.

    Therefore taxation will always distort the economy and make it less efficient.”

    Yes indeed. But maximal efficiency equal minimal robustness . And a maximal efficient economy is also one with a lot of people dying of poverty. Because, any care for the less or unproductive will reduce efficiency.

    For instance, there has been a lot of rhetoric about private education, but I have yet to see a real working example of a non-state funded system for primary education that really reaches all children. So your highly efficient (industrial) economy will collapse after only a single generation for lack of skilled workers. The same for local roads and many other public goods.

    And do not get me started about people like myself living in reclaimed land below see level.

  308. But maximal efficiency equal minimal robustness .

    Only if you have a deficient definition of “efficiency”. For instance, when a business is purchasing computing hardware, they obviously want to get the lowest price for their requirements. But their requirements include both performance level (transactions-per-second or what have you) and reliability. It’s entirely reasonable for “efficiency” to include the costs of uncertainty and for efficient actors to avoid them by, e.g., purchasing insurance.

    And a maximal efficient economy is also one with a lot of people dying of poverty. Because, any care for the less or unproductive will reduce efficiency.

    This assumes a similar but distinct misdefinition of “efficiency”. Market economies are quite good at allocating scarce resources to whatever purposes people collectively determine by their individual actions. Economics generally has little to say about what particular purposes those are. Sparta was a thoroughly socialistic state that ruthlessly eliminated the “unproductive”. Conversely, if the public is willing to provide for the deserving poor via a government welfare program, it’s specious to argue that those same poor would all die if the aid were delivered another way.

    For instance, there has been a lot of rhetoric about private education, but I have yet to see a real working example of a non-state funded system for primary education that really reaches all children. So your highly efficient (industrial) economy will collapse after only a single generation for lack of skilled workers.

    I have yet to see a real working example of a state-funded system for primary education that really reaches all children. The system in the United States barely reaches any children at all, and I’m continually astounded our industrial economy hasn’t already collapsed.

  309. So true freedom lies in restricting others from benefitting from the same freedom and benefits you yourself enjoy?

    Does not follow. At worst what MIT/BSD is doing is refusing to claim to restrict others from restricting other others from benefitting from the same freedom and benefits you yourself enjoy.

    If i wrap something in MIT I give no restrictions AT ALL to what they can do with it.

  310. Strawman: The entire issue of “Tivoization” and the rationale behind much of the GPL3 is precisely the attempts by hardware vendors to prevent even wholesale replacement of software on their machines. Regardless of your particular opinion of RMS’s approach, the UEFI time bomb demonstrates that he was right to be concerned.

    UEFI(And i’m assuming you actually mean Secure Boot here since UEFI is just an extention of EFI which linux has supported happily for years) and Tivoization are unrelated. GPLv2 or 3 has nothing to do with Secure Boot and would not stop it. Indeed being hard line about GPLv3 would only get linux completely removed as an option.

    Quite frankly i think it’s a sign of how slow MS is moving these days(either through active resistance or internal inertia) that it’s taken them this long to get this on the table. This was an obvious move 10 years ago.

    It’s not their phone,

    Awww thats so cute… you think you actually OWN your phone. Assuming you’ve got a really minimal contract, you don’t own squat until you finish paying it off and you are never guaranteed access to the app store. If you’ve gotten a more standard contract for the times, your phone is owned by the manufacturer(i.e. Apple in my example) who grants you a license to use it(which can be revoked).

    the “measures” aren’t about “security”, and I’d be interested in seeing precedent that such bricking is considered acceptable.

    I have personal knowledge of Microsoft bricking Xboxes (and xbox 360s) that have been tampered with. I haven’t even heard of a class action suit about it, let alone one getting to trial.

    The recent class action vs Sony (the last it’ll face until US congress wises up about it not being legal to sign away your right to go class action) was shot down in flames, effectively saying that Sony was well within its rights to forcefully update PS3’s to remove “OtherOS” (the PS3 ability to run an OS other than the standard playstation one).

    You’re arguing that Microsoft has a right to brick my Linux laptop whenever it wants to update its Windows 7 “security” measures.

    Not at all. AFAICT, the operating systems that your bios will support is a function of the bios, not of Windows 7. Either your laptop will never boot your linux under Secure Boot or the key that runs your linux will be fine(or someone needs to be talking to Mr Ballmer about anti-trust). Also i don’t think that windows update can flash your bios firmware(and given the recent virus vector, i certainly bloody hope not).

    As i pointed out above, the iphone case is different because a) they own your phone (at least while you’re on plan) and b) they are within their rights to refuse service to the app store. In the case of Secure Boot, MS has (generally) no claim to your machine nor any software on it.

  311. > I guess at some point you are going to be arrested

    Well, maybe.[*] What I meant to point out was that it takes some chutzpah to describe taxation as armed robbery on a thread which is supposed to be anti-fanatical.

    [*] I live in Australia. Outside of the cash economy it would actually take quite a lot of work not to pay tax for most people – income is taxed on a PAYG basis and we have a 10% consumption tax on most goods and services.

  312. @Jay Maynard
    “It was taken at gunpoint from productive people.”

    In the end, all debts are collected with the ultimate threat of armed force. So your reasoning would state that you pay your food at gunpoint.

    As you have to eat, you have to buy food, therefore, your money for food is taken from you at gunpoint. As only a vanishing fraction of Americans can produce all their food themselves, this holds for all Americans. The same reasoning holds for roads, you either use them or stay at home, police protection, and many other public goods.

    So, if taxes are collected at gunpoint, pay for food and other items is too.

  313. So, if taxes are collected at gunpoint, pay for food and other items is too.

    What the holy hell are you smoking today?

    Extorting money with the threat of force is not the same as the voluntary exchange of goods. Dumbass.

  314. If you’ve gotten a more standard contract for the times, your phone is owned by the manufacturer(i.e. Apple in my example) who grants you a license to use it(which can be revoked).

    …that’s wronger than wrong. I wouldn’t even know where to begin.

    I have personal knowledge of Microsoft bricking Xboxes (and xbox 360s) that have been tampered with. I haven’t even heard of a class action suit about it, let alone one getting to trial.

    Russell’s teapot.

  315. @Jay Maynard @Dan et al.
    “It was taken at gunpoint from productive people.”
    Also, this talk about parasites etc.

    Just to wrap this conversation up with the thread killer. You realize the last time this type of thinking got a hold of the majority of the public of a country. Germany guys. This is the same stuff they used to say.

    I’m taking off, but please be careful with the line of thinking. Once you start deciding if any human being is worth keeping alive you descend down a very very very slippery slope. First it’s lazy people. Soon it’s disabled people. Then it’s people who’s social habits(gay etc) place a drain on society. Then it’s the fact that separating races and sexes makes them more productive. Then it’s a particular group is dragging down the productivity of the nation as a whole and needs to be removed.

    Human life needs to remain sacred. In all forms. This is the moral argument against extremist rational thought. Without this basic tenant very terrible things have happened throughout history. I sincerely hope someday those like you guys understand that our role as the more productive and capable is to protect, elevate and support those who are less capable and productive. Unfortunately that has somehow been lost on some of you, but I can only hope that someday it will return.

    Best Regards,
    Mike

  316. @Dan
    “Extorting money with the threat of force is not the same as the voluntary exchange of goods. Dumbass.”

    You have to eat. There is nothing voluntary about that.

    So you have to get food from somewhere or die. History and practice tells us that not everyone will be able to grow their own food. Actually, only few people can. The same for drinkable water. So you have to pay someone to eat and drink.

    If you eat and drink without paying, you will get to feel how voluntary the payment is.

    We could go on with a place to live, and transportation you need to earn your living to pay for the food.

    And obviously, you could move to some place where you do not have to pay taxes. Making paying taxes “voluntary” too.

  317. @TomM

    >Well, maybe.[*] What I meant to point out was that it takes some chutzpah to describe taxation as armed robbery on a thread which is supposed to be anti-fanatical.

    Taxation is legalised plunder. It consists in taking forcibly from a person what properly belongs to him. The citizen has no choice at all in the matter. He has not consented to it. And if he fails to comply then he will be hauled off by armed men to be incarcerated in a cell.

    Is the foregoing ‘fanatical’?. I don’t see how. It’s just a simple description of the situation.

  318. @Tom

    Any chance you could explain to us the difference between taxes and rent? There are plenty of countries you can go live without any taxes at all.

  319. @Tom

    I should add that when my landlord raises rent, or just charges me rent to live there I do not accuse him of “holding me at gunpoint”. I’m free to leave the complex just like you free to leave this country.

  320. You realize the last time this type of thinking got a hold of the majority of the public of a country. Germany guys. This is the same stuff they used to say.

    You seem to be missing all of the context, both within this thread and in the history of the people you aimed your comment at. The sort of totalitarian control you’re imputing is the precise opposite of the position being argued, that the government should not be in the business of making everything right with the world.

  321. @Winter

    > Because, any care for the less or unproductive will reduce efficiency.

    No. Care for those who cannot produce value can be catered for by that person’s family, his friends, and by citizens who *voluntarily* want to help him through charity.

    We have a moral duty to help those who cannot help themselves, but we should not be *forced* by the state to help people that the state considers worthy. We must decide that for ourselves.

    Such activity does not detract from efficiency because it represents the revealed preferences of those undertaking it. Just as buying a loaf of bread reveals a preference for bread.

  322. @Tom
    “Such activity does not detract from efficiency because it represents the revealed preferences of those undertaking it. Just as buying a loaf of bread reveals a preference for bread.”

    However you slice it, efficiency and robustness bite each other.

    And a completely voluntary care systems leaves a lot of people dead. There is a lot of history behind that.

  323. Matt: “If you release your code under something like the BSD or MIT license and a subsequent developer uses your code in his non-free program then releases that to the public, thereby restricting their users, then you are by proxy restricting those users.”

    Here’s where you go wrong. You’re blaming me for making available something that another uses to do something you disapprove of. Your opprobrium is properly directed at him, not me.

    The guy who does that is not even diminishing his customer’s freedoms: my code is still available, whether his is nor not. Further, he is actually increasing freedom, by offering another choice that you would deny the customer.

    Your argument is exactly the same as the one mayors use when suing gun manufacturers for making firearms that wind up being used in crimes. That’s obviously fallacious, and yours fails just as badly.

  324. @Tom

    “No. Care for those who cannot produce value can be catered for by that person’s family, his friends, and by citizens who *voluntarily* want to help him through charity.”

    You realize this is nepotism, right?

  325. @Christopher Smith

    You do realize that Germany had democratic elections, right?

  326. @Mike

    >I should add that when my landlord raises rent, or just charges me rent to live there I do not accuse him of “holding me at gunpoint”. I’m free to leave the complex just like you free to leave this country.

    The Government does not own the country. Your landlord owns the property you live in, and you entered into a voluntary exchange with him. The Government is not the landlord of the country, and therefore the situation is not analogous.

    I own my house, and my country is my home. I didn’t by choice move to a place owned by somebody else and enter into an agreement to pay rent in exchange for living here.

    By your logic you should be perfectly happy if I established a protection racket in your neighbourhood and demanded money from you every week with the threat of violence.

    Hey, you can always move somewhere else where there is no such protection racket.

  327. @Matt:

    It’s not like you’d be held responsible in court for some type of crime regarding restricting users.

    Sure. Because I’m not restricting users!. Unlike when you release software under the GPL, and the user can’t copy and share a CD without an accompanying offer of source code. I never got an answer from you — do you always do this? Otherwise, you’re violating the license, and you’re the one who might be held responsible in court.

    I’m just saying that you made a choice that allowed the next consequence to take place.

    This is a bullshit line of thinking. It’s a slippery slope. Did someone who was writing a proprietary package save 3 hours or 3 months by finding my stuff and using it? Or what “consequences” are you talking about? Everybody’s studiously avoiding discussing the consequences of somebody who doesn’t understand the GPL giving away a burned copy of a CD he received without offering source code — he doesn’t know anything about the source, and doesn’t know he has to do this, but it’s a legal requirement. When I release software under a permissive license, there is no such requirement or possible legal consequence for my users, so they are much more free than if I had used a GPL license.

    You had the opportunity to stop that from happening with your code (in our hypothetical situation) but you chose to use a free but not copyleft license.

    No. I have zero control over what anybody downstream does with my code, unless I am prepared to be a dickhead and sue them (or, equivalently, let some ambulance-chasing SFLC sue them). I can show you dozens of cases of people who are in technical violation of the GPL, for delivering object without a written offer of source. Why doesn’t the SFLC sue them? Sure, it would look bad for the cause, but some day, somebody is going to use estoppel and laches to get away with copying any GPL code they damn well please, anyway.

    Thanks for using a free license rather than a non-free license. I appreciate that.

    The only thanks I want is bugfixes and enhancements, under the same license. Believe it or not, my closed-source users (who, to my knowledge, just use the code internally and don’t want the hassle of GPL) do this for me. Obviously Guy wouldn’t do this. Don’t be a dickhead like Guy.

    No thanks to the guy that just used your code to restrict me.

    How could he restrict you? You’re still free to use my code, which btw, I didn’t have to give to you anyway. What he does with my code is zero concern of yours, unless you’re a societal control freak.

    By agreeing about freedom I meant that we all agree that freedom is a good thing and we are arguing about the details of what freedom really means.

    No, we’re not. Your idea of freedom comes with a laundry list of things that users (not just programmers, but real end users as well) could do to be in violation of the license. Most of them won’t have a clue about any of that.

    @Christopher Smith:

    This debate over the relative “freedom” quality of using either the GPL or BSD(/MIT/Apache) isn’t new in the slightest, but it really appears to me that there’s always been a ships-passing-in-the-night feel to it.

    Not at all. One party tries to redefine freedom; the other resists.

    It seems much like the debate over abortion, where although the political and media rhetoric focuses on “women’s rights”, the actual underlying disagreement is over when a {zygote,embryo,fetus,baby} is endowed with humanity (basically, the modern version of ensoulment).

    No, it’s actually about freedom.

    It seems that the disagreement over which licensing scheme is more “free” may be reducible to a question over whose freedom we’re discussing.

    Ah. A glimmer of hope. A ray of light.

    Obviously, the original author is free to license her code however she wants, and that fact is typically a first- or second-round throwaway line. However, the BSD camp appears be considering freedom from the perspective of other developers, emphasizing the freedom to incorporate BSD-licensed code into another system, without imposing conditions on that other system.

    That’s a second order effect. The first order — the goal — is that the recipient can do whatever the hell he likes with the code. Including not worrying about finding a source disk if he shares the object code. This is very much an end user freedom, no matter how much the GPL camp tries to paint it otherwise.

    Effectively, BSD accepts some level of defection from the community by developers (e.g., Apple) in exchange for lower barriers to the use of a common codebase.

    When you start talking about “defection” from a “community” you’ve obviously stopped talking about freedom.

    The GPL camp, conversely, focuses on the perspective of downstream users, emphasizing that GPL’d code can’t (easily) become the basis of a locked-down, unmodifiable, or (especially) incompatible system

    By imposing costs on everybody. (And then winking and looking the other way when ordinary users fail to live up to the license requirement.) But a law that is deliberately not enforced is contemptible.

    , accepting the costs of developers who choose to route around the GPL via reimplementation in exchange for higher barriers for those who want to lock their customers in.

    What do you mean “accepting the costs?” What costs? And how THE HELL can you talk about freedom, and then go on about how its costly for people to, you know, act like YOU DON’T OWN THEM???

    @hari:

    This is the best and most enlightening comment I’ve read in this thread.

    No it’s not. It’s asinine.

    The point is, the whole “freedom” restriction issue with respect to the GPL is blown way out of proportion when the restrictions of the GPL affect a tiny minority of developers whose main purpose is to benefit from somebody’s hard work without giving back.

    Those affected developers are the only ones who take the license seriously. The people who complain about the GPL are the ones who take it seriously. E.g. conscientious, law-abiding citizens who decline to take your software because the license is anathema to them. You won’t hear any complaints from the developers who aren’t law-abiding and don’t care, OR from the end users who don’t even understand or know about the license don’t complain, and simply violate it on a regular basis. (At least, until you sue one of them.)

    In all other respects, the GPL is as free as any other open source license for the end-user.

    Only because the GPL software authors don’t sue in every case they could.

  328. @Tom

    The government is an extension of me and you and everyone in this country. We certain do own this country. Don’t ever get that screwed up. EVER. If you want to believe that you are free to do whatever you want in my country then get the hell out. I love my country. If you don’t get out. No one wants you here if you don’t want to be here because you are too cheap to pay your share of taking care of our country, get out. Seriously, get out.

  329. @Mike

    >You realize this is nepotism, right?

    Not really. You’re going to have to explain this one.

    >You do realize that Germany had democratic elections, right?

    What’s the relevance of that?

  330. @Tom

    “No. Care for those who cannot produce value can be catered for by that person’s family, his friends, and by citizens who *voluntarily* want to help him through charity.”

    Nepotism: “Favouritism shown to relatives or close friends by those with power or influence”

  331. Winter, there’s a difference between voluntarily exchanging a tangible good such as cash for a tangible good such as food, and being forced to give up one’s money for no tangible result. Of course, you’re not going to admit that; it would destroy your socialist worldview.

  332. Mike: Your description of the government is an ideal that hasn’t been true for at least a century. The rise of the bureaucratic state has destroyed it. The government is no longer mine; it’s its own entity, controlled by faceless bureaucrats who don’t even pay attention to their nominal bosses, elected officials.

    There’s a reason Americans have historically mistrusted government. There’s a reason that the true debate of our times is over its legitimate size and scope. You show yourself to be one of those who thinks that there are no legitimate limits on governmental power.

  333. @Mike
    “You do realize that Germany had democratic elections, right?”

    And you do realize that system was overthrown by a minority party using armed militias to silence critics after they got into the government? It is not that they actually got a majority in the elections. Just that they were able to get hold of power long enough to subvert the state.

  334. @Jay Maynard

    Like I said to Tom. If you don’t like your country, the government and the people in it, get out. I love my country and I love the people in it. I’m feel fortunate to be intelligent and have abilities to care for myself and others. If you hate this country and the government and everyone in it, get out. There are plenty of countries out there to choose from. We don’t need cheap, greedy, selfish people like you anyway. Find some other country to benefit from and cry about.

  335. @Patrick Maupin: why you and so many Open source activists get so worked up over such a minor technical issue?

    It’s bemusing. You have yourself said GPL advocates don’t go about sueing everybody for technical violations of the GPL. Then why get so worked up over a theoritical freedom issue?

    There are so many other important topics that should matter more to Open Source advocates than this fixation with what most of the world would consider minor and technical.

    I think part of the problem is this hatred of RMS and his ideology that makes this GPL debate emotive and irrational in the context.

    I believe that RMS in an article has admitted that GPL is “pragmatic” in the sense that it is designed to restrict a small part of the developers’ freedom in order to ensure that the code under GPL is 100% available to everybody who wants it. That’s his main goal. He hates ownership of software in any form and he has used copyright law to achieve it. He’s not bothered about being the “nice guy” and the GPL reflects it.

    If the main leader of the GNU and FSF himself has admitted that, why do you still bother to beat the dead horse?

  336. Hari: That RMS admits it is only part of the battle. As you’ve seen here, there are still plenty of GPL zealots who argue that the GPL doesn’t restrict freedom.

  337. @Jay Maynard
    “There’s a reason Americans have historically mistrusted government.”

    There are many people in the world that have vivid memories about what it is to have no government, or not one of your own.

    It is obvious you have the luxury that your region has no such memories. Would you ever succeed in experimenting with no government, you might come to understand why they disagree with you.

  338. Winter: It’s truly odd that you’d tell Americans what it is to had a government not of our own choosing…and I, as a Texan, have two reasons to know.

    But the lesson there is not that government is good if only it’s our own; it’s that *any* government can turn bad unless strictly limited and controlled. The Constitution was a valiant attempt at such limits,. but the Progressives managed to break free from its strictures, to our detriment. Those chickens are coming home to roost.

    Tell me, Winter: Do *you* see any limits to the legitimate powers of government?

  339. Mike: I love my country. I love its people. I have a deep, abiding distrust of my government. I choose to stay in hopes of helping return it to the Constitutional basis the founding fathers laid down.

    Tell me, do you think about the Constitution at all while nibbling Brie and sipping Chardonnay in your first-class seat while flying from JFK to LAX? Have you ever seen the grandeur that is the western US from other than the flight levels? Have you thought about what it took to cross that wild, untamed country with all your worldly possessions in a wagon drawn by oxen? I have. It’s a humbling sight.

    I have a much greater reverence for what our government was intended to be than you do. It is that government which I could at least trust in some measure. This one? Not at all.

  340. @Jay Maynard

    Right, it’s called a Constitutional Democracy. It prevents massive abusive of power by the majority onto the minority. That’s the point of a constitution. When you remove a constitution and let people just do what they want the minority groups historically have not faired well. That’s what the constitution is about. Not helping cheapskates like you try to get a police department for free.

    Then we have three branches of government and many many many checks and balances to limit the amount of things the government can do unless a large percentage of people agree with it.

    That’s why corporations and the wealthy minority spend so much money tricking suckers like you and the poor and uneducated residents of places like rural Mississippi. Because this system is set up to prevent the government from doing pretty much anything unless a lot of people agree. The very fact that so much money is spent tricking people like you, is self evident that We The People, still have power over our government. Otherwise no one would spend a dime on a campaign add. At the end of the day, they still know that they need our votes.

  341. > Then we have three branches of government and many many many checks and balances to limit the amount of things the government can do unless a large percentage of people agree with it.

    I know little of American politics, but unless you live in a direct democracy in which every decision affecting the nation is put to public vote, this is not true. Checks and balances inside the system are inherently weak because those in power know how to manipulate them. This is true of almost every democratic setup in the world.

  342. @hari:

    why you and so many Open source activists get so worked up over such a minor technical issue?

    This is a standard debating tactic.

    When some self-righteous prick tells me that I’m screwing up and letting someone else restrict his freedom by releasing my code under a permissive license, he’s obviously not treating it as a minor issue. It only becomes a minor issue once he is forced to admit that I’m not fucking with him.

    It’s bemusing. You have yourself said GPL advocates don’t go about sueing everybody for technical violations of the GPL. Then why get so worked up over a theoritical freedom issue?

    There are laws against jaywalking. People do it all the time. Usually it’s no problem, but sometimes a cop might take exception. The written source offer is analogous to jaywalking, except the potential fine is lots of federal court time and up to $150,000, and it’s a license term that the average user understands even less than his responsibility not to jaywalk.

    There are so many other important topics that should matter more to Open Source advocates than this fixation with what most of the world would consider minor and technical.

    You mean there are so many other important topics than the fixation on putting thousands of words into a license that makes it hard to follow, just on the off-chance somebody might “steal” your work? I agree.

    I think part of the problem is this hatred of RMS and his ideology that makes this GPL debate emotive and irrational in the context.

    And I think the whole problem is the idolazation of RMS and his ideology that makes this GPL debate emotive and irrational in the context.

    I believe that RMS in an article has admitted that GPL is “pragmatic” in the sense that it is designed to restrict a small part of the developers’ freedom in order to ensure that the code under GPL is 100% available to everybody who wants it.

    That was what it is designed to do, but it fails. It restricts users, as I have documented, and it does absolutely nothing to ensure that GPLed code is available. Only programmers do that, by actually, you know, creating and releasing code.

    That’s his main goal. He hates ownership of software in any form and he has used copyright law to achieve it.

    And here we get back to the discussion of whether GPL lovers are “communist” or “leftist” or other form of “collectivist.” The short answer is that yes, at least this one is.

    He’s not bothered about being the “nice guy” and the GPL reflects it.

    I don’t give a rat’s ass how nice he is. I’m not particularly nice myself. What does this have to do with anything?

    If the main leader of the GNU and FSF himself has admitted that, why do you still bother to beat the dead horse?

    This particular admission is about like one of the World Trade Center pilots admitting that he didn’t land on the designated runway. Truthful, yet somehow not very descriptive of reality.

  343. @Mike

    The founders, who were experts in the field, called the USA a republic.

    The USA is not a democracy. If you want to see a classic democracy in action, go to any New England Town Meeting. Pick a night with something controversial on the agenda.

    To call the USA a democracy is a mindgame. It encourages people to vote for the Democratic Party in the same way that not wanting to be obese discourages people from eating fatty foods. People of normal intelligence can fall for it.

  344. @Patrick Maupin: LOL… so, so hot and so serious…

    Obviously you feel so hot about this topic while I genuinely do not. I just cannot understand what you’re carrying on about.

  345. I’m still waiting for a clarification on whether my assessment that some parts of the GPL might not be legally enforceable, namely the requirement that all modifications, regardless of similarity to the original work, be released under the GPL.

    In other words, if I add 990 lines to a 100 line GPL program and make it virtually unrecognizable, is my modification a derived work or not and can the GPL dictate legally that the 990 lines should also be similarly licensed?

  346. I think at this point it is pretty clear that Mike is just trolling, so I for one won’t be addressing his comments any longer.

    @hari

    >Checks and balances inside the system are inherently weak because those in power know how to manipulate them.

    I think that is correct. The lesson that America has taught us (as I see it from across the Pond) is that even if you have a group of exceptional people with the best intentions to create a benevolent and limited Government, and those people draw up a constitution that appears impervious to abuse, eventually the system will still be co-opted by the powerful to serve their own ends. The scope of the state will increase beyond whatever limits were set up in the original constitution.

    Since even the best-designed and most limited constitution will eventually be subverted and used counter to its original purpose, the obvious conclusion is not to have a state at all.

    However, I think this is in practice highly unlikely to be achievable, since nature apparently abhors a power vacuum.

    Therefore the best conclusion I can come to is that we should treat liberty as a process rather than a product. We must continually work to limit the power of the state, while acknowledging that its complete eradication is likely impossible.

  347. @hari:

    Obviously you feel so hot about this topic while I genuinely do not. I just cannot understand what you’re carrying on about.

    You’ve written words to that effect multiple times. But you’ve also written words, in response to Jay Maynard, like:

    So true freedom lies in restricting others from benefitting from the same freedom and benefits you yourself enjoy?

    The thing is, neither Jay nor I believe in restricting others from benefiting from the same freedoms we enjoy, so to imply we do is an exceptionally rude, facile mischaracterization of where we stand on this issue, and shows a willful misunderstanding of what we’ve been writing.

    I’m still waiting for a clarification on whether my assessment that some parts of the GPL might not be legally enforceable, namely the requirement that all modifications, regardless of similarity to the original work, be released under the GPL.

    In other words, if I add 990 lines to a 100 line GPL program and make it virtually unrecognizable, is my modification a derived work or not and can the GPL dictate legally that the 990 lines should also be similarly licensed?

    That’s a question that depends heavily on the facts of a case. It’s certainly possible to incrementally rewrite something such that it’s no longer a derivative work. See the original BSD court case. But if you distribute something that contains GPLed code, the issue isn’t about the code you wrote; it’s about the GPLed code. You need to stop doing that, unless it’s de minimus, in which case it might fall under fair use. But there’s no good reason to go against the wishes of the original author like that. If it’s really that small, just rewrite it. If you can’t rewrite it, then it wasn’t that small, was it?

  348. @Tom

    I’m definitely not trolling. I’m just so sick of people like you. You are consumed with hatred for literally everyone. You hate your government. You hate your fellow countrymen and pretty much humanity in general. Your only concern is for you and at most maybe your family. It’s revolting to watch someone who grow up with the privilege of growing up in on of the wealthiest, most stable and generally free countries and the world cry about taxes which are some of the lowest in the developed world.

    As an intelligent American, success if almost by default. Unless you get hooked on drugs or murder someone, it’s a pretty safe bet you will live a very comfortable life. Much of this is due to the sacrifices of those who came before you who, worked hard and paid their taxes and voted with compassion and intelligence. And either way, you just don’t have a right to complain about anything. You’re life is amongst the most comfortable in the entire world. 5 billion people have it worse than you right now.

    To listen to you cry about taxes is frankly, disgusting. Just get out if you don’t want o pay to support your nation and those in it. Good grief.

  349. > The thing is, neither Jay nor I believe in restricting others from benefiting from the same freedoms we enjoy, so to imply we do is an exceptionally rude, facile mischaracterization of where we stand on this issue, and shows a willful misunderstanding of what we’ve been writing.

    I already stated that I was being impersonal when I used the word “you”. I used it in an impersonal sense and not directed at anybody in particular. It was meant for the sake of emphasizing a point. Perhaps I could have made it more clear.

    Though I know and understand English fairly well, I am not a native English speaker and naturally there are a few areas of the language where my expression might not convey exactly what I meant.

  350. Hmm, thoughts from everything since I left work yesterday:

    Mike is a kind of leftist meme puppet. Too entertaining to go in the killfile, but not worth engaging directly as he has lived up to the expectations he set from his earliest posts and shown himself to be a hollow doll who argues with so many fallacies as to give headaches.

    MIT/BSD vs GPL. Some really nasty thoughts from the GPL proponents. If I release under MIT/BSD, and someone else takes it and does something, maybe adds value, and releases under a less permissive license, I am not harmed, my code is still available, and I call bullshit on ‘societal harm’ arguments, since people are not forced to pay for the downstream software. They can engage in voluntary trade if they feel it has value. C.f. Apple, especially OS X.

    Merits to GPL? Yes. Good for many things. More free? Give me a break. It puts software above humans, and when people take that to heart (see: GPL zealots) it is disconcerting.

    @Winter
    Sorry, still not sure if you are responding directly to my comment or just commenting on it. My point was that Mike was attempting to argue by ridiculing, which is a time-honored political tactic (and by no means dishonorable, see classic English broadsides), then claimed that he was not very political. Which, in the comments since, he has adequately disproved anyway.

  351. @Mike

    >As an intelligent American, success if almost by default. Unless you get hooked on drugs or murder someone, it’s a pretty safe bet you will live a very comfortable life.

    I’m actually British.

  352. @hari:

    > I already stated that I was being impersonal when I used the word “you”.

    Except you weren’t. You essentially stated that a position that Jay and I take, that you know Jay and I take, can somehow restrict others, and then used that false restriction to imply that it’s our definition of freedom that’s wonky, and not the GPL definition of freedom.

  353. @Tom

    That’s even more pathetic.

    @jsk

    Mind talking about what I said instead of talking points labels? Probably not, since you are just another greedy selfish leech who wants to live in the greatest country in the world and not pay for it.

  354. Mike, your perverse collectivist mob-centric view of America is so horrifically at odds with my individualistic view, it really seems like there is no hope of reconciliation.

    This is not ‘your’ country. You and your mob do not own it. It is not mine. It is a geopolitical space that fosters individualism and the freedom to explore its possibilities – at least, that’s how it was designed.

    You have no authority to demand I leave. To do so is laughable. To attempt to force me would be fatal.

    Somehow, there’s a part of your mind that insists we are inextricably part of a hive, and that to seek independence is itself an injurious act that warrants reprisal.

    We are individuals. Independent of one another. The extent to which we cooperate and interact for mutual benefit is only moral when voluntary. Your love of government coercion by force is itself antithetical to the founding of this nation. You are the true alien here. You may have been born here, but I do not consider people like you to be “American” at heart – you merely ‘occupy’ space. Sadly, there is a sizeable mob of aliens just like you that can sway the political machine, and have successfully done so over many decades. Bully for you.

    I have no desire to exhaust myself psychically trying to convince you to change your ways. I think only cold life experience will be able to do that. You’ve led a cossetted life here, and do not have any appreciation of the awfulness of your mindset. My greatest desire is to see the removal of the corrupt underpinnings to our modern government, that you and your ilk have established, and the return to an originalist, minimalist government. That way, aliens like you can whine all you want about ‘society’ and all the associated abstract hand-wavey nonsense you all routinely blather on about, but you won’t have any governmental infrastructure to effect such change…rendering you harmless.

    Finally, I actually do feel some sympathy for you. Honestly. It is sad that you are so intellectually limited that you cannot imagine how to provide police and fire and education services, roads and electric grids, without government holding your hand. Very sad.

    The good news is – you may be able to learn.

  355. > Except you weren’t. You essentially stated that a position that Jay and I take, that you know Jay and I take, can somehow restrict others, and then used that false restriction to imply that it’s our definition of freedom that’s wonky, and not the GPL definition of freedom.

    You can read what you want into it. It’s not what I meant. I meant to illustrate that there is no such thing in life as unrestricted freedom under all contexts. I again assure you that the phrasing went awry because I was thinking about the larger issue of freedom and not about your or any other commenter personally.

  356. @Dan

    You are dead wrong. This is my country. This is your country. You are not an island. There are many many places in this world exactly as you describe your utopia. The United States was never like that. That is a myth in your head. If you want that, go move there. I love my country. That’s why I am the American an you are the traitor. You are the one who hates America. You are the one who calls your fellow countrymen leeches and parasites. Calls them lazy and wants children to starve. The only one you love is yourself. Because you are a spoiled brat that has never had to take care of anything but themselves. And we are starting to wake up to people like you. Hateful, spoiled brats.

  357. It’s amazing what collectivist rhetorical skills one can develop in a comfy chair at 35,000 feet.

    He’s not even terrified of my .50 cal that can shoot down airplanes, doncha know! You betcha it can! Yee haw!

  358. I just popped out for Coke and popcorn.

    Have I missed any more fun bits?

    You guys are just the BEST!!!!

    Stephen

    P.S. I thought we had to stop when someone mentioned the other N-word.

  359. @Dan

    Must be a pretty oppressive government that allows people to have .50 cal weapons. How do deal with all this oppression?

  360. “Give me your tired, your poor,
    Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
    The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
    Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me.
    I lift my lamp beside the golden door.”

    That’s my America.

  361. @Tom

    That’s the thing with you guys. You think you are America. You think that the history is how you see it. You think that your ideals were everyone’s ideals in this country. This country was started by rich Englishman.

    That is nothing like the world that was created after the Civil War into the industrial revolution.

    That’s what this quote means to me. The evolution of my America. When America became more than an individual and taxes. When it became about a higher meaning. About the world outside our shores. About those of whom we could help and support. About morality and compassion.

    Unlike your America which is simply selfishness and greed. You would have left these people to die in their countries. I won’t get into what your current view on immigration probably is. I mean you are willing to let your neighbors children starvation.

  362. Next time I donate to a charity, I’ll keep in mind that it’s nepotism and thus wrong.

  363. “No. Care for those who cannot produce value can be catered for by that person’s family, his friends, and by citizens who *voluntarily* want to help him through charity.”

    You missed the last two groups then, and with them the point.

  364. @Mike

    >That’s the thing with you guys. You think you are America.

    Again, I’m not American.

    >@Aptronym I was referring to the family part.

    How is caring for your family nepotism?

  365. I see this thread is still going strong. Regarding the arguments about the GPL, I happened upon a quote last night which I think sums up the issue nice and simply.
    Software license synopsis:
    EULA: sharing is evil
    BSD: sharing is not evil
    GPL: not sharing is evil

    I’m not sure if I should consider myself to have a horse in this race. I use both GPL and non-GPL programs on my computers. I have benefited from them being freely available (beer and speech both). For that, I am grateful, and I hope the open source community continues to write useful software that enables me to do fun and nifty things with my computers. In time, I hope to become sufficiently competent at coding that I can contribute back. However, I have yet to write any code that I consider good enough to ever share with anyone. When that day does arrive, I’ll release the code under whichever license I think best fits my goals for releasing that code. But until I do, the decision of which license is moot.

  366. I’m laughing at myself right now, for somehow thinking for one minute that this article was not written for, by, and about nutters. I’d like to thank the commentators for setting me straight.

  367. @Jay Maynard

    I think Mike needs to adjust his meds, and/or improve his reading comprehension.

  368. Must be a pretty oppressive government that allows people to have .50 cal weapons. How do deal with all this oppression?

    Sadly, you still don’t get it. The government shouldn’t be in any position to _allow_ any such thing. Free, lawful people should be at liberty to decide which technology to avail themselves of….be it a microwave or an Uzi.

    I don’t seek or require your permission, nor anyone else’s. I respect others to make their own choices, accept their own responsibilities, and will judge them accordingly. Your ilk seek to subjugate freedom via the government leviathan, dictating as many facets of others’ lives as you deem ‘necessary for their own good’ and ‘the greater good’ and ‘society’ – yours is a profoundly non-American, old world stance.

    But that’s just mean ol’ baby-hatin’ me talkin’ trash about you sophisticated folks, I guess.

  369. Mike, what are you going to do when you run out of other people’s money to spend?

    PRINT MORE!!!!

  370. You would have left these people to die in their countries.
    Only after stealing all their oil.

    I won’t get into what your current view on immigration probably is.
    It involves moats and crocodiles and labor camps with chains and beatin’ sticks.

    I mean you are willing to let your neighbors children starvation.
    Only if they’re gay.

  371. @Patrick Maupin

    If I give an Ubuntu CD to someone(which I wouldn’t because it contains non-free software) then there are references to the source code on the Ubuntu CD. If someone asked for help getting the source code I would know where to point them. If I were to keep it from them intentionally I think there would be more of a problem there.

    If I violate the GPL, most parties interested in enforcing it just want GPL compliance not money from a lawsuit.

    If you are giving your code to people who use it internally and never redistribute it then they don’t have to worry about violating the GPL regardless of what they do with the code(internally).

    The only thing the GPL restricts are certain business models. Business models that are out to control it’s users in one way or another.

    I’m done arguing with you. We don’t agree and we are not going to. I wish you the best.

  372. @Jeremy:

    EULA: sharing is evil
    BSD: sharing is not evil
    GPL: not sharing is evil

    Nice!

    I’m not sure if I should consider myself to have a horse in this race. I use both GPL and non-GPL programs on my computers. I have benefited from them being freely available (beer and speech both). For that, I am grateful, and I hope the open source community continues to write useful software that enables me to do fun and nifty things with my computers.

    I think most of us feel this way, and additionally feel that whatever license a particular developer needs in order to feel comfortable contributing is the one he should use. But I do get really annoyed at some of the pro-GPL propaganda, and feel that people should realize there is a viable choice, that in some cases might be better. I will also note that while I am happy to use GPLed programs, I very seldom use GPLed libraries, for the simple reason that if I invest time and energy in learning a tool, it damn well better be one that I can reuse in any situation I find myself in. In general, any program that is freely available fits that criterion, but a library is a different story.

    In time, I hope to become sufficiently competent at coding that I can contribute back. However, I have yet to write any code that I consider good enough to ever share with anyone. When that day does arrive, I’ll release the code under whichever license I think best fits my goals for releasing that code. But until I do, the decision of which license is moot.

    That’s the only sane way to proceed. The GPL is great if you want to attract developers who are enamored of it to your project. The GPL is also great if you want to be able to sell commercial licenses to people who don’t like the GPL (to dual-license). Those are the extrinsic practical reasons to use the GPL. The intrinsic reason would be if you would feel bad, for whatever reason, seeing somebody making money by using your code in a closed source application.

    Permissive licenses are best if you would like to see your code reused as widely as possible, and don’t require any reciprocation. For example, the openssh developers would much rather see you incorporate their software into your program rather than create your own poorly written security library that places end-user data at risk.

  373. Mike, I have one question: Have you graduated High School yet?

    Sorry, you just sound an awful lot like my 12 year old daughter’s friends. She thinks they’re all as stupid as I think you are, hence my question.

    Your bizarre ideas of property rights bare no resemblance to history, at least since the Magna Carta, in any English-speaking countries (that would be the ones who have been dominate in geopolitics both militarily and financially, since the late seventeenth century).

    Your interpretation of the the poem from the Statue of Liberty is completely contrary to what the AUTHOR meant, or what scholars have interpreted it as for over 100 years. I take it you haven’t had an introductory American History class? If so, please request your money back, you didn’t get what you paid for (e.g. an education).

    Your collectivist ideas are so strange and ill considered that even most devout communists would laugh at your simplistic, moronic world view.

    In short, you SOUND like your 15 (at most) with absolutely no knowledge of history, and a knowledge of politics that only just barely scrapes the surface of a bad Wikipedia article. If you’re over 15, dude, you are SO SCREWED!

    Oh, one other thing, “rising from the ashes” is a literary reference to the Greek myth of the phoenix. The fact that you thought I was referring to the Apocalypse is also a strong indication of your complete lack of an elementary education, much less anything as advanced as English 101.

  374. @Matt:

    If I give an Ubuntu CD to someone(which I wouldn’t because it contains non-free software)

    OK, any distribution. Have you ever just burned an object CD because you don’t have enough room for all the source?

    then there are references to the source code on the Ubuntu CD. If someone asked for help getting the source code I would know where to point them. If I were to keep it from them intentionally I think there would be more of a problem there.

    Yes, but unless you gave them a written offer with the CD, you’ve still violated the license.

    This is because it’s impossible for the license to achieve its goal of legally restricting developers without also legally restricting end-users. As I mentioned, the work-around seems to be to turn a blind eye to those who aren’t violating the license commercially, but this seems a tenuous proposition at best.

    The only thing the GPL restricts are certain business models. Business models that are out to control it’s users in one way or another.

    This is false on two levels. First, the GPL legally restricts many end users from doing what end-users do — sharing OS distribution CDs without consulting a lawyer. Second, the GPL is the best open source business model for controlling users, when you couple it with a dual commercial license scheme. That’s why MySQL was worth so much — because of the control they had over their users. You’ll never find a permissively licensed program generate that kind of revenue, because it doesn’t exert that much control.

  375. @Brian Marshall “I strongly oppose basic libraries and low-level stuff like awk being under the philosophy of RMS.” — “In short, if someone want to write closed source software on Linux that uses sed, grep, sort, awk or basic language libraries, they should be able to dot that.”

    You are aware there are multiple implementations of awk, some of which are under BSD or MIT licenses and some of which are under proprietary licenses… right?

    Also – if awk were a new invention rather than an established language, would you object to it (the implementation, not the language) being under the GPL? Would you object to it being under a proprietary license? If yes/no, why is the
    GPL worse than proprietary? If no/no, why is this different than when it’s an established thing? If yes/yes, why the hell don’t _they_ have the right to use whatever license they choose?

  376. @Jay Maynard you still have not answered my question of what coercive means is being used to force people to use the GPL.

  377. @Patrick
    What is abundantly clear is that rejecting the GPL in favor of BSD is most definitely not a pragmatic decision. It is purely ethical. Only in very specific infra structure or reference implementation is it a pragmatic choice.

    Example: when the FSF supported a switch of Ogg Vorbis from GPL to MIT or some other peemissivw license.

  378. @Random832:

    I can’t speak for Brian, although I suspect he is clear and correct in his goals, but a bit unclear about the copyright status of his awk scripts.

    Scripts are data that awk interprets, so the copyright license on awk doesn’t affect his scripts, so he’s in the clear and there’s no reason to worry about licensing. I wouldn’t have any heartburn using awk for any licensing reason (unless I had to write plugins for it).

    Also – if awk were a new invention rather than an established language, would you object to it (the implementation, not the language) being under the GPL? Would you object to it being under a proprietary license?

    As I have written in other comments, I will quite happily use programs that are released under the GPL, and even contribute back comments and bug fixes. I won’t use proprietary programs if I can avoid it, and certainly won’t write scripts for proprietary programs.

    If yes/no, why is the GPL worse than proprietary? If no/no, why is this different than when it’s an established thing? If yes/yes, why the hell don’t _they_ have the right to use whatever license they choose?

    GPL is better than proprietary for programs (but more on that in a bit). Everybody has the right to use whatever license they want. But there are times when a license isn’t appropriate for me (and I suspect for others), and I spell it out so that others understand and think about their own situations. Except in very limited circumstances (I don’t have any examples right now, but I never say never), I won’t use a GPLed library, because libraries are tools that I add to my toolkit, and I expect to be able to reuse them under any circumstance.

    Where GPL is not better than proprietary for programs is when a program is also effectively a GPLed library, e.g. when it allows plugins to be used, but only if those are GPLed. For example, I used to write a lot of Python extensions. If Python were under the GPL, then my extensions would have to be as well. In this case, proprietary is bad because other users would also require a license for the underlying program, and GPL is bad because it would force me to write my extension under the GPL.

  379. @Winter:

    What is abundantly clear is that rejecting the GPL in favor of BSD is most definitely not a pragmatic decision.

    Not sure why you think that’s true. I’ve explained multiple times why it’s very pragmatic for me to avoid adding GPLed libraries to my toolkit.

    It is purely ethical.

    I agree that if I use and enjoy open source software, it is ethical for me to contribute back, and I find it most ethical to contribute in a fashion that can be used and enjoyed by all those whose contributions I enjoy. This means it has to be permissive, because both GPL and permissive contributors can reuse code licensed in this fashion. But obviously, your mileage varies.

  380. @ Patrick Maupin

    > I will also note that while I am happy to use GPLed programs, I very seldom use GPLed libraries, for the simple reason that if I invest time and energy in learning a tool, it damn well better be one that I can reuse in any situation I find myself in. In general, any program that is freely available fits that criterion, but a library is a different story.

    Curious, does this apply only to libraries under the full GPL, or to the LGPL as well? IIRC, the LPGL is more permissive than the GPL when it comes to linking to other programs.

  381. Dear everyone:
    Fuck your country. Seriously fuck it. That means fuck America, fuck Britain, fuck Hungary, etc. I hate your country. If there was a viable option where I could go where there was no country (and there isn’t, all places of habitable land are claimed by one country or another), I probably would go. Also, fuck copyright. Seriously, fuck it. That means fuck your GPL, fuck your MIT and BSD bullshit, etc. All you freaks going on about who’s more free, but you all insist that your name must be on the program. Well, fuck that. How are you going to enforce it? Men with guns (those same men who people up thread were complaining were taking their money). (GPL, hack to the copyright law.) Oh, and BSD? Free? Someone forgot about the original advertising clause…

    What’s up with copyright anyway? How the fuck did it get to be life plus 70 years (or life plus 50 or whatever the fuck it is)? That’s fucking stupid! (Not as stupid as “anarcho-capitalists” who support imaginary property, but still fucking stupid.) Especially for software that, in the main (exceptions exist, I don’t care), is out of date in 10 years, and obsolete in 20. Even if you thought copyright is a good idea (and support men with guns enforcing the monopoly) I can think of no rational argument (beyond “more money for me and mine!, and fuck you!”) for anything like even the term of the authors life for copyright.

    Oh, and finally, moral rights. These are the sort of things like, being recognised as the author of a piece, and not having a piece manipulated in such a way as to distort the original opinion being expressed and still saying the original author said that. These are fine. But they don’t need copyright. Simple permissive licenses sort of do the first one. But not really. Some countries (e.g. some in Europe, and I think Japan) recognise them in law. But, yeah, fuck the law.

    Am I still on topic? Fuck religion too.

  382. @Jeremy:

    The LGPL looks more lenient than the GPL on the surface (and in fact, may be better than the GPL for a commercial entity that has a rigorous release process). The part of the LGPL many people seem to miss is that, not only do you have to give the source code for the library back, but you have to give your own downstream users the ability to recreate the application you gave them, but with an updated LGPL library. In other words, unlinked object files, linker scripts, etc.

    And at the end of the day, someone who gives a copy of software I wrote to someone else, without giving them source code or a written offer, will be just as screwed if I used a library that was licensed with the LGPL as they would be if I used a library licensed with the GPL.

    The bottom line is, if you’re developing for-profit closed-source applications where you never ship source, the LGPL is more complicated to deal with than any proprietary library you might use, because you have to add a lot of collateral to your program (source and the ability to relink), but it might not be the deal killer that the GPL is (because it doesn’t force you to open source all your own code).

    The bottom line is that, for me, when I look for libraries to add to my internal toolkit of things I spend time getting proficient with, LGPL libraries are written off just as quickly as GPL libraries.

  383. @ Jeremy

    However, I have yet to write any code that I consider good enough to ever share with anyone.

    Wrong attitude! If it is worth anything at all, make available on a website (as Open Source, of course!). Even if it needs work, maybe someone will think that it has potential and contribute to it. Also, Google smiles upon pages that make Open Source software available. A classic hacker position is “Release early. Release often.”

    Let folks have a look at what you are doing and maybe someone w
    ill help or benefit from it. Either adds wealth to the world.

  384. @Don

    Definitely not in high school anymore. But since we aren’t going to agree, let’s make a deal. Why don’t you go to all the states that take more money from the government than they put in to put in their constitution that they will only take as much from the federal government as they put in. If every state that did that(almost all are conservative states that hate taxes and big government and the debt) the US federal government would save a little over 4 Trillion dollars a year.

    http://www.economist.com/blogs/dailychart/2011/08/americas-fiscal-union

    That’s the problem. Right there. Paying for conservative welfare states.

  385. Pingback: an immense practical advantage: clarity in the midst of confusion « power of language blog: partnering with reality by JR Fibonacci

  386. @Mike

    You’re a very strange person. You spend half your time arguing in favour of redistributing income and half your time saying that it should be stopped.

    At least be consistent.

  387. @Tom:

    He appears to be saying that if you stopped all federal transfers (including tax) to and from the states that consistently vote against higher taxes, the other states would be in the black. I haven’t analyzed his data, but if it’s correct, it’s an interesting point he’s making, namely that the people who (in aggregate) don’t mind being taxed are significantly subsidizing the people who (in aggregate) mind being taxed.

  388. @ Patrick Maupin
    [re distro CDs and offers of source]

    Doesn’t every distro worth its salt include text files on CD1 which refer to source availability? Don’t package managers (eg synaptic) offer users direct and immediate access to source repositories?

    I don’t think this is quite the issue you say it is.

  389. @Brian Marshall: I interpreted Jeremy’s quote a bit differently than you seemed to. It’s not that Jeremy might think his code is worth nothing; rather, I think he thinks it’s not worth enough to bother with the effort of publishing it on an open source site (even considering how easy that is to do). Also, consider Wall’s third Great Virtue of a Programmer. Jeremy might also consider publishing his current code not worth the potential blowback from fellow programmers seeing the quality of said code. :-)

  390. “the US federal government would save a little over 4 Trillion dollars a year.”

    Approximately $207 billion per year. The data given in the chart covers 1990-2009.

  391. @TomM:

    I don’t think this is quite the issue you say it is.

    Did you read the link to the FSF GPL FAQ that I placed in the comment? No, thought not.

    It’s not a practical issue. Anybody can get to the source code. It’s a legal issue.

    The only reason it’s not on everybody’s radar is that they don’t go around shouting from the rooftops about how easy it is to violate the license, and they don’t go out of their way to abuse people who inadvertently violate the license. But those violators are legion, and in theory copyright could be enforced against them by any whackjob with a medium sized Linux kernel patch to his name.

  392. @Aptronym:

    Approximately $207 billion per year. The data given in the chart covers 1990-2009.

    There are other reasons to be suspicious of the data as well. For example, if they are doing the simplest, easiest accounting (which I don’t know/care enough to go figure out), someone who retired from New York to Florida would have been a net positive (contributing FICA) when they were in New York, but a net negative (receiving SS) when they were in Florida. Coincidentally, New York shows positive and Florida shows negative on that chart.

  393. @Patrick

    I understand that, but he seems to be inconsistent. One minute he is saying that ‘the problem’ is that some people in the US subsidise other, poorer, people. The next minute he says something like:

    “The evolution of my America. When America became more than an individual and taxes. When it became about a higher meaning. About the world outside our shores. About those of whom we could help and support. About morality and compassion.”

    This suggests he is in favour of taking money from rich people to take care of poor people.

    These positions seem inconsistent.

  394. @Patrick Maupin:

    Thank you for providing a showcase example of precisely the kind of arguing-past-the-point I think characterizes this entire debate. Since you insist on begging the question of what “freedom” means, it’s not worth responding to most of your critique, but I will note that I’m surprised that a regular here thinks that the ideas of “freedom” and “defection” from a community are mutually exclusive. On the contrary, freedom of some variety is a prerequisite for defection, whether that behavior consists of adding one more sheep to the commons or taking BSD-licensed code, twiddling the protocols so they no longer interoperate with the standard codebase, and shipping it as a core component of a monopoly operating system.

  395. @ Paul Brinkley

    You may be correct about Jeremy being concerned about the quality of his code in general… but, if he has personal webspace that he is using anyway, he should remember “Release early, release often” even if it is just from a single web page.

  396. It seems that it is not just me…. Mike seems to be a Loud-Left troll.

    I would like to repeat that I agree with what Jay has said about the GPL. There were many other good replies, but Jay’s stood out enough for me to connect the pattern with the person repeatedly.

    I went on an anti-GPL rant yesterday, and while I don’t generally regret what I said, I apologize for the way I said it.

    On one hand, I think that if there are parts of the GPL that are not legally enforceable, we should know about it.

    On the other hand, I am pretty sure that I would like to withdraw my suggestion about obfuscating and de-obfuscating GPL code so that it can be released under an MIT/BSD sort of licence (particularly since it generally takes thought to rewrite something without it being a derived work.)

    But the gripping hand, (according to the book Hackers by Steven Levy), is that, long ago, RMS wrote Unix(ish?) tools/modules/etc during the day for money and then wrote the same stuff again at night, different enough to not be in legal trouble with his employer, to build the GNU collection of software. It was an amazing contribution that is a major benefit to us all.

    There is also the issue of developers not being sure that they are not violating the GPL… the GPL is scary, particularly to businesses.

    I withdraw my apology regarding Mike’s statement that it was very obvious that I really like myself. Damn straight!

    The hacker/wizard mentality that I relate to is pretty much limited to people that like themselves enough, that are confident enough, to step away from the crowd and think new thoughts, try new things and write/build new stuff.

  397. @Patrick: True. Demographics play a large role in how much money comes into the state; these cannot be directly affected by policy. It would be an interesting exercise to compare this federal data to state taxes and expenditures. Where are the local deficits and surpluses, and how do they compare to those found at the federal level?

  398. @Christopher Smith:

    Since you insist on begging the question of what “freedom” means,

    I’m not begging the question. I’m shining a spotlight on the attempted redefinition.

    I will note that I’m surprised that a regular here thinks that the ideas of “freedom” and “defection” from a community are mutually exclusive.

    They aren’t mutually exclusive to the extent you defect from a non-free community to a free community. But your characterization of Apple taking code from BSD as a “defection” is inapt. BSD is happy to let them take the code. They can just walk away. They don’t owe anything.

    On the contrary, freedom of some variety is a prerequisite for defection, whether that behavior consists of adding one more sheep to the commons or taking BSD-licensed code,

    Umm, no. I personally know people who defected from Poland back when you had to do that in order to leave. I have never personally heard ANYONE talk of “defection” in the context of moving from a free community. Those just let you leave with no muss and no fuss.

    But that’s OK. You go ahead and redefine “defection” to go with your redefinition of “freedom.” Just don’t expect me to buy it.

  399. @Tom:

    I understand that, but he seems to be inconsistent.

    No doubt about that, but I found that particular point interesting. Probably misleading, as I make clear in some of my subsequent comments, but interesting nonetheless.

  400. @Christopher Smith:

    BTW, while we’re on the subject of mis-definitions and getting things backwards, nobody wants you to bring another sheep to the commons.

  401. Mike: I love my country. I love its people. I have a deep, abiding distrust of my government. I choose to stay in hopes of helping return it to the Constitutional basis the founding fathers laid down.

    Be nice if the Congresscritters would actually read and apply the Bill of Rights. But uh, it’s not the “progressives” who are running roughshod over the Fourth Amendment with warrantless wiretapping; the Eighth Amendment with waterboarding; the Fifth Amendment with indefinite detention; the First Amendment with opposition to gay marriage. That’s your boys — the conservatives. Obama signed some of these bills, but as someone mentioned upthread Obama’s pretty much a conservative in sheep’s clothing, policy wise.

  402. @Brian Marshall again: Well, Jeremy having his own site means it may be even easier for him to publish. But again, he still doesn’t necessarily want to put code out there if he thinks it’s poor. This is a good negative incentive to have, IMO, and for the same reason Larry Wall argues for it. If we didn’t care about our personal reputations as programmers, we’d see a lot more bad code on the net.

    As for Mike – It’s actually clear to me that he is decidedly *not* a troll – he’s too earnest. (Besides, methinks we are prone to abusing that word out of our own laziness.) So far, my working theory is that he’s just too young to understand where we free-marketeers are coming from. All of the posts I’ve read appear consistent with that, including today’s. I say, let him fume a bit (it’d be nice if he didn’t do it *here*, but that’s between him and Eric). Maybe he’ll calm down and try to be reasonable again. (I suspect I’m not helping him get farther on that by saying this, but his is not the only ego I have interest in tending to. :-) )

  403. Oh, and before I forget:

    There is also the issue of developers not being sure that they are not violating the GPL… the GPL is scary, particularly to businesses.

    This is worth repeating, along with its corollary. More specifically, the GPL imposes a risk on businesses considering code written under it. Managing that risk means cost. The greater the cost, the greater the number of businesses expected to choose alternatives, including not developing product at all. The more businesses choose this option, the more everyone who might have benefited from that product enough to pay for it has to go without. In other words, GPL has a real cost to consumers, because of the risk it imposes. I suspect RMS does not address this.

    Meanwhile, there seems to be a clear hang-up among the GPL proponents here over the possibility of having their work used in a manner they do not approve of. Frankly, I find this perfectly understandable. So one question I have is to the GPL proponents: suppose there were a law that said you could not be held in any way legally responsible for any derivatives of your work; how would you then feel about the relative merits of GPL and MIT/BSD?

  404. Jeff – still waiting for you to provide some evidence of that horrendous bumper sticker you claim is “popular” in the South.

    I actually found some references to that sticker online, and a site that no longer sells it (no mention of how many were sold, if any)…but I couldn’t find anything that proved it was “popular”….the same couple pictures appeared on Google Images – and some questions still remain about whether they were ‘shopped, as it happens.

    You weren’t engaging in some despicably cheap anti-southern bigotry, were you?

  405. @Jeff Read

    >That’s your boys — the conservatives.

    I really doubt that anybody involved in this discussion would consider the recent mainstream Republican party (including Bush and his lot) to be their ‘boys’.

    It’s no good trying to use the tired old partisan debate tactics here, because I have no identification with any of the major political parties or ‘culture wars’ factions either here in the UK or in the US. They’re all socialists as far as I’m concerned.

  406. I originally wasn’t going to say anything, but now that people seem willing to talk about “Mike” rather than to him… The more he posts, the more I’m convinced he’s Shelby.

  407. Jeff, that’s a very selective reading of the current state of the law with regard to the Constitution. Then again, I suspect you have no problem at all with the tortured interpretations of the Commerce Clause that have been used to justify the total destruction of the boundaries of the powers of the federal government, or the First Amendment trampling of religion…

    There’s more to the Constitution than the Bill of Rights, you know. The main body of it defines the powers and limits of the powers of the federal government, and those have been steadily expanded over the years.

  408. That’s the problem. Right there. Paying for conservative welfare states.

    Such compassion for the ignorant ‘conservative’ monkeys that blight your fair land. I wipe my teary eye. Maybe those ‘conservatives’ should just shut the fuck up, get on a train and take a good shower.

    Here’s an idea….how about curing the indefensibly imbecilic redistributionist cancer?

    Maybe some people do not consider it “in their best interests” to lie down with a government dog and acquire its pestilent fleas.

    Staggeringly incredible, I know….but _maybe_ that’s why those dumb Southern cornpones want to rid themselves of you and your ilk’s brand of slavery.

    As I said before….you’re not an ‘American’ in any sense larger than your place of birth.

  409. @Dan

    So then we have a deal? You’ll write to you congressman and senators and rally support to stop taking money for the productive states and increases out debt?

  410. @Aptronym

    You are correct. That was my mistake. It was not per year but over a period of about 20 years. Although, I think the point is still valid.

  411. @Paul Brinkley:

    So one question I have is to the GPL proponents: suppose there were a law that said you could not be held in any way legally responsible for any derivatives of your work; how would you then feel about the relative merits of GPL and MIT/BSD?

    On a related note, RMS and many GPL proponents have argued that copyright itself is flawed, that we would be better off without copyright, and that the GPL is a jujitsu hack to lessen the evil of copyright. (On the issue of the copyright “bargain” not really being one, I think am actually in full agreement with RMS, unless there’s something there I missed.)

    However if you take the argument at face value — that what should happen is that copyright shouldn’t allow people to keep other people from sharing their software — then the result would be, not only that anybody could share executables, but also that:

    – Anybody could reverse engineer anybody else’s executable
    – Anybody could turn anybody else’s source code into an executable without releasing the modifications made to the source in the process.

    So, basically, permissive licenses allow people to do with your stuff pretty much what they’d be able to do without any copyright enforcement, and the GPL is a reactionary response to the current copyright status quo, which would no longer itself be enforceable in a brave new world without copyright.

  412. @ Paul Brinkley

    but his is not the only ego I have interest in tending to. :-)

    Not that I would be offended either way, but is it my ego you are referring to?

    I do have an ego as big as all outdoors. One practical aspect of that is that I am confident that I can always think of good ideas, so when deciding on any particular idea, I am open to whatever is best – if we use someone else’s idea, that is fine with me. I can always come up with ideas as needed as time goes on.

    I do have a tendency to go on a rant if I get too wound up. It happened a while back when I went crazy at the idea of the Saudis sentencing an American(?) to 500 lashes. It happened yesterday when some people kept repeating that the MIT restricts people… you know the story.

    I generally calm down and apologize.

    Re: Mike
    I also though he sounded like a young person, but there were several references to him in an plane… He certainly sounds like he needs more experience in the world to learn what businesses are for and why property is so important.

    I understand your interpretation of Jeremy and his code, and I agree that you may very well be correct.

    In the last paragraph of your second reply (re. GPL) –

    a law that said you could not be held in any way legally responsible for any derivatives of your work

    I don’t think this would help – I personally just don’t see eye to eye with the pro-GPL folks. I guess, some feel that if they had a moderately successful Free Software project and some business used their code to create a competing product and this attracted all their users and developers etc. away from their project, they would not be happy. If it happened to me, I would feel that my software was being used and that I had added a tiny bit of wealth to the world… Like I say, MIT folks and GPL folks just don’t see eye to eye.

  413. >But those violators are legion, and in theory copyright could be enforced against them by any whackjob with a medium sized Linux kernel patch to his name.

    But, in the case of an individual passing a CD to an individual, could such a violation really be established solidly enough for a court to accept without the recipient trying to obtain sources, being unable to get them from the giver or any other source, and notifying the author?

    >So one question I have is to the GPL proponents: suppose there were a law that said you could not be held in any way legally responsible for any derivatives of your work; how would you then feel about the relative merits of GPL and MIT/BSD?

    It’s not really legal responsibility, I think, that worries GPL proponents (it’s not, at least, what worries me). It’s just that there are certain kinds of behaviors we don’t want to enable (which are, in fact, generally legal). For some it is the development of any kind of closed-source software at all, for some it is specific behaviors that are closely associated with closed source software that are pointless and/or forbidden under the GPL.

    That said: how would the BSD/MIT crowd react to a “half-copyleft” license? Basically, one where, so long as none of the original code is used in a closed-source project (possibly with other restrictions, such as on Tivoization), modifications may be released under any FOSS license, permissive or copyleft? Basically, you can use my copyleft code in a BSD/MIT project, but any CS project that uses your code has to dike mine out and replace it with their own if they need it.

  414. So then we have a deal? You’ll write to you congressman and senators and rally support to stop taking money for the productive states and increases out debt?

    Way ahead of you…unsurprisingly.

    This is precisely the kind of message I routinely transmit to the congresscritters that claim dominion over my territory.

    And far, far more besides…..your suggestions are for lightweight ‘reformists’…….amateur-hour stuff.

    You’ve got a long, long way to go to catch up.

  415. @Jeff Read,

    If Obama is not a “progressive” by your definition, I’m curious who would be. IIRC most of the Democrats who are currently leading that party in Congress voted for the bills you describe.

  416. >and the GPL is a reactionary response to the current copyright status quo, which would no longer itself be enforceable in a brave new world without copyright.

    Pretty much. I certainly wouldn’t shed a tear when the abolition of copyright did away with the GPL, and I don’t think RMS would either.

  417. Jon, your “half-copyleft” is no improvement, for it still destroys freedom in the name of preserving it. If the code cannot be used in any way the recipient chooses, it is not truly free.

  418. @Jon Brase:

    That said: how would the BSD/MIT crowd react to a “half-copyleft” license? Basically, one where, so long as none of the original code is used in a closed-source project (possibly with other restrictions, such as on Tivoization), modifications may be released under any FOSS license, permissive or copyleft? Basically, you can use my copyleft code in a BSD/MIT project, but any CS project that uses your code has to dike mine out and replace it with their own if they need it.

    As Jay said, it’s no real improvement. But the real reason it’s no improvement is that it’s already the status quo.

    I can have a codebase where some files are MIT/BSD licensed and others are GPL licensed. If they’re linked together into a program, the whole program has to be GPL licensed, but the GPL doesn’t “pollute” the licensing on the other files (despite early damaging posturing by the FSF crowd).

    But that’s still a problem if my intent is to deliver a working permissively licensed library. Having said that, it might be OK to use some GPLed stuff in a stopgap mode until I can generate corresponding BSD code. The LLVM people did this with their dragonegg compiler with a GCC frontend.

    For the most part, dragonegg is not so useful any more for C-family languages, but it lets you compile Fortran, ADA, and Go.

  419. @Jon Brase:

    Pretty much. I certainly wouldn’t shed a tear when the abolition of copyright did away with the GPL, and I don’t think RMS would either.

    I don’t think he would, because I think he realizes what would be gained in the bargain. But I think some of his followers might be upset that their GPLed software could be incorporated into closed source by others at will. Of course, most of the faithful will take their cue from the prophet, so things would calm down pretty quickly.

    Not that this particular hypothetical is happening any time soon, though. It would make far too much sense.

  420. Having read this debate, I guess I’m would come up with my own license for my future projects.

    Something like this perhaps?
    * Totally free to modify, distribute etc. and use my code in a closed source program preserving only the copyright notice in the code.
    * If the closed source program is freeware/gratis/non-profit, then there is no other requirement.
    * If the closed source program is not gratis/for profit, then there is a requirement to send me, the original author, of a free (binary) copy of the closed source program.

    Is there already any Open Source license like this and would it be legally enforceable?

    I am again not sure of the legal enforceability of the third clause, but I am sure that morally I can justify that stand and that most developers who benefit would be quite glad to give the original author a free copy anyway.

  421. @hari:

    I’m sure you could make a license to do that, and I’m pretty sure you could make a license do that and fulfill the requirements of the Open Source Definition.

    I’m also sure that if the software you write is valuable enough, some asshole will try to abuse it.

    So unless you have lots of funds for lawyers, I would just write it out in English and hope for the best.

  422. @Patrick Maupin,

    he he… I am a practising lawyer, based in India.

    About fees/expenses to lawyers, haha… in this competitive era, it’s so hard to get clients to part with their money without risking they’ll leave you for another lawyer… :-)

  423. @ Patrick Maupin
    > Did you read the link to the FSF GPL FAQ that I placed in the comment? No, thought not.
    > It’s not a practical issue. Anybody can get to the source code. It’s a legal issue.

    Leaving your patronising tone here aside, you’re usually a pretty reasonable guy. It surprises me that you seem so keen (on this thread and others) to nail your colors to this particular mast.

    Because you seem to have missed the point of what I said, let me repeat it: a distro CD will include an offer of source. Passing on the CD includes passing on the offer of source. This is not a GPL violation. Re-read your linked FAQ.

  424. Me: a law that said you could not be held in any way legally responsible for any derivatives of your work

    Brian: I don’t think this would help – I personally just don’t see eye to eye with the pro-GPL folks. I guess, some feel that if they had a moderately successful Free Software project and some business used their code to create a competing product and this attracted all their users and developers etc. away from their project, they would not be happy. If it happened to me, I would feel that my software was being used and that I had added a tiny bit of wealth to the world… Like I say, MIT folks and GPL folks just don’t see eye to eye.

    Well. You did remind me here that there exists one great example of how a GPL-less world can screw over programmers: someone writes something with intent of being free, only to have someone else take that free code, creates an executable of it (with or without modifying it), then sells the result as if their own, while the original author lacks financial resources to publicize that this happened. I’m not sure how easy that would be to do nowadays, but I believe it would be possible, and it’d peeve me no end, for sure. With a GPL, I suppose I’d have (some) legal recourse in that case. (Maybe RMS even makes this argument himself.) Then again, maybe this is rectifiable solely through anti-plagiarism law. However, couldn’t the standard argument against the GPL also stand against plagiarism law, in that case?

    If you feel that either way, you’re happy that you’ve “added a tiny bit of wealth to the world”, would that still hold if someone is making money selling what you wrote for free? Even if they modified it a little first? And then neglected to mention your role in creating that code? It’s safe to say any of us would be unhappy about that (“annoyed” was the word used earlier); it’s safe to say that we have an interest in discouraging that behavior. Would market forces bring enough discouragement to bear, without the legal recourse of GPL or some equivalent? (Knowing Eric, he’d say they would. Hmm. I wonder if David Friedman talked about this. I still need to read his book.)

  425. Paul: “someone writes something with intent of being free, only to have someone else take that free code, creates an executable of it (with or without modifying it), then sells the result as if their own, while the original author lacks financial resources to publicize that this happened.”

    To this, I have a one-word answer: Slashdot.

  426. @TomM:

    Because you seem to have missed the point of what I said, let me repeat it: a distro CD will include an offer of source. Passing on the CD includes passing on the offer of source. This is not a GPL violation. Re-read your linked FAQ.

    I will discuss GPL v3. There are similar provisions in v2.

    If you get a CD from canonical, then yes, it is accompanied by a written offer of source, under GPL v3 6b, and you can pass along the CD and the written offer of source (or even make a small number of copies and include the written offer of source) under GPL v3 6c.

    But that’s not how most software is distributed these days, so let’s consider downloading.

    If you download and burn an ISO, the code has been provided to you under GPL v3 6d, and you cannot avail yourself of 6c when redistributing it, because 6c only works when you yourself received a physical object (like a CD) under 6b. I see nothing in the license that would relieve you of the obligation to provide either the source, or a written offer of source (which means that for 3 years, you are personally obligated to cough up the source regardless of what happens to Canonical) in this instance, and as I already pointed out, the GPL FAQ itself says:


    I downloaded just the binary from the net. If I distribute copies, do I have to get the source and distribute that too?

    Yes. The general rule is, if you distribute binaries, you must distribute the complete corresponding source code too. The exception for the case where you received a written offer for source code is quite limited.

    If you think about it a minute, you will realize that this, in fact, has to be the way it is in order for the license to do its job properly. Otherwise, sleazy router vendor could simply claim that they got the code from “somewhere else” and give you a written offer containing a link to a defunct website.

    Obviously, there’s a possibility that I’m wrong, but if you want to show me, you’ll have to do more than hand-wave about passing along the vendor’s written offer. Lay it out for me how it works.

  427. If Obama is not a “progressive” by your definition, I’m curious who would be.

    Dennis Kucinich.

  428. @ Paul Brinkley

    If you feel that either way, you’re happy that you’ve “added a tiny bit of wealth to the world”, would that still hold if someone is making money selling what you wrote for free? Even if they modified it a little first? And then neglected to mention your role in creating that code?

    I would strongly prefer a situation in which I made money from my code, but if I can’t and someone else does… like I said, I would be happy that I had contributed a tiny bit to civilization. I would know, my kids would know, and…

    There is also the fact that, having four Open Source projects in my personal web-space, linked to from my homepage, including one in which I invented (although not necessarily for the first time) an approach to artificial intelligence about 15 years ago, and acquiring about 1200 external links to my stuff means that Google really likes me. If I did get mad, I can make a lot of people aware of it.

    Oh yeah, what Jay says… I have maximum karma on slash dot – I can make myself heard there too, if I want. If a few hundred thousand folks on slash dot got angry…. it would not be good for the outfit that misappropriated my code.

    What is with this idea that RMS would be OK with both copyright and the GPL disappearing – people could still do all the things that GPL folks hate like the scenario you described, above. How could no GPL make RMS happy? He needs copyright or something to make the GPL enforceable and I can’t see him liking the GPL going away.

  429. @BrianMarshall:

    What is with this idea that RMS would be OK with both copyright and the GPL disappearing – people could still do all the things that GPL folks hate like the scenario you described, above. How could no GPL make RMS happy? He needs copyright or something to make the GPL enforceable and I can’t see him liking the GPL going away.

    Yes, RMS needs copyright to make the GPL work. Which, if you think about it, is exactly the same as the government needing guns to make taxes work. In fact, it’s the same guns.

    If there were no copyright, then first of all you could run any program you can get your hands on, and second of all, you could reverse engineer, modify, and give that same program to anybody you want.

    Disassemblers and decompilers are already pretty good, but imagine the effort that will go into making them better if it’s always legal, not only to decompile, but also to recompile and distribute. Any advantage to be had by withholding source will be temporary, with a half-life proportional to the size of the code times the complexity of the code divided by the value of the code.
    .

  430. OK, folks, here is some real ego….

    @ ESR

    I humbly beg for your attention…

    I couldn’t make it to Penguicon, so I had no chance to try to impress you in person. But all my replies on this blog post have revealed a lot about me and how I look at software.

    I did make deawk into an Open Source project at the request of one of your regulars in a few hours.

    I do have more than a thousand external links to stuff I have done, including four Open Source projects, linked to from my home page.

    Most of the links are to AIParts.org – C++ software that implements an approach to artificial intelligence that I developed (although I may not have been the first to do so).

    I put up a website that describes my AI and another approach to AI that I like (that I didn’t develop)… AIPatterns.org (This isn’t an Open Source project (ie. one of the four, it is an information website.)

    Some links to my stuff is related to placer mining. But Hey! – I love placer mining – not physically now, given the state of my spine, but I have put up quite an impressive website (bcplacer.com) to help others get into placer mining. If, as in Levy’s “Hackers” book, the original guys could hack Chineese food and hack lock picking, I believe that I am hacking placer mining.

    I love Wing Chun kung fu. I no longer train or even really practice, but I screw around with it pretty much every day… I hack kung fu.

    I beg a boon and humbly suggest that I have at least earned the right to ask this question… Do you have any “Hacker” ribbons left and do you think that I deserve one?

  431. Brian: I would strongly prefer a situation in which I made money from my code, but if I can’t and someone else does… like I said, I would be happy that I had contributed a tiny bit to civilization. I would know, my kids would know, and…

    Sounds like you’re comfortable with that. If I were in that position, I’d probably be angry, but tolerate it at the end.

    Now, you can’t force everyone to be comfortable with that. (Not that you are; you’re clearly giving your personal preference only.) The fact is, a lot of people won’t go for that. The ready alternative is to clamor for GPL and FSF or their equivalents – which also can’t be forced on everyone. But that’s not going to stop people from clamoring for it.

    That’s my main point here. We’re not going to get to live in a world with just OSI and MIT/BSD where everyone’s hunky dory, because there will be anger and wailing over carpetbaggers making a buck off of other people’s work. Jay’s one-word point is good; I feel there’s recourse just like him (but I wanted someone other than me to say that). But we also know it’s not perfect, and some of the carpetbaggers will get through and so there will still be wailing.

    So maybe what the wailers need is a lower barrier to entry to Slashdot. …Yes, I know. Sign up and post, how easier could it be. Maybe they need a one-click link that auto-posts how they’ve been wronged by some BigCo that stole their code. :-)

  432. @Paul Brinkley:

    We’re not going to get to live in a world with just OSI and MIT/BSD where everyone’s hunky dory, because there will be anger and wailing over carpetbaggers making a buck off of other people’s work.

    Agreed. I have told many people on numerous occasions that if the “tit-for-tat”, as Linus says, offered by the GPL is what they need in order to contribute, then by all means they should use the GPL.

    But the GPL is not perfect, and you won’t get that message from the FSF. In fact, the FSF has engaged in a lot of FUD, and I attempt to present the other side, just so people realize that there is, in fact, another side.

  433. Actually, I confess that I am guilty of karma whoring – you watch for a Slash Dot story that has just been put up with very few comments and you post something relevant and meaningful. Since, at that point, there are only maybe 20 comments rather than 1200, people see it and mod it up. On one hand I am ashamed of gaming the system. On the other hand, it only works if a person does have something insightful to say.

    Anyway… re: people who are screwed over by for-profit outfits using their free code and really don’t like it…

    One aspect to this is trying to get the word out through the website of the offending business.

    Another aspect is that, unfortunate as it is, shit happens. Sometimes stuff happens that makes a person very angry. Saudis sentencing an American to 500 lashes unhinged me for a bit… well, a few bits. Sometimes a person just has to accept that life is unfair and move on.

    If someone is really royally screwed over and has no recourse, I can put a page up a page in my web-space that, depending on the particular topic, perhaps many people will see. I would have to be very careful. I couldn’t do that just on the word of one guy – if he is stretching the truth, I and my bad spine, could be sued into homelessness – the situation would have to be generally recognized by, say, the folks that hang out here. I can’t help everybody that is annoyed. But if a major injustice is perpetrated, I would be glad to help.

  434. Maybe they need a one-click link that auto-posts how they’ve been wronged by some BigCo that stole their code. :-)

    I couldn’t do it, I have lots of external links but little traffic.

    If slashdot did it, I would imagine that 10,000 people a day would inform the world that they are annoyed about something.

    The world is a bitch sometimes.

  435. >I beg a boon and humbly suggest that I have at least earned the right to ask this question… Do you have any “Hacker” ribbons left and do you think that I deserve one?

    Are you kidding me? I would been pretty sure you deserved one even before that comment. Hacker-nature (or its absence) tends to come through pretty clearly in a person’s communications style.

    And you didn’t have to “earn” any right to ask that question. Asking it isn’t rude or presumptuous. Nor did you have to make any noise about being humble – in fact, you shouldn’t have; sounds too much like groveling, which is unbecoming (though I get that you didn’t mean it that way). On the other hand, listing your projects was proper etiquette. :-)

  436. Actually, if a person that releases free software that is used by a for-profit outfit without permission, and gives them no credit or anything… the folks on Slash Dot are generally very sensitive to this sort of injustice. Pick whichever story is most to do with software or licensing or DRM or something and post your story. Some might mod it down as being off-topic, but from my experience, you might get thousands, maybe tens of thousands of people to be angry with you. If one of them is from the offending company and tells the corporate lawyer… Whatever, thousands of angry Slash Dot people is a quite a force – you never know who might be able to help.

    I am having problem with the vocabulary, here. When ESR adds a new one, is that a post or an original post (“OP”) or what? What is the stuff we add? Are they posts or replies or what?

    On a different but similar note, someone posted a comment in the middle of some Slash Dot post saying, if effect “This is totally off-topic, but I was moderating Slash dot during my lunch break, modding down the “Gay N-Word of America crap” and my boss saw it and the offending word…..and they fired me.” Someone asked him what he did. He told them. Someone offered him a job. Slash Dot is an amazing thing sometimes. Too young-left for me, but great anyway.

    I am getting really tired of this N-word bullshit. If I am quoting someone that uses offensive language, generally I can, in fact quote them. Except for… the N-word. Racism is evil if practised by governments. It is stupid and offensive if practised by people. But I should be able to quote an offensive person or sentence, particularly if the whole point of my quote is in relation to how offensive it is or how someone reacted to it.

  437. @ ESR

    Nor did you have to make any noise about being humble – in fact, you shouldn’t have;

    Actually, I was sort of alluding to your “Oh nobly born” stuff.

    So, um… Unless I totaly misunderstood your reply, do you have any of the ribbons left? I would value one more than any certificate I have ever earned.

  438. >Unless I totaly misunderstood your reply, do you have any of the ribbons left?

    Yup. Right here in the pocket of my A-2 jacket. See you next Penguicon? :-)

  439. @Brian Marshall:

    I am having problem with the vocabulary, here. When ESR adds a new one, is that a post or an original post (“OP”) or what? What is the stuff we add? Are they posts or replies or what?

    Although esr’s blog shows a link to “replies” I think the canonical term is “comments.”

    I always thought that eric posted and we commented. YMMV.

  440. @ ESR

    Yup. Right here in the pocket of my A-2 jacket. See you next Penguicon? :-)

    I would love to meet you and the folks that hang around here. I would love to do some shooting. When I was younger, in addition to a fine Ruger M-77 .30-06 for bears, I had a S&W Model 66 stainless steel .357 Magnum. It was a blast. Literally. HST would have approved ;)

    However, I am afraid that I am a poor boy with degenerative spine disease. Spines, and particularly, necks, have WAY too many moving parts. It is hard to tweak the source, unfortunately.

    I am inheriting some money, but I don’t think I will be employed again. So, regardless of what my bank balance might be, I will continue to be a poor boy.

    This doesn’t bother me; I live inside my head. I don’t even have anything up on my walls because I like a neutral surface to stare at while I think.

    I also have an Amazon parrot weighing less than 300 g with the personality of a Hells Angel that I love. He just knows he can kick anybody’s ass. Sometimes, to make the point, he flies up, picks my glasses off my face WITHOUT TOUCHING ME and then the weight pulls him down.

    Would you consider mailing me one of the ribbons?

  441. @ Patrick Maupin

    We agree that the fundamental aim of subsection 6 is ensuring that the router vendor is required to disclose source.

    You seem to be insisting that the words “in accord with subsection 6b” mean that 6c can never apply in the situation where I am passing on a CDR I have burnt with an ISO I downloaded from Canonical. This is too narrow a reading of 6b and 6c. The sort of conveying you are talking about is “occasional” and “noncommercial” and the downloaded ISO contains the written offer of source just the same.

    In the supremely unlikely event that the FSF or another holder of copyright in a piece of GPL-ed software included in the default Ubuntu ISO was to take the point, I’d expect my lawyers would put together a pretty good argument that, based on Canonical’s invitations for precisely the sort of sharing you are concerned about, I am acting as Canonical’s agent when I do so.

    Rolling this out as an example of a “problem” with the GPL is more than a stretch.

  442. @Michael Deutschmann: Of course you will find FS people with different political affiliations. What I meant (excuse my bad English) is that the free software affinity by itself doesn’t equal socialism.

    Aside from this, I’m afraid we have different views on what socialism is. (Probably because I lived my first twenty-odd years in a socialist / communist country, and have experienced what socialism is myself. Under it, free software would be considered more illegal and dangerous to have than even arms or printing presses. Imagine the opportunity to have eg. encryption software in a country where the police will detain you for speaking over the phone in a language they can’t understand…)

    @Brian Marshall: GPL being less free than BSD? I think the opposite. Let me give an example. The First Amendment to the USA Constitution says:

    “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

    Following your logic, this amendment limits the freedom in USA (by forbidding the Congress certain things), and striking it down will make USA more free. Obviously, the actual situation is exactly the opposite.

    What GPL forbids is to strip the others of their freedom. If you believe that this means decreasing the freedom of the people, then I really can’t understand you.

    And yes, I think that releasing stuff under a non-copyleft license is contrary to the freedom in this aspect (in most cases). It is true that you cannot be directly responsible because some other people have closed your work away from its users, used it to control them, etc. However, it is your permissive licensing that permitted these people to do so. It is only logical that you bear some moral responsibility for their actions (given how easy you could have prevented them from doing so). An analogy would be eg. knowingly selling guns to people with a long record for guns violence – you are not directly responsible if they shoot somebody, but you bear a part of the moral responsibility.

    I also think that GPL scares corporations away not with the “radical” image of FSF or Stallman, but with the requirement to contribute back. And if free software is all about giving the big corporations the opportunity to freeride, then the FS guys would be ordinary fools. Guess what percent of them would like to make fools of themselves, and will continue to contribute… That is why free software still exists.

  443. The word “fanaticism” is just a slur, but I think I see why the OS movement, with good intentions, wants so much to bury FS and it’s supporters.

    OS thinks it can win by exploiting psychological angles that FS ignores. They know that most powerful people are sick of moralists trying to tell them to act against their own interests, so that they explicitly look for profit in any “evil” action they aren’t yet doing. So, they feel that FS is advocating for closed source in a reverse psychology (“Please don’t throw me in the briar patch!”) sort of way, and cultivating the impression that the constraining measures the FS community has managed to arrange are the *sum total* of the reasons a business should consider not going CS.

    This also reflects on the related copyleft-vs.-copycenter battle. A company can change sides between noncopyleft open source and closed source instantly and as many times as it wants. But it’s simply not possible to betray the copyleft open source camp without making obvious preparations beforehand (that is, making side deals with each outside contributor), which they will instantly call you on. Otherwise, you try to take your ball and go home, they keep a copy of the entire ball.

    For OS, this easy allegiance change is a feature, as it can get skeptical companies to “try out” OS and perhaps get addicted to it. FS considers it a usually-reckless gamble.

    I think another underlying philosophical difference has to do with trust. From an OS perspective, a basement hacker has no right to ask a corporation to make a leap of faith, with the corporation potentially risking many times the hacker’s own net worth (assuming the hacker even has positive net worth.). But FS types consider it folly to put any trust in a corporation, since “fiduciary duty” trumps any casual agreement. To survive a scenario where betrayal would net shareholders a pretty sum, the deal has to be *binding* – so use copyleft.

  444. @TomM:

    This is too narrow a reading of 6b and 6c.

    How so? 6b says “Convey the object code in, or embodied in, a physical product.” Downloading is covered by 6d, where there is no physical product. 6c ONLY applies to 6b, NOT to 6d, by its plain wording: “only if you received the object code with such an offer, in accord with subsection 6b.”

    Sorry, but I don’t think it’s possible to stretch 6c to cover dowloading and burning, despite your unsubstantiated protestations to the contrary.

  445. @Michael Deutschmann:

    Yes, those things are at play, but there is more. The GPL is not really required to protect well-maintained code. Look at the Linux kernel. Big corporations (IBM, Google, Intel, etc.) beg to have their code included in mainline.

    Is it because of altruism? NO! It’s because they hate having to re-merge every time a new kernel comes out. It’s less work if they get their patches accepted and used by everybody. In fact, a lot of the ARM vendors have banded together and formed Linaro to reduce this workload for them even more.

    So, if code is actively maintained, then the GPL isn’t required. If code isn’t maintained, then the GPL will require any would-be maintainer (who wants to distribute his changes) to give his source code back. Depending on why the code isn’t maintained, that’s a huge gamble. It might be that someone would be more interested in maintaining it (and maybe even giving code back) if they could use it in a closed source product. Sometimes the gamble pays off; sometimes it doesn’t. Unfortunately, we can come up with anecdotes in both cases, but no hard data about whether this encourages or discourages free software.

  446. @Michael Deutschmann

    >The word “fanaticism” is just a slur

    I think ESR provided a pretty clear explanation of exactly what he meant by ‘fanatic’. It’s a useful word with a clear meaning in this context.

  447. @Brian Marshall:

    I think you have to read it as a stream of consciousness that a good editor could extract a couple of nuggets from.

  448. >Would you consider mailing me one of the ribbons?

    I suppose. But what would you do with it? It’s designed for a specific use, to be hung from the kind of plastic sleeve used for convention badges.

  449. @ ESR

    I suppose. But what would you do with it? It’s designed for a specific use, to be hung from the kind of plastic sleeve used for convention badges.

    I would just simply love to have one. I believe that you said somewhere that a hacker is someone that is considered to be a hacker by hackers. You are, to me, at least, the person most appropriate to say that I am a real hacker. I have considered myself a hacker/wizard for a long, long time. For you to confirm it in your blog today has made me very proud. To have a tangible token of that would mean a lot to me.

    I don’t normally put things on my walls, but I might even frame the thing. I have been dedicated to reading, learning and science since I was about 8 or 9 years old. I have been a computer hacker, one way or another, for about 3 decades.

    It is sort of like, but even better than, knowing that my master’s master, and Bruce Lee, had the same master (Yip Man).

    Like I said, I am not much into material things, but this isn’t material, it is a tangible symbol of what my life has been about, from the best possible source – you.

  450. @ ESR

    If he was still alive, and I was still actually training, it would be like getting a tangiible symbole of being a martial artist from Bruce Lee. I know that I am a martial artist. But having Bruce Lee confirm it would be good.

  451. @Patrick
    It is often proposed that the GPL supresses forking. There have been several instances where forking of Linux seemed inevitable.

  452. @ Brian Marshall (Friday, June 15 2012 at 3:22 pm):

    … I would love to do some shooting. When I was younger, in addition to a fine Ruger M-77 .30-06 for bears, I had a S&W Model 66 stainless steel .357 Magnum. It was a blast. Literally. HST would have approved ;)

    I would second Eric’s (implicit) invitation to Penguicon 2013, and further invite you to join us at “Geeks With Guns” there. We’re not exactly certain of the date yet, but expect it to be some 3-day weekend from the middle of April to the very early part of May. Venue also TBD, but no further south than Toledo, Ohio, no further north than Auburn Hills, MI, no further west than Lansing, and no further east than Canada. :-).

    The con itself is < $50 for the entire weekend; rooms at the con rate in the hotel were $99/night. GwG this year was an additional $16 in range fees, and handguns could be rented for the afternoon for $10. "A Splendid Time Is Guaranteed For All." Please email guns@penguicon.org, and I’ll make sure you’re up-to-date on all the planning and scheduling info. And/or you can sign up for the Penguicon general email list.

  453. no further east than Canada

    Great! St. Johns Newfoundland (pretty much the most Eastern point in Canada) is (if I have done all the SOH-CAH-TOA trig right, is 1086 km EAST of Eastport, Maine!

    In any case, I have sent an email to guns@penguicon.org.

    Thanks!

  454. @Winter:

    It is often proposed that the GPL supresses forking. There have been several instances where forking of Linux seemed inevitable.

    It obviously was inevitable, because it’s already happened many times, with Android being the prime example. Torvalds himself recognizes forks as necessary to try out different things and then bring back together the best stuff.

    Obviously, the people who have forked Android don’t like the state of affairs because it’s costly, so they are working to try to merge back into mainline. It is fairly self-evident that a large, active, inclusive community can diminish the long-term viability of forks. It is also obvious that, with the GPL, proprietary forks are impossible unless the entire codebase is owned by a single entity, but for a large, active, inclusive community, it seems quite unlikely that a proprietary fork of permissive code would get much traction regardless of license, because of the sheer cost of keeping up with the public fork.

    So, to the extent that the GPL can foster community, it can make forks less economically viable. But there are plenty of active, vibrant non-GPL communities that, to my knowledge, have never suffered serious forks — python, perl, apache, firefox.

    OTOH, the GPL itself has been the proximate cause of some forks, such as ooffice -> soffice and xfree86 -> xorg, and at least a few ground-up rewrites, such as PyQT -> PySide, GCC -> LLVM, and busybox -> toybox.

    So it is clear to me that the GPL by itself is not required to keep a community together; in fact, it is quite clear that the GPL can split a community, and it is further clear that the idea that disallowing binary distributions to force more people to cough up source can backfire — all these people are already coughing up source, and want to keep coughing up source; they just don’t want to be told they, or their customers or downstream users, can’t do binary-only releases.

    I think the GPL is a license whose time has come and gone. It may have been important for engendering a certain amount of mutual trust, but now people realize that if 20 people are contributing to a project, any code you write for that project can be amplified and come back to you in a much better shape. In so much better shape that it’s stupid to worry about freeloaders.

  455. @Patrick
    If you look at the number and size of GPL projects in Debian, the “gone” part is very premature

    The factors working against the GPL you mention are very much limited to the USA.

  456. @ ESR and John D. Bell

    Re: Penguicon 2013

    I did send an email to guns@penguicon.org so as to receive planning and scheduling information, but….

    As I have said, I am a poor boy with a bad spine. I could survive the cost. However, there is no telling whether any given seat (on a plane or at a conference) will be comfortable or painful until I try it. It might turn out that travelling a couple thousand km each way would be no fun at all. There are other aspects…

    To tell the truth, I hate conferences. I also pretty much hate parties. (Have I mentioned that I like computers?) I am sure that the Armed & Dangerous party would be great, and there are a bunch of people I would like to meet, but…. after an hour or two, I am sure I would just want to be home.

    I am sure that Geeks with Guns would be a (loud) blast, but, again, after a few hours… I just like being at home with my parrot, Merlin. (And, of course, Merlin wouldn’t like being boarded for what would effectively be at least 3 days – we have never been separated that long since I got him about 13 years ago).

    Quite a while ago, I was a PeopleSoft super-consultant for less than a year, working in Texas and Alabama during the week and flying back to Calgary for/during the weekend. I let about 80,000 air-miles expire because I had had ALL the flying and Hotels I ever needed. I still basically feel that way.

    Everything considered… I don’t expect to attend Penguicon 2013.

  457. @Winter:

    If you look at the number and size of GPL projects in Debian, the “gone” part is very premature

    This is a (deliberate or not) misunderstanding of the vernacular. When something’s time “has come and gone,” it’s merely no longer ascendant, not that it no longer exists in some fashion somewhere.

    The factors working against the GPL you mention are very much limited to the USA.

    You’ll have to explain why you believe this. Start with why Sony is backing Toybox and why Nokia started PySide.

  458. @Patrick Maupin

    I believe Winter is referring to the fact that nothing in the US Tech business is independent of VC ownership. VC culture is very against GPL for various reasons. Other parts of the world have other uses for technology beyond getting rich and Venture Capital to which GPL is still very relevant.

  459. @Mike

    Even if it were true that ‘nothing in the US Tech business is independent of VC ownership’ (which it obviously is not) your reasoning would still be wrong, because any technology business, VC-backed or not, wants to know that it can do binary-only releases safely. This is a phenomenon common to technology businesses the world over, and is not limited to the US.

  460. @Tom

    Nope. Not true at all. Maybe you should work in the tech industry around startups and you might get some idea into your sub 100 iq brain.

  461. @Patrick
    GPL projects are still on the “rise” in Debian. Including v3.

    Outside the USA, the legal and patent situations are completely different. Patent trolls are aslmost unheard of and court cases are short. Both SCO and Oracle would have been stopped in court. Actually, SCO was silenced in two weeks.

  462. @Mike:

    I believe Winter is referring to the fact that nothing in the US Tech business is independent of VC ownership.

    Completely untrue, unless you think (for example) that IBM and GE are owned by VCs.

    VC culture is very against GPL for various reasons.

    VC culture was very for GPL, but it didn’t work out so well for them in quite a few instances. Now their view is more nuanced, but it’s disingenuous to claim that VCs are “against” the GPL. At least you’ll have to explain why Benchmark partner invested in Red Hat, or why you think all the VCs ignored the fact that MySQL got sold to Sun for beaucoup bucks. VCs are for whatever makes the money, and for awhile dual licensing with the GPL proved itself to be a good money maker. But that’s only if either (a) the company does all the work; or (b) the company entices others to sign over copyright assignment. But the GPL folks have gotten wise to this, and being the kinds of dogs-in-mangers who don’t like to see their copyright assignments make MySQL founders filthy rich, they usually now decline to participate in unequal power relationships. (BTW, this is arguably another plus for permissively licensed code — there is never an unequal power relationship like you can see with Aladdin Ghostscript, MySQL, Java, etc.)

    Nope. Not true at all. Maybe you should work in the tech industry around startups and you might get some idea into your sub 100 iq brain.

    Gratuitous insults aside, Tom wasn’t talking about tech startups, which often just suck up money and die. He was talking about existing companies, which understand that the GPL isn’t always the best open source license. Like, you know, google. Or Apple. Or IBM. A lot of these companies want to collaborate on essential infrastructure, and have decided that the best way to do it is through permissive open source.

    Sorry, gratuitious insults aside, you’re completely wrong, and certainly haven’t shown any fundamental reason why Europe would be any different than the US in this regard.

    @Winter:

    Outside the USA, the legal and patent situations are completely different. Patent trolls are aslmost unheard of and court cases are short. Both SCO and Oracle would have been stopped in court. Actually, SCO was silenced in two weeks.

    But to the extent that the only potentially appealing (to me) thing in GPL v3 was the patent protection, you’re really arguing that GPL isn’t as needed in the rest of the world. And Oracle is not about the GPL, and you haven’t shown that SCO wouldn’t have been shut down without the GPL either. Probably because you can’t.

    I can’t read your mind, and don’t know how all these dots are connected, but you haven’t managed to show any causality here.

  463. @Winter:

    GPL projects are still on the “rise” in Debian. Including v3.

    It is my understanding this is true, as well. However, I’m sure I read that, as a proportion of code, the GPL is decreasing. Which, if true is really interesting. You really have to work to avoid the GPL in large projects, due to the large number of libraries using it.

  464. @Patrick

    >Tom wasn’t talking about tech startups, which often just suck up money and die. He was talking about existing companies, which understand that the GPL isn’t always the best open source license. Like, you know, google. Or Apple. Or IBM.

    Exactly.

  465. @Patrick Maupin

    You guys really are dumber than toast. I give up. It’s now brutally obvious none of you are even in the software world. I give up.

  466. @ Mike

    There are people here that look at the world totally differently than I do. There have been some hardcore differences of opinion based on differences in outlook. There have been cases in the past where the opinion that someone is insane has been expressed.

    But I have never thought that a difference of opinion was a result of folks here being “dumber as toast”.

    I have agreed with people that have expressed the opinion that someone was maybe young and could do with a little more experience in the real world.

  467. @Brian Marshall:

    I have agreed with people that have expressed the opinion that someone was maybe young and could do with a little more experience in the real world.

    I am young, and I could do with a lot more experience in the real world. I’m barely over 50, and hope to experience the world for at least another half century.

  468. > Difference sussed when he used the term “hardcore principled organizing”. That kind of rhetoric only comes out of the mouths of people with the psychology of cult followers or would-be cult leaders.

    The world is ruled by such people and always has been. Current policies, such as emancipating women and so forth, are a reflection of wild eyed fanaticism, which we don’t recognize as such because the crazed fanatics are in power. If, however, one looks at the present from the past, reading old books on political issues, it is apparent that cultists always rule, and the only question is which cultists. We have had better, and have had worse. The current lot, however, is pretty bad. Theocracy is the natural state of europeans. Used to be that in England from 1660 to 1840 or so, you had to subscribe pro forma to the official religion, Anglicanism, to get into parliament or university, but they never expected you to take it all that seriously. Now, however, they are making increasing efforts to make sure that applicants truly and sincerely believe in political correctness, believe deeply, care about it, as they were never required to care about Anglicanism.

  469. Now, however, they are making increasing efforts to make sure that applicants truly and sincerely believe in political correctness, believe deeply, care about it, as they were never required to care about Anglicanism.

    That is scary. My personal view is that “political correctness” is just ethics that doesn’t have quite enough people behind it to make it legally mandatory. Ever since I first heard the term, I have thought that “political correctness” is very dangerous – one step away from more legally enforced morality.

    (Basically, those last two sentences mean pretty much the same thing but expressed with different words.)

  470. It seems to me that after reading all the debate in this thread, I have come to the conclusion that the eventual goals of the FSF and OSI are completely different, not just the philosophy part.

    If I can sum up (forgive me if it seems somewhat obvious to the gurus here):

    Goal of GPL and FSF appear to be:
    1. Total code visibility under all circumstances thus enforcing changes/modifications to be copyleft. Ensuring every user gets the source.
    2. Complete rejection of proprietary software, resulting in proprietary software disappearing from the face of the earth and 100% free software.
    3. Rejection of concept of software ownership and all its associated rights (ironically GPL uses this aspect to ensure compliance at the moment).

    Goal of OSI appears to be:
    1. Maximum adoption of open-source licensed code all over the world, but not necessarily limited to open-source projects, but also in closed source systems.
    2. Increasing the dependency of open-source in corporates and traditional software companies by the above method and also by marketing.
    3. Affirming software ownership rights including the right to license under closed source if wanted, while at the same time encouraging openness and sharing for the sake of improvement and better software.

    Having read interviews of both RMS and ESR from past news articles, I have come to the conclusion that there can never be a meeting point because while the philosophies/ideology and eventual goals are completely different, the only thing in common appears to be the methodology and practices and to an extent, the hacker culture.

    I think I can very well see why 90% of the world wouldn’t care for eventual goals of the FSF, because not many users see software and freedom in that light, while equally, the goals of the OSI appear to be more relevant to developers rather than end users, thus end users couldn’t be bothered much.

  471. @ hari

    I think your analysis is pretty good. It is true that, directly, the FSF versus OSI issue is primary of interest to developers.

    The FSF was more relevant when most of the people using GPL’d software were developers. These days, most users of software have no use for the source.

    I think that now, the OSI is more relevant because Open Source is a good way to create good software. The end-users don’t care about the licence; they just want software that works well.

    To consider an extreme case, I, personally, think that Open Source code in closed source for-profit software is great! It makes for better software and gets more Open Source software actually being used. Eventually, hopefully, businesses will want to contribute more money and/or manpower to Open Source projects because they want bugs fixed and/or features added. As I see it, this is the way of the future.

    I don’t know any statistics about it but a lot of people are using Firefox and believe that it is safer than MS Internet Explorer.

    There is a vast amount of GPL’d code out there – and, it seems a lot of developers that care about the GPL. But developers are becoming a smaller and smaller proportion of people that use software.

  472. @Brian Marshall,

    I’ve made a kind of flowchart based on the above post of mine, crystallizing my thoughts on this issue further, but I am unable to post it here. I’ll probably write a post on my blog and would love your (and others’) thoughts on it.

  473. >2. Complete rejection of proprietary software, resulting in proprietary software disappearing from the face of the earth and 100% free software.
    3. Rejection of concept of software ownership and all its associated rights (ironically GPL uses this aspect to ensure compliance at the moment).

    @hari:

    These two points actually have to be qualified: The GPL crowd generally doesn’t have any problem with software being proprietary in trade secret terms (ie, the software is used completely internally and neither binaries nor sources are released to the general public).

    My own philosophy is that the nature of information makes the concept of owning information senseless aside from the physical ownership of all physical copies of a given bit of information (basically, secrets can be property), or the use of a given bit of information as an identifier (to avoid namespace collisions, identity spoofing, etc. Basically, trademarks and personal identifying/contact information can be property, though not quite in the same way as secrets or physical objects).

  474. @Jon Brase
    These two points actually have to be qualified: The GPL crowd generally doesn’t have any problem with software being proprietary in trade secret terms (ie, the software is used completely internally and neither binaries nor sources are released to the general public).

    Agreed. This is a distinction that is made. Probably I will add it to my flowchart. :)

    Also with respect to “owning” information, I agree in general that you cannot own ideas or concepts or methods, but you can own a specific, concrete implementation of an idea or concept. I don’t think that I agree entirely that “code” or “software” is a mere idea or concept. It is more a complete implementation and that takes effort and time. Naturally the creator of that implementation has a right to profit from it as he/she sees fit. This is where I fall apart from the FSF stance that all software should be free. I agree that standards, ideas, knowledge, technologies and concepts should be free, but not every single implementation of them.

    As far as patents go, I support patents for industrial processes and machine designs etc. because that is a completely different field requiring huge investments in research and development. Patents protect those investments by preventing all and sundry from merely copying those designs and profiting without having put in the R&D efforts and investments.

  475. @Hari:

    I have come to the conclusion that there can never be a meeting point because while the philosophies/ideology and eventual goals are completely different, the only thing in common appears to be the methodology and practices and to an extent, the hacker culture.

    I don’t know that the goals are really all that different. If software patents and copyrights were abolished, I’d probably be happy, and I think RMS would be as well.

    That’s unlikely to happen. But from my perspective, proprietary closed source, and GPL-licensed code, and software patents mostly amount to the same thing — the attempted control over how others use “IP.” I know RMS hates the term IP, but while trademarks are different, patents and copyright are more similar than many realize, in terms of the kind of control they give, and the mindset of many who wield them.

    Granted, patents can be worse than copyright, because they don’t allow for independent implementations, but we saw Oracle trying to stretch copyright to cover APIs, in echoes of the RMS of 20 years ago claiming that his license must be applied to anything that could communicate with readline. If that had worked, either then or now, copyright would be much worse than patents due to the duration of the government-granted monopoly.

    So, given the end goal of no copyrights or patents appears to be unattainable, how do you make the best of a bad situation? This is where you are right about differences between the camps.

    Permissive/public domain proponents think they can do their part to make the end goal a little closer, simply by making software available with no or minimal strings — by acting ethically to truly free their own efforts, while still respecting the legally granted monopolies that other programmers use to restrict the use of other programs.

    GPL proponents think they can do their part to make the end goal a little closer by acting just like their avowed enemies — by saying “this is MINE and YOU CAN’T TOUCH IT unless you play by MY RULES!”

    Their rules are, of course, designed to encourage giving back via coercion. (GPL aficionados will argue there is no coercion, but this is disingenuous. It is exactly the same coercion, enforced by exactly the same men with guns, as the injustice they paint themselves as fighting.) But as I have pointed out, lots of people don’t actually need coercion in order to decide to give back. But lots of people apparently require the ability to coerce others before they will give in the first place, because they are so worried that someone else will somehow improperly profit from their pride and joy.

    Which is one of the reasons I am skeptical if all of the FSF followers would be happy with abolition of copyright. I think RMS would be — he understands that his goals would be easily achievable in that case. But the desire for ownership and control is so strong that lots of other people who are busy fighting the good fight against ownership and control by using ownership and control actually sometimes get angry with the people who disavow ownership and control. Some of them even assert ownership and control over software originally written by those who disavow ownership and control, although this seems to have been reduced a lot lately, possibly because RMS himself has written about how it is bad form.

    If all of us who would like to see free software take over the world worked together, it would happen faster. For RMS, it is apparently sufficient in the meantime that all the software he personally uses is free. But for a lot of us, increasing the productivity of businesses and programmers everywhere by giving them a large permissively licensed commons of code to draw from is worth it, even if 95% of them don’t give back. Because in the process, we can increase the leverage of the 5% that do give back so much that we can have an awesome snowball effect.

    The GPL is often touted as being beneficial for end-users, because nobody can “lock the code up.” But that’s disingenuous — the originally written code is still out there, just as is permissively licensed code.

    The real difference between the licenses is that the GPL attempts to increase the commons by reducing friction for developers who can use it, and permissive licenses attempt to increase the commons by reducing friction for all developers. It’s all a matter of how you decide to grow the snowball. Well, that and the inherent need for some sort of “fairness” that demands that a programmer who extends your creation do so under your terms, but that allows anybody else to use your stuff as long as he is incapable of, or unwilling to, engage in his own related act of creation. It’s similar to how we can only execute criminals who might have a small chance of becoming productive later; if they are incompetent or insane we have to coddle them.

    The existence of high quality software under the GPL continually challenges programmers and organizations to question their assumptions and motivations and check to see if the next project can be put under the GPL. A lucky few people are in positions to just always use the GPL, and they often do so unquestioningly, taking advantage of whatever free software tools are available. This is why the absolute amount of GPLed software is increasing and why the license is often called viral.

    But often, the answer is “no, we still can’t use the GPL for this particular project. But we’d sure like to share development costs with other organizations, because this isn’t our core business.”

    Now, we’re starting to see the tide turn. No, you can’t relicense someone else’s GPLed software, but you can make a different package that does what you need instead. Most of us don’t care about Linux — the OS exception means it doesn’t “infect” anything else. But we’re now working together to generate lots of permissively licensed stuff. Android userland. PySide instead of PyQT. LLVM instead of GCC. Toybox instead of Busybox.

    All the browsers are permissively licensed (MPL isn’t fully permissive, but is close, and much easier to swallow than the LGPL for lots of companies). As I mentioned, Linux is an anomaly — it’s not going to infect anything else. And it’s probably going to be the main GPLed software in the next wave of computing — Android, Chrome, Boot-To-Gecko.

    Due to competition from permissively licensed software, even some GPLed software is now changing. VLC is changing their license from GPL to LGPL.

    The future is bright for free software. It would be probably be a bit brighter if all the free software programmers could agree on a license, but by now we know that’s not going to happen. A lot of us contribute to projects licensed under both GPL and permissive licenses, but we make our preferences known by where we spend our time. In the main, programmers have to decide — work with others on stuff that anybody can use in any fashion, or work with others on stuff that can’t always be incorporated into larger systems.

    As I mentioned before, on the permissive side, it’s mostly a matter of reducing friction, to make it easy for people to contribute by making it easy for them to not contribute when that doesn’t work for them, where on the GPL side, it’s mostly a matter of reducing friction by making code available that does what you need, that you can’t get anywhere else.

    But now you can get a lot of that code elsewhere. The FSF’s tactic of differential friction for copyleft vs. non-copyleft will always attract programmers who feel a moral attachment to the idea of forcing others who build on their work to give back, but it will be interesting to see how that fares against the combination of real friction on some programmers who aren’t always allowed to give back, combined with the moral attachment that some programmers have to reducing friction entirely — which is supposedly the whole point of the exercise.

  476. @Patrick Maupin:

    Apparently quite a few OSI supporters do also support the views you and ESR have espoused, and to me it seems well reasoned and thought out. In fact, ESR, in this article, is much kinder and probably fairer to RMS than many other views I’ve read online.

    But I think most people are unable to make these finer distinctions as far as Open Source licensing is concerned and how choice of license will affect other developers and end users, and that too, even among Open Source supporters. Most opinions I’ve read on online forums tend to make me believe that most Open Source proponents are very happy to live in a world with proprietary software, continue to use them and indeed accept closed source licensing restrictions, so long as they have the choices of open source available. That is part of the reason why Open Source seems to have an image of being “pragmatic” and seen as an ideology of convenience.

    Until I read this blog entry and also some of the comments here, I was a bit confused as to why people were getting so vehement about these issues. But now, I understand a lot better, thanks mostly to your posts and a few others. I have to admit that your comments have made a case for the ethical reasons for Open Source, quite apart from the ethical reasons for Free Software.

  477. Uh, actually, a naive abolition of copyright wouldn’t quite satisfy RMS….

    The present status quo of copyright being subverted by the GPL actually makes some source easier to access than in a totally laissez-faire world. In such a world, it would be possible to derive proprietary software from programs that are today copyleft, and “fake” the hostile effects of copyright protection through means such as dongles, key disks, TPMs and the like.

    Not to mention contracts. Imagine if proprietary authors formed a guild, and every software product by a guild member had a click-through license binding you to observe the pseudo-copyrights of every other guild member….

    It’s even worse for GPL if copyright is merely reduced to a short duration. The corpus of 5-year old copyleft software is far more valuable to the proprietary world than the corpus of 5-year old proprietary software to the free world. Especially since the ex-copyleft code is already in “the preferred form of the work for making modifications to it”.

    The FSF has explicitly commented on this:
    http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/pirate-party.html

  478. RMS is amazing, my respect for him is the same as the size of the universe.

  479. @Patrick
    “But to the extent that the only potentially appealing (to me) thing in GPL v3 was the patent protection, you’re really arguing that GPL isn’t as needed in the rest of the world. And Oracle is not about the GPL, and you haven’t shown that SCO wouldn’t have been shut down without the GPL either. Probably because you can’t.”

    Misunderstandings.

    You, and others, have repeatedly suggested (asserted) that US companies reject copy-left because they are afraid for patent trolls to search their code for infringement suit targets. That is hardly a problem outside the USA. And that is independent of the V3 question.

    SCO was not shut down because of the GPL, but because they were required to hand over solid evidence before they could start a suit.

    Options for “discovery” before a trial are much fewer or even absent when there is no criminal case. Court cases are much shorter. The losing party pays the cost of the winner, and would have to put up bonds for that if they drag on a case. Remember what happened in the copyright infringement case against Dan Brown in the UK. The accusers had to pay half a million to Brown.

    Also, there are no punitive or statutary damages in, eg, the EU. Only real damages are paid

    And then there is the fact that if you release code under the GPL, it becomes extremely difficult to use a bad-faith argument for any infringement. This reduces the probability of high damage payments. I know of no case where a user or publisher of FLOSS software had to pay high fines for any patent or copyright infringement in the EU (but maybe you do?).

    All this makes companies outside the US much less afraid for groundless accusations and interminable court cases that bankrupt the innocent. Hence, much less fear for copy-left.

    And the anti-trust authorities and grant agencies do love the GPL because it prevents market dominance.

    @Patrick
    “It is my understanding this is true, as well. However, I’m sure I read that, as a proportion of code, the GPL is decreasing.”

    As far as I know, the proportion of code the GPL is not decreasing in Debian.

  480. >Since it’s too long for a comment, I’ve put my final thoughts in this essay

    There is a significant error in this essay. You describe less convergence than actually exists. My goals are not very different from RMS’s; they only look different because of the arguments I choose to focus on as a matter of tactics. I don’t think I am unusual in this respect.

  481. Hari: “most Open Source proponents are very happy to live in a world with proprietary software, continue to use them and indeed accept closed source licensing restrictions, so long as they have the choices of open source available.”

    I’m typing this on a Mac Pro. I use and like OS X and prefer it to Linux on the desktop or primary laptop. I accept that there’s going to be a lot of proprietary software on that system; that doesn’t bother me much, even though I’m about to spend $200 on upgrading Photoshop from CS 3 to CS 6.

    The reason is simple: I use this system to get things done. It has to Just Work. OS X does. For me, Linux doesn’t. I spent less time dealing with software issues after upgrading from Snow Leopard to Lion than my roommate does dealing with compatibility issues every time he turns around and tells Ubuntu to upgrade.

    The same goes for other software. I used the Photoshop CS 6 beta, and it was a seamless transition. I find the GIMP totally unusable. 3D modelers are worse: Google SketchUp is far, far easier to use then Blender, which I consider the INTERCAL of 3D modeling software.

    Part of why I think that working to make sure that users have true freedom in software, including the freedom to choose proprietary solutions, is so vitally important is that I want the freedom to make the choices I have – freedom which RMS denies is even freedom, much less one worth preserving.

  482. @esr:
    There is a significant error in this essay. You describe less convergence than actually exists. My goals are not very different from RMS’s; they only look different because of the arguments I choose to focus on as a matter of tactics. I don’t think I am unusual in this respect.

    Thanks for pointing it out. I actually pointed out that many OSI supporters believe in some FSF principles and vice-versa, but maybe it wasn’t so clear and explicit as your statements here in this essay.

    But do you still feel that a majority of Open Source supporters feel the same? On many online forums and comments, I’ve seen those goals of Free Software explicitly rejected several times over the years. I understand that you have a lot of influence in the community, but it appears to me that many people who otherwise support Open Source technologically and from an engineering perspective believe that FSF’s actual goals are not just unattainable but bad in principle even.

  483. >But do you still feel that a majority of Open Source supporters feel the same?

    Yes, I think so. I think there is pretty broad consensus on every “Free Software” goal except the abolition of intellectual property. That one is a bit contentious.

  484. @Jay Maynard: actually I hear this view more often than the other one, viz. that “I agree with their goals and not necessarily their methods.” More often, I’ve seen those eventual goals of Free Software and RMS rejected outright. ESR seems to disagree on this one though.

  485. @Winter and @Patrick
    I think if you want to draw any conclusions about respect for the FSF among active hackers, you should look not at the percentage of source under GPL, but the percentage bearing an “or any later version” GPL grant. (The distinction between “2 or later” and “3 or later” doesn’t matter.)

    “Any later version” is very useful grease to stop GPL revisions from preventing code merges, but it places a lot of additional power in the FSF’s hands. Linus dropped it out of general paranoia long ago. And now we have a faction that uses explicitly non-upgradable GPLv2 to defend the right to tivoize from GPLv3.

  486. @Michael
    I see RMS and the GPL as two separate issues.You might have noticed that I wrote very little on RMS.

  487. @Winter:

    Misunderstandings.

    Yes, apparently deliberate.

    You, and others, have repeatedly suggested (asserted) that US companies reject copy-left because they are afraid for patent trolls to search their code for infringement suit targets.

    I do not believe this and have never asserted this, and in fact, you already tried to tar me with this brush and I already refuted this and fully explained my position.

    Sorry, I can’t have a conversation with you if you don’t listen, so I’m not going to bother with the rest of your post.

  488. @Michael Deutschmann:

    Uh, actually, a naive abolition of copyright wouldn’t quite satisfy RMS….

    I seem to remember that decades ago he was against copyright, but he seems to have a slightly more nuanced attitude now:

    http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/copyright-and-globalization.html

    There is no question that the copyright lobby has gotten too powerful, which is why I’m now the reactionary. IMO, no copyright would be better than what we have now. What RMS proposes might seem to work, but it leaves the camel’s nose in the tent. Hard to know how things would work out.

    The present status quo of copyright being subverted by the GPL actually makes some source easier to access than in a totally laissez-faire world.

    See, I disagree, because disassemblers and decompilers would rapidly advance.

    In such a world, it would be possible to derive proprietary software from programs that are today copyleft, and “fake” the hostile effects of copyright protection through means such as dongles, key disks, TPMs and the like.

    And if they have any value to enough people, people would (a) just strip out the protections (this already happens) and (b) reverse engineer the functionality and provide documented source.

    Not to mention contracts. Imagine if proprietary authors formed a guild, and every software product by a guild member had a click-through license binding you to observe the pseudo-copyrights of every other guild member….

    The thing is, if you truly abolish copyright, then you abolish copyright. We abolished slavery. It’s against public policy to sell yourself. The same thing could be true of giving up your right to make and distribute copies.

    It’s even worse for GPL if copyright is merely reduced to a short duration. The corpus of 5-year old copyleft software is far more valuable to the proprietary world than the corpus of 5-year old proprietary software to the free world. Especially since the ex-copyleft code is already in “the preferred form of the work for making modifications to it”.

    It may be worse for GPL, but I think it would be better for humanity. If you can take any program that’s 5 years old and do whatever you want with it, that would be awesome. A lot of reverse-engineering would be going on.

    The FSF has explicitly commented on this:
    http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/pirate-party.html

    There’s a couple of huge glaring errors in that document that must have been made on purpose: “Proprietary software is restricted by EULAs, not just by copyright, and the users don’t have the source code.” Well, yeah, but in most cases, the EULAs rely on copyright to do their magic, and in any case if the Pirate Party can change copyright law, then there’s no reason they couldn’t abolish onerous clickwrap licenses as well.

    “We also use copyright to partially deflect the danger of software patents.” Yeah, but why would the Pirate Party care? I thought they didn’t have software patents in Sweden. In any case, most of the danger here from software patents comes from NPEs, and as I have discussed, the GPL makes it easier, not harder, to find violations.

    “Any later version” is very useful grease to stop GPL revisions from preventing code merges, but it places a lot of additional power in the FSF’s hands. Linus dropped it out of general paranoia long ago. And now we have a faction that uses explicitly non-upgradable GPLv2 to defend the right to tivoize from GPLv3.

    Good point.

    I see RMS and the GPL as two separate issues.You might have noticed that I wrote very little on RMS.

    But Michael makes a very good point. People who use the “or later” clause are placing a great amount of faith in RMS/FSF.

  489. Umm, last quote and paragraph in that last comment were in reply to Winter.

  490. @Patrick
    So I mixed up commenters, my appologies. I cannot look up the links now as I have guests.

    And any confusion was certainly not deliberate. I can get confused without trying.

  491. @Michael Deutschmann:

    One more comment on “dongles, key disks, TPMs and the like.” If those things worked, you wouldn’t need a DMCA anti-circumvention clause.

    As Bruce Schneier says: “Trying to make bits uncopyable is like trying to make water not wet.”

    The same goes for trying to make them unusable. And the people who make them usable again are only getting better. How long until DVDs were cracked? How long until BluRay was cracked? How long until a new version of iOS is jailbroken?

    Seriously, letting people hack and use whatever software they want is not a technical problem — it’s purely a legal one.

    And when RMS writes (as he did in the essay you pointed out) that copyright for 5 years would be OK if you forced people to escrow source code, that points out the nub of the disagreement. He correctly gets that copyright’s restrictions are causing people problems, and suggests we roll some of those back, but then he goes and proposes additional restrictions!

    Again, I think a 5 year copyright on software would be fantastic. Along with at most a 3 year patent protection term.

  492. @Patrick

    >“Trying to make bits uncopyable is like trying to make water not wet.”

    Not a terribly good analogy, because there is a fairly simple method of making water not wet: freezing it.

  493. The reason is simple: I use this system to get things done. It has to Just Work. OS X does. For me, Linux doesn’t. I spent less time dealing with software issues after upgrading from Snow Leopard to Lion than my roommate does dealing with compatibility issues every time he turns around and tells Ubuntu to upgrade.

    And that’s the harm of open source. For 99% of the users out there, it has to Just Work. It has to not just be usable, but be trivially easy. Near as I can tell the incentive structures that reward ease of use exist only in a proprietary development environment. Mark Shuttleworth has tried to prove that the same could be done for open source. So far, it’s not going very well. So ease of use is a casualty in open source development, and that causes harm to users by frustrating them and wasting their very precious time.

    Meanwhile, more and more hackers are switching from Linux to Mac as their primary workstation (and a few are trudging back to Windows) because even geeks want to think about things besides the failure modes of their computer some of the time.

  494. @Tom:

    Actually, I think it’s an excellent analogy. Sure, you can make water not wet by removing entropy, but in most of the inhabited world that’s a temporary self-correcting condition.

    While we’re on the subject of wet water, that reminds me…

    Winter is always keen to point out how the European government quickly stops citizens from abusing each other. (Which is debatable, given how they are keen to remove the means of self-defense from ordinary citizens, but that is a digression.)

    What is interesting is how the government itself abuses its citizens. They’ve actually managed to one-up the FDA, which sends notices like cease and desist letters, backed up by threats of civil action, over walnuts.

    Not to be out-done, those wacky European regulators threaten jail time (no mere product seizures here, boys — we’re serious) over the claim that drinking water can prevent dehydration.

  495. @Patrick

    >Actually, I think it’s an excellent analogy. Sure, you can make water not wet by removing entropy, but in most of the inhabited world that’s a temporary self-correcting condition.

    Ha! Well, in most of the universe the default state of water is as a solid. You have to apply energy to get it to be wet.

    And the second law of thermodynamics guarantees that eventually there will be no liquid water anywhere in the universe.

    Wetness is fleeting.

    >Not to be out-done, those wacky European regulators threaten jail time (no mere product seizures here, boys — we’re serious) over the claim that drinking water can prevent dehydration.

    Nobody who has paid even the slightest attention to the EU over the last few decades should be at all surprised by this. It is completely typical.

    I think public opinion on the EU, here in the UK anyway, is fast approaching a tipping point beyond which complete withdrawal becomes politically thinkable. Such an idea would never have been taken seriously even 2 or 3 years ago.

  496. I do not see any point in the article. It seems to be propaganda stuff favouring evil MNCs.

    RMS is very pragmatic and licenses like GNU/GPL play well with corporate strategies.
    Corporates are mostly evil and it is essential to protect people’s freedom in a stronger way.

    Already there are problems with GNU-GPL due to
    1. bundling with non-free stuff
    2. Dual licensing

    These need to be improved.
    We also need to extend GNU-GPL to other fields like “algorithms in basic sciences”
    to save ourselves. People against “Free software” should be dealt with as thieves of a low order.

  497. Not a terribly good analogy, because there is a fairly simple method of making water not wet: freezing it.

    Except that that makes it not-water. As in, ice. :) Water’s still wet.

  498. Uhm. Jeff? “And that’s the harm of open source.”

    What makes you think that a world in which the Open Source Initiative had never come about would be a world where the Stallmanites would do any better at ease of use? The GIMP, after all, was developed by Stallmanites…

  499. @Greg

    >Except that that makes it not-water. As in, ice. :) Water’s still wet.

    Ice is water. It is water in its solid state.

  500. @Jay Maynard

    I think Jeff is using ‘open source’ as a blanket term to cover both ESR-style Open Source (uppercase) and RMS-style Free Software.

    I disagree with him that open source causes ‘harm’, but I think most open source projects do struggle with usability. There are exceptions, but it tends to be a weakness.

  501. @ ESR

    Me >> “Would you consider mailing me one of the ribbons?”

    You >> “I suppose. But what would you do with it?”

    That is a good question. I believe the answer is that I would have it. “have” is a verb – barely ;-)

    I already got the important thing – I think you said somewhere that a hacker is someone that is considered to be a hacker by hackers. You made it clear that you consider me a hacker on your public blog. Considering who you are… It is like the a catholic being told by the pope that they are a good catholic. Or, in other words: You da man!

    Nevertheless, I would appreciate a ribbon as a tangible token.

    If you would like to mail me one, I will email you my address.

    If you don’t – for example, if you don’t want to be inundated with similar requests, I understand. As I said, I already have the important part.

  502. Ice is water. It is water in its solid state.

    Definitional humor. Is water just a term for the compound H2O, with liquid, solid and gaseous phases? Or is water the term for the liquid phase of H2O?

    I generally use the latter, though the former is common enough. You don’t drink a glass of liquid water, after all, you drink a glass of water. Nevermind.

  503. @Greg

    >Definitional humor. Is water just a term for the compound H2O, with liquid, solid and gaseous phases? Or is water the term for the liquid phase of H2O?

    It’s both. :)

  504. What makes you think that a world in which the Open Source Initiative had never come about would be a world where the Stallmanites would do any better at ease of use? The GIMP, after all, was developed by Stallmanites…

    Tom is right. As I’ve said, “open source” and “free software” are EQUAL but they are not EQ. The provenances of the two philosophies are different, but they produce the same kinds of products, operate the same way, and have loosely the same goals. Neither open source nor free software have any notion of what it means to put ease of use at the forefront, and their user bases all suffer for it. The GIMP is an open-souce UI success story. It’s still a joke by any reasonable standard, but compared with the sea of open source software out there, it’s really quite remarkably usable. If GIMP is representative of the best that open source can do from an interface standpoint, then open source will continue, and deserves, to languish in obscurity.

    As for whether the Stallmanites can produce a usable product, I have just two words for you: GNU Emacs. It’s no surprise that today’s programmers pay for text editors that function elegantly and integrate seamlessly with the Mac environment.

  505. One more comment on “dongles, key disks, TPMs and the like.” If those things worked, you wouldn’t need a DMCA anti-circumvention clause.

    As Bruce Schneier says: “Trying to make bits uncopyable is like trying to make water not wet.”

    Tell that to Gerhard Lengeling, whose Notator software for Atari ST remains uncracked to this very day despite being still in high demand amongst its target audience — professional musicians. Half the development effort was invested into just the copy protection system (which, I think, relied on a dongle with its own CPU in the ST’s cartridge slot).

    Selling effectively uncopyable bits is merely only very hard — not impossible.

  506. @Jeff

    >Selling effectively uncopyable bits is merely only very hard — not impossible.

    The solution is either in the software or in the dongle chip. It just requires a sufficiently smart person with enough time to reverse engineer it. Obviously that hasn’t happened yet.

  507. @Jeff Read:

    … Notator software for Atari ST remains uncracked to this very day despite being still in high demand amongst its target audience

    I sincerely doubt the number of professional musicians who have Atari ST computers and would like Notator, but don’t have copy, is all that large, compared to, say, the number of people who have iPhones, or Sony Playstations, or who want to rip BluRays.

    Half the development effort was invested into just the copy protection system (which, I think, relied on a dongle with its own CPU in the ST’s cartridge slot).

    Well, sure, I’ve written lots of software that was embedded on a CPU, and logic that’s embedded in a chip. I was joking a decade and a half ago that my product was software, but hey, by the way, you need this “dongle” to run it…

    Sounds like this isn’t a typical basic challenge/response dongle — maybe the extra CPU is actually doing something useful like running real code.

  508. RMS has also responded to my reply on Free Software and Open Source being incompatible in principle and goals. I’ve posted the e-mail reply on my article (see my blog link).

    Interestingly the leaders of Free Software and Open Source are actually ‘converging’ on many issues, but the respective communities seem very divided. For example, reading Jay Maynard’s posts, I get the feeling that many Open Source supporters otherwise consider Free Software as the enemy, not Closed Source/Proprietary software.

  509. Pingback: A Plague Of Holy Men | Daily Pundit

  510. Hari: Open Source and Free Software can never reconcile, because, while we share the exact same goals, RMS believes that his tactics are best, and will not work with anyone who uses different tactics. For example, one of his tactics is the term “Free Software”, and talking about freedom. If you say “We don’t do that”, then he absolutely will under no terms work with you.

    His tactics are definitional.

  511. @Patrick
    I see no connection between EU advertising laws and GPL popularity nor the dysfunctional state of the US legal system.

    @ dry water
    In my exxperience, people who disagree with Brucce Schneier o n digital security are proven wrong

  512. > His tactics are definitional.

    I agree. His absolutely uncompromising stance puts off many people. But isn’t there something deeper than mere disagreement on tactics that underlies the differences? I mean if the goals are the same, there shouldn’t be so much heat and emotion about it… this is what I’ve been trying to figure out in my essay.

  513. I read hari’s blog essay on Free Software versus Open Source. I found it to be interesting and informative. Richard Stallman (RMS) responded by email, and in relation to this, I have two comments.

    A minor point maybe – RMS says:

    I know quite a few people who support free software as a matter of liberty without being interested in reading any source code. (These include government officials in a number of countries, and at least two presidents.)

    RMS may know people, as he describes, that believe as he says. I have noticed, however, that a number of governments are interested in free (as in beer) software and I have always assumed that this was because governments have vast numbers of people using computers, and that free (as in beer) software saves a LOT of money.

    RMS also said this:

    Nonetheless, a non-copylefted free program is a lot better than no program at all. By contrast, a proprietary program, one whose price is your freedom, is worse than no program.

    I don’t want to restart this argument, but it is important to note that RMS is presumably using the word “freedom” as it is described in the 5000+ word GPL license – it requires all those words to explain all the rules, restrictions and responsibilities that apply to any developer that changes and then distributes the “free” software.

    I consider this to be absolutely ridiculous. Back when the majority of people using Free Software were programmers, it did create a strong incentive to develop the required software as Free Software.

    But today, when the vast majority of people using computers are not programmers, this attitude is (presumably metaphorically speaking) insane. If a person needs a piece of software and the only one that will do is proprietary, RMS would say that the person should do without? What if it is some highly specialized analysis software that can do, in seconds, what would take a mathematician/astronomer at least hundreds of years to do with a pencil, paper and a calculator? The person could try to get the boss to approve spending, say, $10,000 to modify some Free Software to solve the problem at hand. But if there is a proprietary program that can be purchased for $1,200, what is the boss going to decide?

    This is… nuts. If RMS or his followers explain this to business people, the business people will think it is nuts. This is bad when the business people do not distinguish between the FSF philosophy and that of the OSI.

  514. Coming back to the original issue, I’ll elaborate on why I consider “fanatic” to be a slur.

    Most people use the term in a more restrictive sense, referring to people who are actually physically dangerous do to their zeal. Not calmly non-cooperative like RMS. By name calling, he’s trying to embarrass people into pressuring RMS.

    Re-reading the post, it seems ESR’s definition of fanatic would cover anyone who bases a political decision on moral philosophy. That may cover RMS, but it also covers most political actors out there. For example, no one *able to vote* loses anything if a fetus is aborted or an unowned cat is microwaved; therefore anyone who votes to ban such things is either appealing to a moral philosophy (and thus a fanatic per ESR’s definition), or just going by emotion (which would be no better.)

    Of course, some animal rights and anti-abortion advocates have engaged in intolerable illegal behavior, and those can indeed be called fanatics. But someone who merely uses legal means of advocacy in the same cause shouldn’t be tarred with the “fanatic” brush.

    (Full disclosure: I’m vehemently pro-death for pragmatic reasons, and weakly pro-animal-rights for emotive reasons.)

  515. I added a paragraph to my comment, above, and it made a sentence ambiguous.

    When I said “I consider this to be absolutely ridiculous.”, I was referring to the proposition that it better to do without than to use proprietary software. I was not referring to the GPL or the definition of freedom.

    For what it is worth, I do consider the GPL and its definition of freedom to be ridiculous. But I was referring to the quote by RMS two paragraphs up.

  516. @ Michael Deutschmann

    ESR made it clear that he was using the word “fanatic” to refer to people who have become completely focused on their tactics (and, in the case of RMS, focused his tactics on morality) while apparently losing sight of what it was all about in the first place.

    You may be correct that many people consider the word fanatic to have a different meaning. But ESR made his use of the word clear.

  517. @Brian Marschall
    “RMS may know people, as he describes, that believe as he says. I have noticed, however, that a number of governments are interested in free (as in beer) software and I have always assumed that this was because governments have vast numbers of people using computers, and that free (as in beer) software saves a LOT of money.”

    I know several governmental agencies, and parliaments, who genuinely support the LIBRE in Free and Libre Open Source Software. They actually are convinced that “code is law” and to retain “Liberty in the law” they need “Liberty in code”. I can tell you these people believe what they say from personal contact. I know that there are civil servants in the USA that believe that too. Eg, David A Wheeler.

  518. @Brian Marshall
    I don’t know why you think that the GPL defines Freedom for the FSF, for RMS or for anyone else. The FSF and RMS have clearly outlined what freedom means for them, in a very short piece that has been on the GNU website “The Free Software Definition” for simply ages.
    Roughly, the users have the freedom to run, copy, distribute, study, change and improve the software

    So, copyleft software, and non-copyleft, but permissive, software, is both free. However, the reason that copyleft is preferred is that it preserves the user’s freedom.

    So, if you take what you quote with that understanding of freedom:

    Nonetheless, a non-copylefted free program is a lot better than no program at all. By contrast, a proprietary program, one whose price is your freedom, is worse than no program.

    It makes sense. A non-copylefted free program, is still free!. But by your misunderstood claim about the GPL and freedom, a program that is not GPLed could not be free. Something that RMS and the FSF does not say.

    Why is copyleft preferred? Because, you can take a non-copyleft licensed program, and redistribute it (without any changes!) with the freedoms stripped. The freedoms for the user that is, and that’s all that is being promoted, not freedoms for developers specifically.

  519. And, all this talk about business, is irrelevant. Frankly business doesn’t matter. Business will do what business does, whether or not it is good for anyone but the managers and/or owners of the business. I think this is pretty clear, and pandering to amoral corporations and/or psychopaths is not really my cup of tea. (Examples of ‘bad behaviour’ include pollution and other environmental “externalities”, sweat-shop labour, slavery (cocoa anyone?) etc.)

  520. @Patrick Maupin: “but you have to give your own downstream users the ability to recreate the application you gave them, but with an updated LGPL library. In other words, unlinked object files, linker scripts, etc.”

    It was my understanding that this only applied to static linking; for dynamic linking the normal ability to substitute a new .so for the LGPL library is sufficient.

  521. “Their rules are, of course, designed to encourage giving back via coercion. (GPL aficionados will argue there is no coercion, but this is disingenuous. It is exactly the same coercion, enforced by exactly the same men with guns, as the injustice they paint themselves as fighting.)”

    I’m no particular fan of the GPL, but I don’t understand this. If software is property, then why don’t they have the right to define how people may use it? There is no coercion because you are not obligated to use their software at all. You’re free to *not* use their code.

    And, if software is not property – if copyright should not apply (ESR himself is, AIUI, strongly in favor of property-like ownership of “software projects”, but I haven’t heard his position on code where that code can meaningfully be moved between projects) – then what you are asking for the ability to do (enable your users to use copyright to deny their users the right to copy their software) is nonsense.

  522. @hari:
    >Naturally the creator of that implementation has a right to profit from it as he/she sees fit. This is where I fall apart from the FSF stance that all software should be free.

    He has a right to profit from his work. But he doesn’t have to profit from it by selling it by the copy. Neither I nor the FSF think that it’s wrong to try to sell software by the copy (note that the GPL doesn’t forbid it). But under the terms of the GPL, or in a world without copyright, selling by the copy is very unlikely to be profitable.

    The basic problem here is that coming up with new information takes work, or, alternatively, that the supply of new information is limited. But, especially with computers allowing things to be copied willy-nilly, the potential supply of copies of already known information is effectively infinite, which means that the free-market value is next to nothing. The only way to make selling information by the copy profitable is for governments to grant monopolies on the production and sale of copies of a given piece of information to the person or entity that first came up with it. This is what I object to.

    But there are other ways one can make money off of information one has produced. One can keep it secret and use it to gain a leg-up on the competition in selling something else. One can hire oneself out and get paid by the hour to produce information (note that this is how many of the people that actually produce proprietary software get paid. Their employer then recoups the cost of hiring them with the monopoly rents that copyright grants, but the developers themselves get paid no more than an hourly wage times however many hours it takes to write the software and get it ready to ship). One can also accept a one-time lump sum commission to produce information, or to release information one has already produced to the public. This is how art and music were funded before copyright. It’s how Microsoft paid Seattle Computer Products for DOS 1.0. It’s also how Kickstarter does things (with the cost spread out across multiple contributors).

    @Patrick:
    >See, I disagree, because disassemblers and decompilers would rapidly advance.

    Even without this, many of the abuses associated with closed source software would be pointless or impossible in a copyrightless world.

  523. Michael: “Why is copyleft preferred? Because, you can take a non-copyleft licensed program, and redistribute it (without any changes!) with the freedoms stripped. The freedoms for the user that is, and that’s all that is being promoted, not freedoms for developers specifically.”

    This matters exactly not at all. If someone redistributes my MIT-licensed program under a proprietary license, that does not affect either me or users of my code in the slightest. My code is and always will remain freely available, free for all to use and modify and redistribute as they wish.

    The GPL is not just not promoting freedom for developers. It’s *actively destroying it*. That may be desirable or not, but *it is not advancing the cause of freedom*.

  524. @Jay Maynard
    “The GPL is not just not promoting freedom for developers. It’s *actively destroying it*. That may be desirable or not, but *it is not advancing the cause of freedom*.”

    So we are back with word-plays with “freedom”. (I keep getting disconcerting pictures in my mind)

    Anyhow, you are right in as far as the FSF is about the freedom of the user or the code. The FSF is most definitely not interested in the freedom of the “developer” as opposed to that of the user.

  525. @Jay Maynard what Winter said. You may prefer freedom for developers, but the FSF is focussed on freedom for users. (They aren’t “destroying” freedom though, I don’t think.) Which one you prefer depends on you. I have no strong opinion either way (and thus use GPL, LGPL and AGPL, and a permissive license on my stuff, depending on what I feel like at the time).

    And you are correct that the source code for your MIT licensed stuff is still available, and so a user can always get it from you. Except when they can’t (because it’s gone, for whatever reason). Or maybe they bought a printer, or a TV box, and now can’t modify the source code because of hardware checks (tivoization I think is the term). In such cases, the GPL (in the second case V3) is meant to help protect the user.

    Whether or not the user or the developer are more important (and often they are one and the same), is a different focus of two ideas. But when Brian Marshall says that the “freedoms” defined by the FSF are in the GPL only, that’s wrong. The goals of the FSF are simply easy to find, and are stated in simple plain language. You may disagree with the goals, but that’s something different.

  526. Michael, you’re still missing the point. Freedom for developers *is* freedom for users. You cannot separate the two. The FSF does only because the kind of freedom for users that permissive licensing enables are the kinds of freedoms that RMS thinks people shouldn’t be allowed to have. Who died and make him ruler of the universe?

    And yes, I do mean freedom for users: specifically, the freedom to choose proprietary-licensed code. That you and RMS disagree with it makes it no less a vital freedom, and no less a destruction of freedom for all.

    The GPL v3 has alienated many, including arguably the most important of all: Linus Torvalds. Complain about tivoization all you want, but you’re still going to be locked out of fixing your firmware. The best reply is a recourse to the free market by buying things whose policies you agree with – and if there aren’t any, then perhaps you’re more alone than you think.

    The freedoms defined by the FSF are only for one segment of the population. True freedoms apply to all.

    Winter, your European perspective prevents you from understanding just how deeply rooted in the American psyche the word “freedom” is.

  527. @Winter:

    I see no connection between EU advertising laws and GPL popularity nor the dysfunctional state of the US legal system.

    You apparently agreed that the GPL wasn’t necessarily instrumental in shutting down SCO. Then you brag about how EU courts shut it down a lot quicker than US courts, which goes along with your periodic bragging about how EU courts and laws are better in every conceivable way. And you don’t think it’s a relevant comment about legal systems that the European Commission is so fucked up that they people they can go to jail if they say that water can keep you from getting dehydrated? Seriously?

  528. @Random832:

    It was my understanding that this only applied to static linking; for dynamic linking the normal ability to substitute a new .so for the LGPL library is sufficient.

    Sure. Dynamic linking ameliorates the problem considerably, reducing it to one of bookkeeping.

    I’m no particular fan of the GPL, but I don’t understand this. If software is property, then why don’t they have the right to define how people may use it?

    Is software property? We used not treat copyrightable things as property. They became part of the public domain after 14 years. Even today, does your car have a “fair use” clause? When is my turn?

  529. @Random832:

    [If software is not property] then what you are asking for the ability to do (enable your users to use copyright to deny their users the right to copy their software) is nonsense.

    Umm, it’s not me asking for that. It’s the GPL that mandates it. Using current copyright law. Definition of property irrelevant.

  530. @Jon Brase:

    Even without this, many of the abuses associated with closed source software would be pointless or impossible in a copyrightless world.

    Absolutely agree, and I said as much in earlier comments. I was addressing one specific argument here.

  531. @Jay Maynard
    Meh. I’m not really fussed. And who said RMS was ruler of the universe? And while RMS may say that it’s not a good thing to choose proprietary-licensed code, I don’t see any advocacy to outlaw it (I maybe wrong there, but seriously I couldn’t care less if it was outlawed, I run mainly free software (defined above, so both copyleft and non-copyleft) with a few blobs that aren’t free ’cause of government regulation (wireless stuff basically), and a few ancient games that aren’t free). I’m not advocating that you should not be allowed to use or run non-free stuff (I was just explaining the FSF position above, because it was being mis-presented).

    And why’s Linus Torvalds so important? There are plenty of good hackers around, including kernel hackers. If there is no a plan in place in case Linus is hit by a bus tomorrow, well, someone at RedHat (probably the people who make the most money of Linux) or the Linux Foundation or wherever is slack. Hell, if Linux magically disappeared tomorrow I wouldn’t really mind, so long as I can use another free kernel, and hey look, BSD’s free! (And Debian are even messing around with a Debian system based on the FreeBSD kernel — BSD + APT = fine by me.)

    Basically, I’m more worried about the power of corporations and government than I am about whether or not you don’t want to use glib because it’s GPLed and not MITed. (Seriously, you are free not to use any GPLed software. How is your freedom being taken away? You don’t loose anything by GPLed software existing, that you don’t loose anyway by proprietary-licensed software existing. The second is far worse than the first to me.)

    Anyway, the whole argument is a bit meh to me. So long as you aren’t saying that I cannot use GPLed software, and that I can’t release GPLed software, I guess I don’t care that you don’t like it.

    (And the whole water thing, if you drink pure water, it’s not so good… You need certain salts and stuff, so pure water is not good for getting rid of dehydration. Which I think (but I don’t know, and have no links) is why the EU said that particular ad was ‘beyond the pale’.)

  532. @Patrick Maupin “Umm, it’s not me asking for that. It’s the GPL that mandates it. Using current copyright law. Definition of property irrelevant.”

    Saying “We used not treat copyrightable things as property” is just hairsplitting – even if it’s not “property”, copyright implies the ability to control copying and modification (which control includes disallowing it if they don’t include source code or don’t use the GPL). So your stance amounts to a claim that software shouldn’t be copyrightable, or that copyright shouldn’t include those things, and if it doesn’t include that what DOES it include?

    My point was, if it’s _not_ property (or not copyrightable), then what the GPL attempts to prohibit (which, implicitly, by objecting to the GPL one is trying to be able to do or enable one’s users to do) is impossible anyway and the whole thing is vacuous. And if it _is_, then you’ve made no case that the writers of the GPL’d software shouldn’t have the right to do what they do, or that it’s worse than any other license (i.e. the proprietary licenses that you think people should be able to relicense their derived works under)

    @Michael. ” You don’t loose anything by GPLed software existing, that you don’t loose anyway by proprietary-licensed software existing. The second is far worse than the first to me.”

    No-one here has convinced me that you lose anything by anything existing.

    @Jay Maynard “The GPL is not just not promoting freedom for developers. It’s *actively destroying it*. That may be desirable or not, but *it is not advancing the cause of freedom*.”

    See above. You cannot name a freedom that you would have if – all else being equal – all GPLed software did not exist, than what you have in this universe where it does exist.

  533. Basically, it seems to me that Jay Maynard’s stance, at least, amounts to: the GPL is immoral because software licenses are immoral, and also somehow the GPL is _more_ immoral because it doesn’t allow you to relicense stuff under a proprietary license (which is “enforced by exactly the same men with guns”). This is a self-contradictory set of claims.

    I’m willing to listen if anyone wants to explain how this is incorrect, but he has resisted even acknowledging me up until now.

    P.S.: “We used not treat copyrightable things as property. They became part of the public domain after 14 years”. Who’s “we”? It wasn’t 14 years within my lifetime and I suspect not in yours, even ignoring that even way back then there was renewal for another 14 years, a total of 28, and all GPLed software is less than 28 years old.

  534. @Patrick
    “You apparently agreed that the GPL wasn’t necessarily instrumental in shutting down SCO.”

    Yes, because that was not my point. This was about a dysfunctional legal system.

    @Patrick
    “Then you brag about how EU courts shut it down a lot quicker than US courts, which goes along with your periodic bragging about how EU courts and laws are better in every conceivable way.”

    Nope. I complain the US courts are dysfunctional. This is compared to every other court system in the developed world. I use the legal systems of European countries, there are few EU-wide courts, because I know them best. But other developed countries would do too.

    The example of SCO is apt as the case is still in court. Even though SCO has not been able to bring any evidence to the table and lost every part of the case possible.

    @Patrick
    “And you don’t think it’s a relevant comment about legal systems that the European Commission is so fucked up that they people they can go to jail if they say that water can keep you from getting dehydrated? Seriously?”

    First, the European Commission does not make laws. It draws up regulations which have to be accorded by the council of ministers (representatives of the governments of EU countries) and often the EU parliament. After that, parliaments of the individual countries have to write the regulation into law.

    Second, paid-for speech (advertisement) is not protected by Free Speech laws in the EU. Speech of individuals is.

    You are not allowed to use medical claims in advertisements without solid proof. I will not go into this example, as I have no time to get into the details. But I have yet to hear of a case where a person got officially jailed in the EU for telling the truth. Most of these alarmist reports are just exaggerations. Note that each year, several people die of water poisoning, which is equal to drinking too much water. There is more to re-hydrating than drinking lots of water.

    And even if the EU messes up some laws. That does not make the US system any less dysfunctional. None of the EU countries has yet reached the level of dysfunction of the US legal system. Remember, SCO is still in court.

  535. @Winter:

    So we are back with word-plays with “freedom”. (I keep getting disconcerting pictures in my mind)

    It’s not word-playing on my part. There is the real definition and the FSF definition. The FSF, and apparently you, separate out developer freedoms from user freedoms, but as Jay pointed out, this is an impossible task.

    @Michael:

    I’m not advocating that you should not be allowed to use or run non-free stuff (I was just explaining the FSF position above, because it was being mis-presented).

    You’re right, it was misrepresented. The act of writing non-free software is “evil” according to RMS, and the act of running a non-free program is abhorrent. You obviously shouldn’t be able to run non-free stuff, because it shouldn’t exist.

    @Michael:

    And why’s Linus Torvalds so important? There are plenty of good hackers around, including kernel hackers.

    Sure, Linux will survive. But a small hint — his hacker skills are important for respect, but it’s actually his management skills that make him stand head and shoulders above the crowd.

    Seriously, you are free not to use any GPLed software. How is your freedom being taken away?

    Let me get this straight. This software provides the ultimate freedom, but it turns out that to exercise the ultimate freedom, you have to not use the software?

    You don’t loose anything by GPLed software existing, that you don’t loose anyway by proprietary-licensed software existing.

    If what you mean by that is that GPLed software authors are as petty in their demands for payment (of a different currency) as proprietary authors, then I agree. But where I disagree is that I don’t think everybody who is using the GPL has thought it through all the way, and that some of those programmers would be quite happy to use permissive licenses in some cases to increase collaboration and increase the amount of free software available.

    Proprietary authors have different concerns, like getting fed.

    Anyway, the whole argument is a bit meh to me. So long as you aren’t saying that I cannot use GPLed software, and that I can’t release GPLed software, I guess I don’t care that you don’t like it.

    This is a debating tactic that several here have used. “I don’t care. Everybody knows the right answer, but here, I’m presenting it again in case you forgot.” I suppose it works on some people.

    (And the whole water thing, if you drink pure water, it’s not so good… You need certain salts and stuff, so pure water is not good for getting rid of dehydration.

    Unless you’re a competitive athlete, water is just as good. It’s even better in that it won’t rot your teeth out. You can get all the carbs and salts you need from solids.

    http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2011/05/25/peds.2011-0965.full.pdf
    http://minds.wisconsin.edu/bitstream/handle/1793/23631/kins474morrisetalspring2006.pdf?sequence=1

    Which I think (but I don’t know, and have no links) is why the EU said that particular ad was ‘beyond the pale’.)

    I don’t see the “beyond the pale” comment, but several similar ones are documented here. They’re all about the fucked-up ruling, though, not about the idea that drinking water can help with dehydration.

  536. Random832: You’re completely missing my point. The GPL is immoral because it is an explicitly political license, designed to bring the Stallmanite utopia to life.

    And the reason the Stallmanite utopia is immoral is that it seeks to deny people the right to profit from the fruits of their labors in a free marketplace.

    Not only do I not claim software licenses are immoral, I claim they are explicitly moral elements of the free marketplace.

    I have no idea where you got your beliefs about what I have to say. I certainly have never argued that software licenses are immoral. However, if this is what passes for reading comprehension in your world, there’s little point in my trying to explain things to you.

  537. Michael: I mention Linus because it was his decision not to use the GPL v3 for Linux. At a stroke, he demonstrated why it might not be the shining example of freedom that RMS claims it is.

  538. @Winter:

    First, the European Commission does not make laws. It draws up regulations which have to be accorded by the council of ministers (representatives of the governments of EU countries) and often the EU parliament. After that, parliaments of the individual countries have to write the regulation into law.

    The article (and similar ones) were all about ministers complaining about the process and how their hands were tied.

    You are not allowed to use medical claims in advertisements without solid proof.

    Like there’s no proof that drinking water can keep you from getting dehydrated. Right.

    Note that each year, several people die of water poisoning, which is equal to drinking too much water.

    I’d need a cite on this. My understanding is that this is extremely rare, much rarer than dehydration. But then, I live in Texas.

    And even if the EU messes up some laws. That does not make the US system any less dysfunctional. None of the EU countries has yet reached the level of dysfunction of the US legal system.

    Debatable. The slander and libel laws in the UK are fucked up, for sure.

    Remember, SCO is still in court.

    Yeah, kind of like suspended animation. I know it’s annoying we can’t put a stake through the heart until they are reanimated, but patience is a virtue.

  539. @Patrick
    About the water thing.

    The new regulation is about making medical claim in ads. (Re-)Hydrating is used as a medical term.

    You need recorded scientific proof for any medical claim in an ad. The problems are now with the fact that this is new regulation. They are still compiling a database of medical claims that are allowed. Until the claims are in the database, you are not allowed to use them in advertisement. The regulation is not about anything written or said outside product claims.

    Given the level of dangerous non-sense that is printed in product ads, I am in favor of some regulation in principle. Until I see the current regulation finalized, I reserve my judgement whether it is any good.

  540. @Patrick
    “Yeah, kind of like suspended animation. I know it’s annoying we can’t put a stake through the heart until they are reanimated, but patience is a virtue.”

    SCO versus IBM started in 2003, 9 years ago. During that time, there was never any evidence of wrongdoing by IBM. Nor was there evidence SCO actually owned any of the copyrights it sued over.

    Certainly, justice delayed is justice denied.

    There is more. US court proceedings are well known to regularly bankrupt the innocent with no recourse. The whole concept of patent trolls is only possible in a system with punitive and statutory damages and no provisions for reclaiming costs for unjust suits.

    That the UK libel laws are equally dysfunctional is no excuse.

  541. @Winter:

    Given the level of dangerous non-sense that is printed in product ads, I am in favor of some regulation in principle.

    The only regulation I want to see is about full disclosure on what’s in the thing, and any information about materials that are known (by the state of California or otherwise) to be dangerous. All the other marketing claims will sort themselves out in the market.

    That the UK libel laws are equally dysfunctional is no excuse.

    I have never defended the way the courts go over here. To the contrary, I am vocal about how they are fucked up. It’s just your supercilious attitude that “blah, blah, Europe better, blah, blah” that simply isn’t always true in the general case of court laws. I find it rude and condescending to say “we’re better” rather than to focus on the problem. The problem isn’t that Germany “was better” in the case of SCO; the problem is that the US is bad. Likewise, the problem isn’t that the US is better in the case of libel than the UK; the problem is that in the UK it’s bad.

    But don’t forget we draw from a rich tradition. Bleak House wasn’t set in the US.

  542. Overall I’m not convinced. So I’m going to bow out of the conversation again.

    I do want to re-iterate my point that I don’t really mind if you use GPL or MIT or whatever. So long as it is Free for me to use and play with. The level of harm to me from GPL or MIT is the same, none. The harm from non-Free is much higher. On a quite different note, I do think that for non-software (e.g. photos, music or writing) permissive is better, rather than copyleft. Maybe that’s because I’m more likely to actually want to modify and use such stuff in different settings? Maybe if I wanted to modify other people’s software beyond for just personal use I would care more? Possibly the fact that the main copyleft license used by people for photos etc. is one of the awful Creative Commons licenses has something to do with that object to copyleft for photos etc. I would have to analysis my feelings in depth, and just now I don’t care enough to (got coding to do).

  543. @Jay Maynard: You haven’t mentioned this, that I can tell, up until now. Are you saying that if the GPL were exactly the same (i.e. a license that requires that you use the same license for derivative works and distribute source code whenever distributing binaries) but if it didn’t have a utopian vision behind it, there wouldn’t be a problem?

    Because (without having made that connection) it seemed to me that you want people to not only be able to profit from the fruits of their labors, but also to profit from the fruits of RMS’s labors, by using his code in ways that he does not consent to. Which only made sense if I assumed that you think software licenses as a whole are immoral, and that the author of a piece of code (i.e. RMS) shouldn’t have a right to control how that code is used (where “used” means resold / redistributed / used as a base for other software).

    I don’t know how you imagine the GPL could be effectively used as a tool to prevent you from writing your own code (that is *not* derived from GPLed code) and using either a proprietary license or a permissive license that allows your users to relicense it with a proprietary license. Even if the majority of software available were under the GPL. If it’s “designed to bring the Stallmanite utopia to life”, then it’s very poorly designed for that purpose, and I’m therefore not sure you can legitimately ascribe those motives to anyone who uses it other than RMS himself.

  544. @Winter “You need recorded scientific proof for any medical claim in an ad. The problems are now with the fact that this is new regulation. They are still compiling a database of medical claims that are allowed. Until the claims are in the database, you are not allowed to use them in advertisement.”

    That’s stupid. The regulation should not go into effect until the database is complete (or, at least until all existing claims have been properly evaluated so a ‘no’ has more solid basis than ‘we haven’t got to it yet’).

  545. I’m saying that without the utopian vision, there would be no GPL in the first place.

    The author of a piece of code has the right to control how that code is used. That includes the authors of code release under proprietary licenses. That includes RMS. What I object to is the use of such restrictions being called “protecting freedom”.

  546. @Random832:

    Saying “We used not treat copyrightable things as property” is just hairsplitting

    No, it’s not. Your original question was “If software is property, then why don’t they have the right to define how people may use it?”

    Real property predates government. Copyright is a creation of government. Without government, there would still be real property (perhaps held at a higher human cost), but no such thing as intellectual property. Software is not, and has never been, property, although many act like it is.

    So your stance amounts to a claim that software shouldn’t be copyrightable, or that copyright shouldn’t include those things, and if it doesn’t include that what DOES it include?

    My stance is that, due to the actions of the copyright cartel, the utility to society of copyright is currently negative. Perhaps we could rein it in again, but perhaps we should just abolish it.

    My point was, if it’s _not_ property (or not copyrightable), then what the GPL attempts to prohibit (which, implicitly, by objecting to the GPL one is trying to be able to do or enable one’s users to do) is impossible anyway and the whole thing is vacuous.

    This sentence conflates multiple issues. I have already stated that I believe that if copyright were abolished, both RMS and I would be much happier than with the current state of affairs. But abolishment of copyright wouldn’t force me to hand over source code; it would merely let others copy my executables and attempt to reverse-engineer my source without fear of legal repercussion.

    But an objection to the GPL only makes sense with functional copyright laws. With functional copyright, I cannot write a piece of code and link it to GPLed code without placing restrictions on my downstream users (e.g. always make the source available to this and anything else you link to it). Without functional copyright laws, this problem of the GPL goes away.

    And if it _is_, then you’ve made no case that the writers of the GPL’d software shouldn’t have the right to do what they do,

    They absolutely have the legal right to do what they do. I have never argued otherwise. Morality is a bit trickier. There is a difference between “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” (which is how permissive licenses work) and “don’t do unto others if they don’t do unto you” (which is how the GPL works).

    or that it’s worse than any other license (i.e. the proprietary licenses that you think people should be able to relicense their derived works under)

    The GPL is designed to engender cooperation among like-minded people. Unfortunately, it disallows cooperation between those people and others who might be happy to cooperate, but can’t because of their circumstances (e.g. employer). The GPL proponents view this as a moral net win, because their software never winds up distributed without the option for source code. I view it as a net loss, because, for example, all the effort spent writing something like LLVM and bringing it up to the level of GCC could have been avoided, and those people writing LLVM could have been helping to take GCC to the next level, instead. If you think about it for a minute, you will realize: the LLVM developers are doing almost everything RMS would ask for: they are releasing free software, they are collaborating, they are making the world a better place. But they do so under a license that allows for non-free downstream distributions, which RMS hates. But they only do this because they, themselves, have a need for this. In a lot of ways, their effort duplicates the GCC effort, because they are in a position where they can’t always legally use GCC.

  547. @ Winter

    I don’t understand – what does “code is law” mean in the context of

    to retain “Liberty in the law” they need “Liberty in code”

  548. @ Michael

    I really don’t need to go through this again….

    I could say that the MIT license says “Do what you want – don’t sue me” while the GPL is 5000+ words long, has an FAQ and a user’s guide.

    However if we start debating the meaning of the word “freedom”, experience has shown that neither of our positions change, I go nuts, go on a rant and end up having to apologize.

    You like “Free as in speech”; I like “do what ever you want”.

    Can we leave it at that?

  549. @ Winter

    Here we go again….

    I agree with Jay…

    The GPL is not just not promoting freedom for developers. It’s *actively destroying it*. That may be desirable or not, but *it is not advancing the cause of freedom*.

    You say…

    Anyhow, you are right in as far as the FSF is about the freedom of the user or the code. The FSF is most definitely not interested in the freedom of the “developer” as opposed to that of the user.

    But, in the vast majority of cases, developers are the only people who do care about the GPL. The end users just want code that works.

  550. @Brian:
    I’m happy to leave it at the GPL is long and complicated (and so are the various Creative Commons licenses, including the ‘permissive’ attribution only ones, bizarrely), and the MIT license is not. But the MIT license is not do whatever you want. If you want that, you really need to use a license like the Creative Commons Zero (only CC license I can endorse) or the aptly named “Do What The Fuck You Want To Public License“. If you want a disclaimer of warranty you can add that later. As Sam Hocevar notes on that page:

    There is a long ongoing battle between GPL zealots and BSD fanatics, about which license type is the most free of the two. In fact, both license types have unacceptable obnoxious clauses (such as reproducing a huge disclaimer that is written in all caps) that severely restrain our freedoms. The WTFPL can solve this problem.

    Anyway, I am def. bowing out now. I have better things to do with my time.

  551. “Real property predates government. Copyright is a creation of government.” Nevertheless, both exist now.

    “Without government, there would still be real property (perhaps held at a higher human cost), but no such thing as intellectual property.” I’m not so sure of that. Without government, what exactly prevents Disney from sending men with guns after people who copy their movies? Or do you have some deontological notion that property rights over land and physical objects are somehow ‘natural’ or ‘god-given’ and therefore more legitimate than other forms of property rights?

  552. Brian: “But, in the vast majority of cases, developers are the only people who do care about the GPL. The end users just want code that works.”

    Yup. This leads inevitably to RMS’s fanaticism: since users don’t care, he has to yell at them and harangue them and browbeat them and re-educate them until they do care.

    This also explains his insistence on using Stallmanically correct terms such as “GNU/Linux”.

    To his fellow fanatics, this is entirely natural and called-for. To the rest of the world, it’s proof he’s nuttier than a Planter’s factory.

  553. @ Michael

    And while RMS may say that it’s not a good thing to choose proprietary-licensed code

    hari has a blog essay about Free versus Open Source software. and RMS sent him an email that included….

    Nonetheless, a non-copylefted free program is a lot better than no program at all. By contrast, a proprietary program, one whose price is your freedom, is worse than no program.

    Which is (hopefully metaphorically speaking) is insane.

    There is a lot of Free and Open Source software out there, but some people need proprietary software because it is the only variety that exists and meets their needs.

    You also said…

    And why’s Linus Torvalds so important?

    I believe the answer is: For the same reason Einstein is important – it you come up with something important enough, and continue to improve it, you stay an important person even after your death. This isn’t a perfect analogy, of course, but if Linus takes a position, it is worth considering what he has to say.

  554. Hi Jay –

    We seem to have been on the same wave length this week…

    To his fellow fanatics, this is entirely natural and called-for. To the rest of the world, it’s proof he’s nuttier than a Planter’s factory.

    Of course the reason we keep arguing about this stuff is that the nuttiness rubs off on Open Source.

    Anyway, I seem to have reached the bottom of the stack of stuff that accumulated while I was asleep, so…

    Do what you want and don’t try to sue me ;-)

  555. Without government, what exactly prevents Disney from sending men with guns after people who copy their movies?

    The enormous cost in money and lives lost?

  556. @Random832

    >I’m not so sure of that. Without government, what exactly prevents Disney from sending men with guns after people who copy their movies? Or do you have some deontological notion that property rights over land and physical objects are somehow ‘natural’ or ‘god-given’ and therefore more legitimate than other forms of property rights?

    The thing that prevents it is that profit-seeking beings naturally prefer cost-effective methods of dispute resolution. Violence is expensive. Government is not the only possible provider of peaceful arbitration. This is not even theoretical. There are many examples of private courts in operation today. I’m sure you won’t have to think too hard to come up with a few.

  557. Without government, what exactly prevents Disney from sending men with guns after people who copy their movies?

    P.J. O’Rourke suggested that that concept was one of the big problems when the USSR broke down. With no real functioning civil law and court system, (from memory) “the only way to enforce a contract is… to take out a contract” on the non-cooperating party.

    ——————–

    To briefly, radically go off topic –

    I had forgotten that “Back in the USSR” was a parody of the Beach Boys but it has so many aspects….

    >> “You don’t know how lucky you are, boy” repeated many times
    yeah, you DON’T know, or at least aren’t supposed to, and if you do…

    >> “Honey disconnect the phone”
    always stories of the KGB (or whoever did internal security) bugging phones

    >> “Back in the USSR” repeated many times
    “back” in the USSR, not forward, BACK

    >> “That Georgia’s always on my my my my my my my my my mind”
    They can always explain that it is an allusion to Ray Charles “Georgia on my Mind”, but I always though that it was Jo-Jo (as in Joseph Stalin), but, whatever, wasn’t Stalin from Georgia? He was on a lot of people’s minds.

    >> “show me around your snow-peaked mountains way down south”
    of course, you needed an internal passport to travel in the USSR

    >> “Take me to your daddy’s farm”
    um… anyone who didn’t turn their farms over to the state was killed; Stalin deliberately arranged for more than a million people to starve to death in the Ukraine

    >> “Come and keep your comrade warm”
    they had SUCH wonderful heating in Moscow apartments

    One personal aspect… I always thought that it was “snow big mountains”, which was a phrase that I loved, but apparently it is “snow peaked”.

  558. @Tom I skipped over a few parts of the premise: What I _meant_ to say is “why couldn’t – in the absence of a government, Disney create a private system of ‘peaceful arbitration’ with which to demand that people stop copying their movies, ultimately backed up by their own men with guns rather than the government’s as in the current system?” i.e. the same mechanism by which ‘real’ property rights would exist and be enforced in the absence of a government.

  559. @Random832:

    Real property predates government. Copyright is a creation of government.

    Nevertheless, both exist now.

    Yes, but one could be legislated out of existence. Not the other. Societies have tried outlawing private property, and that doesn’t work. Other societies have actually tried not granting monopoly patent or copyright protection, and that works great! Doesn’t satisfy the rent-seekers with deep pockets and a willingness to fund politicians, though.

    Without government, what exactly prevents Disney from sending men with guns after people who copy their movies?

    This completely missed my point. The point about copyright being a government creation wasn’t “what happens to copyright if there is no government?” It was “what happens to copyright if government decides it’s against public policy?” I’m assuming murder will still be against public policy, so the incentive to kill people who “steal” your preciousssss IP will be mitigated by the potential negative reward of jail time or execution.

    But go ahead and assume there is no government — other commenters have already addressed this, but didn’t give the best example — even the RIAA learned that just suing customers is not a great strategy. They probably would have learned much more quickly if they had attempted the killing strategy.

  560. @Random832:

    “why couldn’t – in the absence of a government, Disney create a private system … backed up by their own men with guns …

    Because they would ha