Beyond the rhetorical fictions about “free software”

A friend directed me to a comment thread over at the Volokh Conspiracy, a blog I occasionally read and considerably respect. The response I ended up writing is substantial enough that I think it’s worth posting here.

I am the person who promulgated the term “open source”, and the senior founder of the OSI. As it happens, I’m also a semi-regular Volokh Conspiracy reader.

Alas, there is a fair amount of misinformation in this thread. Beginning with the misuse of “open source” to mean code with source that is available for inspection but not freely redistributable and modifiable; this is incorrect, and everyone who self-describes as an “open source” or “free software” programmer knows it’s incorrect. There is no universal term for accessible/non-redistributable/non-modifiable code, but I like to use “source under glass”.

“Open source” means code with a license that complies with the Open Source Definition (OSD). If you try launching a source-under-glass project on any of the community project-hosting sites such as SourceForge, Berlios, Alioth, gna, or Savannah, they will reject it. Even Microsoft — which is, to put it mildly, no friend of open source and would love to see the term neutered– recognizes the OSD as authoritative, having submitted licenses to OSI for approval.

As to whether “open source” and “free software” are synonymous: If you’re talking about software, the answer is “yes, for all practical purposes”; ever since Apple revised the APSL ten years ago, the exceptions have been minor and technical, involving licenses that are very little used.

Furthermore, there is no boundary in the developer community. No “open source” advocate refuses to work on “free software” projects, or vice-versa. RMS insists that the free software community is separate unto itself, but the actual behavior of hackers falsifies this claim.

If you’re talking developer philosophy, the difference is mainly one of marketing – what kind of arguments you use to evangelize to people who are not yet part of the community. “Free software” advocates tend to follow RMS’s lead and argue in a prescriptive, moralist vein. “Open source” advocates tend to follow my lead in arguing in a consequentialist, pragmatic way.

However, the situation is not quite as symmetrical as that might seem to imply. RMS claims (rightly) to be the founder and sole ideologue of “free software”. I make no corresponding claim; I consider myself part of a hacker tradition of open source that long predates “free software”, and only one of a collegium of leaders, theorists, and culture heroes which, in fact, *includes* RMS. I neither have nor want the normative authority over that larger tradition that he does over his faction, and in fact have spent a considerable amount of energy *avoiding* becoming the larger movement’s “indispensible man”.

RMS likes to maintain that there is an “open source” camp opposed to his “free software” movement. I think it is more accurate to describe his “free software” movement as a purist faction within the larger open-source community. This description better covers the actual working behavior of the people who self-describe with these labels.

In conclusion, I will note that the “open source”/”free software” distinction, to the extent it’s actually meaningful at all, matters a great deal more to the “free software” advocates than it does to the “open source” advocates. People outside the community may safely write it off as the standard sort of zealot-vs.-pragmatist hoo-hah that you see in reform movements of all kinds; as usual with such things, it is under most circumstances a dispute that can safely be ignored by everyone else.

143 thoughts on “Beyond the rhetorical fictions about “free software”

  1. Hi,
    I began my linux journey around two years ago; my brother used to tell me about RMS, I installed Linux, read your hacker-howto, and became hooked to it. I am now a newbie, look upon ESR as my guru and I can truly say that all this has changed my life for ever. I’m sure many of you have similar stories.

    However, I can give you my perspective, a newbie’s perspective. I think the open source movement CAN actually create a change if and only if the people in the movement can agree with each other what they are trying to achieve. Also, I think smart people like you should dumb down a bit to acknowledge the ground realities without getting lost in petty disputes.

    Up untill now, I have concluded that I agree with RMS’s philosophy but like the usage of the open source term. I want both the non existent ‘camps’ to reunite. And actually do some work.

    I think my writing is very cliched. However, I am newbie if you guys know or remember what that means. This is my first post to a blog I read religiously…..

  2. Actually, for a product to identify itself as “free software” and take a Stallmanite position is a powerful disincentive for me to work on it. That is the reason I refuse to use Debian, to list one example. I’m much less likely to work on GPL-licensed software in general, though that in and of itself is not necessarily a sign that the project’s leaders are rabid Stallmanites.

  3. Excellent summary of the issues. As always, you seem to articulate my own thoughts better than I can. ;) As for software that has available, but is not freely redistributable or modifiable, I find the term “source under glass” descriptive, but the real question is how can we get people to use exclusively use the term open source to mean “software provided under licenses that mean the Open Source Definition.”?

  4. Probably exactly the sort of religious discussion you were seeking to avoid, Eric, but an interesting distinction (at least to me) remains between the GPL-style licenses and the BSD-style licenses.

    *ducks*

  5. Your position (vs RMS’s one) reminds me of the joke about heaven as told by numerous Christians including my father (an episcopalian priest):

    A guy dies and goes to heaven and is given the tour by St Peter.

    “Over here is the Russian Orthodox part as you can see by the vodka, and here is the Roman Catholic part as you can see by the Spaghetti and here’s your Church of England segment where they play cricket every day except Sunday…”

    The man sees a walled in area on the other side of a hill and asks “So what’s behind the wall”

    “Oh” St Peter replies “That’s the %strict_denomination_usually _calvinist%. They like to think they are alone in heaven so we gave them their own little bit of heaven and try not to disturb them too much”

  6. As to whether “open source” and “free software” are synonymous: If you’re talking about software, the answer is “yes, for all practical purposes”; ever since Apple revised the APSL ten years ago, the exceptions have been minor and technical, involving licenses that are very little used.

    And I think RMS would agree. But the difference is in how licenses treat people. Open Source doesn’t give a rat’s ass about people (hence, it is “pragmatic”) and Free Software is all about people. The RPL is a messed-up license that I bet even the “pragmatic” ESR would reject if it caught on. Pragmatically speaking, ESR can rightly state that the RPL isn’t used much so it’s not a big problem, but it is an example of how Open Source doesn’t consider users, it only considers code.

    One big reason why I support Free Software is that it welcomes Open Source arguments. Sure, it doesn’t emphasize them and Open Source has done a superior job identifying and articulating them, but Free Software doesn’t paint the pragmatic side as foolish or harmful (only exclusion of the ethical arguments as foolish). On the other hand, I often see extreme Open Source supporters who portray Free Software as some sort of mad, extremist religion supported only by crazed “Stallmanites”.

    And on the other hand, why I don’t identify myself exclusively as an “Open Source” advocate is that historically, it has made a conscious effort to exclude the ideas of Free Software…ideas that are grounded in a view that puts people in the forefront. If putting people first is religious zealousness, stupid or crazy then so be it. I don’t see it that way but I bet ESR’s IQ is 2-fold mine.

  7. Open Source doesn’t give a rat’s ass about people (hence, it is “pragmatic”) and Free Software is all about people.

    Wrong. So-called “free software” does not care in the least about developers unless they buy into the Stallmanite religion. If you’re a developer who wants to write code and ignore the Stallmanite politics, the FSF doesn’t care about you in the slightest.

  8. From what I understand the distinction between “free software” and “open source” is that “free software” requires copyleft, i.e. that you cannot close it (see e.g. GPL, or AGPLv3), while “open source” does not (e.g. BSD license).

    Microsoft likes to call code with source that is available for inspection but not freely redistributable and modifiable “shared source”; what’s more it can be encumbered with NDA clause to view it, which might cripple development potential.

  9. @Jay Maynard

    Free Software gives the developer the freedom to develop software any way they wish. What are you talking about? Please explain what you mean by the “Stallmanite politics”. I don’t want to guess.

    And please don’t use the term “developer” to mean “licensor” or “distributor”.

    So what were you saying?

  10. @jakub

    No, free software doesn’t mean copyleft. It includes copyleft but also includes non-copyleft.

  11. Peter, by “Stallmanite politics”, I mean the idea that people should not be able to make money by selling their software work in such a way that their customers cannot deprive them of future sales by giving the same software away. In Stallman’s utopia, software could only be sold once; all it takes to destroy a market is for a customer to turn around and redistribute it for free. Stallman’s goal is nothing less than the total destruction of the software industry. I view this goal as fundamentally evil.

    I object to the Stallmanite argument by redefinition of the term “free”. He insists that he must restrict freedoms in order to preserve them. This is semantically identical to the classic “fucking for virginity”, or the Vietnam-era line “We had to destroy the village in order to save it”. One does not maximize freedom by limiting it to those freedoms that one finds palatable, as Stallman claims is necessary. True freedom must necessarily include the freedom to do things that piss others off without actually harming them, or else it’s a hollow shell.

    And yes, I mean “developer”, quite specifically. Please do not put words in my mouth. In Stallman’s world, developers only can develop any way they wish as long as that wish conforms to Stallman’s utopian agenda.

  12. @jakub And just to be clear, Open Source also includes copyleft and non-copyleft. Here are the differences:

    1) On a licensing level, Open Source says, “Yes, a license that forces people to disclose their private changes is OK because what matters is the state of the code”. Free Software says, “People are at liberty to keep private modifications private because what matters is people.”

    2) On an ethical level, Open Source says, “The power and reliability of software are what matter. Whether or not a license grants a user freedom is irrelevant.” while Free Software says, “Computer users deserve and require freedom. This enables them to form a community and forming such relationships is the most important.”

    People who support both positions often use acronyms like “FOSS” or “FLOSS”. Acronyms that ESR mocks and belittles.

  13. @Jay Maynard

    all it takes to destroy a market is for a customer to turn around and redistribute it for free

    A “market” that is archaic, deserves no status because it is anti-social, and easily replaced by other markets. So, I don’t see a problem at all. No only that, proprietary licensing isn’t a free market. What are you, a mercantilist? Last time I checked, mercantilism had no respect for markets.

    “[RMS] insists that he must restrict freedoms in order to preserve them.

    Yes, and I support restricting your natural right to spit in my face in order to preserve my rights. Please tell me you believe that freedom doesn’t mean “do whatever you want regardless of others”…? Please? You are not an anti-restriction extremist, are you?

    This is semantically identical to the classic “fucking for virginity”, or the Vietnam-era line “We had to destroy the village in order to save it”.

    No it isn’t. Saying, “We have to make everything proprietary so it can be free!” would be semantically identical.

    True freedom must necessarily include the freedom to do things that piss others off without actually harming them

    The next time a political dissident is put in jail because a government used a backdoor in proprietary software to catch them speaking freely, please tell us with a straight face that it was the right of the government (in collusion with the licensor) because they were “pissed off”.

    In Stallman’s world, developers only can develop any way they wish as long as that wish conforms to Stallman’s utopian agenda.

    If you get a copy of FLOSS (I feel ESR’s sneer) I can develop it any way I want. To develop software means to make changes to it and run it as I wish. Are you trying to call one who licenses and distributes software a “developer”? My my, that would help your argument a lot wouldn’t it? Hey, I watched the Olympics last summer on TV. I guess I’m an Olympic athlete now?

  14. A “market” that is archaic, deserves no status because it is anti-social, and easily replaced by other markets.
    What gives you the right to make that value judgment for others? If a customer is willing to freely enter into such a transaction, you have no right whatsoever to tell him he may not do so. You are claiming such a right, and that is the very antithesis of freedom. I’ll fight such efforts with my dying breath.

    Yes, and I support restricting your natural right to spit in my face in order to preserve my rights.
    Not the same. In your example, I’m harming you without your consent. I have no right to harm you without your consent to begin with, so therefore it cannot be restricted. A customer who buys software from a developer and agrees not to redistribute it is not harming you or Stallman, yet he’d restrict their right to enter into such a transaction.

    This exact argument is how Stallman gets away with his redefinition, and that, to me, is the single most pernicious, harmful thing he does: he redefines “freedom” in ways that erode it, not only int he software world, but in the real world as well. The word “freedom” is far too important to allow him to get away with this damage unchallenged.

    The next time a political dissident is put in jail because a government used a backdoor in proprietary software to catch them speaking freely, please tell us with a straight face that it was the right of the government (in collusion with the licensor) because they were “pissed off”.
    Non sequitur. This would be just as wrong if it happened because the dissident was caught due to a back door in open source software (or even so-called “free software”) that he didn’t catch in the review of that software Stallman would assume he did before using it. It’s orthogonal to the issue of proprietary licensing.

    Are you trying to call one who licenses and distributes software a “developer”?
    I’m saying that developers inevitably license and distribute software. (At least the software we’re interested in. Software that never leaves the confines of an enterprise is not interesting in the context of this discussion.) You cannot separate the two into “developer” and “distributor”.

  15. >Open Source says, “The power and reliability of software are what matter. Whether or not a license grants a user freedom is irrelevant.”

    This is not true. Freedom matters a great deal – so much, in fact, that you sometimes have to have the maturity to shut the fuck up about it in order to advance it.

    Don’t confuse marketing with motivation. They’re not the same.

  16. @jay maynard

    you have no right whatsoever to tell him he may not do so. You are claiming such a right

    No I’m not. I’ve never claimed that anyone must accept to enter into any agreement. Where did you get this idea?

    Not the same. In your example, I’m harming you without your consent.

    Fair enough, but for those who love to worship the ideal of “pragmatism”, how many users are even aware of what an EULA is? How many computer users actually think, “Yes, I understand and accept these restrictions in exchange to install the software”. The GPL is a pragmatic response to the reality that most people don’t even think twice when they click “I agree”. If awareness wasn’t an issue, proprietary software would never have become a reality to begin with.

    [Stallman] redefines “freedom” in ways that erode it,

    I don’t agree. I think RMS understands that although the law shouldn’t allow one to control another’s computing, he can’t do anything but accept copyright law and come up with an innovative hack. To accuse him of “eroding” freedom is to completely disregard the practical reality of copyright, patent, and trade secret law in the 20th century. It’s very east to use semantic arguments against his work but they don’t jive with reality or his oft-explained intent. It is one thing to argue that the GPL is no longer needed, but quite another to argue that it should never have existed.

    This would be just as wrong if it happened because the dissident was caught due to a back door in open source software

    The point is, if it was “open source” then the user would have the freedom to at least make an attempt to protect herself. FLOSS is essential to best protect one’s privacy.

    You cannot separate the two into “developer” and “distributor”.

    Baloney. I can re-license, copy and distribute software originally under a MIT or BSD license. I can’t do that with the GPL unless I have permission. I don’t even KNOW what source code is or how to change it. Am I a developer? The separation is obvious. The latter (at most) takes a lawyer with a server or CD burner. The former takes years of honed skill to do so with any meaningful consequences.

    If I burn a copy of Ubuntu for my friend, that does not make me a developer.

  17. @ESR

    sometimes have to have the maturity to shut the fuck up about it in order to advance it

    Shutting the fuck up is not the same as outright repudiation.

  18. @Peter: that’s where RMS & Co. are wrong. No one is repudiating the freedoms granted by open source (or ‘free software’ if you prefer) licenses. We just don’t care about getting people to agree with our own ideals. The term open source simply avoids the rhetoric and gets to the point by spurring widespread adoption. Prior to the ESR’s promulgation of the term, open source software never saw the widespread use it does today. That’s a win for everyone.

  19. No I’m not. I’ve never claimed that anyone must accept to enter into any agreement. Where did you get this idea?
    Your claim that traditional software markets are “archaic and deserves no status because it is anti-social”. To say that something is anti-social implies strongly that the speaker would consider its destruction to be a good thing. That is a value judgment, and one you’re not entitled to make for others. To do so is not freedom, but its opposite.

    You miss my point about Stallman’s redefinition of “freedom”. Claiming that freedom must be restricted in order to protect it is oxymoronic. The very definition of freedom admits of no such “protection”. That argument has nothing to do with his hack on copyright law.

    As for your hypothetical dissident, that decision is hers to make. If she believes that a particular piece of proprietary software is in her best interest to use, regardless of the risks of hidden backdoors (a tinfoil-hat scenario if I’ve ever heard one), then nobody else has any right to say she should use anything else. That’s the way freedom works…real freedom, that is, not the poor Stallmanite substitute.

    I can re-license, copy and distribute software originally under a MIT or BSD license.
    Wrong. Badly wrong. So badly wrong as to betray a fundamental misunderstanding. You can no more do so than I could do the same to gcc. The terms of the BSD license prohibit it. You could distribute a work based on such software under another license, but only if that work was sufficiently different as to constitute a new work of authorship. This is an important point: someone who licenses their code under a BSD license claims no right to tell you what you can do with such a work. The FSF claims such a right.

    Every developer is a distributor. Not all distributors are developers. It is the freedom of developers Stallman wants to destroy.

  20. Morgan, it’s a win for everyone but the die-hard Stallmanites. To them, victory for the wrong reasons is worse than a loss.

  21. >Shutting the fuck up is not the same as outright repudiation.

    That’s quite right. Neither I nor anyone else I know of in the open-source community wants to “repudiate” freedom, and I get rather tired of FSF zealots beating the stuffing out of that strawman ten years after they should know better.

  22. The very term “Stallmanite” is repudiation – at least in every context I’ve seen it in. Along with “rabid” and “zealot”. I hear these terms from the mouths of people who appear to be real – not strawmen. These terms are not saying “here is another perspective”, they’re implying (if not outright stating) that the Free Software movement is not a movement that needs a brotherly but different partner, but a movement that is useless if not outright mistaken.

  23. I wouldn’t have anywhere near as much of a problem with the so-called “free software” movement as I do if it had picked any other word then “free” for its anti-freedom philosophy. Its choice was a deliberate act of intellectual dishonesty, attempting to piggyback on a word with no negative connotations to promote a philosophy at direct odds with the meaning of the word. If it weren’t for that, I’d be happy to let it go its way and I’d go mine.

  24. Jay Maynard: saying that something is anti-social is not at all the same as calling for it to be restricted. Remember the saying “I do not agree with what you say, but would defend to the death your right to say it”? :-)

    As an empirical point, has RMS ever called for proprietary software to be banned? I’m not aware of him doing so, and in this interview he says “As for making software proprietary, I really don’t care whether it is legal as long as in practice it is rare enough to have no significant impact on society.” As I understand it, this means that he doesn’t want to prevent you from being able to restrict the freedoms of your users, but he does want users to have the option of using software that doesn’t limit their freedoms. Note that this is largely orthogonal to the question of whether or not open source will destroy the for-profit software industry, and to the question of whether or not this would be a bad thing: as far as I’m concerned, you’re welcome to oppose him on those grounds.

    It’s possible I’m mischaracterising his position, of course: if you can find places where he’s said something else then I’d be grateful for the correction.

    Personally, I think the terms “free software” and “open source” highlight different benefits of the same thing, and I find it valuable to have both terms available so I can tailor what I’m saying to my audience. As for “FLOSS”, I’d always assumed it was created as a somewhat snarky joke by tech news site The Register.

  25. >The very term “Stallmanite” is repudiation – at least in every context I’ve seen it in. Along with “rabid” and “zealot”.

    Eh? None of those terms repudiates freedom, just some of its self-anointed representatives.

    People who want to stop being called “zealots” and “rabid” would do well to stop speaking as though anyone who hasn’t signed up for their particular holy cause is an enemy of freedom. They should especially stop speaking as though their allies and most effective marketers are enemies of freedom. “Zealot” is, after all, a classic description of a person who will turn on an ally over a tiny doctrinal or rhetorical difference.

    >As an empirical point, has RMS ever called for proprietary software to be banned?

    Whether proprietary licenses should be legally banned or made unenforceable is a question RMS has been extremely artful at evading – I’ve tried to pin him down on it, but without success. I think this evasiveness actually disturbs me more than anything else about his position; it suggests to me that he would plump for massive interference in freedom of contract, but is unwilling to cop to that.

    >To [Stallmanites], victory for the wrong reasons is worse than a loss.

    Unfortunately, this seems to be true. And yet they bridle at being called zealots…truly the human capacity for self-deception is amazing.

  26. In fairness, Eric, it could be that Stallman would like to see proprietary licenses go away and simply hasn’t thought it all the way through. I don’t know him well enough to be able to judge the probability of that case, but it does fit under the “never ascribe to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity” heading.

  27. Whether proprietary licenses should be legally banned or made unenforceable is a question RMS has been extremely artful at evading

    The reality is, the question is meaningless in most (all?) of the world. But hey, we can play that game…

    So ESR, you support Open Source. The RPL is considered an Open Source license. So you support forcing developers to make public their private modifications?

    “Zealot” is, after all, a classic description of a person who will turn on an ally over a tiny doctrinal or rhetorical difference.

    Ahh. For example, “I’ve tried to pin him down on it, but without success.” when “it” is an insignificant question. One wonders why you try to “pin” your allies down.

  28. The reality is, the question is meaningless in most (all?) of the world.
    The question is not at all meaningless to those who understand the basic freedom to enter into a contract. Indeed, to some schools of political though, there is no more fundamental freedom. That Stallman refuses to answer a basic question on a fundamental freedom leaves his commitment to freedom in all of its forms under question. You can’t just havndwave that one away.

  29. Eric, I think the NetBSD and OpenBSD communities, especially the latter, prevent your ontology from being quite so clear-cut. They’re clearly idealists rather than pragmatists, yet detest the FSF and are willing to rewrite perfectly good code just to eliminate GPL dependencies.

  30. by “Stallmanite politics”, I mean the idea that people should not be able to make money by selling their software work in such a way that their customers cannot deprive them of future sales by giving the same software away… I view this goal as fundamentally evil.

    Isn’t this the idea of open source as well? According to the Open Source Initiative, an open source licence “shall not restrict any party from selling or giving away the software as a component of an aggregate software distribution containing programs from several different sources. The license shall not require a royalty or other fee for such sale.” Considering the above requirement how can people use an open source licence to prevent customers depriving them of future sales and avoid “the total destruction of the software industry”?

  31. We invited Richard Stallman for giving a talk on our University from our LUG, five years ago. Well, this man is f*ch*ng unpolite, maybe he had a bad travel, his girlfriend left him…we don’t know, but we remember being with him like a person a very bad time.

    I think the GPL is a significant contribution, and I give him credit for it, but that he is an extremist and so idealistic that following their ideas 100% could be bad for society, like Lenin.

  32. The “idea of open source” is that the software will be better than its proprietary-licensed competition, and will therefore win in the marketplace. I’ve got no problem with straight up competition. It’s good for everyone. What I do have a problem with is distorting the competitive marketplace with tactics such as the Stallmanites use; their redefinition of “freedom” constitutes false advertising, and therefore fraud.

  33. >In fairness, Eric, it could be that Stallman would like to see proprietary licenses go away and simply hasn’t thought it all the way through.

    As obsessive as he has been about the issue, I do not think it is possible that he did not think it through twenty years ago.

    >That Stallman refuses to answer a basic question on a fundamental freedom leaves his commitment to freedom in all of its forms under question. You can’t just havndwave that one away.

    Correct. The degree to which an idealist with a following is willing to sponsor the use of actual force is never a trivial question, which is why pinning RMS down on it is important and I continue to find his evasion of the question disturbing.

    For the record, there is no use of force which I would excuse on open-source principles. None at all.

  34. Peter, did you misconstrue the question as “Whether [proprietary licenses should be legally banned] or [made unenforceable]” rather than “Whether [proprietary licenses should be legally banned or made unenforceable]“, or do you think it’s meaningless for pragmatic reasons: ie. the FSF is unlikely ever to gain the necessary political traction to push it through, or something else?

    …So you support forcing developers to make public their private modifications?

    That conclusion would only follow if the RPL were mandatory. What Open Source advocates actually implicitly support is the choice between complying with the terms of whatever license some particular sources are made available under, and not using those sources at all.

    …One wonders why you try to “pin” your allies down.

    Because without an unambiguous statement of exactly what they believe and what their goals are, in other words, until they are “pinned down”, one can’t be sure to what extent they really are one’s allies.

  35. >The RPL is considered an Open Source license. So you support forcing developers to make public their private modifications?

    I will now echo an argument of Stallman’s against the proposition that the GPL is coercive. There is no force involved, because nobody forces you to use the RPLed software you modify. If you wish to be free of obligation to publish your changes, write your own software.

  36. >Eric, I think the NetBSD and OpenBSD communities, especially the latter, prevent your ontology from being quite so clear-cut. They’re clearly idealists rather than pragmatists, yet detest the FSF and are willing to rewrite perfectly good code just to eliminate GPL dependencies.

    Hm? Their idealism doesn’t seem at all “clear” to me, unless “idealism” == “hearty detestation of RMS”. Can you explain?

  37. >Considering the above requirement how can people use an open source licence to prevent customers depriving them of future sales and avoid “the total destruction of the software industry”?

    They can’t – but the consequence you are fearing doesn’t follow. Go read this.

  38. >>As an empirical point, has RMS ever called for proprietary software to be banned?

    In one of his video lectures, he has called for CEOs of large proprietary software corporations to be imprisoned. Also he says the same about the “companies [which] are invariably behind legislation imposing DRM and their executives”.

  39. > Hm? Their idealism doesn’t seem at all “clear” to me, unless “idealism” == “hearty detestation of RMS”. Can you explain?

    Look at some of OpenBSD’s release songs and their associated blurbs, especially the ones for 4.1, 4.2, and 4.3. They’re a pretty good example of the attitude I’m thinking of.

  40. >They’re a pretty good example of the attitude I’m thinking of.

    Interesting…but I never said open-source people couldn’t be idealists; arguably I’m one myself. The “idealism” revealed in those songs is similar to things that I believe myself, but – at least in the role of public advocate – know better than to speak in front of outsider audiences.

    To paraphrase an ecological slogan, it’s important to think idealistically at the level of goals and strategy, while acting with brutal pragmatism at the level of tactics and marketing. It’s the latter test that FSF fails.

  41. In my (admittedly not very recent) experience, the BSD community takes the idea that they’re writing software for everyone to use and reuse any way they wish quite seriously. They’re interested in writing good code and making it freely available to everyone with an absolute minimum of restrictions. To me, the FSF talks a good game, but the BSD development community walks the walk.

  42. Peter, there have been two unabashed anarchists on the board of the Open Source Initiative. Explain again how freedom isn’t important to us please? Try hard. Write in small sentences.

  43. @Russell

    Apparently, I was wrong. ESR says freedom is important but argues that you don’t achieve it by talking about it (i.e. if you value freedom, you should “shut the fuck up” about it). Generally speaking, I don’t agree with that but am happy to hear that ESR values the cause to work towards computer users’ freedom.

  44. One problem I have with calling rms’ notion of freedom twisted because the GPL restricts the freedom of distributors, is because rms has always stated that the point of the GPL (and the Free Software movement in general) is to protect the freedom of the software *user*. It has always been about the user. The entire movement is user-centric. Therefore, I find it unfair to claim that he is being intellectually dishonest regarding his use of the word “freedom”.

  45. >if you value freedom, you should “shut the fuck up” about it

    This is, of course, by no means a universal rule. There are many times when a full-throated appeal to freedom and fundamental values is effective rhetoric, exactly the right propaganda. You have to have a good predictive model of the concerns of your audience to call it one way or the other.

    The FSF’s problem (tactically speaking) is actually larger than this; it tries to apply a style of propaganda that works reliably on 3%-7% of the population to the other 90+% for which it doesn’t. Then it gets all puzzled because the results aren’t what was expected, and can’t understand how a really capable propagandist does it. So it repeats the same errors, with more feeling. Hilarity ensues.

  46. The entire movement is user-centric.
    This is quite a different proposition from”it’s all about people”, because it fundamentally pits one group of people against another.

    It’s still intellectually dishonest to claim that his use of the word “freedom” is not a redefinition of the term. I’m neither an anarchist nor a libertarian (though I do lean closer to both then most of my fellow conservatives), but I find any use of the term that involves restricting freedoms that do not harm others to be at the very least false advertising. Freedom is for everyone, not just one group of people, and you definitely do not advance the cause of freedom by taking it away from one group of people to grant it to others.

    Your attempt to recast the debate as restricting the freedom of distributors falls flat, as well: as I said, every developer is a distributor, and so the restriction is on developers. In fact, it’s primarily aimed at developers, by restricting their right to distribute their own work.

  47. a style of propaganda that works reliably on 3%-7% of the population
    This raises an interesting question: How much of that 3-7% of the population is involved in the FSF universe? It’s always seemed to me that the people who vocally support the FSF’s goals spend too much time listening to themselves. I suspect the proportion of those working to advance the FSF’s agenda for whom this style of propaganda is effective is much higher than 3-7%; how closely it approaches 100%, and how closely the portion of the software development population that’s not involved with the FSF for whom this is effective approaches 0, might well go a long way toward explaining the persistent rift in the two groups.

    This would also suggest that the supporters of the FSF have pretty universally bought into Stallman’s Big Lie, and we’ll always have this division – which cannot help the overall adoption of open source software.

  48. This is completely off-topic. Sorry about that.

    I happened to come across the following in the archive of this blog:

    ESR on September 19th, 2002 (‘Imperialists by necessity?’):
    “There is precedent; the British did a pretty good job of civilizing India and we did a spectacularly effective one on Japan. And the U.S. would be well equipped to do it again; our economy is now so large that we could run a globe-spanning empire from the petty-cash drawer. Seriously. The U.S, a hyperpower so dominant that no imaginable coalition of other nations could defeat it at conventional warfare, spends a ridiculously low percentage of GNP (6%, if I recall correctly) on its military.”

    That was written around the time when the various financial entities had started to pump the housing bubble in earnest. I was wondering if ESR would care to revisit the subject in the light of 2009.

  49. Something that tweaks me about the FSF: The gcc compiler has, until recently, pretty much gone unchallenged as the dominant compiler for the C family of languages in the open source world. Not only is it buggy, bloated, and not nearly as modular as it could/should be; the lack of modularity is by design. The front and back ends are deliberately very tightly coupled (I don’t think they even document the intermediate code) in order to prevent proprietary software vendors from writing their own front or back ends.

    In other words, in order to prevent the tainted influence of eeeeevil proprietary software companies from influencing gcc, gcc is developed… much as a proprietary software company would develop it. And gcc suffers as a result.

  50. Mike, I can’t speak for Eric but I feel BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India, China) is the ascendant hyperpower axis and for good reason: it has the capability of starving the U.S. both of energy resources and of intellectual capital. Decades of unchallenged dominance have allowed wastefulness and anti-intellectualism to set in, and those chickens are now coming home to roost.

  51. > Software that never leaves the confines of an enterprise is not interesting in the context of this discussion.

    Isn’t there a GPL variant that applies specifically to some of such software?

    And, suppose that we’re not talking about a software service, but something like oil well analysis derived from GPL code. For the sake of argument, said derived work is incredibly effective at what it does, so other companies are at a significant disadvantage and the company involved is incredibly profitable.

    A “rogue developer” decides to “save the world” (or make a buck – does the motivation matter?) so he smuggles out a copy and releases it into the wild.

    Since the software wasn’t “officially” distributed, wasn’t distributed as part of a service or product, GPL’s “free to distribute” rules don’t apply.

    But, how would the GPL advocates respond? Would they argue that the company is entitled to keep others from using said derivative? Or, would they invoke the “they’re not supposed to keep derivatives secret/proprietary” ‘spirit’ of the GPL?

  52. > [ESR] The U.S, a hyperpower so dominant that no imaginable coalition of other nations could defeat it at conventional warfare

    That hasn’t changed. What has changed is how nice we can afford to be while doing so.

    > I feel BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India, China) is the ascendant hyperpower axis and for good reason: it has the capability of starving the U.S. both of energy resources and of intellectual capital

    That assumes a level of cooperation that Russia and China alone couldn’t do in the past. It’s unclear why India would throw in with China, especially given China’s support of Pakistan. (India is more likely to throw in with the US to counter China.) Brazil at this point is wishful thinking.

    As to “starving” the US of energy resources, the US can both do without mid-east oil and can defend its access to mid-east oil. It wouldn’t be pretty, but the bulk of the pain would be suffered by “not China” Asia and Europe.

  53. @Andy

    I agree that the US military power far exceeds that of anyone else’s and that as far as manpower and weapons are considered, that is not about to change in the foreseeable future. I cannot imagine any of the BRIC countries allying with each other in any significant way. What I was wondering about Eric’s statement from 2002 is that has the “petty cash” turned out not to be so petty after all? As I understand it, the US public debt is currently such that the only way to pay it back is to print the money. The Chinese premier recently expressed some lack of confidence in the US’s ability to pay back, and when someone in his position says that aloud, things are quite bad indeed. Anyway, I’ll stop posting to this thread in order not to throw it any further off-topic.

  54. > Not only is it buggy, bloated, and not nearly as modular as it could/should be

    Bloated, yes. Monolithic, yes. But buggy? gcc is easily the most solid compiler/interpreter I’ve ever worked with. I generally consider it a personal failure if I’ve been working regularly with a language for more than a year and haven’t managed to break my development toolchain yet; it obviously means I haven’t been taking advantage of enough language features :-). MSVC is probably the worst out there with any significant user base. GHC (Haskell) also fares poorly, but gets more of my sympathy given the rapid evolution of an already very complex language. With gcc, I’ve only ever knowingly encountered a single bug, a minor one, and nearly a decade after I first began using it.

  55. Daniel, have you ever used gcc on anything but x86 and x86_64? The optimizer was buggy as hell on Alpha a few years back, enough so that I had to quit building Hercules with -O3. -O2 would work, most of the time; there were a few source modules I had to build with -O1.

  56. I’ve used x86, AMD64, and PPC. Also, long ago, for m68k when compiling for a TI-89, but not intensively enough to have much likelihood of stumbling on bugs. I’ll take your word for it that less-common platforms are a lot buggier, but I maintain that on Intel chips it’s pretty damned impressive.

  57. >Bloated, yes. Monolithic, yes.

    There is hope. RMS recently caved in and finally agreed to allow the gcc passes to be modularized, with documented interfaces. So it could be fixed now – stranger things have happened, X used to be an apparently hopeless hairball too.

  58. It might happen, but I think a more likely scenario is that they get their lunch eaten by LLVM before they’re able to finish fixing it.

  59. So it could be fixed now – stranger things have happened, X used to be an apparently hopeless hairball too.

    And, like a Tribble, it has changed into several apparently hopeless hairballs.

  60. >It might happen, but I think a more likely scenario is that they get their lunch eaten by LLVM before they’re able to finish fixing it.

    Could be. I suspect RMS caved under the pressure that, if he didn’t, LLVM would win and GCC would lose the political benefits of owning a key part of the toolchain.

    In any case, I don’t care. LLVM might be an improvement but GCC is good enough for most purposes, and they’re both open source; either outcome works for me.

    Some years ago Intel approached me privately asking if I’d help pitch their x86 compiler with proprietary super-secret optimizing sauce as a GCC replacement. I told them – politely but definitely – that there was no fucking way hackers were ever going to go for that as long as it was closed source, and even if I thought it was a good idea (which I didn’t), if I advocated it I’d be tarred and feathered and no thanks.

  61. > Could be. I suspect RMS caved under the pressure that, if he didn’t, LLVM would win and GCC would lose the political benefits of owning a key part of the toolchain.

    Is there any precedent of a free project being controlled to any significant extent by proprietary modules or extensions? I can’t think of any besides the proprietary drivers for Linux, which can be critical for some users. Seems to me like GCC would be the least likely project to suffer from this for very long, since its user community is all programmers, who would be willing and able to write a replacement for any proprietary bit that got in the way.

  62. I’m in it for the free as in freedom. Of course, proprietary software is alchemy and open source is science, so will win anyway – if free software wasn’t a fundamentally *better* way to develop software, even in cathedral mode, it’d have been stillborn.

    That said, it was most entertaining having one staunch free software advocate (who is a fine fellow really) imply I was a Microsoft shill for messing with the (frankly insane) task of porting Wine to Windows. Via Cygwin or Interix, you see. There are several reasons it’s impossible, but you know hack value doesn’t work like that. http://wiki.winehq.org/WineOnWindows for anyone who has too much time and CPU on their hands.

  63. > Neither I nor anyone else I know of in the open-source community wants to “repudiate” freedom,

    I agree. I think the disagreement is the effect actions have (such as signing an NDA, or including non-free firmwares in a distro) on software freedom.

    > and I get rather tired of FSF zealots beating the stuffing out of that strawman ten years after they should know better.

    RMS has some points to make about a distinction in terms of his own moralism, and in the effect certain actions have on others within the free software community, but I don’t think he’s the only voice, and we should be spending our time fighting against those who would lock us in to their own designs, our freedom to write, modify, study, and use software, than attacking each other. These are discussions to be had, not judgements to pronounce.

  64. >There are several reasons it’s impossible, but you know hack value doesn’t work like that. http://wiki.winehq.org/WineOnWindows for anyone who has too much time and CPU on their hands.

    I am torn between “That is disgusting beyond words” and “I salute your awesome perversity”. Really.

  65. I am torn between “That is disgusting beyoind words” and “I salute your awesome perversity”.

    Really….this coming from the guy who revitalized INTERCAL…

    ESR says: Takes one to know one, Jay. Fixed your markup for ya, there.

  66. >I think the disagreement is the effect actions have (such as signing an NDA, or including non-free firmwares in a distro) on software freedom.

    That’s the cool, rational interpretation that assumes you’re describing the behavior of sane, non-fanatical people.

    Hi there. Can I introduce you to this place called “the real world”, which (alas) is not like that at all…?

  67. Hi there. Can I introduce you to this place called “the real world”, which (alas) is not like that at all…?

    “I don’t care about useful; it has to be free!” –Richard M. Stallman

  68. Yes, the perversity is truly awesome :-)

    The practical (exc)use is for people to run old Windows software on newer Windows versions. This is sort of buggered by Alexandre Julliard adding a commit yesterday that disables Win16 on Cygwin, but anyway …

    The *real* reason is to port Wine to Unixes beyond Linux, Linux and Linux. (“Cross platform … that’s Red Hat *and* Fedora, isn’t it?”) FreeBSD is holding on by a custom patchset. Mac is supported by Crossover. Solaris works when people can be bothered. OpenBSD compiles but doesn’t run. NetBSD probably compiles. We need to make it more cross-platform.

    Mind you, as Unixes go, Cygwin makes Linux look normal. GNU software, some vague emulation of Linux /proc and random bits of Free/Net/OpenBSD jammed in there ad-hoc as it occurs to them. WHAT.

    The other promising avenue is of course Interix, which is like Unix from the ’90s, i.e. painful in all those ways GNU isn’t.

    And then there’s MinGW, which is an entirely different jar of evil. WHAT. WHAT.

  69. “I think it is more accurate to describe his “free software” movement as a purist faction within the larger open-source community.”

    You know, this situation reminds me of the current state of Austrian Economics. Lots of people work silently behind the screens and do an extremely good job of explainin f.e. the Dot-Com bust (PDF): http://mises.org/journals/qjae/pdf/qjae6_2_3.pdf

    And there is a small group of extremely purist Rothbard-Rockwell fans, who too can do a very good job in economics whenever they feel like doing so, but they also spend a lot of time on propagandizing their logical but in the current situation, laughably impractical views, and this activity tends to get an unfairly larger share of attention on the Internet than what it worths, compared to the actual work being done.

  70. I am an admin at sharesource.org , I reject this kind of stuff daily. The OSI definition exists, despite Debian fallopwallofollowing (my own term), its easy to read. There’s a reason why I told SPI to de-list and forget me (I was a contributing member and could vote).

    Its &(*$#& software, if you want to be idealistic, take on poverty or some other cause which is void in its entry point and doesn’t take arguments. More people should be doing that, its entirely more satisfying,

    Poverty, hunger and homelessness through idiotic legislation exists, we are smart .. and we continue to debate software ideals.That thinking is as useless as a dick on a cow, given current circumstances.

  71. David Gerard, last time I ran Wine on NetBSD, it compiled and ran but tablet support was still b0rked. Meaning it was as useful, as tinkertim says, as a dick on a cow for running OpenCanvas.

  72. That said, it was most entertaining having one staunch free software advocate (who is a fine fellow really) imply I was a Microsoft shill for messing with the (frankly insane) task of porting Wine to Windows. Via Cygwin or Interix, you see. There are several reasons it’s impossible, but you know hack value doesn’t work like that. http://wiki.winehq.org/WineOnWindows for anyone who has too much time and CPU on their hands.

    Yo dawg, I herd you like Windows so we put Windows in your Windows so now you can bsod while you bsod

  73. @esr

    >I will now echo an argument of Stallman’s against the proposition that the GPL is coercive. There is no force involved, because nobody forces you to use the RPLed software you modify. If you wish to be free of obligation to publish your changes, write your own software.

    One caveat here.

    It is not that there is “no force involved” but that there is no *additional* or *initial* force involved from what already exists in a legal system that acknowledges copyright with the existence of parties willingness to make use of copyright law.

    The GPL is a clever hack that turns copyright law back against itself – using existing force mechanisms to restrict people’s ability to use those same force mechanisms. It is not a case of “Fucking for Virginity” but is more like plugging the barrel of an enemies gun so it will blow up in his face if he tries to shoot you. (I understandably shied away from trying to make this same analogy in terms of virginity :-)

    So, it is not a pacifistic act, but neither is it an initiation of force – it is merely making use of existing force that someone was already willing to use against you – and thus qualifies as ingenious self-defense.

  74. Slightly off topic, but regarding “fucking for virginity”, that is in fact the only way to produce new virgins. Much like escalating a war may be the only way to actually end it and generate peace.

  75. >>The entire movement is user-centric.
    >This is quite a different proposition from”it’s all about people”, because it fundamentally pits one group of people against another.
    No, the *whole point* of the GPL is that it gives users the right to become developers. That’s what both sides are forgetting here. The FSF turns them off so they don’t want to (allegedly, but see footnote). The Open-Source crowd (or some of them) seems to think that users != developers.
    Actually it’s Stallmanite rhetoric that got me into FOSS, rather than Eric-style pragmatics. But I realise that doesn’t work on everyone.
    In summary, FSF and OSI are *both right*. So why on Earth are we arguing?

    footnote: perhaps the kind of people who are turned off by RMS/FSF don’t make such good programmers anyway? Or maybe, if they see it from the pragmatic viewpoint and don’t know about the freedom issue, can we really count on them to support us when we take our free-motivated but open-justified positions?

  76. >In summary, FSF and OSI are *both right*. So why on Earth are we arguing?

    Largely because the FSF needs the argument to continue, otherwise it would lose its identity and its political base. The OSI, and the larger movement, has no such problem. This is why the “argument” largely consists of FSF types screaming imprecations and the OSI trying to avoid the whole discussion.

    >footnote: perhaps the kind of people who are turned off by RMS/FSF don’t make such good programmers anyway?

    That seems unlikely, since we’re a majority in the community.

  77. Largely because the FSF needs the argument to continue, otherwise it would lose its identity and its political base.

    The FSF needs proprietary software to become insignificant. We would love nothing else than to become inessential because Free software has become the norm.

  78. Uhm…a better wording of my last statement would be —

    What the FSF needs is not an argument with the OSI, but for proprietary software to become insignificant.

  79. What the FSF needs is not an argument with the OSI, but for proprietary software to become insignificant.

    Won’t happen. If proprietary software goes away, a lot of incentivization mechanism that accompanies the development of professional, easy-to-use software goes away too. (Imagine a world with no Photoshop, and GIMP was the best you got. Scary, huh?)

  80. >If proprietary software goes away, a lot of incentivization mechanism that accompanies the development of professional, easy-to-use software goes away too.

    That’s no guarantee that it won’t happen. If open source software production is more efficient (in the sense of producing more output for given input of production factors) it will anyway. And it probably is.

  81. Jeff Read Says:
    >If proprietary software goes away, a lot of incentivization mechanism that accompanies the development of professional, easy-to-use software goes away too. (Imagine a world with no Photoshop, and GIMP was the best you got. Scary, huh?)

    People develop software to scratch a personal itch (or get paid to scratch someone else’s itch). Even if proprietary software was banned, people would still (pay to) develop software (either Free/Open source software or more likely proprietary software taking advantage of a loophole in the ban)

  82. > If they see it from the pragmatic viewpoint and don’t know about the freedom issue, can we really count on them to support us
    > when we take our free-motivated but open-justified positions?

    By definition pragmatism will result in the same effect. The difference is that pragmatism focuses on action and object, not end, and to this esr may have a point. Freedom is as freedom does.

  83. > If they see it from the pragmatic viewpoint and don’t know about the freedom issue, can we really count on them to support us
    > when we take our free-motivated but open-justified positions?

    You can’t. But knowledge about the “freedom issue” does nothing to help you gain that support unless the behavior you want is in the rational self-interest of the person whose support you want.

    FSF people talk as though the word “freedom” is some kind of essential magic bullet that you can fire into peoples’ brains to get behavior change, and that without that magic bullet no supporter’s allegiance would be reliable. As a libertarian, I wish this were true, but I know better. Freedom only works as rhetorical frosting; the cake has to be a connection to the listener’s self-interest.

  84. People develop software to scratch a personal itch (or get paid to scratch someone else’s itch).

    Exactly! Which is why you will find a host of great OS kernels, compilers, web servers and frameworks, language implementations, etc. in the open source world. These are itches that developers have.

    Try finding an open source raster image editor that can do CMYK color sep, or PANTONE matching. You can’t. (This is basic shit for pre-press.) In the proprietary world there’s Photoshop, and it’s an industry standard.

    Try finding an open source MIDI sequencer that can capture live performance and output PostScript notation in hard real time. It doesn’t exist. Proprietary software has existed since the 1980s that could do this (and it ran on an 8 MHz 68000!) but it costs a lot of money and comes with unbreakable copy protection.

    By scratching itches that non-developers have, proprietary software strictly offers more users more freedom than open source software does.

    Some solutions to very hard problems are instantiated in this software, written by programmers of exceeding brilliance, who also must balance the cleverness of their code against human-factors issues like documentation and user interface. In order to get them to walk this tightrope, you have to motivate them. Typically with money.

    Even if proprietary software was banned, people would still (pay to) develop software

    The way that Richard Stallman advocates is what I call software patronage. Basically, as a programmer, find someone who will pay you X dollars to solve problem Y, and release your solution as open source code under the GPL (this is probably a huge factor in why the GPL exists in the first place: so that Stallman could prevent his patrons from claiming exclusive proprietary rights over his gracious assistance). Patrons with deep pockets are hard to find. And if you’re an end user, unless you’re Warren Buffett programmers who can solve the problems you have for what you can afford are also hard to find. There is, however, an option that benefits programmer and end user alike: monetizing the software program itself, turning it into a product to be sold off the shelf. This way, end users with similar problems can collectively fund the further development of software which addresses them. This is pretty much the proprietary software model today, and it’s a win-win for end users and developers. The only losers are the GNU crowd.

    Yes, yes, I know, we’re living in the future where everything will be transacted via micropayments through PayPal. These options weren’t available to us in the mid-seventies, when home computing became a real possibility for Americans of ordinary means. Bill Gates, the likely inventor of the modern proprietary model, had to make do with the tools at his disposal.

    Another thing that I want to address is that a computer is, fundamentally, an appliance. Ideally the hardware and the software which runs on it should function harmoniously as a cohesive functional unit. This is the thing which made the Macintosh such a revolutionary platform. Stallman wants to take us back to the early seventies, when computers (minis, typically) were, especially in an academic setting, primarily substrates upon which one was supposed to build the functionality they needed. The typical desktop user shouldn’t be expected to build anything. It should be there already, or available as an add-on package. It should Just Work, Right Out Of The Box. The Macintosh achieves this: like the Braun appliances which inspired their industrial design, today’s Macs just work, and are built to last. This is not the case on open source operating systems. There is no discipline that says “this is how we do things here”. We are still having KDE vs. GNOME wars. No. An infinitely customizable platform is not the answer. There should be one GUI, it should be part of the OS, and there should be guidelines on how it is used. That means that, among other things, ⌘-X, ⌘-C, and ⌘-V should all do the customary things and not oddball things where it’s appropriate, the first two menu items should always be “File” and “Edit”, and so forth.

    Many of the world’s great hackers flocked to the Macintosh to develop proprietary applications on it when it was released, and today they’re flocking to the restricted, vendor-controlled iPhone for similar reasons. Open source, open-endedness, and that freewheeling mentality are nice things, don’t get me wrong. Being part of a techno-cultural revolution which grants users real freedom through technology, and making a few bucks while you’re at it, is even better. That’s why proprietary software has been phenomenally successful, and why it will continue to outdo open source on a number of fronts.

  85. Poverty, hunger and homelessness through idiotic legislation exists, we are smart .. and we continue to debate software ideals.That thinking is as useless as a dick on a cow, given current circumstances.

    Let us not forget the identity of the man who, more than any other individual in the history of mankind, has given of his personal fortune to the cause of ending poverty and disease throughout the world: William Henry Gates III.

  86. >Let us not forget the identity of the man who, more than any other individual in the history of mankind, has given of his personal fortune to the cause of ending poverty and disease throughout the world: William Henry Gates III.

    Yeah, if I had as much to feel guilty about as he does, I’d probably give it all away too.

    Jeff, you are turning into a troll. Stop now.

  87. >RMS insists that the free software community is separate unto itself, but the actual behavior of hackers falsifies this claim.

    there you go again, putting empirical fact before asserted meme. you won’t gain ANY status with that attitude, m’boy. not Virtuous enough.

    it’s all about the Virtue. or rather: the Virtue Display.

  88. related text i read today, in a landmark history of WWII, in discussion of an acknowledged strategic error:

    “But for British and American statesmen unstinted enthusiasm for ‘Overlord’, as the projected landings in Northern France were called, had become by 1943 an article of faith, a test by which they measured the sincerity of their conduct not only towards the Russians but towards each other.”

    in this is the essence of most VirtueDisplay-driven —PeerAesthetics-driven— bandwagons encapsulated.

  89. >you won’t gain ANY status with that attitude, m’boy

    hmm. that was intended to come across as deeply ironic. on reading it back post-posting, it could too-easily be read as supercilious.
    not intended.

  90. you won’t gain ANY status with that attitude, m’boy.

    “ESR MAH BOOIIIII, this freedom is what all true hackers strive for.”

    I almost called John Kricfalusi an old codger on his blog, for daring to suggest that the way to give young aspirants experience in the animation industry is to put them on, you know, actual cartoons. Rather than internships spent serving coffee and schmoozing with network executives which is the new, bright way of doing it in modern Tinseltown.

    I thought better of it. Even given John K’s sense of humor, if the irony missed its mark the splash damage would’ve been devastating.

  91. it’s all about the Virtue. or rather: the Virtue Display.

    While I concede that factions within the free software community operate like this, RMS himself isn’t one of them. Or rather, he wasn’t when he started GNU. (He seemed almost a different guy back then. Photos and archive footage suggest a man at least passingly familiar with the interiors of showers and barber shops.) In some ways Stallman kind of reminds me of Rorschach from Watchmen, a single-minded maniac with an “absolutely no compromises” approach to free software.

    It’s possible that over time Stallman sort of believed his own hype as the “last true hacker” and the solitary Dear Leader of a software movement which would explain his more recent behavior: less hacking, more proselytizing and Virtue Display.

  92. > If proprietary software goes away, a lot of incentivization mechanism that accompanies the development of professional, easy-to-use software goes away too. (Imagine a world with no Photoshop, and GIMP was the best you got. Scary, huh?)

    Then again, try to imagine browsers without Firefox (not just FF itself, but the influence it’s had).

    GIMP is developed with a very small fraction of the resources that are put in Photoshop. There are actually only a handful of active core GIMP developers. Considering that, GIMP is a very impressive piece of software.

    Things like Firefox and Linux demonstrate that it is perfectly possible to get good funding for a free project. GIMP might have got it from the Hollywood studios at one point, but the political situation did not work out between the studios and the GIMP developers who were not necessarily interested in film.

  93. >While I concede that factions within the free software community operate like this, RMS himself isn’t one of them. Or rather, he wasn’t when he started GNU. (He seemed almost a different guy back then. Photos and archive footage suggest a man at least passingly familiar with the interiors of showers and barber shops.)

    I have known RMS since 1977…and what you say here is true.

    >It’s possible that over time Stallman sort of believed his own hype as the “last true hacker” and the solitary Dear Leader of a software movement which would explain his more recent behavior: less hacking, more proselytizing and Virtue Display.

    Yes, I think so. Again, I’m not idly speculating; I’ve known RMS for a long time, and can remember when we were fairly close friends. I’ve met his family. In retrospect, I think the Levy book in 1984 was bad for him – it may be that because Levy believed his hype, RMS started to believe it himself.

  94. >hmm. that was intended to come across as deeply ironic. on reading it back post-posting, it could too-easily be read as supercilious.
    not intended.

    No worries, mate, I read it as it was intended :-)

  95. >While I concede that factions within the free software community operate like this, RMS himself isn’t one of them.

    not only do i agree, but further state that this is a typical pattern. as i’ve said before, prophets create religions, Virtue-seeking imitative parasites create churches.
    in modern times, note how “wikipedians” (a fascinating laboratory for anthropologists/sociologists) have howled down Wales’s protestations of his original intent; its current form is a travesty of his only-relatively-recently (and unusually explcitly and emphatically) stated intent.
    in “ancient” times, note how most religions routinely mangle “their prophets” in their drive to find ways of displaying Virtue. genuine islamists are aware that islamic women are only “forbidden” from displaying their breasts — the modern requirement to display Virtue by hiding their hair (tellingly also a jewish meme), their body, and even their face, is purely a function of the later churches (in fact, in terms of Holy Books, the only church requiring by Holy Writ that women hide their hair, body, and even ideally their face is… Christians (but even then, note that the prophet said nothing about it — this writ came wholly from “disciples” coming much much later)). my favourite example here is Buddha explicitly and emphatically forbidding any of his followers to create scripture from his words; shortly after his death various buddhist saints were created as a result of their sterling efforts bringing his scriptures to other countries eg India.

    RMS can not be held responsible in first intent for the later extremist extrapolations of his “followers”.

    .
    granted, he may have later got sucked up into it.

  96. >and nice audience-specific language!

    Have I mentioned that I’ve been to Australia and rather like Australians, on the whole? :-)

    >RMS can not be held responsible in first intent for the later extremist extrapolations of his “followers”.

    I’m not sure I’d go that far. RMS is still alive, he’s still the indispensable man and living baraka of his movement, and he has the authority to squash the followers who more extreme and intemperate than he is. He does not do so. I think it’s fair to make deductions from that.

  97. >Have I mentioned that I’ve been to Australia and rather like Australians, on the whole? :-)

    a/ you weren’t put off by the smell?
    b/ we deny everything
    c/ on the hole, it’s probably an australian

    >he has the authority to squash the followers
    authority?:- absolutely
    realisation that things have spun a long way from what he originally intended?:- i suspect not. if you’ve unsuspectingly stepped into a mindfuck, it’s BLOODY hard to realise how far the current current has swept from the banks. i’ve watched friends i’d previously held up to others as examples of how to keep an Absolute sense (vs Relative) of what’s real and what’s not, how to cope with groupist mindfucks, get completely swept-up/destroyed-as-humanbeings by inadvertently taking a new group at face value. and within a year, they’ve been lost, away with the fairies, doing more damage in a year than they’ve restored their whole previous lives. and RMS has had a lot longer than a year of that shit.
    i’m just saying: the group bandwagon is POWERFUL, changes even the most steadfast perspective from Absolute to Relative.

    i’ve not met RMS. you clearly know better re him than i.
    i’m just saying, i’ve seen the same pattern over and over and over (and over), even WITHOUT the hero-worship screwing them up.

    >living baraka

    now don’t you go getting all Presidential on us!!

  98. >i’m just saying: the group bandwagon is POWERFUL, changes even the most steadfast perspective from Absolute to Relative.

    So true. I’ve spent the last eleven years being terrified it would fuck me up, and I’m in some respects deliberately a contrarian among my own people in an attempt to avoid it.

    >now don’t you go getting all Presidential on us!!

    For those not in on the joke, “baraka” is an Arabic word meaning “divine blessing” or “holy quality”, sometime used attributively of a religious leader. I don’t know whether Barack Obama’s first name is related, but it seems not unlikely.

  99. i thought “barack” was an _american_ word meaning “divine blessing” or “holy quality”?

  100. [longer, likely-distracting/new-discussion-starting, post re a previous comment or three: deleted due to overtiredness. "to come back to later."]
    [but coming back to something i meant to say earlier]

    >>i’m just saying: the group bandwagon is POWERFUL, changes even the most steadfast perspective from Absolute to Relative.
    >So true. I’ve spent the last eleven years being terrified it would fuck me up, and I’m in some respects deliberately a contrarian among my own people in an attempt to avoid it.

    various relatively-minor “eh?”s (amongst the tiny subset of your life that’s online) now make a lot more sense. and/so credit to you, if that’s a side-blow of your larger (a)wariness. wish i’d been that self-aware, variously.

  101. wait. only 11 years?!

    you insulted me mortally 12 years ago!

    i am now going to go to sleep, nursing at the very core of my wizened blackened soul this unapologetic slur on my wossname. thing. doobrey. going to keep me up all night.
    i blame you.

  102. >i thought “barack” was an _american_ word meaning “divine blessing” or “holy quality”?

    Only to left-wing loons. Which, despite the representations of our media, is not all of us.

  103. First time posting and I think I agree with you, Eric. Here’s a greeting from Singapore.

  104. From http://tinyurl.com/ce6979

    “Barak means thunder in the ancient Hebrew, and blessed one in Arabic, the meaning of the word in Swahili too, which was learned from the arabic muslim slave traders [ ... ]”

    Apparently the Hebrew word with the same etymology would be ‘baruch’.

    And according to Obama himself, it means ‘that one’.

  105. I think that RMS provided an important and valuable service, and I’m grateful. We use a lot of FSF/OSS (I could make that more clunky, if you want) stuff in the University engineering college where I work, and I use a lot for my recreational hacking. Several years ago as I was playing old-bald-guy graduate student it became clear to me that RMS had gone off of the deep end. Not sure into what, and I did not pursue trying to figure it out.

    I have, at various times, read the various licenses. I currently write 100% custom code, so I don’t care about the differences. It clearly matters in some circumstances.

    I did attempt to get involved in a project working with hardware error correction for the Linux kernel. The project did not correctly support the AMD chipset I was using, so I got the datasheets from AMD. I wrote/fixed code, fully commented it to document the use and setting of required registers, and submitted it to the project. They took the code, stripped out the comments (including my carefully chosen compatible copyright), and rewrote simple code to be hakerishly clever. Thus saving a few lines of the limited world supply of code. In an initialization routine. Any guesses as to whether or not I bothered with them again?

    While performance is king, personalities do matter. When the self-declared (non-)leaders act with craziness or grandiosity it does not help free and/or open-source. Maybe it is time for RMS to retire, or at least take a sanity break.

  106. Jay Maynard: “I wouldn’t have anywhere near as much of a problem with the so-called ‘free software’ movement as I do if it had picked any other word then ‘free’ for its anti-freedom philosophy. Its choice was a deliberate act of intellectual dishonesty, attempting to piggyback on a word with no negative connotations to promote a philosophy at direct odds with the meaning of the word.”

    You, sir, are a hypocrite. You claim that “free software” as Stallman defines it is an oxymoronic attempt at redefinition, yet you turn a blind eye to the propagandistic use of “free market” to describe capitalist wage slavery. You mock “Stallmanites” (incidentally, “-ite” is indeed considered pejorative; the non-pejorative would be “-ist” — but I suspect you know this, as you appear to be an experienced neo-McCarthyite) for using copyright law to subvert it, yet you call yourself a supporter of freedom, which ought to place you in opposition to such laws. You speak of freedom as something sacred that you will protect with your last breath, yet you violate it by threatening people with state violence (this is what you do when you wield copyright law as a bludgeon against them). The “freedom” you’ve vowed to die for is the freedom to exploit — a self-imploding concept.

    I don’t respect any form of copyright, or any other “intellectual property” law (a propaganda term propagated by your right-wing brethren and meant to conflate disparate laws into a single convenient bludgeon) because it is indefensible nonsense (upon stilts); but every time I violate it I run the risk that propertarians like you will send men with guns to kidnap me and place bars between me and my liberty; and you would justify this as “upholding a contract” — which you would contend is the foundation of the very liberty being trampled!

    “I’ve got no problem with straight up competition. It’s good for everyone.”

    No, it isn’t. Cooperation is good for everyone; competition is good for the “winners” (read: well-connected) and bad for everyone else. Any advances made through competition could just as easily be made through cooperation. Right-wing market-fundamentalist propertarian extremists, like Ronald Reagan, Eric Raymond and you, embrace social Darwinism because you feel secure in your own relatively privileged positions (whether resulting from wealth, connections, or simply gonadal configurations or melanin levels), so you sell your barbarous worldview to the less privileged by promising that your successes will trickle down to them (a lie). For this I despise you and hold you in absolute contempt.

  107. esr: “For the record, there is no use of force which I would excuse on open-source principles. None at all.”

    None except that implied by copyright law, which you not only excuse but actively support — on open-source principles. As an anarchist (that’s a libertarian who means it), I release to the public domain (which unfortunately allows propertarian pigs to exploit my benevolence for their own profit), because I refuse to threaten people with state violence; but I sympathize with Stallman’s position over yours, because he is using state violence to undermine state violence — were there no copyright laws to begin with, such subversion wouldn’t have been deemed necessary, and he clearly would have been happier. Your position does not reject the fundamental principle behind those laws, and is thus ultimately superfluous to them.

  108. >For this I despise you and hold you in absolute contempt.

    You know, in general I figure being insulted by anyone fool enough to categorize me as “right wing” is an unintended compliment, on the general premise that when one is hated by the malignantly stupid it means one is probably doing something right with one’s life.

    And so it is this time, as well. I shall have to consider adding “social darwinist” to my list of unintended compliments, as well – I’m not one, but I’ve never seen anyone hurl that accusation who wasn’t a blithering idiot trapped in an echt-Marxist 19th-century world-view, either.

  109. >Right-wing market-fundamentalist propertarian extremists

    This wins the prize for ‘least meaningful insult of the month’. That I’ve seen, at least.

  110. >This wins the prize for ‘least meaningful insult of the month’. That I’ve seen, at least.

    The clue-deprived person who uttered it is most likely a left-anarchist. They’re not evil the way state-socialists are, but they are even more desperately confused – all resentment and attitude, no program – so they’re even more prone to emotional duckspeak.

  111. esr: “fool enough to categorize me as ‘right wing'”

    You support the LPUSA, which is an explicitly right-wing attempt (largely successful; US-centric) to redefine libertarianism as propertarianism — the very antithesis of what it meant from the beginning, everywhere, and still means everywhere but the US and its English-speaking clones. I’m limiting right/left to the economic scale here, but I would also challenge your civil-libertarianism, based on what I’ve read of your cultural commentary.

    “blithering idiot trapped in an echt-Marxist 19th-century world-view”

    Marxism, and Marx himself, is explicitly archist, so no. But I fail to see how the class struggle is an outdated concept. The Right keeps telling us that it is, while working feverishly to shift attention from economic class divisions to things like race, gender, and nationality, because that’s how they keep the working class divided and fighting amongst its own ranks. Class may very well be a less glaring problem in the US than it was in the 19th-century, but that’s only due to struggles from below. Regardless, the US does not constitute the world, and the majority of the rest of the planet is a very different place — a place the US exploits to maintain its privileged position. In effect, the US middle class has become the global exploiter class.

    I’m less interested in class antagonisms on the intranational scale than on the international. The very idea of national borders is anti-libertarian. There is only one nation: Earth; and only one race: Human. Class, however, is anything but homogeneous. Viewed through that clear lens, the world shows us that class is as glaring a problem as ever — more so, in fact. If these observations make me a “Marxist,” then affix your label; but having actually read Marx (unlike most who criticize my positions, I read the words of those I criticize), I’d say the label will have lost all meaning if it can be applied to anyone who recognizes economic injustice — it certainly wouldn’t represent genuine Marxism, as you’ve claimed I do.

  112. Tom Dickson-Hunt: “least meaningful insult of the month”

    Right-wing. Market-fundamentalist. Propertarian. Extremist.

    The meaning should be perfectly clear, although the wording is admittedly redundant. And then some.

  113. esr: “most likely a left-anarchist”

    There’s no such thing. That’s another invention by the propertarian Right; namely, the so-called “anarcho”-capitalists (a literal oxymoron), who’ve been following the LPUSA tactic in an attempt to usurp anarchism, or at least make a place for their economic fascism within that explicitly anti-fascist tradition. Anarchism is “Left” *by definition*, because it stands in opposition to hierarchical authoritarian structures, which includes capitalism, also by definition; but “left-anarchism” implies that there can be such a thing as “right-anarchism,” which there can’t be. (The libertarian tradition reflects this as well, and in fact “libertarian” and “anarchist” were once nearly interchangeable, before the former underwent a revival about 40 years ago, under the direction of the economic fascists who spawned the LPUSA.)

    “all resentment and attitude, no program”

    “No program” is kinda the point! A free society is one without a rulebook. That does mean that it’s a bit like herding cats, a term you’ve no doubt heard in your LPUSA activities (I know, I used to be one of you), but that’s part of the price of freedom: you don’t get to draw up “programs” and order people to follow them.

    And you’re damned right I’m resentful; I want freedom *in my time*, but I keep getting older and it keeps slipping further away — while people keep making things worse by wielding the state against one another. (With the best intentions, naturally. Naturally!) But it is true, some do try to use state violence to undo the wrongs previously done through state violence. I can grudgingly hope for their success, even though I can’t join them.

    I appreciate your willingness to approve comments critical of you. I honestly didn’t expect it. Then again, I didn’t expect your response to be pure name-calling. My slurs are mixed with actual critique; I expected yours would contain actual rebuttal.

  114. >I expected yours would contain actual rebuttal.

    And I would, except that left-anarchist theory and terminology are so incoherent and disconnected from reality that rebuttal isn’t really possible; it’s like trying to push gelatin with a stick.

    Yes, that does mean I’ve dealt with your sort before. And that I’ve read left-anarchist theory, thank you. It is quite likely I know more about the history of your tendency than you do.

  115. Then skip the economic stuff and stick to the comment about your supposed refusal to use force on open-source principles. That’s more interesting to me in this context anyway, and certainly more relevant. I only brought up economics, etc. — and only jumped in at all — because I got annoyed at Jay Maynard’s protracted and hypocritical rants against Stallman’s supposedly manipulative use of “free”; I dragged you into that because you share Jay Maynard’s right-wing economic views, which I hate, but the comment aimed directly at you is standalone.

    Do you not recognize the inconsistency in your position? This isn’t a left/right analysis; it’s a libertarian/authoritarian one. Wielding the bludgeon of the state against others is a direct violation of the NAP, as you know. I happen to sympathize with your efforts to use the bludgeon for good, although I sympathize with Stallman’s position even more, and with mine most of all (I stand bludgeonless), but you did enter a false statement into the record, above.

    (I keep having to change the ID fields to get the “awaiting moderation” message; does this mean that you’re blocking me after each approval? If so, I wish there were a notification message to that effect. I don’t want to post if I’m not welcome, but your approval of my comments suggests that I am. It’s more than a little confusing.)

  116. >Do you not recognize the inconsistency in your position? This isn’t a left/right analysis; it’s a libertarian/authoritarian one. Wielding the bludgeon of the state against others is a direct violation of the NAP, as you know.

    Except it isn’t, necessarily. If the state is the only instrument you have, you are not required to abjure self-defense simply because it is the only instrument you have. A violation of NAP is involved only if the state’s action on your behalf is itself an escalation of force. Thus, an anarchist is barred from using the state for redress only when he rationally expects state action to be escalation. This is no different than the reasoning about any other kind of agency problem.

    There is, certainly, a serious ethical issue about when and whether using the state in this manner is appropriate. The objection that one empowers and legitimizes the state when one uses it for self-defense – even if there is no escalation of force in the individual instance – is valid and serious; it is a matter for case-by-case judgment, on the facts, whether the harm done by using the state in any given instance exceeds the self-defensive benefit. But this is not a NAP issue, it is an instrumental ethical question about second-order effects; it is not necessarily less serious on that account, but it is much less fundamental.

    I have made no statements which are false in light of this reasoning. Your confusion on this score is your problem, not mine.

    You trigger my automatic spam filters for reasons unknown to me. I have been unblocking your posts by hand. No one is ever banned here for disagreeing with me or insulting me; it takes much more egregious behavior, such as sock-puppeting or persistent content-free trolling, to achieve that.

  117. esr: “If the state is the only instrument you have, you are not required to abjure self-defense simply because it is the only instrument you have.”

    First, we’re not talking about self-defense here. We’re talking about forcing compliance with your wishes, which is unjust (and overtly anti-libertarian), regardless of the instrument used (I trust I don’t need to give historical examples to demonstrate that “legal” is not synonymous with “just”).

    Second, even if you weren’t a libertarian (let’s say you were Jay Maynard, who has identified as a “conservative” — i.e., an authoritarian), then your statement still wouldn’t be true, because the state wouldn’t be the only instrument you’d have. You could hire a thug to threaten to break the kneecaps of anyone who refused to comply with your wishes, or you could personally pull a gun on them, etc. The Mafia teaches us that such creative alternatives to the state can be quite effective at forcing compliance.

    So, to recap: The state isn’t the only instrument; and even if it were, the point is moot according to the NAP.

    Now, if we were talking about an actual injustice, where the state has claimed a monopoly on the instruments of justice, then you’d be correct. (For instance, if a family member was murdered, I’d call the police, because private instruments of justice are forbidden by the state.) But because “intellectual property” is sheer nonsense, which not only cannot be violated but arguably *constitutes* a violation, claims of “defending” such “property” simply cut no ice. *If anything*, one could make a better case for wielding the state bludgeon *against* such nonsense — but since the state is run by and for propertarians, that’s about as likely as Obama ushering in an era of “Change(TM).”

    I think this is one issue where you’re in too deep to let go of the state bludgeon. Rather, I think you’re going to be forced to let go of libertarianism in order to remain consistent. Poking through your blog, I don’t actually detect much of a libertarian streak anyway, aside from the gun rights advocacy, so it shouldn’t be too painful. If I hadn’t read your explicit claim to libertarianism, I’d have pegged you as an American nationalist and “constitutionalist” with a pretty healthy sense of cultural superiority and pride in the history and exploits of the US government. Perhaps you should embrace those impulses, since they comport with your advocacy of the state’s instruments.

  118. >First, we’re not talking about self-defense here. We’re talking about forcing compliance with your wishes, which is unjust (and overtly anti-libertarian), regardless of the instrument used (I trust I don’t need to give historical examples to demonstrate that “legal” is not synonymous with “just”).

    You’ve changed the subject. You don’t get to smuggle in the premise that copyright law is mere “compliance with my wishes” unquestioned, and I wouldn’t let you get away with that even if I agreed with you. My point is that it takes an argument *separate from the NAP* to establish that. You need to make a principled case as to whether copyright is or is not a natural right (extension of personhood) under the NAP, and I confidently deduce from the style of your rhetoric that you don’t know enough economics or comparative legal history to even start that argument, let alone finish it.

    Hint: the key concepts you’re looking for are “capture of positive externalities” and “Schelling points” – but I’m not going to make your argument for you. I’ve been over this ground so often I know every pebble, with people a lot brighter than you seem to be. Of course, you could surprise me; I’d actually be pleased if you managed that.

    >You could hire a thug to threaten to break the kneecaps of anyone who refused to comply with your wishes, or you could personally pull a gun on them, etc.

    I live in the real world. These alternatives have costs I’m not prepared to pay – it is not in my self-interest to risk imprisonment or death by using such means unless I don’t think there is any feasible alternative for redress. Your demand that I do so asks me to sacrifice my long-term interests without even considering whether using the government police or courts in a particular instance is NAP-compatible. No sale.

    >If I hadn’t read your explicit claim to libertarianism, I’d have pegged you as an American nationalist and “constitutionalist”

    Your failure either to pay attention or to comprehend what you read also does not constitute my problem. I have been an anarcho-libertarian of pretty hard-core stripe since about 1981 – not only that, I have a minor but not completely insignificant rep in anarchocapitalist circles as one of our more active theorists. My friends and regular readers are not at all confused on this score.

  119. esr: “You’ve changed the subject.”

    No I haven’t…

    “You don’t get to smuggle in the premise that copyright law is mere ‘compliance with my wishes’ unquestioned, and I wouldn’t let you get away with that even if I agreed with you.”

    …I followed your lead on that. You said that you have no choice but to wield the bludgeon of copyright law, because the state limits your options; it was you who tried to smuggle in the premise that copyright is a matter of self-defense, which I challenged by calling it what it actually is: forcing compliance with one’s wishes. I didn’t use the NAP to argue for that definition; I used the NAP to argue against that action.

    What do economics and comparative legal history have to do with your inability to justify wielding an instrument of violence to force compliance with your wishes? The subject at hand would be debatable under any legal or economic system. This is a very elementary discussion we’re having; don’t start dropping smoke canisters.

    “Copyright as natural right” is one of the sillier things I’ve heard lately. Firstly, “natural rights” is pseudo-religious nonsense, but that leads down a side track so I’ll pause at the switch and wait for your signal (I’d just as soon skip it and stay on track). Secondly, “personhood” doesn’t “extend” to any sort of rights (I assume that by “personhood” you mean “self-ownership”; please correct me if you intentionally didn’t use the latter term because you understand that it is dualist nonsense), but again, that’s another debate, which I happen to enjoy but would prefer to at least put on hold until we resolve this one. Thirdly, even if I accepted your pseudo-religious dualist claptrap, I’d still deny that copyright extends from those premises, because “violating” copyright doesn’t deprive you of anything that you would have without an instrument of violence to back it up — indeed, it arguably doesn’t deprive you of anything at all, regardless.

    “Hint: the key concepts you’re looking for are ‘capture of positive externalities’ and ‘Schelling points’ – but I’m not going to make your argument for you.”

    More smokescreen. /me waves hands, coughs, refocuses eyes on yours, crosses arms and taps foot impatiently

    “Your demand that I … sacrifice my long-term interests….”

    Uh, did you actually read what you’re responding to there? It was a hypothetical, where IF you didn’t give a toss about the NAP, you’d have options beyond the state’s instruments. But since you DO give a toss about the NAP, not only are those hypothetical options closed to you, but so is the state option. It’s this last point, which you deny but haven’t actually refuted, that I’m hoping to resolve; the rest of this conversation is far less interesting to me right now.

    Your reply essentially amounts to “I’ve been around a while, sonny”; but you haven’t actually resolved the part about you wielding the state bludgeon in violation of the NAP. Would you please attempt to do that now? I don’t want to make your arguments for you, either, but I find two reasonable solutions for you (there are no doubt others, since the real world isn’t binary — another point you don’t seem to understand, judging by your writing — but these seem the most promising): 1) you could attempt to prove that copyright is a matter of self-defense; 2) you could concede that it isn’t a matter of self-defense, and that you wield it anyway because you don’t really give a toss about the NAP. Anything else will probably amount to more smokescreen, which will be a good way to drive me from the field, but not a good way to make your case.

  120. >You said that you have no choice but to wield the bludgeon of copyright law, because the state limits your options

    Don’t put words in my mouth. We haven’t even reached the specifics of copyright law yet; I was refuting your general claim that any use of the state as an agency of self-defense is a NAP violation.

    Nor do you get to assume your conclusion about copyright law. If enforcement of it is not defense of a legitimate property right, then you are correct that use of the state to enforce it is a NAP violation, but “the state” is a red herring here; use of a private agency to enforce it would be a NAP violation too. So waving around the specter of government enforcement as though it proves I’m some sort of closet statist is – um, what’s your phrase? – a “smoke canister”.

    So, what is your theory of natural rights? You can’t evade this question by dismissing the term as “pseudo-religious”, because either authors legitimately own the positive externalities from collecting scarcity rent on their creative works or they don’t. If they do, then it’s non-aggression to defend those rights. If they don’t, your conclusions follow.

    I will note that I have never, on this blog or anywhere else, expressed a final conclusion on this question. This is for the very good reason that I’m not sure of the answer. In fact, if you watch the video of my recent talk at LILUG, you’ll hear me argue both sides of the question. Your assumption that I’m a pro-IP zealot is false to observable fact. Like pretty much every other assumption you walked in with.

  121. Completely offtopic, but could you add a link to your main blog page from individual blog posts? “Main” between links to the previous and next blog, or a link in your title, or make the “Armed and dangerous” at the bottom a link. I’d have emailed, but I didn’t see an address after a quick perusal of your homepage. It’s been an ongoing minor irritation anytime I access an article directly instead of from your homepage.

  122. Wow, that’s a candidate for ’stupidest police statement ever’. The only other competitor I’ve seen was an argument by a ‘police expert’ in some city in Canada that the city shouldn’t provide wireless Internet access because terrorists might use it.

    I bet I can top that. Missouri police have opined that any adult found playing Animal Crossing (a cutesy, but popular, Nintendo game) is automatically suspicious as a potential pedophile.

  123. I’ve lost interest in the ideological reasons for Free Software/Open Source division long ago though I am still a big fan of the Free part of Free Software. I’m now only interested in practically using it.

    I think the whole debate is similar to beating a dead horse that died decades ago.

    I think both “factions” are responsible for it, not just the one. If one side had stopped responding to the other side’s arguments, it would have stopped 10 years ago.

    If “Free Software” was really a fringe group, then maybe the Open Source advocates here wouldn’t feel the strong need to respond to every single one of their arguments.

    Fact is, both have become irrelevant to practical considerations of Freedom, which surprisingly is more about reality and situation-specific than any cooked-up ideology, which always ends up restricting it in one context or the other.

  124. In the past 2 years, I have come to believe that people should be entirely free to do what ever they want with binaries and source code, including making their changes private, choosing to redistribute under more restrictive licenses, etc. Because I believe the free market wins in time any way.

    I don’t believe in copyright, nor patent, as they require socialism (society) to enforce (the antithesis of free markets).

    If you update your software often enough, people will pay for your binaries and support.

    If you feel there are some portions of your source code that give you a temporary competitive advantage, that would not be offset by gains of publishing the source, then obfuscate the source. In time, any competitive advantage in source is going to get duplicated, no matter what license you tried to use.

    Thus I subscribe to the “no license” camp. I guess that could be codified into a license:

    “We add no restrictions on what you can do with these binaries and source, no warranties, and you indemnify us against any result of any aspect of your involvement with them.”

    K.I.S.S.

    The best would be anonymous use and publishing of software, so that licenses become unnecessary.

  125. Shelby,

    It’s not a matter of license or non-license, but a matter of human attitude. So long as people have a feeling of ownership towards things they create, there will be a need for some kind of protection of that creative expression, otherwise there is no incentive to innovate.

    I don’t believe in copyright, nor patent, as they require socialism (society) to enforce (the antithesis of free markets).

    To drop all checks and balances in the system completely is a self-defeating proposition. If you want to give total freedom to do anything with created code, including making that code restrictive, then you will again need the legal mechanism and protection of copyright, which you deny as necessary.

  126. The only protection is popularity. The law can’t make or sustain your software more popular.

    Freedom is destroyed by socialism (society), i.e. law.

    I think the main motivation for open source has been to break down the limitations in software popularity, that the law has been creating by awarding monopolies. The Microsoft blue screen of death is one pervasive example of limiting software’s popularity. Closed file formats was another. Etc..

    How do we get to the next level of freedom, where we can be rewarded/incentivized for making popular things without having to limit our popularity with licenses?

    In short, in software the code is the depreciating liability, not the asset.

  127. Nothing in nature is static.

    Remember everything in nature is either growing or decaying exponentially. Nothing is static. So categorize the things in your life accordingly and discard the decaying ones.

    People don’t understand that exponential change comes unexpectedly:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Exponential_growth#The_water_lily

    The proportional rate of change is constant, but the proportions are not noticed until they have become absolutely large and then by that time it is too late to react.

    The great timing wisdom is to perhaps walk away at exponential peaks, and to downsize and invest in exponential growth.

    Code is a liability because it is static while the world is changing. You have to constantly update it to keep it in tune with exponential popularity growth.

  128. A question, more or less to everybody: why bother to debate theoretically about licencing when there is an almost ideal situation out there to test it in practice? The market for software is almost perfectly free and there are many kinds of licencing being tested on the market. All you really need to do is to lay back, open a beer, and wait and see which proves to be the best one. My bet would be on a regression to the mean, though, not proprietary but neither GPL V3, somewhere between.

  129. Saltation, Jeff, others,

    I have to object to the sense you use the word “virtue” in. Virtue is supposed to mean human quality, human excellence, even efficiency: that if human life has a goal (such as happiness, eudaimonia etc.), virtue means the ability to pursue and achieve it. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Virtue_ethics – this I think is the most important thing in the world. Nothing works without some conception of human excellence and a dedication to pursue it, absoutely nothing, and everything falls apart in the absence of it. We can’t conceive any worthy goal to our lives that would not require us to better ourselves in some sense, thus, to develop some kind of virtue.

    “Virtue” came to achieve a very negative meaning somewhere during the Victorian age: largely it started to mean “not engaging in sex – and being damn proud of it!”. Virtue started to mean all those things we do NOT do, as opposed what it originally meant: our ability and willingness to DO things. As my Buddhist teacher said, it’s perverse to respect people for things they do not do, as opposed to respecting them for things they do, because the cementeries are full of people who don’t do anything at all, should we consider them the most virtuous?

    You are using “virtue” here in the later, perverse sense: virtue is NOT using proprietary software, or (environmentalism) NOT having a large eco-footprint etc. And making a big fuss about it. And even a little bit playing a martyr: see how I deny myself and how I suffer for the bigger cause. This is a perverse definition of virtue, which should simply mean excellence or human quality. This is more or less the opposite of excellence: pomposity, superficiality, role-playing, a thoroughly *insincere* thing.

    This is a perversion of the word and it would be good to stop using it in this sense, because if we start to see virtue as a bad thing, a kind of *pompous self-denial* what will be left? It means throwing out the large tradition of virtue ethics and without that, it will be very hard to achieve any kind of excellence.

  130. Tiler,

    “Cooperation is good for everyone; competition is good for the “winners” (read: well-connected) and bad for everyone else.”

    Ah, my favourite topic. Here’s a riddle. Men A and B both like woman C and would like to be her boyfriends. But she wants only one of them, not both, she isn’t into polyandry.

    Assume the Kantian/JSMillian argument for autonomy is right – not sure at all, but let’s assume it – that the best outcome is the one that contains the largest number of freeest choices. Both men chose C freely, free choices are maximized if C chooses one of them freely too.

    Thus, A and B are not allowed to settle it any other means such as a fight, or flipping a coin or one of them withdrawing voluntarily: to maximize free choices C MUST choose and no other ways are acceptable. (I mean if f.e. B withdraws voluntarily, then A chose freely, C did not, B chose kinda-freely: he didn’t really chose what he really wanted to have, it’s sort of a half-hearted choice, not entirely free. Total number of free choices is around 1.5 . But if none of them withdraws and thus C chooses freely, total number of free choices is 2.)

    In such a situation, they MUST compete, in the sense that to compete IN cooperating with C: trying to out-do each other in satisfying her desires. No other way is possible.

    Thus: within this framework competition-in-cooperation-with-a-third-party is GOOD. And this describes the _ideal_ case of business competition via cooperating with the customer better than the other business on a free market.

  131. “it’s a libertarian/authoritarian one” – I think the opposite of “libertarian” should not be “authoritarian” but “aggressive”.

    Being a sworn enemy of all and every kind of including non-violent kinds of authority would be sheer madness, you just cannot coordinate and organize human activity that way if, and besides, it would probably have the really nasty side-effect of increasing our egos, as the joyful recognition that some people are MUCH better than us in some respects i.e. a voluntary respect for their authority is one of the best tools to keep our egos down to a sane size…

  132. >as the joyful recognition that some people are MUCH better than us in some respects i.e. a voluntary respect for their authority is one of the best tools to keep our egos down to a sane size…

    It depends on your meaning of ‘authority’. If you’re talking about an ‘authority’ on a subject, as someone who knows very much about it, then your statement here holds–but that’s not the sort of ‘authority’ involved in the libertarian/authoritarian debate. The ‘authorities’, as those with legal power, are not in any sense ‘MUCH better than us’, and the idea that they are is a large part of the sort of feeling that, for instance, Germans circa 1934 had for Hitler.

  133. But “authority” plain simply doesn’t mean that. The correct word for that is “power”. Or violence, aggression, whatever.

    Authority comes from auctoritas, which was the attribute of the Senate of Rome, which had not had one inch of power. Only elected magistrates had. The Senate was simply respected, and thus public opinion and tradition – but not coercive power – required the magistrates to pay attention the wishes of the Senate. Had they not done so, nobody would have been able to punish them for that. This is largely the the meaning of “authority” to this day, and thus the libertarian/authoritarian debate is wrongly worded, it should be called libertarian/aggressive or libertarian/violent.

    There is an awesome article explaining why the purely _politically_ libertarian position, i.e. against power, is good, but to be libertarian against all kinds of authority is to lose perhaps some of the best experiences in our lives:

    http://culture11.com/blogs/postmodernconservative/2008/09/29/i-found-it-out-in-a-book-and-she-was-such-a-pretty-dictionary/

    “There’s such a thing as arbitrary power; sometimes I’m okay with it, most of the time I’m not. But power is not the same thing as authority: the relevant question with power is “Do I have to let this thing push me around?”; with authority, it’s “Do I want to let it?” And there is no such thing as arbitrary authority.”

    ” “Authoritative” is just another word for “trustworthy,” and the decision to trust an individual is neither a matter of random choice (“This guy is part of my social circle and I see him around all the time, so trusting him would be totally convenient for me”) nor a matter of mathematical proof (“Based on past behavior, I estimate the chances of betrayal to be an acceptable 15%”). Neither is it a decision that a man can be intimidated into making. The closest analogy for deciding to trust is falling in love, whether one is trusting a man, an institution, or a tradition.

    The problem for libertarians is that, when we trust some authority, we don’t just give it the power to tell us what to do.

    We give it the power to tell us who to be—to transform us into a different person, someone who, absent that authority, we might not have wanted to be.”

  134. I.e. just to make things clear, some folks are always considered trustworthy i.e. to have authority but it does not mean they necessarily need to have power. Only if and when people think power is necessary, then they just look around whom to give it to, and of course they just tend to give it to those who have authority, because in them they trust. But this two are disconnected, authority does not create power, merely increases the likelyhood one will receive that power that someone would receive anyway, because people want to give that power to someone.

  135. Shenpen:
    I have to object to the sense you use the word "virtue" in. Virtue is supposed to mean human quality, human excellence, even efficiency: that if human life has a goal (such as happiness, eudaimonia etc.),
    "Virtue" came to achieve a very negative meaning somewhere during the Victorian age: largely it started to mean "not engaging in sex – and being damn proud of it!".

    re your first para: that is, actually, more or less the sense i was using it in. but you are reading morals as absolute. and human change as upward progression.

    re your second para: no. virtue has had that meaning re sex for the entirety of recorded history. even where recorded history showed "extreme sex" as being occasionally a publicly standard part of life, those same cultures recorded non-strictmonogamy as unvirtuous.

  136. ChrisTheEngineer: >I did attempt to get involved in a project working with hardware error correction for the Linux kernel. The project did not correctly support the AMD chipset I was using, so I got the datasheets from AMD. I wrote/fixed code, fully commented it to document the use and setting of required registers, and submitted it to the project. They took the code, stripped out the comments (including my carefully chosen compatible copyright), and rewrote simple code to be hakerishly clever. Thus saving a few lines of the limited world supply of code. In an initialization routine. Any guesses as to whether or not I bothered with them again?

    reality-excluding PeerVirtue-seeking is the overwhelmingly predominant human factor evident across history, and is equally overwhelmingly toxic in its every instance, counterproductive in every instance of that peer group’s stated nominal goals.
    i’m with you.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>