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Re: GNU License and Computer Break Ins

On Fri, 19 May 2000, Paul Serice wrote:

> Richard Stallman wrote:
> > The GPL is about establishing and defending the freedom to share and
> > change published software--about respecting community and
> > cooperation.  The way to respect a program, whoever has worked on it
> > so far, is to share it, improve it, and leave it better than you
> > found it.

I think you're reading too much into this.  The GPL is about sharing your
work in such a way that people are required to also share their work if
it's based on (or in some cases combined with) your work AND if they
choose to distribute their work beyond themselves.  That's ALL the GPL

The purpose (or "a purpose") of Richard Stallman may or may not be to
establish the freedom to share and change all published software
regardless of whether the author of such software wishes.  It's a purpose
I find appealing, but it's unlikely IMO to get very far given how
established the current revenue model is.

Are those two purposes different?  Yes.  The GPL exists so that you can
declare your work to be treated as RMS thinks all works should be treated,
whether you think all work should be treated that way or not.

> I agree with you and think this is an honorable things to do when the
> author wishes it.  I cannot agree that disrespecting an author's wishes
> is the way to respect the author's program.

Some authors' wishes are dishonorable (in some opinions).  Depending on
one's view, either the wishes should be ignored while the code is
salvaged, or the wishes should be followed with distaste, or the code
becomes lost (and in many cases, it's actively prevented from being

But that's a philosophical view.  The GPL doesn't apply to anything not
released under the GPL.  And it's purely about distribution, not use.

> If pressed, I will break.  At some point, technology should fall into
> the public domain or a GPL-like public domain even against an author's
> wishes, but people have already reached this tradeoff.

Why?  From a pure theoretical sense, if bits and ideas can be owned and
their use and distribution limited by an author, shouldn't that ownership
be permanent?  Or do inventors/authors just lease their ideas?

What justification for having it expire in X years cannot be applied to
having it expire in X-1 years?

>>> After all, it's your work. Of all the people in the world,
>>> you should have the largest say regarding how your work is
>>> used.

But it's not just your work.  Once it's put into use, it's the result of
your work AND the result of decisions and input by the user of the work -
any software program, once installed, becomes a joint work by all authors
and users.

The people affected by a decision should make the decision.  The effect of
how a piece of software is used is felt ONLY by the user, and that
decision should be hers.  

>> Of all the people in the world, the one who should have the largest
>> say in how you use a program is you; after all, it's your life.


> With all due respect, I just don't believe I am the center of any
> universe, especially one created by someone else (unless they
> voluntarily put me in that position).

Wow.  I don't even know how to respond to this.  

> Do I read you and others correctly?  Is the GPL a strategy designed to
> basically reduce the time to zero between when an author publishes and
> when the work falls into a GPL-like public domain?  (Much like the use
> of proprietary operating systems was a strategy when the GNU Project
> first started.)

Could be, for RMS and a few crackpots like me.  For most others, it's a
useful tool in making sure their work stays honorable (i.e. free) and to
encourage others to be equally free.  It can be both - there is no
conflict between those that see a hammer as a means to destroy a barrier
and those that see it as a means to build a house.

> already, but for the benefit of the rest of use, I would recommend an
> addition to the GPL's preamble so that this bit of information is as
> widely distributed as the GPL.

Why?  Putting a philosophical statement at the beginning of a legal
document seems quite confusing.

> For example, "While using the GPL is a volitional act and takes
> advantage of current copyright laws, the ultimate goal is to undermine
> copyright law to such an extent that the GPL will no longer be necessary
> as all software will then be free."

Does the GPL say something that you don't want applied to your code?
Don't use it.  If it does what you want, and offers the protections for 
your code that you want, does it matter that it was written by someone
whose theories on bit-patterns-as-property conflict with your own?
Mark Rafn    dagon@dagon.net    <http://www.dagon.net/>   !G

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