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Re: OSD && DFSG - different purposes - constructive suggestion!



On Sun, Mar 09, 2003 at 09:48:22PM -0800, Thomas Bushnell, BSG wrote:
> Anthony Towns <aj@azure.humbug.org.au> writes:
> > Sure. Compare this to some code using the GPL; same sort of information,
> > same problem with it: their trade secrets are woven into the functionality
> > of the code itself. If one of your customers is a competitor, or a
> > competitor buys out a user, any requirement to distribute source to your
> > users makes it non-viable to use the software for certain applications
> > which are, eg, protected by BSD-style licenses.
> Except the GPL doesn't force you to share your secrets, ever.  

Yes, it does: it's quite possible to write code in such a way that when
compiled, it's near impossible to work out exactly what's going. There's
a whole swath of research on obfuscation. The GPL says "well, sure,
go ahead, but you have to include the source code anyway, so you're not
going to succeed at hiding anything".

It certainly does force you to share your secrets. It forces you to share
your secrets only with your customers, though.

> > Arguments about practicality, that this makes doing legitimate things harder
> > or impossible in some situations for purely technical reasons (the stranded
> > on an island test does this), are valid, but I haven't really seen any.
> It's not about practicality; it's about freedom.  

That's great, Thomas, but you're missing the point. You can say
"it's about privacy, it's about the freedom to keep things private,
it's about not fundamental rights" 'til you're blue in the face, and
even though every word of it's completely true, it's *not relevant*. We
don't guarantee every freedom we can, we guarantee the one's that are
important and useful.

> The question is:
> should I get to control the behavior of that other person in the way
> they modify and copy the software?  The default answer is "no", 

Copyright law says that if you're the author, then the answer's "yes". The
GPL says that abdicating too much of that control can be harmful.

> At least, I haven't heard of any defense of such a deviation, on any
> other principle than "it makes sure that they contribute back".

It closes a loophole; that is, it means companies can't maliciously
take free GPLed software, make changes to it that they don't release,
and then cause users to rely on that software.

> But free software was never about forcing people to contribute back.  

No, but the GPL is about forcing people to pass the freedoms they have
onto their users.

Maybe try it this way: why is privacy a win? Imagine I'm from an
alternate universe, which we shall call BrinWorld [0] where we don't
have IP or privacy laws as such at all, and snooping technology exists
to the point where there's no point obfuscating your source, because I
can just lookup google or world.archive.org to find someone who flew a
microcam into your office as you were writing your code, and OCR an MPEG
of your monitor's image as you were hacking away. Okay, maybe that was too
much background, but imagine I'm from a world that doesn't bother with
privacy and copyright, and manages to allow universal access to pretty
much everything, and that still functions as a society. Convince me that
in this imperfect world, as we try to make things more transparent, and
give people more control and access over the software that affects them,
that being able to get access to the sourcecode for www.wherever.com
whether they want me to or not is a *bad* thing.

Note that you do _not_ get to assume "privacy is good and moral and a
right of both individuals and corporations". Justify it in other terms,

Cheers,
aj

[0] _The Transparent Society_, David Brin; very interesting book

-- 
Anthony Towns <aj@humbug.org.au> <http://azure.humbug.org.au/~aj/>
I don't speak for anyone save myself. GPG signed mail preferred.

  ``Dear Anthony Towns: [...] Congratulations -- 
        you are now certified as a Red Hat Certified Engineer!''

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