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Re: Barriers to an ASP loophole closure (was Re: OSD && DFSG - different purposes - constructive suggestion!)

Jeremy Hankins <nowan@nowan.org> writes:

> Is it users of programs or owners of copies of programs that should
> have freedom?  As far as I can see the answer is clearly users.
> Currently those two groups are roughly the same, and the second group
> is *much* easier to draw a line around.  So we use ownership of a copy
> to pin freedoms to.

What about my list of software that I am a "user" of?  The software my
dentist uses to track patient records?  The software the University
uses to track my grades?  The software that Congress uses to track
legislation?  I'm a user of all of that, at least, to the extent that
I'm a user of the software that implements a web site I visit.

> I hope this world (where most software use follows the pattern of the
> latex example above) doesn't happen, and I honestly don't think it
> will.  But reasonable people can and do disagree.  If they can find a
> way to tie the freedoms of the DFSG to users of software rather than
> possessors of copies of software, should that make their software
> non-DFSG-free?

Because we have traditionally thought that the freedom attaches to the
possessor, and you would be reducing that freedom, in order to
increase the freedom of users.  Nor would it work!

Remember RMS's little printer software story about how he first
realized the importance of free software?  I *cannot* change the
program that implements my dentist's billing records, or the software
that backs a popular web site: I *cannot*.  EVEN if I have the
source.  This is because I'm merely the user, and not the possessor.

Free software preserves the possessor's legal liberty to change the
software, something that only legal limitation was previously blocking
him in.  But forced publication at all: how does this increase the
user's liberty to change the software?

> I think the answer is yes.  It's *users*, not copies, that should have
> freedoms.  But I admit I'm not clear how it could be done.

Even if there were *no* legal limitations of any kind on the copying
and modification of any software, there would *still* be no way to
give that liberty to users, since (when user and possessor are
different folks), the user is not the one who decides what software to
use (paradoxically).  The user can't change the software at all.

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