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Re: Barriers to an ASP loophole closure

tb@becket.net (Thomas Bushnell, BSG) writes:
> Jeremy Hankins <nowan@nowan.org> writes:

> 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 acknowledge the problem, and don't have an answer.  But I'm
hand-waving it away and asking a different question.  If someone can
define software use in such a way that it includes the stuff people
typically object to when they complain about the ASP loophole (like my
latex example in my last message), but does not include the sort of
thing you mention above, would the resulting license be non-free?

If the answer is no, there's no point in expending any energy trying
to come up with that definition.  If the answer is yes, then we can
come back to your examples and try to draw a line between the types of
use we want to attache freedoms to and those we don't.

> 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.

Nothing the GPL doesn't do.  If it could be done right, would this
really be any worse?

> Nor would it work!

Why not?

> 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.

Let's use an example that actually reflects the sort of situation we
want to change.  Someone is making latex, or gcc, available behind a
web interface.  They try to tie you in if they can (e.g., the latex
page uses private tags and won't let anyone know how they're
implemented).  You can use the software, much like you would if it
were installed on your system.  If you could get access to the source
you might modify it to work on your own system, or you might set up a
competing web service.  But you don't, so you might as well be using
proprietary software to edit your documents.  Fine and good, don't use
it, but the folks that contributed to latex are upset.

> 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 don't understand this question.  Having access to the source is
necessary if you want to make changes.  Examples of dentists' software
aren't relevant (unless you're a dentist), because that'd be outside
of the sort of use we want to pick out.

> 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.

In the case of a web page it makes as much sense to say that the admin
is using apache as it does to say that the viewer is -- more, imho.

Jeremy Hankins <nowan@nowan.org>
PGP fingerprint: 748F 4D16 538E 75D6 8333  9E10 D212 B5ED 37D0 0A03

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