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Re: The Show So Far

Anthony Towns <aj@azure.humbug.org.au> writes:

> On Sun, Mar 16, 2003 at 06:08:59PM -0800, Thomas Bushnell, BSG wrote:
> > The GPL's source distribution requirement actually augments the
> > freedom of the possessor of the code
> You say that like the "possessor" of the code is somehow special, but
> the user of the code, and the author of the code aren't. I don't find
> that remotely reasonable.

Let's take the argument more slowly then, because perhaps I'm skipping
steps and that's making it hard to follow.

The fundamental premise of free software is that copyright is an
artificial limitation on what I can do whit a piece of software, and
that I should be able to modify it and copy it.

The reason that the possessor is special is that the only thing
stopping the possessor from modifying or copying is the copyright
law.  Think here of public domain as a sort of zero-point: if a thing
is public domain, what rights do I have?  I have the right to modify
it, and to copy it, and the basic premise of free software is that I
should have those rights for all software.  (The "four freedoms" of
the FSF spell out this basic premise more carefully; I don't mean to
be setting up some different standard than that one.)

The user of the code, when that's different from the possessor, is
often inhibited from copying or modifying by things *other* than just
the copyright--importantly, his physical lack of access, among other

> > The source-distribution requirement *is* a real pain for some people,
> > but since it isn't an imposition on freedom, there is no problem.
> You keep saying that, but it _is_ an imposition on "freedom", and a
> very significant one. Just ask the folks who license their code under
> a BSDish license.

Let me be more explicit, then.  The fundamental idea is that the
possessor of a copy should be able to make copies and modifications.
The GPL says that you can't *remove* this right from a third party.
The BSD license says that you *can* do it through the mechanism of
compilation.  The GPL also has the "viral" property that it applies to
the entire program; the BSD license does not.

In both these cases, the imposition is in the category of "a genuine
pain".  But it's not an imposition on *freedom* (or rather, the
imposition on *freedom* is negligible).  Why?  Because the only
significant "freedom" that it limits is the "freedom" to *remove*
*other* *people's* *freedom*.  But the "freedom to oppress other
people" is not a genuine freedom.

> I've already said both these things to you, I'm not sure why you're still
> saying the same old things instead of either accepting the difference
> of opinion or coming up with deeper analyses.

It's obvious we have a difference of opinion.  I think we have both
explained our points of view quite well indeed.  The only reason I
wrote mine again was because you said that I "hadn't made any
arguments" that distinguished the GPL from the sort of
forced-disclosure licenses that I am arguing against.

That you may not think my arguments prove the point is obvious, since
we have a disagreement.  But there's a difference between "haven't
made any arguments" and "we have a disagreement."  Of course we have a


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