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Re: one of the many reasons why removing non-free is a dumb idea

On Tue, Jan 13, 2004 at 05:07:18PM -0500, Nathanael Nerode wrote:
> > copyrights do not affect the usage of a document, they only affect the right
> > to copy and distribute.  that's why it's called a "COPYRIGHT", not a
> > "USERIGHT".  what you do with your own legally-obtained copy is your own
> > business.
> Yes, well, that's technically true.  Unfortunately modifying a work on a
> computer involves copying it.

not necessarily.  editors and patching tools can edit a file without copying it
(if you try to define loading into memory as copying, then running software or
viewing documentation is illegal)

> > a handful of developers may find it convenient to have the right to modify
> > docs, but that's a convenience only - errata sheets and submission of
> > documentation patches to the author/copyright-holder are adequate.

> > > > any possible need to modify can easily be worked around with an errata
> > > > sheet,
> > >
> > > "Any possible need to modify a program can be easily worked around with
> > > patches."
> >
> > this does not make something non-free.
> >
> > we (grudgingly) accept software that can only be modified by patches as
> > DFSG-free.  it's annoying and it's a hassle, but it still qualifies as
> > free.
> OK, that's an acceptable claim.  However, we require explicit permission to
> modify in patch form, because the patches may (though they may not) be
> considered a derivative of the original.
> >why should documentation be held to a higher standard of freeness than
> >software?
> We should require explicit permission to modify in patch form, as noted
> above.  We don't have that for a lot of documentation.  Not a higher
> standard.

1. your scenario made no mention of explicit permission, now it suddenly
appears because you need to prove you weren't wrong on this point.

2. explicit permission to write and distribute errata sheets or patches is NOT
required, copyright (in the original) does not extend to someone else's work
(the patch).

> > > > or by submitting a change to the authors.
> > >
> > > "Any possible need to modify a program can be handled by submitting a
> > > change to its authors."
> >
> > yes, that's certainly non-free.
> >
> > it can still be *useful*, and (as has been noted before) makes no practical
> > difference to any real person, outside of contrived examples.
> So you're saying that it makes no practical difference to programs whether
> modified versions can be freely redistributed.  

no, i did not say it makes no difference to the program.  

i said it makes no practical difference to the average user.

in short it was a comment on the fact that most users really do not care
whether they are allowed to distribute modified versions or not, because they
have no intention of ever redistributing it.

the ability to view and modify the source code, or just use the program, for
their own needs is enough for most people.   it's definitely non-free, but it's

and, before you try putting words in my mouth, i specifically did not say that
that means that non-free software is as good as free software, or that there is
no point to free software.  what it means is that non-free software can still
be useful to people, even if the license sucks.

> I think you're totally wrong, and I'd daresay nearly everyone in the free
> software 

how can a statement of observable and verifiable fact (i.e. that "non-free
software can be useful") be totally wrong?

> movement agrees with me.  I guess you're *consistent*.  But what does 
> your strange view on this have to do with Debian, which states in the 
> Debian Free Software Guidelines that the entire project as a whole 
> disagrees with you?

the DFSG makes no comment on fact.  it is a document about the ethics of
software licensing, it defines what we consider to be free software.

since i was a part of writing the DFSG and you were not, i think i have a
little better understanding of what it is about than you.

> > > So this paragraph is complete nonsense, and I won't try to argue with it
> > > any further, because so many people have already explained why it's
> > > totally false.
> >
> > you won't argue with it because you haven't actually thought about it.
> > you're just reacting to the evil 'non-free' term.
> No. Perhaps you haven't thought about the implications of what you said. 

wrong.  i'm just more interested in practical reality than ideology.  ideology
that is not grounded in reality is dangerous and must be opposed wherever it
rears its ugly head.

>  You have now said that whether software allows free redistribution of
>  modified copies "(as has been noted before) makes no practical difference to
>  any real person, outside of contrived examples."  Of 

yes, makes no *practical* difference to the user, because most users have
absolutely no intention of ever redistributing modified versions.  when you can
explain how limiting the right to do something that they have no intention of
ever doing can make a *PRACTICAL* difference to someone, then you may have a
point.  that limitation may make a theoretical or even ethical difference but
it does not make a practical difference.

> course, you offered no evidence for this sweeping and false statement.  It
> makes a practical difference to me.  I am a real person.  Therefore, you are
> wrong.  Q.E.D.

yes, anyone can make up a contrived example.

there are, on the other hand, many thousands of debian users who are happily
using (some of) the software in non-free.  the license may suck, but the
software is still useful to them - in some cases, it is even essential (e.g.
non-free adsl or modem drivers).


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