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Will Stallman Kill the "Linux Revolution?" 741

frdmfghtr writes "The October 30 issue of Forbes Magazine has an article speculating that Richard Stallman's efforts to rewrite the GPL could threaten to 'tear it apart.' The article describes how the GPLv3 is expected to be incompatible with the GPLv2, causing trouble for Linux vendors such as Novell and Red Hat. The article wraps it up: 'And a big loser, eventually, could be Stallman himself. If he relents now, he likely would be branded a sellout by his hard-core followers, who might abandon him. If he stands his ground, customers and tech firms may suffer for a few years but ultimately could find a way to work around him. Either way, Stallman risks becoming irrelevant, a strange footnote in the history of computing: a radical hacker who went on a kamikaze mission against his own program and went down in flames, albeit after causing great turmoil for the people around him.'"
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Will Stallman Kill the "Linux Revolution?"

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  • by acvh (120205) <(geek) (at) (> on Sunday October 22, 2006 @07:34PM (#16540766) Homepage
    GPL 1 and 2 were developed far from the public eye. V3 is being debated and written under intense scrutiny. It would be hard to avoid the controversy being generated now.

    The Linux kernel may not switch, but that will not doom V3, nor will it doom the FSF or Stallman. There is much that has happened since V2, and the attempts to address things like DRM and patents have and will continue to shed light on the ugly underbelly of modern software licensing. This, I think, is good.

    "Free software" means something different now. It's not just being able to tweak a text editing program, or encourage community development and review. It's about who will control the millions of PCs in the world. The more that Microsoft and the RIAA/MPAA continue to try to lock down the PC, turning it into nothing more than a delivery system for DRMed content, the more relevant the FSF becomes.
  • by The Bungi (221687) <> on Sunday October 22, 2006 @07:34PM (#16540768) Homepage
    How is that different than the never-ending FUD generated by the anti-Microsoft (and anti-everything) camp day in and day out? LXer, Slashdot and just about every two-bit blog and "open source news" site in the planet are guilty of doing the same. It's not Forbes, but it's no different.

    The author is obviously going for the "zOMFG FORBE$ Is TEH ZUXX0rZ KILL KILL KILL" crowd, and judging from the comments already in the Forbes site he has another hit in his hands. I don't know about that apocryphal story about Stallman plucking his hair to put it in his soup... but hey, that's what unfunny pictures of Bill Gates as a borg and stupid "monkey boy" comments will get you. You reap what you sow. Hell, the "St. IGNUCious" picture is real enough. Maybe he should refrain from doing that sort of thing to begin with. Like it or not he's the one of the official "spokesmen".

    Having said that, and I'm sure this will be dismissed on sight anyway, I couldn't find a single misrepresentation of the situation in the article - everything it claims about Stallman and the GPL process seems to be correct. There is a problem here with the whole GPLv3 - though it remains to be seen how critical it is.

    Of course to the very people who personify the "jihadist" term used in ther article all this is a non-issue and Forbes is in the employ of "Micro$oft" anyway. At least Slashdot will rake in a few dollars on a Sunday with all the ad impressions this one is going to get.

  • A cantankerous and finger-wagging freewheeler, Stallman won't comment on any of this because he was upset by a previous story written by this writer.
    Right, because all this writer does is spout vitriol and spread fear, uncertainty and doubt all in an apparent attempt to garner page views. It's no wonder RMS doesn't have time to respond to such a writer. [In fact, I've discovered that I don't have time to finish reading this article either.] One wonders why McVoy even bothered to respond.
  • by i_want_you_to_throw_ (559379) on Sunday October 22, 2006 @07:38PM (#16540792) Journal
    I don't mean this as flamebait but isn't RMS irrelevant already? Back when it needed a knowledgable geek champion who understood the situation at the time, RMS was great.

    Since that time it appears that the real world operates on a different set of rules than RMS's "Free no matter what" and reality be damned.

    Forgive me for not being so knowledgable but it does seem like RMS's ego is now driving the train.
  • by claykarmel (78187) on Sunday October 22, 2006 @07:41PM (#16540806)
    After reading Forbes articles on SCO, it's clear that they aren't neutral. They are trying to influence their readers rather than report to them.

    They are lobbyists.

    We should just ignore them.
  • by Ether (4235) on Sunday October 22, 2006 @07:41PM (#16540810)
    Yes, it is largely fud w/r/t to the kernel; but there is the issue of the rest of the toolchain (gcc, binutils, etc.) that the GNU foundation owns the copyright on, in addition to the large body of code licensed "GPL v2 or Later." Sure, the commercial vendors could fork or use the BSD tools, but then you have two different branches: the commercial branch, and the branch with code that the community chooses to license under GPL3. If the final GPL3 contains terms that would make impossible to provide to enterprise users, then some vendors could not provide that.
  • by BeeBeard (999187) on Sunday October 22, 2006 @07:42PM (#16540816)
    I heard that GPLv3 kills puppies. Just what I heard. Seriously, if you're the FSF and you have a stated agenda that you would like to promote, wouldn't it be in your interest to tailor your fast and furious new license to complement the efforts of developers working on the most significant, most widely-used existing projects? I don't mean to downplay Stallman's or FSF's historical importance, but the future of free software is not with those players. It is with Linux, and Firefox, and so on--the software projects that Stallman and a ton of other people helped make possible.

    Adoption of free software by non-nerds does not happen because of a Stallman speech about the software industry's problems, or because of GPLv3. Rather, it's the result of something as unassuming as a web browser that is more resilient to viruses and spyware than IE, and that provides a better browsing experience. That's really all that people care about.

    I am not personally a fan of Stallman's--I think he's made his share of missteps that have hindered the free software movement. But overall, the net good that he and FSF have accomplished has already outweighed the bad. We have seen the open source movement burgeon and grow well beyond the ability of any one entity to kill it, hinder it, or even significantly influence it.

    Does that mean we should dismiss GPLv3 as moot? No. Even if GPLv3 is 10 or even 20 years away from widespread adoption, or is just dismissed altogether as "aspirational", at least it's still out there. Out there to be used or out there to be used as a model for public licensing agreements yet to be drafted. There is no downside.
  • by tm2b (42473) on Sunday October 22, 2006 @07:44PM (#16540840) Journal
    Also, he doesn't seem to be really understanding the v3, since he claimed things like digitally signed repositories like apt-get would be not allowed with v3, while Stallman clearly established that it's not the case.
    Unfortunately, Stallman only gets a say in the legalese as it's generated - he doesn't get a say in how the legal language of the GPLv3 is interpreted after it's finished. If attorneys say that this is a concern, then Linus has to worry about it - no matter what Stallman says.

    Or do you seriously believe that Linus hasn't consulted with attorneys on this?
  • by bartron (772079) on Sunday October 22, 2006 @07:47PM (#16540864)
    People are free to use whatever license they want beit it V1,2 or 3 or even BSD or some other closed licence even. The only issue will be where software is written under V3 and someone else would prefer it to be under V2....

    guess what....that's te beauty of open source...if you don't like something you get to make your own.

    No-one is holding a gun to you head to use this license if you don't like it...and if it is really as bad as people say then it will find little use anyway.

  • by Mr2001 (90979) on Sunday October 22, 2006 @07:51PM (#16540898) Homepage Journal
    No. RMS's philosophy has been the same since before the modern OSS movement began. He was considered irrelevant back then, until the rise of free software success stories like GCC, Linux, Apache, etc. showed that his philosophy can produce great software while still granting end-users all the freedoms he talks about.

    Now that we already have those pieces of software, some folks are ready to call him irrelevant again... but he isn't. He's looking out for those of us who value free software for more than just the fact that it costs $0 and anyone can contribute. I don't want to live in a world where companies like TiVo (although I love their DVRs) can use technological loopholes to build on the community's work while denying their end-users the ability to build on and tinker with the products they paid for. The open-source nature of Linux doesn't count for jack if your computer will only allow you to boot the signed copy of Linux that came preinstalled, and/or signed Linux upgrade CDs that you buy in a box at the store, does it?
  • by Eric Smith (4379) * on Sunday October 22, 2006 @07:52PM (#16540910) Homepage Journal
    No but it stops you contributing under GPL2. If you have a GPL2 application and someome commits a *single* item of GPL3 code to one of your dependent libraries your choice is to change to GPL3 or stop using that library.
    I don't follow. If I'm maintaining or distributing a library that is covered by GPLv2, no one is forcing me to accept a contribution that is under the GPLv3.

    I've never included the "or any later version" clause in my GPL notices, but I will probably switch to GPLv3 once it is finalized.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 22, 2006 @07:56PM (#16540966)
    Forbes has had a chequered history at best when it comes to the computer industry,
    not to mention Linux. However, there is a small grain of truth in their basic
    premise, and in many ways, the Linux community continually shoots itself in the foot.

    I've heard from various application writers who say they haven't got a clue when it
    comes to "porting" to Linux, because there are so many variations in APIs (from their
    standpoint) between the various distributions. I've been running SuSE for years, yet
    I can't seem to install gnucash without getting into dependency hell where I seem to
    need one more RPM after another ad nauseum/infinitum. I have a copy of gimp from a site
    in Germany that's now out of date, but I can't do an 'rpm -e' on it without disrupting
    the (circular) dependencies on a bunch of libraries that came with it, so it can't be
    removed (or updated) without incredible frustration. I can't get an RPM of the latest
    version of gimp because no one (particularly SuSE) can be bothered to package it up
    to make it quickly, easily and *RELIABLY* installable *AND* removeable. And, other
    distros don't seem to be any better - Debian is a nightmare to get WINE for. I can sort
    of understand that they don't want to support a rapidly moving target, but it's not going
    to settle down unless folks can install it, test it, report bugs on it, and try to fix it.

    The politics around some of the apps are at the very least childish, and at worst, are
    preventing me from doing what I'd really like to do. I'm just a hobbyist - i.e., my system
    is NOT business-critical in the literal sense, but I really don't want to run Windows, and
    haven't for a long time. But, when my dual Athlon 1800+ with 2GB of memory crashes gimp
    repeatedly because I want to simply edit a picture, there's a major problem. Debian just
    re-did all their CD writer software because of a pissing contest with the developer of the
    package that I still use under SuSE 10.0. WHY ARE WE CONTINUING TO HAVE THESE SORTS OF PROBLEMS??

    Yeah, I can sort of understand Linus' angst over GPLv3. No, I really don't care for some of
    Stallman's antics. But those issues are the tip of the iceberg, and that iceberg is starting
    to drift back towards the Pole whence it came, and seems to be freezing up and getting larger
    as we speak. If we indeed are going to be serious about being a business solution that users
    are willing to bet their business on (never mind how much they're paying for a distro or for
    support), then we need to clean up our act NOW.

    Forbes was a big supporter of a mouse that would dutifully spy on your system and tell its
    boss what web sites you visited. I'm very disappointed that Steve let this happen in the
    first place, and it saddens me that they're still very technically naive in many ways. But
    it's going to be damned tough to straighten them out when our own Linux story is such a mess.
  • Adoption of free software by non-nerds does not happen because of a Stallman speech about the software industry's problems, or because of GPLv3. Rather, it's the result of something as unassuming as a web browser that is more resilient to viruses and spyware than IE, and that provides a better browsing experience. That's really all that people care about.

    Recent Free Software gains in India were due to Stallman visiting and making a speech. He promised the locals freedom to adapt the code to their needs, and to be free of licensing free imposed by Western companies. Maybe in the United States all people care about is a better browser, but Stallman's globetrotting shows that a lot of people in disadvantaged places see value in the philosophy, not just the features.

  • by rumblin'rabbit (711865) on Sunday October 22, 2006 @07:56PM (#16540972) Journal
    There were a few inaccuracies right off the bat. For example, Stallman may have issues with the state of copyright law, but he's not against copyright per se. Indeed, the GPL is based on copyright law. Lyon also confuses free as in beer with free as in freedom.

    But the main point is essentially correct: Stallman is trying to aggressively expand his "freedom empire" with the GPL 3, and it could just bite him on the ass.

    The article also insulting, inflammatory, and funny. Gotta love a good dustup.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 22, 2006 @08:00PM (#16540992)
    Lyons is just raking for hits and /. delivers. This is such a number on Stallman I'm amazed that Forbes printed this muck. But it is even stranger that it gets on /. without any mention of the personal attack that this represents. It very much reminds me of the attack on PJ at Groklaw by Maureen O'Gara. This falls so far below a standard of journalism you would expect from a business journal. It seems very desperate. It also looks like free software really does scare the sh*t out of someone. The message is clear, sell your shares in IBM, HP, Novell, Redhat NOW and buy M$.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 22, 2006 @08:01PM (#16541002)
    to adapt the code to their needs,

    Those don't sound like ordinary users to me. They sound like people who have the expertise to actually change the software they use. The poster's comment about Mozilla FireFox is still perfectly valid. Stop trying to turn this into an anti-US thing.
  • by AdamKG (1004604) <{moc.aamogmada} {ta} {todhsals}> on Sunday October 22, 2006 @08:05PM (#16541048) Homepage
    But see, that's my definition of Free as well, which is why I will use the GPL if/when I write any non-trivial software.

    And yes, in a way I'm imposing it on others. I don't want anyone to use my code to sue someone for copyright infringement, ever, when all they did was tinkering. The BSD license allows this kind of litigation nonsense by allowing restrictive copyrighting of derivative works. The GPL does not, and therefore conforms to my definition of Freedom.
  • by Overly Critical Guy (663429) on Sunday October 22, 2006 @08:08PM (#16541064)
    No offense, but you just illustrated what the original poster was mocking by padding your list of Windows steps to make it look worse, when in reality, your average install on Windows is:

    1.) Insert CD. Setup automatically begins.

    And the fact remains that a lot of Linux packages require more manual configuration than their Windows counterparts.
  • by guysmilee (720583) on Sunday October 22, 2006 @08:09PM (#16541068)
    I find it funny how companies struggle to make money by constantly trying to shift what should be in the unrestricted public domain to be something that is not. Companies deserve to protection when using public domained source and information ... they should be simply focused on quality of service delivery. If they become protectionist because they cannot provide a quality service/product ... then they deserve to collapse ... a new business model will arise from their ashes ...
  • by tomstdenis (446163) <> on Sunday October 22, 2006 @08:09PM (#16541070) Homepage
    RMS isn't specifically against DRM in so much as he's against the tivovization. That is, using GPL software, but not allowing it to run modified on the hardware.

    Sure he's against DRM, but he's more against stoping hackers :-)

  • Re:Are you joking? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Overly Critical Guy (663429) on Sunday October 22, 2006 @08:11PM (#16541088)
    Uh, most of the longest running servers online are running...BSD. Linux 2.6 has been a mish-mash of new code that should have been in a development line of kernels, and there have been prominent developers coming out and describing a spiraling trend of instability because of the new development model. It was even posted on Slashdot. Funny that you disregard that but selectively remember everyone else's FUD.

    As for FreeBSD oopsing when you hotplug, never had it happen.
  • dismiss all the points the article raises without addressing any of them
    Do actually do that, I'd have to find the points first, which would require wading through way too much irrelevant character assassination and blind assertion to be worth my time. If you say there are real points worth discussing hidden there, I'll take your word for it; but don't expect me to do the writer's job for them.
  • by Blakey Rat (99501) on Sunday October 22, 2006 @08:18PM (#16541142)
    I think the real point is if GPL2 and GPL3 are incompatible with each other, and a whole bunch of open source projects move to GPL3, that's going to cause huge issues for distro makers. So you'll end up with a world where almost every open source project has two different forks, one for GPL2 and one for GPL3, each of which is maintained separately from the other.

    I'm not saying that will happen. But to dismiss this article as if there was no relevance isn't helping anything. There is a real potential issue here.

    As for Stallman becoming irrelevant, my personal opinion would be "thank God!" The sooner that wacko retires to Argentina or somewhere, the sooner people can start treating the open source community with a little bit of respect and dignity. And maybe they can get a spokesman who doesn't have a hissy-fit every time someone asks him to wear a namebadge at a conference.
  • by cortana (588495) < minus language> on Sunday October 22, 2006 @08:22PM (#16541164) Homepage
    It is ironic that you are forcing your personal definition of "free" upon me.
  • by aschoeff (864154) on Sunday October 22, 2006 @08:30PM (#16541222)
    How can you possibly equate anti-MicroSoft people with anti-GPL people? First of all, anti-GPL people aren't people, they're corporations. Anti-MicroSoft, pro-GPL people are actually real people, who are advocates of freedom for all, not profit for the few and slavery for the rest.

    I'm sorry, but you may NOT try and just equate the two and expect to not be corrected. You imply the same moral and ethical depravity inherent to the actions of a company like MicroSoft, to RMS and the movement he helps represent. They have fundamentally different motivations and goals. One is based on pursuing self-interest by any means necessary, the other for cooperatively universal benefit at the expense of none. And by none I mean people, not pseudo-corporal business entities.
  • by Kjella (173770) on Sunday October 22, 2006 @08:33PM (#16541254) Homepage
    Also, he doesn't seem to be really understanding the v3, since he claimed things like digitally signed repositories like apt-get would be not allowed with v3, while Stallman clearly established that it's not the case.

    Well, it's hard to say how it will function. If software producer A sign their binaries, and hardware company B produces hardware that only reads binaries signed by A, the GPLv3 is somehow supposed to magically supply me with A's private key so that I might run modified versions of the application. But A isn't doing anything to demand release of the keys, and B isn't bound by the GPLv3 because they don't ship software. If a company can find a way to ship the software and hardware separately (or under the "mere aggregation" clause, or claiming that the software and hardware is not a derivative work according to copyright law), then the GPLv3 is screwed.

    Going after the hardware side (B)?
    1. They don't ship software
    2. They don't even have the key

    Going after the software side (A)?
    1. They will have to release key/stop signing/stop distributing because of what someone else is doing.

    The first case is absurd. The second case, well what do you do if someone starts bullding hardware that only runs software signed by apt-get? Suddenly you have the power to shut down any signing system, clearly it can't work that way either. The only thing they can try for it some very narrow "if you ship both of these together, you have to include the key". Something tells me that one is full of holes a good lawyer could use, probably to the point where you're getting one product but legally they're two, and no keys.
  • by Ether (4235) on Sunday October 22, 2006 @08:33PM (#16541256)
    Consider the purely hypothetical clause: 'This software cannot be used in the production or use of closed-source software.' (Ignore for the sake of argument that GNU hasn't suggested this clause for V3.) No commercial vendor would distribute code under the GPLvN or contribute under that license. Now that we have established that there is a clause that could cause this problem, it is possible to consider a situation where RMS, given his stated opinions on software freedom, would include a poison-pill clause that would sabotage the overall success of Linux for ideological purposes? (I'm not saying it's a good thing or a bad thing; just that it is a possibility.) Even seemingly innoculous license restrictions can cause problems- look at the difficulties that BSD's advertising clause caused.
  • by NotQuiteReal (608241) on Sunday October 22, 2006 @08:43PM (#16541324) Journal
    I know, traditions and all, but after all, legal rulings are often called "opinions". Why does there need to be "interpretation"? When you make a law (or write a license), would it be so hard to tag a sentence or two in plain vernacular about the "intent"? Why wouldn't that have any weight, legally? I mean, if it is from the original author of the clause in question, why would it not have standing, even if clearly different from the exacting legalese? Seems like we have the author of GPLV3 explaining himself already! Couldn't the intent be part of the license?

    To take a really off topic, but simple, example; When they said; A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed. They knew what them meant. Would it have been so hard to add a sentence? Either By this we mean a well regulated militia is one that is under state control or The intention of this is to prevent the state from usurping the rights of individuals, so this to means all citizens of good standing can bear arms.?

    Makes a big difference, and not subject to later interpretation.

  • by Jerk City Troll (661616) on Sunday October 22, 2006 @08:44PM (#16541328) Homepage

    The question mark in the title is clearly a Cavuto, a type of punctuation used to make an inflammatory statement without actually being inflammatory. For further clarification, I would like to turn to Jon Stewart [].

  • by TheRaven64 (641858) on Sunday October 22, 2006 @08:47PM (#16541344) Journal
    It bothers me that just because Stallman is committed to his ideals, people treat him like a joke, despite the fact that he's done us a hell of a lot of good.

    Stallman is treated like a joke because he is not a good debater. He is committed to his ideals, and I tend to agree with most of what he says, but he does not present his arguments well. Take the recent issue with nVidia blobs. I read an interview with Richard M. Stallman and Theo De Raadt. Both RMS and TdR were arguing the same point of view (which is why the FSF gave TdR an award last year), but Theo managed to come across as a rational intelligent individual, while RMS sounded like a crazy person. And if you sound like the crazy one next to Theo, you have serious issues.

    licenses on things like ZFS are even more restrictive (plus it's rather new, and probably overkill).

    From my reading, it's not more restrictive, but it is differently restrictive. It's not GPL-compatible (so it can't be added to Linux), but FreeBSD has no problem importing the code. From the FSF web site:

    [The CDDL] is a free software license which is not a strong copyleft; it has some complex restrictions that make it incompatible with the GNU GPL. It requires that all attribution notices be maintained, while the GPL only requires certain types of notices. Also, it terminates in retaliation for certain aggressive uses of patents.
    The aggressive patent-retaliation clauses combined with the per-file (i.e. non-viral) nature of the license make it more attractive from my perspective.

  • Ironically... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by rhythmx (744978) on Sunday October 22, 2006 @08:48PM (#16541346) Homepage Journal
    Ironically, TFA displays a blantant lack of respect for intellectual property and copyright. While it is busy smashing RMS for "demanding that the big tech outfits crack open their proprietary code whenever they inserted lines from [GNU/]Linux", it fails to realize that the FSF owns that code. Stallman and the FSF have just as much a right to enforce open source as Microsoft does to enforce closed source. Yet another case of confusing "free" and "freedom".

    This author is completely ignorant of the issues surrounding Open Source/Free Software. He just realized all his favorite Fortune 500 companies were investing in a "socialist" operating system and let the FUD fly to make himself feel better.
  • by psykocrime (61037) <[ku.oc.rekcahppc] [ta] [emircdnim]> on Sunday October 22, 2006 @08:55PM (#16541372) Homepage Journal
    I got as far as this part:

    M. Stallman is a 53-year-old anticorporate crusader who has argued for 20 years that most software should be free of charge.

    and realized that the author of TFA has no fucking clue what he's talking about. Stallman and the FSF are fine with people
    charging money for software... The author clearly does not grok the difference between "free as in beer" and "free as in speech."

  • by mkoenecke (249261) on Sunday October 22, 2006 @08:59PM (#16541408) Homepage
    The framers of the Constitution *did* think the Second Amendment was clear when written. And no one much questioned it for nearly 150 years: that's pretty darned good. 220 years of hindsight and court decisions have added an unbelievable amount of nuance and interpretation to what is simply the most carefully and expertly drafted political document in human history. How many other such documents have stayed around and had to be altered so little for such a long time? (Other than Germany's Rheinheitsgebot, that is.)
  • by Kjella (173770) on Sunday October 22, 2006 @09:00PM (#16541420) Homepage
    I think the greatest difference lies in the position of "free"

    BSD code is free code to be used in software.
    GPL code is code to be used in free software.

    I don't have a problem seeing that free has two different meanings, and that I don't need to subscribe to one particular definition. Of course, we can still have a holy war about which is "better". In fact, I liked those two lines so much I'll make it my sig.
  • I don't see that at all. He might be a fanatic, but I really don't see that as a problem. Goldwater said that "extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice", and I have to agree. You say he isn't interested in progress. For what values of "progress"? He has stated time and again that he doesn't define success as how many people use free Software. He isn't interested in getting as many people as possible to use GNU/Linux distros, but simply making sure users have the freedoms laid out in the GNU manifesto. As people use loopholes in the GPL to remove those freedoms, he should attempt to close those loopholes to protect the freedoms.

    As far as him "resolving the conflicts between concerned entities", I will assume you mean making the GPL more palatable towards interests who believe the draft GPL v3 is too restrictive. If its too restrictive for your ends, then don't use it. It is not like Stallman is revoking the ability to use GPL v2 in any newer projects. Now, if you're worried about factionalization and adoption issues, that is your problem not RMS's. It is not his job nor his wish to create a license that most people will use without objection. It is his job to make sure the four freedoms are protected at all costs. I will now leave you with the 2nd half of that Goldwater quote: "Moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue."

    I, for one, welcome Stallman's extremism in the defense of my liberty and his unwillingness to compromise his ideals in pursuit of justice.
  • by Mr2001 (90979) on Sunday October 22, 2006 @09:03PM (#16541450) Homepage Journal
    Providing source code for free projects is hardly exclusively "his philosophy," and Apache doesn't even use the GPL.

    His philosophy is more than just providing source code. It extends to the idea that you should be able to make whatever changes you want to the software that you use, without being limited legally (by licenses) or technologically (by measures like TiVo's kernel signature checking), and providing source code is a consequence of that. The GPLv3 uses legal measures to ensure that end-users aren't impaired by technological measures which were unforseen at the time the GPLv2 was written.

    Instead, he's defining a personal view of "freedom" and enforcing it on others, when my definition of freedom is more along the lines of the BSD license.

    RMS isn't enforcing anything on anyone. If a software developer wants to release his code under the GPLv3, that's the developer's choice, not Stallman's. If you want to release your software under the BSD license, that's your choice too.
  • by YU Nicks NE Way (129084) on Sunday October 22, 2006 @09:04PM (#16541470)
    Actually, yes, Stallman is opposed to copyright, _per se_, at least as far a software is concerned. He's quite open about that; he believes deeply in something he refers to as "the freedom to tinker". Copyright, if it applies to software packages, completely breaks the freedom to tinker.

  • by grahamkg (5290) on Sunday October 22, 2006 @09:07PM (#16541480)
    So how many of you actually read the latest draft of GPLv3?! Here it is: []

    The reality is that businesses run Windows and Unix environments. Linux isn't the cheap panacea once touted to be. Sun isn't completely out of the game yet, and IBM still has AIX. Apple is also very much a player in the computing world. Sure you can download the latest version of Debian, but a corporate compute environment is more likely to use Red Hat or SuSE Enterprise.

    Were I Apple or Sun, I'd be pushing my own version of Unix on the corporate world, letting them know they won't have GPLv3 worries to litigate in the future. Were I IBM, I'd make absolutely certain AIX is on every CIOs tongue.

  • by NoTheory (580275) on Sunday October 22, 2006 @09:13PM (#16541516)
    First, language is not immutable, meanings change, grow, shrink. Second, a person's intent never extends to the full consequences of an issue. This is why we have a judicial system in the first place. If things were simple (i.e. there weren't fuzzy or complicated cases that defy easy categorization), we could simply write laws and everything would fall neatly into the buckets we'd carved out. Also, Stallman isn't a lawyer, although his intent is well and good, does he really understand what the consequences of his intent are? Should we have to shoe-horn previously decided case law into the framework of Stallman's intent?

    Regardless of whether Stallman or other's think he's leading us into the bright new future, there's all this legacy baggage out in the real world that needs to be squared properly. And that's what judges are supposed to do.
  • by jamstar7 (694492) on Sunday October 22, 2006 @09:13PM (#16541520)
    If somebody wants to take BSD code, modify it and not release those changes, then so be it. It doesn't hurt the rest of us, as we still have FreeBSD, NetBSD, OpenBSD and DragonFly BSD to use. Beyond that, such use may make somebody else better off. Thus, there's a net benefit overall. We lose nothing, yet others gain.

    Prob I have with the BSD license is, a company can take your code, modify it, close it off, and go their own way with it. And they never have to put anything back. For instance, Microsoft with the TCP/IP stack they took directly from BSD. They get something for nothing, the original writers of the stack get jackshit, and Microsoft claims 'all our code belongs to us' and locks away any improvements, PLUS has the ability to sue if somebody comes along & updates the code along the lines of a MS product. If anybody comes up with an improvement on the stack that is a workalike to current MS code, they're in trouble.

  • by SirSlud (67381) on Sunday October 22, 2006 @09:15PM (#16541532) Homepage

    Richard M. Stallman is a 53-year-old anticorporate crusader who has argued for 20 years that most software should be free of charge.

    RMS quote:

    "I think it is ok for authors (please let's not call them "creators", they are not gods) to ask for money for copies of their works (please let's not devalue these works by calling them "content") in order to gain income (the term "compensation" falsely implies it is a matter of making up for some kind of damages)."

    The guy is wakko, but you know why he's so successful? Because people make a god or demon out of him; hes neither. The guy has obviously spent some time learning the history of copyright/patent/trademark laws, and thats more than most can say.

    He understands that copyright law was enacted to benifit the public, not the author. He understands that patent laws were enacted to encourage publication, and that trademark laws try and enforce a certain level of market transparency for .. gee, the public.

    His ideas may come across as complicated and pedantic to people; which is the way it should be. We're talking about the systems that were put in place to encourage the advancement of science, technology, and culture here.


    Cisco caved in to Stallman's demands rather than endure months of abuse from his noisy worldwide cult of online jihadists.

    As soon as you agree with an article that demogogues by using the word "jihad", you might begin to question the source. RMS, that crazy nut, is basically pointing out that the last 500 years of laws based on intellectual property arn't based upon secrecy; they're based on encouraging publication while granting the author (and more importantly, denying the state) a relatively modest amount of control over the invention or creative work. In other words, he realizes that we've all been through this before, and its the public domain that needs protecting, not the author, because in lieu of laws that protect the public right to its own culture and technological innovation, we end up with something that very closely mirrors a feudalist system with a barrier to market that would make Adam Smith rise from the dead to slap us silly. The guy might be a little too over the edge, but anyone with a basic grasp on the history of copyright, patent, and trademark laws should immediately understand where hes coming from. This article does little else than cry wolf for some tech companies. I work for tech companies, as a programmer. They won't live or die based on licenses of available technologies. This is just a bunch of whining.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 22, 2006 @09:15PM (#16541536)
    "Stallman and the FSF are fine with people charging money for software... "

    The thing is, that FOSS doesn't make it's money by "selling software". It makes it's money by selling "non-copyable" services. If I hire you for example to modify the code for whatever reason. e.g. updates, bugfixes, etc. I'm paying for your time and that can't easily be P2P'ed, but the code can. If I pay you to write documentation, or be available 24/7 to maintain things. That lies outside of FOSS even if it benefits indirectly. So Stallman's position is rather irrelevent because that's not were the money is as far as FOSS is concerned. Now commercial entities and Stallman's position are another matter entirely.
  • by Overly Critical Guy (663429) on Sunday October 22, 2006 @09:22PM (#16541570)
    No, I'm not, which is the point. The BSD license gives the code away and lets you define freedom for yourself. GPL has a set of rules, so it is by definition less "free."
  • by femto (459605) on Sunday October 22, 2006 @09:26PM (#16541592) Homepage

    It's not splitting hairs. The GPL is quite specific:

    "...have the freedom to distribute copies of free software (and charge for this service if you wish),..."


    "You may charge a fee for the physical act of transferring a copy, and you may at your option offer warranty protection in exchange for a fee."

    The GPL distinguishes between licensing and distribution. You may not charge for the right to copy the program (" be licensed as a whole at no charge..."). You may charge for the act of distributing the program (see above).

    The GPL does not dictate that you must give someone a copy of a program. You are free to say no when someone asks for a copy of a program without paying money.

    If you choose to sell a copy of a program to someone you may distribute it as a source or binary.

    If you distribute it as source take the money, give them the source code and that is the end of the transaction. There is no limit to the money you can legally charge as the GPL does not come into play until the transaction is complete.

    If you distribute it as binary take the money, give them the binary. Again there is no limit to the money you can legally charge under the GPL for distributing the copy. In the case of distributing the binary you must also offer to provide the source at a minimum cost of distribution. This is fair as you have already made your profit on the distribution of the binary. It's worth noting that the offer to distribute source for minimal cost only comes into play once you have distributed a binary. Distribute source initially and you can charge what you want for it.

    The low cost of GPLd software is a consequence of unfettered competion, not the GPL. Something to warm the heart of every capitalist.

  • by Amazing Quantum Man (458715) on Sunday October 22, 2006 @09:35PM (#16541640) Homepage
    Those don't sound like ordinary users to me. They sound like people who have the expertise to actually change the software they use.

    I have no clue as to how to work on the electric lines in my house. But I can contract out to *any* qualified person to fix them.

    Similarly, if I have a problem with Firefox, I may not have the knowledge to fix it myself. But I can contract out to *any* qualified person to fix it.

    On the gripping hand, if I have a problem with $CLOSED_SOURCE_SOFTWARE, I'm screwed unless the vendor itself decides to fix it.
  • When they said; A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed. They knew what them meant.

    They did indeed. However, word meanings and connotations change with time. Today many people think the "militia" is synonmyous with the National Guard (when in fact, the Guard has been part of the Army since 1933), and "well-regulated" means "operating under a large set of rules"; but at the time, it was clear to the authors that "militia" meant "every able-bodied man young enough to fight", and "well-regulated" meant "prepared and trained in military skills" [].

    The meaning of "arms" has also changed: at the time, it was understood to mean the sort of weapon carried by an infantryman. Heavier weapons would be refered to as "cannon"; so Amendment II doesn't mean you have a right to a howitzer on your front lawn. But people arguing against the Second Amendment today often attempt a reductio ad absurdum which includes WMDs under "arms".

    (Some people evidently also seem to think that "shall not be infringed" somehow means "can be limited by the government", but that's a linguisitic drift that's harder to account for.)

    Anyway, point being that what is absolutely clear and precise to one audience, can still be interpreted differently by another (especially if the two group have different motivations).

  • by femto (459605) on Sunday October 22, 2006 @09:44PM (#16541724) Homepage

    Business people might believe Forbes, but it doesn't follow that the article is credible. The magazine as a whole might be credible, but individual articles can still be incredible. A wise business person would take each article on its own merits (or lack thereof).

    "is laughable at best and hippocritical at worse"

    Please show me evidence to back this claim. You might think so, but that opinion is probably based on misunderstanding and reading too many Forbes articles.

    "...since what individual would pay for something he can get for free?"

    Some altruistic individuals might. Most wouldn't. The point you are missing though is that most free software is not zero cost to the majority of people. There is the cost of knowing where to get it from, what is the best of the multitude of options, knowing how to set it up, the cost of making sure it is available when required and so on. These are all things that cost time and money and that people are prepared to pay for. There is a business in selling Free software.

    Simple economics dictates that you can make a reasonable profit out of free software. If you can't make a profit either your expectations are not reasonable or someone is undercutting your costs so you need to become more efficient. The model of "write a program, sit on your bum and profit selling copies" is dead. The Internet has made distribution so efficient that you will instantly be undercut. The problem isn't the GPL. It's people flogging a business model that is a dead horse.

    There are plenty of people making money off free software. It's just that it tends to be thousands of small companies rather than a few multinationals.

  • by kz45 (175825) <> on Sunday October 22, 2006 @09:45PM (#16541738)
    "How can you possibly equate anti-MicroSoft people with anti-GPL people? First of all, anti-GPL people aren't people, they're corporations. Anti-MicroSoft, pro-GPL people are actually real people, who are advocates of freedom for all, not profit for the few and slavery for the rest."

    Some the new additions to the GNU license are a little zealous to say the least. The GNU license has always been touted as a "distribution" license. One of the new restrictions is on code is with services. Someone who has a service that uses GPLd code and does not re-distribute their code are still required to give out their source.

    Even though many people in favor of the GNU may not like it or admit it, if the GPL starts getting too restrictive such as what I mentioned above, people will just stop using it. Companies will stop supporting it and developers that actually want to make a living with their software will just find code that is licensed under a different license because it will be a liability.
  • by The_Wilschon (782534) on Sunday October 22, 2006 @09:47PM (#16541748) Homepage
    Well, in your hypothetical situation, I think that the GPL3 has already accomplished its goal. A and B cannot be in each other's beds. B cannot ship their hardware with the GPL3'd software from a particular repository (apt-get is a program, not a repository or a signing system...) on it, or else they are clearly in violation of GPL3. And how large is the market for hardware shipping with no software on it? Or even hardware shipping with software other than the software it was designed for? The aim is to prevent (eg) TiVo from shipping PVRs with Linux on them, but only allowing that one version of Linux to ever run on them. Of course, since Linux is likely staying GPL2, this particular won't be prevented, but you get the point. TiVo is not going to ship PVRs with blank HDDs, and say "Oh, by the way, you can install this particular linux binary which is maintained by this completely unrelated company over here if you want to do anything with what you just bought".

    So, in the situation you describe, the hardware sold by B would be essentially useless (you can't run the GNU utilities because they're GPL3, and you can't run any other utilities because they're not signed). But, if you went ahead and installed the signed GNU utility binaries, knowing that this was not permitted, then you the end user would of course be in violation of the GPL3, not A or B.

    OTOH, I think it unlikely that Stallman or anyone else will spend a great deal of effort to stop that particular sort of violation. 1) It is unlikely to occur much, because B shipping hardware without software is not going to sell much. 2) It would go against his ideas of freedom, as I understand them. You've bought this hardware, you can do what you like with it. But I could be wrong in this paragraph; it is mere speculation.
  • by smallpaul (65919) <(paul) (at) (> on Sunday October 22, 2006 @09:48PM (#16541758)

    I think Linus is a good coder and project manager, but we shouldn't expect him to "show the way" in issues of principle/vision. He's an engineer, not a "freedom fighter".

    People are being extradited to secret camps []. Others are being shot [] for reporting on corrupt regimes. Some live in house arrest [] for years on end. Others are tortured [] for crimes that they have nothing to do with. It is VERY GENEROUS to call someone who fights against the right of software developers to control the distribution of their works a "freedom fighter." Considering the state of the world today, I find it amazing that people really see their ability to tweak their software as a humans rights violation. It is a minor licensing issue. MINOR. LICENSING. ISSUE.

  • Balderdash... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by borgheron (172546) on Sunday October 22, 2006 @09:57PM (#16541806) Homepage Journal
    The GPL v3 doesn't need to be used by anyone who doesn't want to use it. The FSF could come out with GPL v3 and everyone could simply go about thier business and continue to use v2, if they want to.

    The fact is, however, that v3 clarifies many things that have been concerns in v2, since v2 is somewhat old and doesn't adequately address such issues as patents and DRM.

    Also, Linus and crew are making a huge deal about making lots and lots of noise when Eben Moglen has asked them to PLEASE be a part of the process instead of simply complaining.

  • by Millenniumman (924859) on Sunday October 22, 2006 @10:03PM (#16541840)
    Why would allowing a government controlled militia be in the Bill of Rights? First of all, the Bill of Rights is there to ensure the people's rights, not the governments functions. Second of all, why would a government deny itself an army? As far as I'm aware, the founders hadn't had problems with Britain being extremely pacifistic.
  • by kz45 (175825) <> on Sunday October 22, 2006 @10:13PM (#16541908)
    "Recent Free Software gains in India were due to Stallman visiting and making a speech. He promised the locals freedom to adapt the code to their needs, and to be free of licensing free imposed by Western companies. Maybe in the United States all people care about is a better browser, but Stallman's globetrotting shows that a lot of people in disadvantaged places see value in the philosophy, not just the features"

    Don't you get it?

    Those people don't care about the philosophy or the features. When they hear stallman speak, they hear one thing: "getting software at no cost". This is what 99% of the population hears as well.
  • by chromatic (9471) on Sunday October 22, 2006 @10:22PM (#16541986) Homepage
    To expect manufacturers to allow you to run modified software on their hardware is ridiculous - they have every right to limit their hardware to working only with their software configurations. If you don't like that, don't buy their hardware.

    If I don't like it and I don't buy their hardware, can I somehow prevent them from using code I've written in a way that prevents modification by people who do buy their hardware?

  • Re:Problems.. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by TrappedByMyself (861094) on Sunday October 22, 2006 @10:44PM (#16542158)
    Nice and dramatic, but not really true. I have a hard time with the champion of free imposing so many restrictions. GNU this, GNU that, viral useage rules.

    but without his conviction we would all be locked into proprietary products.

    He's definitely had an effect of free software, and its course would be different without him, but I hardly think the world would be so dismal. He built some development tools then started on these grand projects which seem to share the development cycle of Duke Nukem Forever. The academic community shares stuff anyway, so Linux would have still existed, it just wouldn't use the GPL as we know it. The sharing of ideas is hardly a recent concept.

    I'm not saying the guy isn't important, but he's closer to just a colorful character than a critical path guy in computer history (such as John von Neumann)
  • Ok, Fine. What counts as arms? a .22 pistol? A tank? A basement full of C-4? An F16? and what counts as a citizen of good standing? Someone who hasn't been convicted of a felony? Someone who has no criminal record? Does this include traffic violations? Even your clarifications must be further clarified. It's a never ending cycle that can never be fully codified.
  • by bzipitidoo (647217) <> on Sunday October 22, 2006 @10:59PM (#16542226) Journal
    Not so simple. Your version of freedom seems to be anarchy. BSD lets bullies bully, and does nothing to prevent the Tragedy of the Commons. That phrase "define freedom for yourself" sounds like a great justification for the strong to indulge in tyranny. GPL tries to give everyone more freedom by restricting the freedom of the slick and sharp to take freedoms away from the less sophisticated. It's hard to cover all the means by which that can be done, especially when the law might change at any time, which is why the GPL needs updates. There was no DMCA when GPLv2 was written. Turning to the ever popular analogy with the automobile, surely you agree that people should not have the freedom to drive anything whatever on the road no matter how dangerous or destructive to others or the roads? It's no fun dodging debris falling off a poorly maintained, slow, overloaded truck in front.
  • by boron boy (858013) on Sunday October 22, 2006 @11:01PM (#16542244) Homepage
    Not for those of us who aren't in on the joke yet. I had never heard of FSM before i clicked on that link.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 22, 2006 @11:12PM (#16542318)
    To take a really off topic, but simple, example; When they said; A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed. They knew what them meant. Would it have been so hard to add a sentence? [etc., etc.]

    If you are familiar with the history, it's obvious that, at the time, it very clearly referred to an individual right to bear arms.

    That's what instigated the Battles of Lexington and Concord, and hence sparked the American Revolution. The British soldiers based in Boston went to collect caches of weapons from known or suspected agitators in the countryside. The British-American colonists felt their rights were violated, and it led to open combat, a fighting retreat, and the colonists successfully besieged Boston. All because the government wanted to collect weapons from citizens.

    The problem is that, when man-portable automatic weapons were developed, the Constitution was not changed. Practically everyone recognizes that, if private individuals are allowed to own fully-automatic AK47s, there will be serious problems enforcing civil order. They were made illegal some time around 1900, but no one could be bothered with amending the Constitution to make such a law possible. So ever since that time, we have been subjected to the bizarre construction of 'oh yeah, it refers to ownership by militas, not to private ownership'. This only led to still more bizarre things like the creation of the 'Michigan Militia'.

    Anyway, the problem is not that the second amendment is unclear. It's that it was outdated by late 19th-century technology, and we have been suffering under legal kludges ever since. All that we need is to pass a new amendment to say "people generally have a right to own handguns and rifles, but deadlier things can be prohibited".

    But considering the trouble Congress has with even considering any modification at all (liberal or conservative) to Social Security, my hopes are not high.
  • by mabhatter654 (561290) on Sunday October 22, 2006 @11:20PM (#16542370)
    wrong, history has proven that while Stallman's path is "the road not traveled", his views on corperate control of culture via copyright and patents have almost all come true verbatim. And key members of the industries view our current "freedom" as "consumers" as too much. RMS is about making sure SOMETHING remains truely, legally FREE. In the current corperate culture, that's extremely hard.. 75% of the "free" software on your computer you got legally for free (without money) is not FREE... you can't look at it to see how it works, you can't use it how you wish.. you may not even own the works you create with the program. But somebody let you have such a great thing for "free". That's the issue! Imagine when everything uses software, and everything needs you to give up special permission to the "owners" in order to get your work done... hell in a good part of the country, employeers can make you sign away rights so you can't even GIVE away works you create.

    Trust me, without "crazies" like RMS there would be no ruler to meaure how bad the situation truely is. RMS BEGS people to follow him, but he's not the one out there passing crazy laws like the DMCA, or making 100 billion from "borrowed" code, or suing people for a few songs... those are the capitalists that know what's best for us.

  • by Latent Heat (558884) on Sunday October 22, 2006 @11:23PM (#16542404)
    The Wright Brothers were first in flight excepting some spurious claims. They were for a long time number one in controlled flight -- when a left turn would send competitors augering in, they were not only flying but doing figure-eights and impressive maneuvers up in the air. But they were also wedded to a control-surfaces-in-front and other features that perhaps they could fly maneuvers but could they train anyone else? All I know is that after flight training in low-wing Pipers with asymmetric ailerons that you don't even have to know what the rudders are for, the thought of getting checked out in a Wright Flyer is something I don't want to contemplate -- probably something beyond helicopter training in developing a new set of reflexes and balances.

    Given their lead, they had visions that they owned aviation through patents. They had the idea that flight was going to be bigger than anyone could imagine, but their idea was of themselves being a Microsoft rather than the aviation industry being Open Source. They made some money from it, but they didn't realize their dream of becoming personally rich beyond imagining. An engine maker called Curtis-Wright had their swan song in the form of the TurboCompound radial engine that powered the DC-7, Lockheed Constellation, P-2 Neptune (did they have one in the Skyraider?). But in the age of Boeing and Airbus, they are a historical footnote.

  • by leed_25 (156309) on Monday October 23, 2006 @12:00AM (#16542652) Homepage
    My personal opinion is that Richard Stallman's relevance began to decrease
    as soon as he stopped programming. I think that he is a first class programmer
    but that he is an abject failure as a policy maker.

  • by sydneyfong (410107) on Monday October 23, 2006 @12:01AM (#16542660) Homepage Journal
    Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer. This is not legal advice.

    > I mean, if it is from the original author of the clause in question, why
    > would it not have standing, even if clearly different from the exacting
    > legalese

    Because of the requirement of legal certainty.

    Say you have a license agreement (or contract). Both parties read the terms and agree to it. All is happy. Now one day the drafter of the agreement (who isn't one of the parties) comes up and says "nevermind what I wrote, I actually meant *this*!". If this was accepted, then the parties are now bound by terms that they didn't agree to.

    Note that (AFAIK) in common law, the court will put some weight on the intention of the parties of the agreement or contract. But this is different from the case where the contract or agreement or license (eg. GPL) was drafted by a third party (eg. RMS). RMS's intentions are not relevant (unless, of course, the parties had RMS's personal interpretations in mind when agreeing to the terms, then maybe that would be relevant)

    Anyway, the bottom line is: the law expects you to read and (argh) understand the legalese, and it doesn't expect you to find out what the drafters of the document have to say about their intentions. What you agree to is the terms expressed on the document, not the drafter's intentions. In fact, the drafter's intentions are probably even more irrelevant than the parties not involved in the drafting: (see [] )

    Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer. This is not legal advice.
    Another disclaimer: the above is a very rough approximation of the law. It is not accurate by any means.
    Another disclaimer: I live in a common law jurisdiction, but the law in the US and my jurisdiction can vary.
  • by Charles W Griswold (848651) <> on Monday October 23, 2006 @12:06AM (#16542708) Homepage

    An interesting article, but it shows a remarkable lack of knowledge, both on the part of the author and on the part of some of the people that he quoted. He seems to think that if you distribute software under the GPL, that it gives Stallman control of said software, or that it gives Stallman a right to sue people who (mis)use the software. That simply isn't true. The copyright owner (i.e. the person(s) or company that actually wrote the software) controlls it, and is responsible for suing those who infringe on the GPL.

    "In recent years Stallman and the FSF have been cracking down on big Linux users, enforcing terms of the existing license (GPLv2, for version 2) and demanding that the big tech outfits crack open their proprietary code whenever they inserted lines from Linux."

    If said companies broke the terms of the GPL, then they're in the wrong, aren't they? I mean, hey, if I broke the terms of the license for, say, MS Windows and Microsoft found out about it, they'd be all over me like stink on you-know-what. But when the big corporations are called on *their* (alleged) copyright violations, suddenly it's Stallman that's in the wrong.

    And then there's the fact that it goes on paragraph-after-paragraph describing Stallman in the most unflattering terms. I mean, hey, Stallman is no saint, and he is a bit bizarre, but what does that have to do with the GPL? What does hair in soup have to do with copyright law? What does bad singing have to do with finance? Forbes *is* a finance magazine and not a celebrity trash rag, right?

    "A cantankerous and finger-wagging freewheeler, Stallman won't comment on any of this because he was upset by a previous story written by this writer."

    Ah, I see. Daniel Lyons said bad things about Richard Stallman, so Stallman snubbed Lyons, so Lyons is in a snit. Grow up, guys.

  • by Pfhorrest (545131) on Monday October 23, 2006 @12:30AM (#16542818) Homepage Journal
    I know, traditions and all, but after all, legal rulings are often called "opinions". Why does there need to be "interpretation"? When you make a law (or write a license), would it be so hard to tag a sentence or two in plain vernacular about the "intent"? Why wouldn't that have any weight, legally? I mean, if it is from the original author of the clause in question, why would it not have standing, even if clearly different from the exacting legalese? Seems like we have the author of GPLV3 explaining himself already! Couldn't the intent be part of the license?

    To take a really off topic, but simple, example; When they said; A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed. They knew what them meant. Would it have been so hard to add a sentence? Either By this we mean a well regulated militia is one that is under state control or The intention of this is to prevent the state from usurping the rights of individuals, so this to means all citizens of good standing can bear arms.?

    Makes a big difference, and not subject to later interpretation.

    In writing a philosophical essay, students are often advised to use as plain and simple English as possible to explain the claim that they are making, and to restate it several times in different ways, and include examples, to make sure that no reader is going to misunderstand them. I heard a good guideline the other week summarizing this: assume that your reader is "stupid, lazy, and mean". "Stupid" in that that they're not going to get your point very easily and need everything spelled out for them, "lazy" in that they're not going to to go to the effort of trying to understand what you mean and need everything spelled out for them, and "mean" in that they'll probably interpret what you say in the most negative way possible, so they need the actual intention of your point clearly spelled out for them.

    It seems to me that, like you're saying, this would be a very good principle to apply to laws. Say what you're going to say - "P". Then say it, in a different way, "By P, we mean Q". Then say what you just said - "That is to say, R; or in other words, S." Give examples: "For example, this law prohibits X, Y, and Z; this law does not prohibit A, B, and C." And of course be clear that those are only examples and not the full extent of the law.

    Someone else who responded to you already said that the symbols we use now to convey meaning (our language) do not retain the same meaning across generations. But it seems to me that you've got a good point: that by stating something in as many ways as possible, you're sort of giving several points of reference, to make sure that future generations understand that "P" meant the same thing as "Q" when we wrote this, so if what "P" means to you kids in the future isn't the same as what "Q" means to you, you're misunderstanding us somehow.
  • by asuffield (111848) <> on Monday October 23, 2006 @12:39AM (#16542860)
    Forbes may not be credible to techies and geeks, however it is VERY reliavant to the business world and those who control the money that funds these projects. Thats a fact.

    And because of this fact, the business world and those who control the money have been controlling Forbes for about as long as it has been around. Very few articles are written there which somebody did not pay for. Microsoft has paid for articles there before. Somebody paid for this article. That's another fact.

    Forbes is yet another way for slightly-more-intelligent people with money to influence slightly-less-intelligent people with money. Nothing more nor less.
  • by 1u3hr (530656) on Monday October 23, 2006 @01:20AM (#16543086)
    I know, traditions and all, but after all, legal rulings are often called "opinions". Why does there need to be "interpretation"? When you make a law (or write a license), would it be so hard to tag a sentence or two in plain vernacular about the "intent"? Why wouldn't that have any weight, legally?

    Because your "plain language" is plain to you but not to everyone else, and especailly not to an determined lawyer.

    I live in Hong Kong, where your "intent" idea has sadly been put into effect. When Hong Kong was handed back by Britain to China in 1997 the laws of Hong Kong were determined by the "Basic Law", in effect a constitution, as enacted by the PRC after negotiation with the UK. However, some years later when the governement wanted to enact laws that went against the "obvious" interpretation of the Basic Law (relating to elections mostly), the rulings of Hong Kong's High Court were overridden by the government by appealing to the "intent" of the laws, by asking members of the committee that had drafted them what they had been thinking about. Thus the government is able to retrospectively change the effect of laws without even having to pass legislation.

    So as much as we all hate lawyers, having judicial oversight that follows the strict letter of the law, and not its "intent", is a much more democratic system. If governments want to change laws, they can make new ones and let the legislators openly argue and vote on them.

  • by aschoeff (864154) on Monday October 23, 2006 @01:35AM (#16543152)
    Yeah, I was using MicroSoft products back when it still WAS MicroSoft with the capital "S." I guess it's kind of a tribute to the old era, and also kind of a backhand jab at the airs this old switch-flipping dinosaur company has assumed.

    "Now, explain to us how exactly the authors of those products would have made any money if they were licensed under the GPL."

    This question has been answered ad infinitum, and no answer I can give will satisfy you. Here are a few sure to piss you off that come to mind, but I don't say them with that intention: Work in a different industry? Do embedded or industrial development? Reduce your expectations of how much you should profit? You see, FOSS isn't concerned with replacing the revenue someone might have generated through CS, it's concerned with freedom and mutual benefit for all. That's the dichotomy. CS may be a business model, but it has ethical and moral underpinnings (or lack thereof) that are counter to liberty and freedom.

    *steps down from wobbly soapbox*

    "... there is no difference whatsoever between Stallman calling nVidia "nVidious" ... and someone from Microsoft calling the GPL "viral"."

    I disagree, and already addressed this in the original post. Stallman isn't a corporation acting in self-interest at any cost, he's a guy motivated to be an advocate for freedom. Sure he's a little egotistical, but who the hell isn't in today's me-me-me-rock-star society? His originating thought is selfless.
  • by Curien (267780) on Monday October 23, 2006 @01:39AM (#16543178)
    Both you and grandparent miss the genious of the Constitution. The reason it hasn't required more upkeep in the past 200+ years is /because/ it is so vague. Specificity results in obsolescence.

    Consider if one of the powers granted to Congress was, "The ability to build roads, by which we mean paths of no more than 20 feet wide for the use of wagons, horses, and pedestrian traffic." Yeah, THAT would have stayed the test of time.
  • by killjoe (766577) on Monday October 23, 2006 @01:51AM (#16543238)
    Linus does not care about free software. He never had, he never will. He doesn't understand or he does not accept the idea of free code. He has this idea that he is "pragmatic" (whatever that means) but that basically means code works.

    I would have thought that the whole bitkeeper thing would have thought him the importance of free software and open source but apparently the lesson has not sunk in.

    Personally I predict he will give up on linux and the GPL and either retire or code for BSD (or a company). I don't see him continuing along with a GPLed project when he does not like the GPL, does not like the FSF, does not like the idea of free software and does not like Stallman.
  • by Lars Arvestad (5049) on Monday October 23, 2006 @02:12AM (#16543372) Homepage Journal
    But this a display of closed-source mentality: "If the provider changes the license, we have to follow suit." In the open-source world, the source is out and available and skilled people would pick up the last GPLv2 release and continue using that. This seems to be an aspect that journalists are often missing, that free software is really free so you cannot control its re-distribution, only demand it.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 23, 2006 @02:49AM (#16543534)
    1. apt-get install [foo]
    2. Wait for [foo] to download.
    3. Configure [foo], if necessary

    1. Buy the program on a CD/DVD
    2. Wait for CD/DVD to arrive
    3. Insert CD and click next a bunch of times.

  • by petrus4 (213815) on Monday October 23, 2006 @03:03AM (#16543596) Homepage Journal
    ...I told you so? ;-) Maybe I should leave that for when Stallman actually *does* become irrelevant, rather than for stories like this which merely speculate about it.

    Yes, the man did do some good isn't that I'm not acknowledging that. I can't prove or disprove that nobody else would have come up with the idea of a FOSS license without him.

    The bottom line now however is that as this article says, Stallman's radicalism is now threatening to destroy all of the good that he has created in the past...People also say he never changes, but personally I believe he *has* changed. He's already sold out, but not in the way this article's author thinks.

    He's sold out in the sense that it's purely about power for him's about being a cult leader. It's about having followers who worship him and follow his every decree.

    If I thought he was still doing things for the right reasons, I'd venerate him myself. I believe that there was a time when he genuinely did care about the wellbeing of people other than himself...but that that time has long since passed.

    For the sake of FOSS in general, he now must, as the article says, be routed around.
  • by cyber-vandal (148830) on Monday October 23, 2006 @03:17AM (#16543636) Homepage
    Huh? When did that change? It's always said "Thou shalt not kill" in my bible.
  • by Todd Knarr (15451) * on Monday October 23, 2006 @03:47AM (#16543762) Homepage

    True, which is why the BSD license is still being used. It's the perfect fit if you want that. But the overwhelming majority of software projects said "We work on share and share alike. If you use our code to your benefit, the price is that we get to use your code for our benefit in return.". And IIRC it was things like finding the BSD networking stack in Windows, obviously modified but with no code being returned, that triggered a lot of the moves to the GPL. I see a parallel with Tivo there.

    The question is, free for who? The BSD license grants total freedom to the recipient. The GPL grants freedom to the code. Myself, I take the position that I'm licensing anything I write under the GPL or LGPL, and if a company wants to use it without having to give their modifications back they can come talk to me and discuss payment in an alternative coin.

  • by Pecisk (688001) on Monday October 23, 2006 @04:00AM (#16543812)
    [cynical]Yeah, sure, Linus is evil[/cynical]

    Wait, but it can't be that way that Linus simply doesn't want only freedom from blobs, commercial software, etc., but also a ACTUAL working hardware and software?

    Linus is REALIST, RMS - IDEALIST. It is strange that usually it happens so that idealists are those who will ruin everything what is achieved practically (in this case, that good feeling that you belong to this community, etc.) just for a sake of ideals. Yes, ideals are important, but at what cost? What Tivo done so wrong? It is market, for fucking sake, go after some other such box who has a) Linux underneath and it b) allows hacking. Dreambox, for example.

    And if such DRM is required to have unique checking? Like electronic voting? So, that way voting machines could not have GPLv3 licenced software? For what fucking sake? Just because you want to protest you can't play DRMed Windows Media files?

    This all waving, calling Linus idiot, and rising RMS to skies is for NOTHING. DRM is NOTHING, it is just copyright protection. Yeah, you don't own music, movie, art work.
    Not before DMCA, not after. Not before Mickey copyright extention, not after. Either you own copyrights, or some given rights by copyright holder. Nothing else.

    Don't get me wrong, I personally think that DRM is utterly stupid from marketing point of view, but companies usually listen to numbers, not common sense. So far common sense has proven it was right. And there is already voices appear from common crowd that they are against DRM. THAT way we should fight it - informing it, showing differences, why that is just stupid, not pushing such things in licences. Don't ruin something that does work.

    Sorry for all flaming (you can mod me down if you like, I don't mind this time), but I have fed up with all this. I just tired of ill informed bashing and without-any-doubt attitude. Yes, ideals must be protected, but in CLEVER, TACTICFUL way. This is just making us all seperated, because we all understand freedom quite differently. Stallman should take his work - which is DEFINETLY IMPORTANT - to POLITICS. Keep politics out from computers and leave such decisions as DRM and Patents to users, very big thank you.

    p.s. by the way, I have some disagreement with Linus in other cases, like GNOME vs. KDE, and RSM very frequently have been right on other topics (he is perfectly right about patent stuff and have very big insight in all this), so it is sure not black and white issue.
  • by Lorkki (863577) on Monday October 23, 2006 @05:51AM (#16544350)
    Let's do this. Let's imagine for a second that a popular piece of software in the Windows world was released as free software under the GPL. Let's pick PaintShop Pro or DOOM or WinZip or TextPad or any other one. Now, explain to us how exactly the authors of those products would have made any money if they were licensed under the GPL.

    In other words, let's take a few examples of closed-source software, force them into a completely different development paradigm, and then see how they'd do without adjusting their business models accordingly? I'm not exactly the economical mastermind of the century, but otherwise it sounds just like the sort of question that's rigged to have only one answer.

    For that matter, I'm continuously baffled by the fact that Windows users still would pay in the tens of dollars for such basic packages as an archival utility or a text editor. Games are luckily a much simpler issue, seeing as you don't have to license the content under the GPL.

    Specifically after some kid in Romania with loads of time in his hand decided to put up his own version for download and give it away for free.

    You probably wouldn't get the same level of service from the Romanian kid. If it did turn out that the kid was actually more interested and capable in developing the application than the original author, would money paid to the latter be going in the right place?

    Oh, and I live how you spell "MicroSoft". Hilarious.

    Microsoft used to spell itself that way, as well as a hyphenated Micro-Soft which I'm sure is sending you rolling on the floor just now.

  • by cerberusss (660701) on Monday October 23, 2006 @06:14AM (#16544442) Homepage Journal
    I'm not religious, but... "Thou shalt not murder" Is pretty clear to me.
    Reminds me of this piece from the Onion: God Angrily Clarifies 'Don't Kill' Rule []
  • by dwandy (907337) on Monday October 23, 2006 @06:29AM (#16544546) Homepage Journal
    I think you're overestimating the value they saw in his free as in speech philosophy and underestimating the value that disadvantaged (poorer) places see in stuff they can download off the Internet for free.
    ...and that is where it begins.

    I switched to Linux first because I wanted free-as-in-beer software, but now that I'm more educated on the subject I've stuck with it because I want to help ensure free-as-in-speach. And that education *only* came about because I started using Linux.
    Of the techies that I know, only the Linux users even *know* (doesn't matter if they agree/disagree) about the freedom issues. /. is such a pro-linux site that even the MS-users (and I'm sure there's still lots 'n lots here!) know about the issues, but once you leave /. the number of people (including techies) who know about the issues (let alone agree that it's important) drops off dramatically.

  • by CDPatten (907182) on Monday October 23, 2006 @07:19AM (#16544888) Homepage
    Linux users are hobbyists. And that is why it can't be beaten. It can't be beaten by this guy, MS, or anyone else.

    Linux grew to its current level of popularity by "techies" who worked with it off hours, on the their time, and without pay. The change in license model doesn't change what it is, and it's really just a large community of techs who wanted something different. Right or wrong, it is what it is. If you were to "kill" linux, then Kinux would popup a month later. Kill that and Jinux would arrive.

    It really doesn't matter the name, like it or not, it's a hobbyist OS and its pretty hard to kill someone's hobby...
  • by sjames (1099) on Monday October 23, 2006 @08:41AM (#16545698) Homepage Journal

    the rulings of Hong Kong's High Court were overridden by the government by appealing to the "intent" of the laws, by asking members of the committee that had drafted them what they had been thinking about. Thus the government is able to retrospectively change the effect of laws without even having to pass legislation.

    The problem there wasn't with following intent, the problem was several parts of the government deliberatly and knowingly conspiring to revise history to fit their current agenda. Had the High Court truly cared to get at original intent, it would not simply take the drafting committee's word for their original intent, it would evaluate transcripts of deliberations at that time.

    In the U.S. we have the advantage that the framers of the Constitution are now dead and so cannot revise their thinking or intent. We have the problem that there is nobody to stand up and shout "You know very well that's not what we said!".

    The problem, as usual, is not that we don't know what was meant by the words in the Constitution or the Bill of Rights. We know very well what they meant. We have linguists and historians who, if sent back in time to 1776, could fit perfectly into that society with nobody the wiser. Should there be any questions of meaning, they can answer them.

    The problem is judges, legislators, and lawyers who are more than happy to argue that black is white and up is down in order to do things that they know very well are forbidden and against the principles of a free society. They do exactly the same thing many of us tried as children "but DAD, you didn't say don't eat cookies before dinner, you said don't let you catch me! MOM caught me, not you!".

    As adults, the Supreme Court, President, and Congress are a bit old for spankings, but a good old fashioned tarring and feathering is probably in order. The problem is, due to another bit of legal Sophistry, should I actually try to organize it I would be a "terrorist" and end up in Cuba deprived of many of my Constitutional rights.

  • by Brunellus (875635) on Monday October 23, 2006 @09:34AM (#16546312) Homepage

    Dilettante-ware is fine if nobody but the techs run it. What happens when that dilettante-ware gets good enough for production use?

    Organizations that make RealMoney(TM) have jumped to Linux because it does what they need better than non-free solutions...and because it works (or can be made to work) with the rest of their IT infrastructure. A major disruption to that interoperability would leave these organizations up a creek without a paddle. Free Software doesn't just belong to the techies any more--a LOT of other people (some of whom are clean-shaven, suit-wearing, bean-counting types) use and depend on it. Some of them might even contribute to it!

    Do the techs care? Nope. Should they? Maybe, maybe not. They weren't in it for anyone else but themselves, anyway. What does a disruption matter to them?

    The change in license model might actually force the players who are deeply vested in the current model to fork. Kinux would have its community, sure, but don't deceive yourself: there will be a considerable impetus from industry to develop it along certain lines.

  • by Registered Coward v2 (447531) on Monday October 23, 2006 @10:26AM (#16546942)
    Wait. Their hardware? No. It's my hardware. I bought it, so I own it. Not them.

    Their implementation of the hardware that requires that the binaries be signed by them violates my rights as the owner of the property, because it usurps the control that I as the owner have the right to and gives it to them. I own the hardware. It is my right to say what software the hardware can and cannot run, not theirs.

    they haven't stopped you from doing that either - you can modify the hardware to your hearts content. They don't have to make that easy; nor do they have to allow access to their network with modified hardware. Ownership of property does not mean the seller has any obligations to help you modify it to your liking.

    As I said before, if you don't like their rules don't buy the product. They have meet their obligations under the GPL; that's all the license requires.

    I can't believe you idiot "capitalists" can't see the obvious right in front of your face: the mechanisms that Tivo, Microsoft, and others have put into place have gutted and made a complete mockery of the property rights you claim to so dearly cherish. They have managed to turn your property into their property, and to therefore relegate you to the status of a second-class citizen, one who is not allowed to control his own "property".

    Either wise up and start demanding your rights as property owners, or admit that your feigned belief in property rights is nothing more than a sham.

    You have a rather odd view of property rights - that somehow buying something means it has to be modifiable by you and that the seller must ensure that is the case. I suppose you expect someone who sells you land to make sure it can be zoned to whatever purpose you decide as well.

  • by jeril (88660) on Monday October 23, 2006 @12:06PM (#16548392)
    I knew something was wrong with this, besides it being Forbes.

    From the article:

    Richard M. Stallman is a 53-year-old anticorporate crusader who has argued for 20 years that most software should be free of charge. He and a band of anarchist acolytes long have waged war on the commercial software industry, dubbing tech giants "evil" and "enemies of freedom" because they rake in sales and enforce patents and copyrights--when he argues they should be giving it all away.

    From The GNU Free Software Definition []
    "Free software" is a matter of liberty, not price. To understand the concept, you should think of "free" as in "free speech", not as in "free beer".

    "Free software" does not mean "non-commercial". A free program must be available for commercial use, commercial development, and commercial distribution. Commercial development of free software is no longer unusual; such free commercial software is very important.

    This is pretty much part of the foundation which has built the GPL, and continues to be part of the philosophy created by Stallman.

    GNU/Linux will persist, this process is an important part of finding a definition we eventually will find a good fit. Mixing licences has always been a balancing act that Distributions and users have had to deal with since the beginning.

    Articles like this are to keep the technology specualators happy that the flow of cash will continue. They get laugh and point at the silly commies bumbling around -- sit-coms for suits.

  • by Dread_ed (260158) on Monday October 23, 2006 @03:25PM (#16551242) Homepage
    Your comment seems rather obtuse to me as I have never seen a murderer with earmuffs singing "LALALALALA" while stabbing someone to death or shooting them in the face. Not even metaphorically.

    Howerver I can only assume you are referring to those hot button categories of action (like wartime killing and capitol murder) that so many people point to and scream "hipocrisy!" about.

    Fortunately the Bible is one of the most precise documents ever written and it makes clear the distinction between murder and other types of justifiable and necessary homocide. Anyone who reads the 10 commandments in context will understand this, as the scriptural discussion of what constitutes murder is voluminous and pretty hard to miss, even if you are trying.

    The Bible dictates that self defense, wartime, and the excercise of the law are not only permissible reasons for homocide but in some cases they are required. So unless you are referring to Christians who routinely kill humans outside those boundaries I think you may be doing a little singing yourself.
  • by Austerity Empowers (669817) on Thursday October 26, 2006 @12:15PM (#16596160)
    Exactly. RMS is the anti-thesis to everything that readers of Forbe's hold dear. They are going to treat him unfairly and ostracize him as the anti-christ.

    RMS is the kind of guy that refuses to "be cool" and go with the flow. While I wouldn't have him over for dinner, we all need him. Greed should not be running hte world, and that's precisely what Forbe's is all about: "Justifiable Greed" (sometimes called Fiduciary Responsibility).

10.0 times 0.1 is hardly ever 1.0.