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Slashback

Slashback: Assembly, Avoidance, Civility 340

With the usual round of updates, corrections, reactions and related stories, Slashback tonight has word of yet another giant Euronerd conclave, as well as some news on the odds of being smashed into a pulp in the year 2019, and a gentle response from Richard M. Stallman on appropriate behavior in absurd circumstances.

Good place for a lemonade stand. The march of the gigantic temporary European computer city-state goes on: Late writes that "Assembly 2002 starts in Finland on Thursday at 12.00 EET-DST (GMT +3). With over 2800 computer places and an expected total of over 4500 visitors, Assembly is one of the largest combined demo- and lanparties in the world. Those of you who can't make it, can watch our streamed TV broadcast. We'll be broadcasting all the competitions, at least part of the seminars that include such speakers as Rob Hubbard (C64 music legend) and a whole bunch of other programs."

You are condemned to live even longer. h4mmer5tein writes: "The BBC has an update on the asteroid story from a few days ago saying that it won't, after all, hit the earth in 2019. More information is being collated but it seems that 2060 is unlikely to see an impact either."

Iron IronGorilla adds: "Much like a Microsoft crash^H^H^H^H^Hrelease date being pushed back, NASA is reporting here that we are not, in fact, all going to die on February 1st, 2019 ..."

The dangers of meeting someone who means what he says. A few weeks ago, reader Al3x wrote his account ("Results of the Commerce Dept's DRM Workshop") of the recent gathering in DC of (officially invited) representatives of the entertainment industry and the less-officially invited members of the public. Alex criticized the approach of several members of the Free software community on hand for the discussion, including Richard Stallman.

Stallman writes in response:

"Al3x went to the July 17 Washington Digital Restrictions Management panel feeling admiration for me, but left disappointed with my views and actions. I think his disappointment was partly due to a couple of misconceptions, so I hope this explanation will partly restore his good opinion of my work and methods.

I cannot deny Al3x's charge that I, and the rest of us, defied the rules of the meeting by refusing to be completely silent. If it is wrong to disobey an unfair system, I stand convicted, but I am not ashamed. However, in the scale of civil disobedience, ours was very mild. Women demanding the vote sometimes chained themselves to doorways, which might have been inconvenient for some passersby. Blacks demanding an end to segregation sometimes broke rules, and even laws, by sitting in a Whites-only diner or at the front of a bus. It is up to each of you to decide your ethical approach to judging acts of disobedience to an unfair system.

Al3x criticized NY Fair Use for 'preferring to show up and disrupt the debate' rather than ask for a seat on the panel. Our occasional laughter and less frequent verbal comments did not disrupt the panel, and all the panelists were able to express their views; but because our means were so limited, we could not communicate very much. We would have much preferred to participate officially, on an equal footing with Jack Valenti, but they had refused our request, just as they refused the EFF. Our measured protest appears to have obtained for us the chance for a seat on a subsequent panel.

After the meeting, Al3x asked me for my views on intellectual property. As it happens, I think it is a grave mistake to formulate one's views in terms of 'intellectual property,' and I explained why.

I explained that the term 'intellectual property' lumps together disparate areas of law, including copyright, patent, trademark, and others, and that they are so different that it is a mistake to try to group them together. The public policy issues of these various areas of law result from the details of how they restrict the public, and those details are different; if you try to form your opinions about 'intellectual property,' you will miss all of these issues, and you will be led to propose sweeping generalizations which cannot help being foolish. I explained the problems of the term 'intellectual property' to Al3x hoping this would help him and others he communicates with avoid that pitfall in thinking.

I suspect a miscommunication took place there, because when I said that his proposed copyright system for music might be a good one, he perceived that as a contradiction. Perhaps when I said 'the term "intellectual property" is bad,' he heard me as saying 'everything people call "intellectual property" is bad.' That, however, is exactly the sort of sweeping overgeneralization that the term 'intellectual property' leads people to form; it is to discourage such simplistic views that I ask people to avoid the term. I have views on copyright, views on patent, and views on trademark, but I do not have *any* position on 'intellectual property.' As Al3x learned, I'm not 100% opposed to copyright, though I believe it should be much less restrictive to the public than it is now.

See http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/words-to-avoid.htm for more explanation of the problems of the term 'intellectual property.' If you're interested in my views on copyright, see www.gnu.org/philosophy/copyright-and-globalization.html.

This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Slashback: Assembly, Avoidance, Civility

Comments Filter:
  • After all why do I listen to their news? Whats the point in reading news if you are not even threatened by death ...
    I will read BBC again in 2059 to be sure
  • by Yoda2 ( 522522 ) on Monday July 29, 2002 @08:05PM (#3975283)
    No asteroid?! Just great, and I just spent the 2% of the deferrals left in my retirement account on porn and Twinkies.
  • by Alien54 ( 180860 ) on Monday July 29, 2002 @08:06PM (#3975289) Journal
    Here are some asteroid impact calculators

    quick and dirty
    http://janus.astro.umd.edu/astro/impact.html

    very detailed
    http://www.stardestroyer.net/Empire/Science/Astero ids.html

    Finally, a Neat Java Applet with a display of the orbit can be seen here. You can Zoom in, spin the solar system around, and animate the display. The data they are using does not currently jive with projected impact date, apparently using the updated information.

    http://neo.jpl.nasa.gov/cgi-bin/db?name=2002+NT7

    NOTE: of course, as seen here

    http://neo.jpl.nasa.gov/
    http://neo.jpl.nasa.gov/risk/

    the possible impact in 2019 has been ruled out.

    and of course all the basic information on asteroids can be found here, for those who are interested.

    http://spacelink.nasa.gov/Instructional.Materials/ Curriculum.Support/Space.Science/Near.Earth.Impact .Hazards/.index.html

  • 2060? (Score:3, Funny)

    by papasui ( 567265 ) on Monday July 29, 2002 @08:07PM (#3975299) Homepage
    Christ we need to send up Bruce Willis to blow the hell out of that thing before he's 105.
  • Asteroids (Score:4, Funny)

    by papasui ( 567265 ) on Monday July 29, 2002 @08:11PM (#3975313) Homepage
    All you need is a small polygon ship that shoots a small laser beam. This type of technology only costs 0.25 and even a 10 year old can run it, I don't know what NASA is worrying about.
    • by GigsVT ( 208848 )
      Because once you shoot the big ones, you have 4 times as many little ones to shoot, then 8 times as many tiny ones, that move 4 times faster.

      Even with the most expert operators, it's unlikely the earth will survive past maybe 30 rounds of these before running into something.
  • by peterdaly ( 123554 ) <petedaly&ix,netcom,com> on Monday July 29, 2002 @08:15PM (#3975338)
    Through "the media" I alway have gotten the impression that Stallman was steadfast to the idea that IP is always wrong, but I guess maybe his media converage is not very broad when it comes to his view.

    Those comments changed my views on him quit a bit. I went from hating all his views before he even opened his mouth to not quite being sure where he stands. This at least has made me backpedle. Now I am not sure what to think. I have an open mind about him again.

    -Pete
    • by Milo Fungus ( 232863 ) on Monday July 29, 2002 @08:46PM (#3975500)
      My first exposure to RMS was on the GNU website [gnu.org]. I went there wanting to learn more about the origins of the free software movement. I read philosophy [gnu.org] section with great interest. I particularly liked the GNU Manifesto [gnu.org]. I think RMS is a really persuasive writer with some good ideas. I didn't agree with every point, but as a whole I was very impressed.

      Armed with my new ideas about "free as in free speech" I decided to write a manifesto for Free Music [angelfire.com]. I shared an early draft of it with my brother and suggested to him that we release our recordings on a free music license. He did not like the idea at all, and was disturbed by the manifesto.

      I went back to my computer, opened up the document in OpenOffice and read through it again. I realised that the arguments I had adapted from GNU were just too extreme to be embraced by the uninformed public, especially by the artist community. I wanted my manifesto to be persuasive to the average musician, not just to those who happen to have read all of the philosophy section of the GNU website. I think a more effective way to "evangelize" open source projects is to emphasize the superiority of the development model for human creativity projects.

      So now I'm not sure what to think of RMS. His views are extreme, and they don't sell very well to the average person. But extremeism is needed, so let him do all that he can to further the cause.

      • I think a more effective way to "evangelize" open source projects is to emphasize the superiority of the development model for human creativity projects.

        I think the key concept here is "creativity"(1). Perhaps the open source development model (typically defined as being a loosely-collected group of developers working together via some collaborative medium such as the internet, for fun and not necessarily profit) works well for projects that can be said to be "creative", but unfortunately 99.995%(2) of all software projects are not what I would consider "creative". They may be reimplimentations of something that's already been done (say, a media player, or a word processor, or a text editor, or a compiler, or ...), though they may be adding new concepts and capabilities. They may also be just plain drudgery (specialized software for an accounting firm, for example). Are these projects "creative"? Depends. I'd probably say "no", for the majority of them, but you may have a different opinion. As well, even where "creative" applications are concerned, a majority of the code is boring code that needs to be written but is more busy work than anything else. In general (and there are exceptions to this, of course), most open source developers prefer to focus on the more "fun" parts of the software rather than doing the various menial tasks that need to be done(3). This is understandable, because if you're not getting paid to do this, you're doing it in your spare time. Why would you want to spend your spare time doing something boring when you could be out doing something else instead?

        Anyway, on to my point. What I'm getting at here is that the open source development process is not necessarily superior to more traditional proprietary development processes, nor is there an overwhelming amount of evidence to suggest that it may be. For every successful open source project out there that can be held up as a shining example of the open source development process, there are hundreds of projects languishing under the model, with little or no "external" (ie, outside the initial author or group of authors) development or bug reporting, and a whole lot of these projects have only gotten so far as implementing some of their cool ideas and just get bogged down when they get into the other 80% or so of the code that's not "cool"(4). At least as far as proprietary software is concerned, you can be reasonably sure that the boring parts will get done as well as the interesting parts, because there is incentive to do the boring work (ie, a paycheck).

        ------

        1. For "creativity", I'm using the definition of the base "creative" as "Characterized by originality and expressiveness; imaginative", and not the more broad "Having the ability or power to create".

        2. I'm making up my statistics, but the actual numbers are not important. What is important is that the number is large. It may be 75%, or 83%, or 99%, but it's still a large majority.

        3. Prime example: the addition of fairly useless "fun" things to Mozilla, like Chatzilla, at a point in time where development resources would've been better spent fixing bugs aiming towards a 1.0 release. Yeah, yeah, Mozilla did finally release their 1.0 version, but the fact still stands that many of the contributing developers apparently were more concerned with writing "cool code" than with fixing bugs.

        4. Check Freshmeat [freshmeat.net] or SourceForge [sf.net] (SourceForge is much worse about this than Freshmeat) some time and see all the stagnant open source projects that have never gone anywhere, nor ever will. There are literally hundreds, if not thousands of them. Temper the successes of each Linux, Apache, FreeBSD, or other high-profile open source project by the failures of all of those projects. Note that I'm not saying the ratio is any better in the proprietary world (though if I had to guess, I'd say it is), but at least with proprietary software there's some form of motivation aside from "This'd be cool".

      • "So now I'm not sure what to think of RMS. His views are extreme, and they don't sell very well to the average person. But extremeism is needed, so let him do all that he can to further the cause."

        This is unfortunate but happens a lot. I hate to use a cliche, but its like what your elementary teachers told you, everyone thought Columbus was crazy when he told people the earth was round (which is way simplified, of course, and wrong in many ways--but I don't want to digress).

        The point is that RMS isn't flawed in his thinking because your friend didn't like your idea. And you can't counter his arguments with his personality.

        Now perhaps I'm being a little rash, since you don't seem to have said that he is wrong. But it disturbs me when people are disturbed with ideas because they are unpopular.

        And this is one of the reasons I have a great amount of admiration for Richard Stallman. His ideas aren't popular, yet no one has convinced him that he is wrong, so he holds to his beliefs and is the greatest advocate of his beliefs. Of course, this could mean he is a nut and holds onto his beliefs irrationally. But everything I've read, everything I've heard from this man says otherwise.

        So even if you don't have the sort of respect for him that I do, respond to his ideas, not the reaction of other people to him. Don't discount him because some screw-off on Slashdot hates his guts, or even because Torvalds thinks he thinking with his gonads. If someone has a real objection to his philosophy, I'd love to hear them. But so far, not Torvalds, not Bill Gates, not many people have offered them. Too many people right off these ideas as "extremist". Remember, extremist means a certain idea or group are unpopular, it doesn't mean they are wrong.
    • From what I've seen, RMS's views on software-related things are pretty much solid and well-thought out (though I don't agree with many of his assertions.) However, when he dives into other areas, his arguments tend not to be as good. (Presumably because he hasn't made it his life's work to deal with them.) I'd say that the question asked of him was simply to the wrong person; if it's not software, he doesn't really understand it.
    • I think that RMS comes off better in writing and prepared speech (as do many people).

      I have never met him in person, but I have a feeling that like alot of computer/science-introverted types. When he trys to communicate on the fly, he ends up creating quite a mess.

      I would say given the other things he has accomplished, I'll forgive him the weak impromptu speaking.

      When he is given enought time to think and respond, he always seems consistant to me.
    • by mkcmkc ( 197982 ) on Monday July 29, 2002 @09:47PM (#3975729)
      RMS is portrayed in various places and by various people as being a commie, nut job, etc. I've noticed, however, that all of the times when I have personally listened to or read what he has to say, that it's pretty damn reasonable.

      If you want to have an educated opinion, you owe it to yourself to check out RMS's positions personally.

      --Mike

      • Far be it from me to tell you what to think, but I have personally had a different experience.

        People talk about Steve Jobs's "reality distortion field." I think RMS has one, too. The difference is that Steve's field comes from his personal charisma and enthusiasm. RMS's reality distortion field comes from painstakingly crafted propaganda.

        He's insidious, although whether it's on purpose or accidental is a question that I haven't answered for myself yet. You can see an example in his writing here, where he implicitly compares himself to black civil rights activists, pulling up his moral position by association.

        It's downright creepy. I'll be reading or listening to something that RMS has said, and find myself nodding along, only to be pulled up short a few seconds later when I think to myself, "Wait a minute. He just said what??"

        Be careful with Stallman. He has the ability to make his words sound truer than they are.
        • I see a few asertions there but I don't yet see how comparing media rights and the freedom of computers to that of racial/sexual rights is wrong. The fact is that governments have their words locked in formats owned by a single company, and the way we can communicate is being locked down. Be that taking a legal portion of a DVD for education (as I did in university for presentations) or opening a PDF so that I can see how hackneyed the script was to Apocalypse, or reading about security of DRM so that write a report on which one is best.
          This is a bigger issue than Stallman or GNU, but the freedom of data and computers is as important as data and computers are in our society.
          • I see a few asertions there but I don't yet see how comparing media rights and the freedom of computers to that of racial/sexual rights is wrong.

            It's more than just a matter of degrees. When we speak of civil rights for black Americans, we're talking about five generations-- more if you include the period before slavery was abolished-- of systematic, state-sponsored oppression of an entire class of people, based solely on the color of their skin. During that time, black people were denied franchise through schemes like poll taxes and grandfather clauses. They were denied jobs based solely on their race. They were widely denied justice in civil and criminal courts alike. In extreme cases, they were murdered at the hands of white mobs.

            Even if you talk of the campaign for franchise rights for women, we can point to generations of women who were actively refused the right to vote, even though they may have been property owners in good standing in their communities. A woman could be Queen of England, but she couldn't vote for mayor of New York. That's not wholesale murder, but it's still a pretty grave social injustice.

            But when we talk about what you called "media rights"-- as good a term as any, I suppose-- the worst harm I can think of is that you had to either play the DVD for your presentation with a proper DVD player-- which you were totally entitled to do as a part of your right to fair use-- or find another source of material.

            It's not the same thing. Not by a long shot.

            Comparing the current brouhaha over media rights to the hundred-year-long fight for civil rights for black people does an injustice to both.
          • I see a few asertions there but I don't yet see how comparing media rights and the freedom of computers to that of racial/sexual rights is wrong.

            As you say, RMS is fighting for property and copyright. Women were only fighting for the vote; a "right" which +60% of USAnians don't care about anyway. I'd say RMS is fighting a far greater fight with far greater implications.

            I believe racial equality is even more important but unfortunately it seems too many USAnians are still fighting that one.

      • I've noticed, however, that all of the times when I have personally listened to or read what he has to say, that it's pretty damn reasonable.

        Did you "personally" read what he just wrote above? Do you consider his comparison of his obnoxious heckling of a panel discussion on IP to risking one's life to end human slavery to be "pretty damn reasonable"?

        The audience was apparently full of people who sympathized with many of his positions. That audience was apparently trying to get him quiet down.

        Why? Because of a desperate fear for his personal safety for daring to speak out against the oppressors? No, because his obnoxious "pay attention to me" behavior was both inconveniencing other listeners and reducing the credibility of their ideas where they overlapped with Stallman's.

        • Did you personally read what he wrote above? The comparison was with the civil rights movement, not slavery.

          Furthermore, I believe the intent of his words was not to compare his moral courage or ideals with the two groups brought up, but instead to suggest that breaking of rules and even laws can be justified if the aims are worthy.

          That is what he was defending, his breaking of rules, not his moral courage.

    • Well, no matter how badly people try and paint him, his opposition always bests him in the areas of nonsubstance and rhetoric.

      The guy has smarts, but those who are winning the world are dictating the rules, so guess which way things are going. I think most people seem to view the world as a 'just world', where those in power are there because they deserve it, and thus must be doing the correct things for us. I just feel bad for those who think his ideas are useless; they can't seem to make the distinction between a good system and a system out of control as it relates to current copyright and patent laws.

      I just cant figure out if his /. anti-fans deride him because its the hip in-crowd thing to do, or if it's MS employees. ;)
      • I just cant figure out if his /. anti-fans deride him because its the hip in-crowd thing to do, or if it's MS employees. ;)

        If I'm really cynical that day, it's because people are just stupid. Not those who just don't agree with everything he says, or not like the way he conducts himself. The people who insist the GPL is just like the MS Office EULA because both involve some kind of restriction, or that no one would ever make software every again without the restrictions in that EULA. Sure, it might be convenient for our faith in humanity to assume that the person is an MS employee, or at least owns a lot of stock in similar firms. Then it'd just be an insincere mistruth spread because of good ol' fashioned greed. But the idea that people without any personal motivation to do so would sit around and decide that this is what they really believe... Well, that's just depressing.

        Today I'm feeling apologetic for my cynicism, so I'll say they're MS employees. It's plausible -- /. may not really have any influence, but it does get attention from many tech sources. I can easily imagine an employee or two deciding to troll during their lunch hour.
    • I think that RMS's fundamental problem is that he doesn't communicate well in sound bytes. He's somebody who has spend a huge amount of time sitting down and thinking out his views on a variety of topics related to software, and now to various aspects of "intellectual property". Unfortunately, those views are complex (as they should be given the complexity of the subject) and not easily distilled into neat and easily digested statements.

      When he tries to turn his views into soundbytes, he winds up emphasizing his ideas that are most radical. This makes him come off like a foaming at the mouth radical who just wants to smash the proprietary software business. When he actually gets a chance to explain his views at length, it's possible to see that he's really thought these things out and that he has real, compelling reasons for his views. Almost any radical idea will sound more reasonable when you get to hear the reasons for it, especially if they're the result of as much thought as Stallman's.

  • by jbennetto ( 41159 ) on Monday July 29, 2002 @08:15PM (#3975343)
    "Much like a Microsoft crash^H^H^H^H^Hrelease date being pushed back, NASA is reporting here that we are not, in fact, all going to die on February 1st, 2019 ..."

    C'mon, we may all hate Microsoft, but this has nothing to do with the story. Delays happen and are bad, but I seriously doubt Microsoft is the worst offender. Adding such gratuitous "humor" to stories lessens the force of honest critisism by making Slashdot look like a bunch of immature extremists who shouldn't be taken seriously.
  • by hackwrench ( 573697 ) <hackwrench@hotmail.com> on Monday July 29, 2002 @08:16PM (#3975352) Homepage Journal
    Asteroids:
    Don't worry, I'm sure another unforseen Earth-path asteroid will be along shortly.

    Richard Stallman:
    That unfairness is rampant in our courts and in the churches...but one really cool thing is that the churches won't throw you in prison for demanding that you and the surrounding people (congregation) actually learn what of the world (because it usually is, not of God) the person up front is talking about... so if you really want to fight this unfairness, be sure to go to a church and ask questions, and insist that the person up front answers you when they ask that you let them continue... I regret to say that in the past I have let them...
    • Errr, actually, walking into a church and interrupting the service until the "person up front" answers your questions about the GPL or the JPEG patent or whatever the hell it is you're talking about _is_ a really good way to get yourself thrown in jail. Or involuntarily committed to a mental hospital.

      It's a credit to the church congregations you've harassed that you haven't found that out yet.
  • by Danneskjold ( 122198 ) on Monday July 29, 2002 @08:21PM (#3975369)
    Sometimes "lumping together" fields like patent and copyright can create new and useful concepts. For instance, the idea of copyright misuse is an extension of the doctrine of patent misuse. Keeping the fields sealed from one another might not have allowed such powerful cross-pollination.
  • He said, he said (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Otter ( 3800 ) on Monday July 29, 2002 @08:27PM (#3975398) Journal
    al3x says Stallman and his friends were being wildly obnoxious and alienating people. RMS says he was engaging in a little mild protest. It comes down to whose social sensibilities you trust. I have no idea who al3x is; I do know who Stallman is and I'm not sure who has less credibility.

    al3x, if you're reading this -- you wrote

    " [T]he NY Fair Use crowd, however, never bothered to request a representative, preferring to show up and disrupt the debate on their own terms, and for nobody's good but their egos, it seems."
    RMS says they did ask to join the panel and were turned down. Since this seems to be a more objectively verifiable question, where did you get your information?
    • Re:He said, he said (Score:3, Informative)

      by al3x ( 74745 )
      I apologize for taking a the view that what is unspoken is truth - the lawyer from the EFF explictly stated that they were denied a seat, having contacted well in advance and following procedure. The folks from NY Fair Use said no such thing at the time, and that's what I based that comment upon. However, I also placed a disclaimer forewarning that journalistic integrity is NOT the name of my game *grin* So there you go: listen to RMS. He would know.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Wildly obnoxious? Alienating people?

      Let's take a look at what happened. This "second round-table discussion" [newsforge.com] started at a 15 to 1 disadvantage against the public. By one reporter's count, it ended up being 23 to 1.

      What was this panel really about? If you understand American politics, it was about one thing. Providing cover for the asses of US Representatives for votes on pending legislation that was written by, and paid for by the Entertainment Cartel. That's it. Plain and simple.

      We tried everything we could to get representatives on the panel. We tried with the panel organizer. We tried with the Commerce Committee contacts. We tried with local legislators. Nothing worked. As the EFF lawyer stated, they were told specifically not to come to the hearing. The public was specifically being shut out of that "round-table"

      There was one public representative on the panel, and except for a couple of sentences, he kept his mouth shut for the duration of the hearing.

      Let's examine what happened that day, July 17, 2002. Representatives from Disney, Vivendi, Intel, IBM, MPAA, ContentGuard, AOL Time Warner, News Corp, EMI, and others sat around at a table, and patted each other on the back.

      But wait. Let's start just a little earlier. Prior to the start of the "public round-table discussion", we were informed that we were not going to be permitted into the room. It was a closed meeting. We had to point out to the Committee reps that it was a PUBLIC meeting [doc.gov], and they couldn't bar us. We even had to find a place to download and print a copy of their announcement to show to them. When they realized that we would have printed proof that it was a public meeting, they relented, and said they would allow us to enter the meeting room.

      The meeting [newsforge.com] started with a statement from the Commerce Sub-Committee Chair, and went around the table, with panel members making their introductions, and then making brief statements. Jack Valenti, who apparently was alerted to our website that listed the event (along with Jack Valenti notable quotables, which included some of his outrageous past statements, such as: "The VCR is to the American film producer and the American public as the Boston Strangler is to the woman alone" Jack Valenti, head of the MPAA --
      1982"") pre-empted the criticism by saying that he was known for using colorful language in the past in order to get his point across.

      We were "informed" of the format of the hearing, that no statements from outside the panelists would be taken. So we could not get a seat at the panel, and we could not comment from the audience.

      So Jack enlightened us on how he worked in the Johnson Administration to make the world better. And other things. And so it went. Then we were shown a ridiculously funny screen (probably a power point page) that showed the dozens of groups, and dozens of encrypting/drm/technological schemes to control content. From there, others made their introductions, and made their statements. One of Jack's early statements said something to the effect of (without actually naming the public) the public's view being noise, and a distraction, and that he puts these views, and this noise, out of his mind, as should they all, if they are to get anything done on this issue.

      Up to that point, the audience was fairly quiet, but we laughed when the more outrageous statements were made. There were plenty to go around. Even the dude from Phillips, and another tech guy (Intel I believe) got into it with Jack Valenti on a number of occasions. But up to this point, there was really only laughter and occasional gasps from the audience at some of the statements.

      About halfway through the proceedings, after having listened to numerous inflammatory statements made by Jack, and by others from the Entertainment Cartel, Jack started to get more intense in his statements. He compared fair use rights and file trading to a burglar using a skeleton key to rob all the houses in the neighborhood. He really said that.

      I let that one slide off me. But after an exchange between Jack Valenti and Big IT where it got a little heated, Jack cooled off a bit, and then made a statement saying that the moving industry, and the IT industry needed to get together with legislators to write legislation to stop all the theft. I had enough. I stood up, and in a voice loud enough to be heard from the back of the room, I said "what about the public?" Paraphrasing myself (I don't have the transcripts yet), I said that the public was not being represented on the panel, the public is the true stakeholder on this topic, where are the public voices? I said this in a loud enough voice to be heard from the back of a large room. Was I yelling? I don't know. I know that I was speaking loud enough to be heard. That's it. Ask others.

      What was Jack Valenti's reaction? He did something that shows he is a very astute individual when it comes to testifying in Congress. He continued talking. He talked right over me. He had the microphone. His voice, speaking directly into the microphone, not my voice from the back of a large meeting room, was being recorded. But the chair wouldn't have it. He interrupted me, and was telling me to sit down and be quiet. No comments were allowed. But Jack, knowing the press was there, turned an interruption of his speech into a chance to look good. He said that if I allowed him to finish his statement, he would allow me to respond. The chair tried to shut me up, but when I heard Jack say that, I sat down, and he finished his statement. Then, before I could give the chair a chance to shut me down, I stood back up, and gave my two cents. I (paraphrasing myself again, from memory) stated that the panel was not representative of the public, the public were the stakeholders, and there needed to be public representatives on the panel. As I stood up to respond, Ruben Safir, Brett Wyncoop, Seth Johnson (who held up his hand for two hours by the end of the meeting waiting to be called on to make a statement) Jay Sulzburger and others stood up, and I introduced Richard Stallman (who had just been awarded an honor by the United Nations) and we tried to get the panel chairman to recogize him to allow him to make a statement. Richard did not stand up, and said nothing. We, from New Yorkers for Fair Use [nyfairuse.org] , NYLXS [nylxs.com] , and several other groups, made the few statements that we were able to squeeze in.

      The chair was having none of that. He said that Brett, who was mistakenly recognized earlier as a panelist (it was standing room only, with people standing, sitting on the floor, kneeling, sitting on laps, etc) when he was kneeling near one of the tables, and when he was called on, he made his statement. So the chair said that since Brett had made his short statement, the public had been heard, we had our chance. "We have a structure here!" was said repeatedly by the chair.

      So we were told to shut up and sit down. Richard Stallman never said a word at this point. He wasn't given the chance.

      After we sat down, Jack Valenti was clearly flustered. The press was present. They had heard the exchange. It would not be good PR for the MPAA. So he made some more astounding statements. He couldn't understand why I was saying the public was not represented on the panel. He was the public. He indicated the guy across from him (the Intel rep, I believe) and said he was the public. He said the Commerce Sub-Committee reps seated at the head of the table were the public, the public was represented.

      After that exchange, the "round-table" discussion continued. More statements were made, calling for legislation. A few of the IT reps were against legislating the unknown. The Phillips rep, the Intel rep, and a couple of others were against legislation putting controls into the hardware, without a specific definition of what the controls were. The rep from Listen.com was against the drm legislation in general. He stated repeatedly that he was competing against free P2P, and his company was making money on it. And the IBM rep, the Phillips rep, and one other IT rep stated several times after my outburst/shouting/statement/activism/disruption/al ienation/obnoxiousness (insert preferred word depending on your agenda) that the public needed to be included in the discussion, and was missing from the current panel.

      After some more discussion, the panel was asked by the chair to sum up their positions. This is where it got interesting. And this is where you separate the sheep from those who understand politics in America.

      This "second round-table discussion" was a fraud. It was designed with one thing in mind. Provide cover for the legislators. The Commerce Committee, and this sub-committee was charged with one thing. Provide cover. This is an election year. Every House of Representatives seat is up for re-election. The US Reps are going through the motions. They are shaking the trees and raking the leaves. The Entertainment cartel already has bills written up by their lawyers. They want these bills passed. And the legislators want the Entertainment Cartel money so they can get re-elected. There is one week left before the summer break. That's this week. After the summer break, the legislators will not have time for these bills. They will be fighting over War legislation, economic legislation, senior issues, environment, and re-election items. And they will be running for re-election. This year will be a tough election. Control of the House and Senate are both up for grabs.

      Getting back to the summations, this is where the horseshit started to fly. Starting with the lobbyist for AOL Time Warner (yeah, they actually sent a lobbyist) and continuing with Jack Valenti of MPAA, and Vivendi, and others, the panelists all looked at each other, or their notes, and lied straight into the microphone. They stated that a consensus had been reached. Talks between IT and Entertainment were not enough. Help from legislators, in the form of legislation was needed. They actually stated that a consensus was reached (none was, the Entertainment and IT industries remained far apart, and they admitted that the public needed to be represented), they stated that the panel was in agreement that legislation was needed, etc. This couldn't be further from the truth. But the truth didn't matter when they were making these statements. These statements were being made for one reason. They were providing sound bites for legislators to use for their justification later in voting for what will be highly anti-consumer, highly anti-fair use, and highly anti-open source legislation. That's it. They are supplying sound bites and cover for legislators.

      It was at this point, when Jack Valenti was trying to sound conciliatory to the IT rep (I think it was the Intel guy again) when Jack summed up by stating that the Entertainment Industry and IT had to get together with Congress to find a solution. It had been a long day at this point, very hot outside, not enough air conditioning inside, and this one slipped by me. But luckily, Richard Stallman caught it. He said aloud (paraphrasing from memory again) "so the IT industry and the entertainment industry are conspiring again to the exclusion of the public" He was completely correct on this, and it was an important point to bring up. It repeated what we had been saying all along, and it pointed out that even after we repeatedly tried to get the public to have a voice in what was happening, that Jack Valenti, and Big IT were in agreement to exclude the public. This was an important point, and it is the only statement that Richard Stallmen made inside the committee room. Everything else that Richard Stallman said, and the rest of us said was made on the steps outside the Commerce Committee building, at our impromptu news conference after.

      Upset that your electronic school books expire [nyfairuse.org] at the end of the semester? (see nyfairuse.org web site on this one, it's true) Too bad. Upset that you can't back up you music CD to protect against scratches? Too bad. Upset that you'll have to pay a second time for the same song if you want to transfer it from your CD to your Rio? Too bad. We held hearings, the public was represented, a consensus was reached. It's right here in the transcript. At least five people stated that a consensus was reached. Where were you? We held hearings. You should have made your voice heard then. You should have contacted my office. I have no record of you ever contacting me. How was I supposed to know this would happen, you should have told me. I was voting to protect musicians, to help keep them off of welfare...

      Cover and sound bites. That's what the hearing was all about.

      Toward the end of the hearing, Mike Miron, of ContentGuard, made the most outrageous statement of all. And this one slipped under the radar of the journalists. It was made as people were getting restless, as the meeting was winding up, and others on the panel were starting to pack up. In one breath, he associated kids trading files with spies and terrorists such as Wen Ho Lee, Jonathan Pollard, and Robert Hanson. He stated that P2P networks enable spies and terrorists to upload military secrets to the internet, and that in light of September 11, this must be considered. Having been personally affected by September 11, this is the most outrageous statement I have ever heard. Anyone who knows anything about the Robert Hanson case knows that he was a highly knowledgeable person on technology, and used his technical skills far beyond what a mere P2P network can provide. Many tools are available to computer users for uploading files, including ftp, sftp, putty, scp, and many others. Other tools, such as PGP, steganograpy, GnuPG, SSH, and others would accomplish much more, and would better hide the tracks of a would be spy or terrorist. Equating kids with spies and terrorists, and using September 11th to provide a sound bite for a Congressman on the DRM issue is appalling. But the Entertainment Cartel will do what it takes to get their bills through.

      So the "round-table" was held on July 17, a Wednesday. I'm sure you all saw [theregus.com] the wave of bills on DRM, on allowing the Entertainment industry [politechbot.com] to hack into your computers and destroy files [theregus.com] with civil and criminal protections [theregister.co.uk] , and on various other issues regarding DRM and Fair Use attacks. These bills were out the end of the same week, or the beginning of the following week. How many of you believe that the legislators sat around on July 18 to write these bills? Or is it more believable that these bills were already written prior to the round-table meeting?

      We have been in contact with the Commerce Dept. We will have representatives present [newsforge.com] during the next discussion. It naturally will be separate from the industry panel (don't wanna kill the golden goose, and don't wanna give the opposition their own sound bites from the same meeting), but it is a step forward. A step that we did not have before we opened our mouths. A step that we would not have if we would have behaved like lambs to the slaughter, as Al3x would have us do. A forum where we will try to correctly define DRM [newsforge.com]

      Should we have spoke out? Or not? You tell me.

      But before you do, check out [nyfairuse.org] http://www.nyfairuse.org as they have a more complete account of what happened, and that was written a couple of days after the "round-table", not from my memory as I am doing now. Check it out, then tell me: Should we have kept our mouths shut like Al3x wanted? Or did we do something right by taking on Jack Valenti 's poisonous fud and rhetoric?

      Did you speak out? Should you have spoken out? Sent an email? Made a phone call? Sent a fax?

      I can't answer for you. I can only answer for myself. And I did what I thought was right.

      Vincenzo.

      I can be reached through the NYFairUse Discuss mailing list [mrbrklyn.com]

      btw, this is just one member's opinion. For official positions by NYLXS [nylxs.com] or NYFairUse [nyfairuse.org] , go to their web sites.
  • 2063 (Score:4, Funny)

    by Piquan ( 49943 ) on Monday July 29, 2002 @08:27PM (#3975404)
    Nuts... Looks like I'll have to fix my code that uses 32-bit timestamps after all.
  • [trolling for response]
    The float point computations that produced the said result were done on intel Pentium...
  • by fermion ( 181285 ) on Monday July 29, 2002 @08:50PM (#3975519) Homepage Journal
    It is fascinating to me that so many people on /., people who probably regularly flaunt the law by downloading MP3's, using a single license of Windows on multiple machines, or driving down the highway at higher than posted speeds, are decrying Richard M. Stallman's behavior. Are these people children, or just naive?

    The rules of any process, meeting, or presentation, are generally tilted to give the advantage to the incumbents. I am sure no one is surprised to hear this, and no one doubts that the Commerce Departments DRM Workshop was likely tilted to insure the implementation of some recording and movie industry friendly protection. Therefore, if we all sit back like nice sheep, act appropriately, and follow the rules, what we will get is an industry friendly DRM system.

    I am sure that some of you feel that downloading MP3s while hiding behind your firewalls and anonymous hotmail accounts is all it will take to stop DRM from coming, and maybe that will be enough. But maybe some direct action is needed. Maybe the token Free Software person needs not to sit back and smile, grateful for the opportunity to be in the presence of such great people that he is not even worthy to shine their shoes, but to stand up and declare himself not a patsy, but an equal.

    The reference to the US suffrage movement may or may not be accurate. Our ability to copy and download music may not be as important as a women's right to participate in our democracy. On the other hand, I do not see any DRM protesters picketing the white house [loc.gov], being beaten, sent to jail, and force fed because they feel that their children's right to be considered full citizens was greater than any discomfort they themselves might incur.

    What Stallman and a few other brave folks did was minor. It is being blown out of proportion by a media fearful for the demisof the only livelihood they know. It being propagated in populist forums like /. by persons uncomfortable with democratic process and the messiness that is occasionally necessary to keep that process afloat. If the opposition to the DRM is not important enough to justify such messiness, we should allow it to pass, and live in whatever world is the result.

    • by twitter ( 104583 ) on Monday July 29, 2002 @11:53PM (#3976171) Homepage Journal
      Just to keep the message on target:

      The fight against DRM is NOT a fight to reproduce comercial music or, worse, use multiple coppies of M$ junk in your house as some might believe. The fight against DRM is a fight to maintain control of your computer. It's a fight to be able to make your own software, and other content, and share it with your friends. DRM will end your ability to do these things as surely as the DMCA made DeCSS illegal and prevents you from using a freaking cue-cat bar code reader as you see fit. DRM can not work unless someone else is root on your computer. How else can unspecified files be "protected" against copy? This is as unAmerican as any other form of censorship and must not be allowed to pass without comment.

      This fight is more imprortant than any previous civil rights battle since the US Delcaration of Independence. That someone who is root on all DRM encumbered machines will wield more raw power than any previous tyrant. Those that own the filters will be able to spy and deny copy on demand. This way DRM will end your rights to free speech, press and security of your personal papers and effects. With free speech and press go truth itself. Without security of your private papers effective opposition is impossible. Of course, a society like that will not prosper, but neither will it necessarily crumple on it's own. As the US government turns it's back on the Bill of Rights, hope for freedom in this world grows dim. There's no place left to run.

      Thank you RMS for doing what you do. Good luck.

    • The reference to the US suffrage movement may or may not be accurate. Our ability to copy and download music may not be as important as a women's right to participate in our democracy.

      This isn't about the "right" to the latest Britney Spears MP3. The "intellectual property" juggernaut threatens consumer rights, free speech, and the open intellectual discourse upon which science and civilization rest. These people want to illegalize libraries fer chrissakes. The idea that this has a bloody thing to do with music piracy is to miss the woods for the trees.
  • by Tex Bravado ( 91447 ) on Monday July 29, 2002 @08:53PM (#3975530)
    It always irritates me when Stallman makes cogent and pertinent remarks like this, which threaten my image of him as a wild-eyed ranting iconoclast.
  • I hate to be considered a troll, especially since I'm a new user and I'm already posting at zero due to the fact that just *one* of my comments was modded down (off-topic, sorry), but the constant spats between Linux developers and Linux developer with other people are causing bad perception of Linux itself. The general public (actually, I just surveyed my immeadiate aunts, uncles, mom, and dad) thinks of Linux being a community they cannot get involved in due to the teenage 1337 hack0rz,the "long-haired computer geek" that all those with computer interests are portrayed as, and the constant public spats involving Linux developers. I am not critizing Mr. Stallman, because he has certaintly handled this in a good way. In fact, he could be an example for many other developers. I also feel that maybe a coordianted marketing campaign by IBM (who has a pretty good advertising agency) could erase the image of pimply-faced teenage hackers and smelly soda-guzzling developers. I only hope some day it will happen.
    • Yeah, this is a problem that comes up from time to time. For instance in the big flame war that erupted in a Gnome mailing list a few months back that devolved into ridiculous accusations and name-calling. It makes all parties involved look a little bit petty and childish, though usually good things come out of the intense disagreement.

      I don't really believe that members of our community are more childish or petty than anyone else. There are frequent and vigorous debates in most commercial software projects as well. Take for example the famous brouhaha at Microsoft regarding integrating IE into the explorer shell. There was a book written a few years ago about this, though unfortunately I can't remember the name.

      The big difference is that in the Open Source/Free Software community, our laundry gets aired in public, while disagreements within a company are hidden. It's unfair but inevitable that some will compare us unfavorably to the polished marketroid-speak that we hear from big companies. Hopefully, the quality of Free Software is enough to outweigh the negative PR we get sometimes.

      Then again, I may be completely wrong here. As some people say, any publicity is good publicity. Maybe the flame wars that get covered in the press actually help us in the long run by at least getting us some attention.

  • Assembly (Score:2, Informative)

    Assembly is a great event. Apart from being the most important gathering of the demo scene, where all big groups try to bring their best productions to compete, it's a dream for a lot of us to be there someday. Just imagine:

    • Hundrends of computers connected to the local LAN, for gaming, massive access to the Internet (have a look at their sponsors and you'll know why), and even some good old leeching. *sigh*
    • Hanging out with other scene people, and in general with countless cool people with similar interests
    • Watching the demo compo on the massive main screen and soundsystem, and feeling what religious awe must be like.

    The rest of us that won't be able to attend will be melting away on AsmTV. I'm sure Assembly will rock for one more year!

  • Hey, when this asteroid zips past in 2019, can we throw a net over it and hitch a ride to mars?
  • Why RMS bugs me (Score:2, Interesting)

    by foobar104 ( 206452 )
    (Karma level falling...)

    I disagree with much of what Stallman has said and written over the years. It wouldn't bother me so much were it not for his continued use of evocative propaganda in his writings. When I first encountered it, I was tempted to say that Stallman is just incredibly-- almost inhumanly-- arrogant. That may still be the case. But he makes such a pattern of that sort of passionate, irrational rhetoric that I have to wonder what his true agenda really is.

    (...falling...)

    This quote is an example of just that sort of propaganda:

    I cannot deny Al3x's charge that I, and the rest of us, defied the rules of the meeting by refusing to be completely silent. If it is wrong to disobey an unfair system, I stand convicted, but I am not ashamed. However, in the scale of civil disobedience, ours was very mild. Women demanding the vote sometimes chained themselves to doorways, which might been inconvenient for some passersby. Blacks demanding an end to segregation sometimes broke rules, and even laws, by sitting in a Whites-only diner or at the front of a bus.

    Here he tries to associate himself with civil rights protesters from the past, as if to say, "What we did is right because what they did was right." The association is horribly inapt, and in very poor taste. You're not a martyr, Richard. You're a political extremist. Nobody is dying for The Cause here, and I for one would appreciate it if you'd tone down your language a bit.

    (...falling...)

    Stallman used the same propaganda technique-- and some others-- in his writings on "free" software. I put the word free in quotes there because what he means by "free software" and what the word "free" actually means are two very different things. I won't go into detail on this here, because I don't want to get too far off topic, and also because I've already done it in depth here [slashdot.org]. If you have any opinion on this matter at all, Constant Reader, please have a look at the comment to which I linked. I'll welcome any sort of discourse on this matter, if for no other reason than to bring the debate to the attention of those who presently have no opinion at all.

    Just to sum up, I think Stallman's politics are misguided and wrong, but that's not what really bothers me. What really bothers me-- what really leads me to think that he might actually be dangerous, subversive in the bad sense of the word-- is the way he presents his ideas so carefully. His message is so clearly meant to appeal to emotion at the expense of reason that it makes me wonder what it is he's trying to slip past me.

    (...gone.)
    • Hey, I just wanted to say -- your post (and the other one you linked to) just about sum up my thoughts on the matter perfectly. (However, I've never been motivated enough to write out the full-fledged essay/rant that you did.) Good writing.
      • Thanks very much for saying so. It's really encouraging to hear that there are some people out there who see it the same way I do, instead of just getting my post modded down to -1, Troll and being forgotten.

        Now, quick, somebody archive those posts before I lose them! ;-)
        • Why do you constantly claim that you are always getting modded down? You are posting with a +1 bonus, are you not? Most of your comments to this story in particular have been modded up or left alone. Yet you whine that people aren't treating you fairly because your beliefs are different from some stereotypical /.er who only exists as an abstraction. It seems to me that you are just trying to make people sympathize with you as some sort of persecuted minority. Pretty similar to the tactic you claim Stallman uses, which bugs you so much.
    • Stallman is one of those guys whose great intelligence is utterly devoted to the spread of a sort of fundamentalist religion, of destroying the unbelievers, and of being worshipped by the True Disciples.
    • Stallman is trying to reframe the debate, which he is entitled to do. The other side tries to reframe the debate in terms of "intellectual property", a term which appears neither in the Constitution nor the Copyright Act. He thus has a point: this isn't necessarily a "property rights" debate. The whole concept of copyrights and patents as property is quite different from what most people think of as property. It's not ownership; it's something else.

      Copyright is more like a long-term lease agreement than permanent ownership. You can take a long term lease on real estate with the intent of subleasing to others. (Office buildings and malls often work that way). Such a lease creates "property" in a legal sense; you can sell or rent out your lease rights. Lawyers consider anything you can sell as property. But it's not ownership of the real estate; it's a narrower contractual right.

      Thinking about copyrights and patents in this way is helpful; they're a contract with the Government which has obligations for both parties. That contract creates certain saleable rights. But copyright and patent are really just temporary rights to something that will be public domain someday.

      We see this more clearly in the patent area, where both the area covered and the time of coverage are much more limited. Patent holders (of which I am one) are very aware that the clock is ticking, and that the day will come when their protection from competition ends. The copyright lobby has pushed up the life of copyrights to the point that people forget about the reversion to the public domain which must, someday, come.

    • Re:Why RMS bugs me (Score:5, Insightful)

      by no_choice ( 558243 ) on Monday July 29, 2002 @11:46PM (#3976147)

      I disagree with much of what Stallman has said and written over the years. It wouldn't bother me so much were it not for his continued use of evocative propaganada in his writings.

      What seems to "bother" you is that Stallman has advanced persuasive arguments in favor of an idea that conflicts with your existing world view. Rather than rethink that world view in light of the new information, you emotionally reject it as "propaganda." This is, in fact, a very human reaction. It is often difficult for people to accept new ideas, even good ones, that conflict with their entrenched existing ideas. This is particularly true when the person in question has an economic interest in maintaining their current world view, as you do.

      In your post and in your essay, you spend a great deal of time attacking Stallman and his ideas as "propaganda," without rebutting those ideas. This is called an argumentum ad hominem [sjsu.edu] attack ("against the man") and is considered a very poor argument--I'll resist the urge to call it "propaganda." And no, simply stating that you hold some particular belief as fundamental (e.g. "I believe that the owner of a computer program has the right to sell it") is not a rebuttal.

      When I see an author trying to persuade me emotionally rather than through reason or logic, it makes me suspicious.

      Indeed. These are emotional issues to those who understand them; DRM legislation, for example, could potentially have a devestating long-term impact on our society. I find Stallman's ideas to be exceptionally well-reasoned and logical. Clearly, you react to them very emotionally; I suggest you read Stallman's ideas again [gnu.org] and give them some thought.

      • Re:Why RMS bugs me (Score:3, Insightful)

        by foobar104 ( 206452 )
        What seems to "bother" you is that Stallman has advanced persuasive arguments in favor of an idea that conflicts with your existing world view.

        No, I told you exactly what bothers me: Stallman depends more on an appeal to emotion than he does on appeal to intellect. When other people do this, they're often trying to convince their audience to believe or to do something that they might not otherwise believe or do. That give me the creeps.

        As I've written elsewhere, my disagreement with Stallman exists on a plane separate from my objections to his rhetoric. In other words, in my eyes he is not only Wrong, but also Bad.

        In your post and in your essay, you spend a great deal of time attacking Stallman and his ideas as "propaganda," without rebutting those ideas. This is called an argumentum ad hominem attack ("against the man") and is considered a very poor argument--I'll resist the urge to call it "propaganda."

        Propaganda is a very specific term for a set of rhetorical techniques. The word does have negative connotations, but I honestly can't think of a better one to describe what RMS does. The connotations aren't always negative, anyway. In the 20's, the word "agitprop" appeared, which is a combination of the Russian word agitatsiya (or "agitating") and propaganda. The word was used by Russian Communists to describe their own efforts. So your assertion that calling it propaganda is an ad hominem attack is pretty off base. If I wanted to make an ad hom attack against RMS, I'd call him a left-wing radical Communist who dresses funny. That's an ad hom attack.

        For more information on propaganda techniques in persuasive writing, look here [washington.edu], or here [infidels.org], or here [magnet.ch]. These resources are good both for creating your own propaganda, and also for recognizing the propaganda of others. I'd suggest that you read about these techniques and familiarize yourself with them, then revisit RMS's writings. See how many instances of the propaganda techniques you can find. It's fun; it's like a little game.

        I suggest you read Stallman's ideas again and give them some thought.

        I read Stallman's ideas incessantly. But I read them critically and dispassionately, keeping a copy of those propaganda guides open beside me as I go. It's a terribly educational experience.
    • Re:Why RMS bugs me (Score:2, Insightful)

      by fermion ( 181285 )
      Here he tries to associate himself with civil rights protesters from the past, as if to say, "What we did is right because what they did was right." The association is horribly inapt, and in very poor taste. You're not a martyr, Richard... Nobody is dying for The Cause here, and I for one would appreciate it if you'd tone down your language a bit.

      I am not sure what you are saying. Is freedom of speech and freedom to control your own possessions not a right? Do we have to picket the White House and have the DC police beat us up and rape us before we can compare our cause to past causes? The great civil rights leaders of the past did not try to create the world you now enjoy because people were dying. They did it because it was the right thing to do.

      Stallman used the same propaganda technique-- and some others-- in his writings on "free" software. I put the word free in quotes there because what he means by "free software" and what the word "free" actually means are two very different things.

      And these criticisms are essentially the same used against Dr. King. He was in it to make himself famous. He said one thing, like the blacks must be free, and meant another thing. Like be free to live next door. Or be free to take my job. Or be free to have a better car than I do. Or be free to rape my daughter (because of course, consensual sex would be unthinkable between a good white girl and an evil black man). Some of these things Dr. King did mean, and it was just a matter of perspective.

      Just to sum up, I think Stallman's politics are misguided and wrong, but that's not what really bothers me. What really bothers me-- what really leads me to think that he might actually be dangerous, subversive in the bad sense of the word-- is the way he presents his ideas so carefully. His message is so clearly meant to appeal to emotion at the expense of reason that it makes me wonder what it is he's trying to slip past me.

      Which of course was the situation in Selma in the spring of 65(?) and April 4, 1968. At that time everyone, at least in principle, thought black people were human, but we couldn't have them living and shopping with us good white people. But you know, the so-called 'Dr.' King's ideas go just too far and are subversive to the integrity of this one America under god. He gives those great sermons and gets all those other uppity colored folks all riled up, like they might actually believe they have a right to a seat on the bus, or have a right to drink at our water fountains. It is clearly just the emotional response of the inferior race who has no capacity for understanding the importance of a reasonable, logical, common sense discussion. If they would just sit down and talk sensibly, we could all get along. They could live in their ghetto, and take the bus in to clean our toilets and wipe our babies asses.

      Which of course was the thinking that lead to murder of protestor in Marion, Alabama by a state trooper, which lead to the march in Selma where more protestors were killed. After the march, a Unitarian minister, James Reeb, who marched along side about 20% of his colleagues in this historic march, was brutally beaten and murdered by the good Christian citizens of these United States, presumably for supporting the subversive message of peace and equality spouted by Dr. King.

      Finally, let me say that the DRM issue may or may not be a civil rights issue. But if you are going to attack it, at least try to use some new arguments.

      • I am not sure what you are saying. Is freedom of speech and freedom to control your own possessions not a right?

        You bet those are rights. Unfortunately, they are not in any way related to anything that we're talking about here.

        Your comparison of RMS to Martin Luther King is insulting. Martin Luther King advocated equal protection under law for people of all races, and an end to state-sponsored injustice. RMS advocates open source software. These things are so far apart on both the moral and practical spectrums to make comparing them ludicrous.

        The DRM issue is not a civil rights issue. Period. Your repeated reference to historical events unrelated to the present debate is nothing more than sheer hyperbole, and is therefore not worthy of further discussion.
        • " Your repeated reference to historical events unrelated to the present debate is nothing more than sheer hyperbole, and is therefore not worthy of further discussion."

          And your use off the word "martyr" is not hyperbole? You are no better then the man you critize. You use the exact same tactics and appeal to emotion.

          Most likely this is because RMS would run circles around you in an argument. Just comparing your writings I'd say he is ten times as smart as you are.
    • Re:Why RMS bugs me (Score:4, Insightful)

      by scotch ( 102596 ) on Tuesday July 30, 2002 @01:44AM (#3976478) Homepage
      You would think that you would have learned a lesson from the moderation totals [slashdot.org] on the article you wrote and linked to above that complaining about stallman in fact is likely to boost your karma. But no, in the above article, you lament the inevitable falling of your precious karma not once but 4 times. Yet as I write this, you've already been boosted up to +4 insightful.

      Interesting tactic, it seems you used it in the linked article as well. A bit of the old reverse psychology. "Oh dear me, I know I'll be modded down, but someone has to tell it like it is to the horde of slashdot."

      On to the meat.

      Your objections to Stallman above and in your linked article seem to be tainted by some work you had to do because someone in your company didn't read the license to a bit of software before using it in a compony product. Boo hoo. You should be mad at that person, not the author of that software or the GNU project or Stallman in general.

      You go to great lengths to attack Stallman's use of the word "free" and how software (as a non-entitity) can't be free in the way Stallman means it. What about free speech? Right or wrong, the "free" in Stallman's free software speaks about the rights of individuals the same way "free' in "free speech does.

      Also, read this again and tell us if you are being more honest than Stallman is:


      Here he tries to associate himself with civil rights protesters from the past, as if to say, "What we did is right because what the did is right." The association is horribly inapt, and in very poor taste. You're not a martyr, Richard. You're a political extremist. Nobody is dying for The Cause here, and I for one would appreciate it if you'd tone down your language a bit.

      Oh the irony. Maybe you should tone down your language a bit. Stallman a "political extremist"? Please, that does such a disservice to real political extremists. Further, he doesn't try to associate himself with civil rights protesters so much as to point out that breaking of rules and even laws can be justified if you believe the aim is worthy. He points out that this has to be a personal decision based on who is doing the rule breaking - sure you can agree with that? "Martyr" is your emotionally laden word. Does that even apply to the examples he gave or did you introduce the word for your own propoganda (I'm thinking of the women suffarage protesters who chained themselves to doors, here, if some of them died I meant no ill will).

      I could go on, but have work to do. Heed your own advice.

      • You go to great lengths to attack Stallman's use of the word "free" and how software (as a non-entitity) can't be free in the way Stallman means it. What about free speech? Right or wrong, the "free" in Stallman's free software speaks about the rights of individuals the same way "free' in "free speech does.

        Okay, let's get to the root of this, once and for all.

        "Free speech," the phrase, is a shorthand. It's a shorthand for the relevant passage of the first amendment to the Constitution, which says, "Congress shall make no law... abridging the freedom of speech." (Parts unreleated to speech omitted.) This basically means, "The government can't-- within reason-- prevent you from expressing yourself." I said "within reason" because there are literally hundreds of areas in which expression has to be limited for reasons of safety, or security, or the overall good of society. This is considered appropriate and is accepted by all. That's freedom of speech, or "free speech."

        How does that apply to "free software?" "Free" software, in RMS's definition, is software that is licensed under the GPL or a similar license. That license basically says that nobody is allowed to create derivative works based on the licensed software and release them under different licensing terms. That's it, in a nutshell. If the source work is GPL'd, the derivative works must be GPL'd.

        How does that relate to freedom of speech? If anything, the GPL is the opposite of the idea behind freedom of speech, because it embodies a law (actually, a contract) that abridges the freedom of the user of the software. When you use GPL'd software, you are not free to do what you want with it. You're restricted, just like you are when you accept any licensing agreement. Again, there are lots of circumstances under which limiting freedom is appropriate, even necessary. There's nothing wrong with limited freedom, in and of itself. It's just that it can't be "free" and "not free" at the same time.

        Calling GPL-licensed software "free," when it's meant in any sense other than "zero cost," is inaccurate, misleading, and (at worst) downright deceptive.

        I take it from the rest of your comment that you agree with my assessment of RMS's language: it's emotional, instead of rational. It's evocative, rather than being insightful. And in his effort to make it visceral, he crosses the line into hyperbole and propaganda.
        • I'm afraid you have it completely backwards.

          When you use GPL'd software, you are free to do absolutely anything you want with it...except steal it (i.e., make it not Free).

          You said: If anything, the GPL is the opposite of the idea behind freedom of speech, because it embodies a law (actually, a contract) that abridges the freedom of the user of the software.

          What the heck are you talking about? Imagine you have two pieces of software on your hard drive. One is licensed under the GPL, the other has a proprietary EULA. Which license, do you suppose, abridges your freedom to use, copy, modify, and distribute the corresponding piece of software more?

          Besides, as I am sure that you are aware, you always have the choice not to accept the GPL license. If you simply use the software, you are never required to accept the GPL. Only if you choose to redistribute it do you have to make the choice. And if you reject the GPL, then the program is simply protected under standard copyright law, which says that you have absolutely no right to redistribute the work, modified or otherwise.

          So, what exactly are you claiming when you say that the GPL "abridges freedom"? Other than your "freedom" to steal something that does not belong to you, I just don't see what you are on about.

          In your post, you allow for exceptions to the Freedom of Speech, if limiting speech would be for the "overall good of society". Why can't you also allow for a similarly beneficial and *extremely* slight limitation on your "freedoms" when using GPL'd software (i.e., you are not allowed to steal GPL'd code), without proclaiming that it's the "opposite" of Freedom?

          Bottom line: the GPL grants you many Freedoms that you would otherwise not have, and it does NOT restrict any Freedoms that you would otherwise have. Given that, your rants make no sense.
        • The GPL is the vehicle that makes "free software" a right of the individual. This parallels "free speech" in that free refers to the freedom of all people to speak. Let's dispense with the myriad exceptions for the momemt. When I speak, it doesn't abridge your right to speak. As you point out, this is guarunteed by the 1st Ammendment. Think of the GPL of the tool that attempts to guaruntee the same rights with respect to certain pieces of software. The link with free speech is close, because the GPL utilizes and undermines in some ways one of the myriad exceptions on free speech, copyright.

          Back to the unabbridge speech world: if I speak, anyone else can repeat and modify what I say. This is a right they have, not a property of the speech or a right of mine. If I give out "free software", anyone has similar right to modify and distribute that software as well. This is the right of everyone around, not just me. These rights can't be achieved without source availability. We don't need "source" with speech because our bodies/and minds deal with that. Software requires at least source code to get similar extension of rights.

          GPL is only the tool that makes "free software" behave like "free speech" in this regard - not in the cost of the item, but in the rights of others around me. The restriction on the GPL (that says other must do the same) is necessary because software doesn't enjoy the protection of an ammendment and in fact has to cope with additional restriction of copyright law. I'm free to say: "no one else has free speech from this day forward". This has no meaning, but the equivalent in the software world does. The parallel breaks.

          You are free to disagree with this, to not use the GPL in your own code, to not use the GPL products, etc. The GPL contributes to a large body of "free software" - that people choose to build upon

          Bottom line, Stallman defines exactly what he means by free. His use of "free" is at worst an extension of other common and less common usages. There are no doubts to anyone who takes any time to research these things (ahem, software developers, for example) exactly what he means when he talks about his views, the GPL, his take on "free software", etc. Your repetitive accusations of dishonest tactics really don't fly well in the face of over 20 years of full disclosure of his motivations, beliefs, contracts, licenses, opinions, and source code. Think about it.

          I take it from the rest of your comment that you agree with my assessment of RMS's language: it's emotional, instead of rational ....

          I take it from this comment that you didn't read the rest of my comment. Perhaps you missed the part where I mentioned your writing seems to appeal to emotion much more than that of Stallman. You seem to introduce hyperbole where he only introduced analogy. You bring up emotionally laden terms where he did not. I've brought up in several threads how I think your assessment of his introduction of the civil rights movements and the women's suffarage movement is overly critical. He discussed motiviations for breaking rules: you called him an extremist and a martyr.

        • This is what my dictionary says "free" means. The following definitions are what the "free" in free software mean:

          3. Not controlled by an outside power; autonomous. 4. Not bound by restrictions or regulations: free trade. 9. Not controlled, restricted, or hampered by outside agents or influences. 12. Available to all; open: a free port.

          These are some notable definitions that Stallman does not mean by free software:

          1. Having personal liberty. 2. Having civil, political, or religious liberty. 15. Given or provided for without charge or cost: free seats.

          So the phrase "free software" does mean what he intends it to mean, "unrestricted". Anyone who believes he means definition 1 or 2 in my dictionary, is a fool. If this is propaganda, its rather poor, don't you think?

          Also, free software doesn't necessarily mean free of *all* restrictions, which seems to be your only complaint, just as free trade doesn't mean trade without *any* restriction. In both cases, it simply means you are generally not restricted in what you may do. By all accounts, the GPL is an unrestrictive license even if it doesn't allow you to relicense the work. Without the GPL, you wouldn't be able to copy the program, obtain source code, or distribute your own modifications.
    • Re:Why RMS bugs me (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Sloppy ( 14984 )
      Nobody is dying for The Cause here, and I for one would appreciate it if you'd tone down your language a bit.
      No, they're just spending time in jail, watching what they say in public, spending vast sums of money on legal defense, and living in fear. No cause for alarm.
  • I thought the whole asteroid thing was kind of neat, so I made a little box [eviljournalist.com] on my web site that grabbed the latest impact data from NASA and shows year of impact, probability of impact, and danger rating.

    Here's the (php) code [eviljournalist.com].
  • "The chicken little that cried asteroid"
  • by hunterellinger ( 574250 ) <ellinger@io.com> on Tuesday July 30, 2002 @12:25AM (#3976288)

    Without having an opinion one way or the other on the impact of RMS's behavior at the meeting, I am one person who was active in the civil-rights movement in the early 60's who is not offended by the comparison of it to the fight to restrain IP claims. (I'm also author of several minor patents -- example [uspto.gov].)

    US-led intellectual-property laws (all mixed together, as Stallman points out) are a growing method of forcing the poorer parts of the world to send money to the richer parts. The biggest problem is not copyright, but patents such as the ones that make many needed medicines too expensive to use throughout most of the world. Taking money from impoverished sick people (or countries) just for the privilege of using an idea is as immoral as were the earlier colonial and feudal expropriations that were also justified by ownership ideas that are now discredited.

    Laws that let you keep other people from using ideas need to be limited to what can be clearly shown to benefit people in general. When numerous trivial ideas are granted patents, and unjustified but ruinously-expensive infringement lawsuits are routinely used to stifle independent invention, it is clear that the correct balance has been lost. While the protests should not be limited to DRM (it won't help for people to see entertainment piracy as the only IP issue), I think that the fights on DRM are an important element in awakening people to the dangers posed by greed backed up by political power, even if the greatest such dangers are not DRM ones.

    The civil-rights movement and the women's-rights movements were glad to make use of precedents from the ACLU's free-speech efforts to stop pornography prosecutions and from alliances first formed to repeal alcohol prohibition -- even if the issues were not directly related in theory, the enemies of more freedom were pretty much the same in all cases, so that all the freedom efforts reinforced each other in practice. Efforts for more IP freedom are in the same tradition.

  • by al3x ( 74745 ) on Tuesday July 30, 2002 @12:29AM (#3976299) Homepage
    While I hesitate to buy into the comparisons with martyrs of civil rights and women's suffrage, I understand and sympathize with RMS's views. I also agree that a miscommunication about his views on intellectual property occured, and clearly a well-written text can offer a much more cohesive explanation than five minutes of conversation on a hot DC sidewalk.

    But perhaps this is exactly the point: I've recieved an outpour of sympathetic responses from red-blooded geeks from all parts, bemoaning our self-appointed representatives and their complex, often unrealistic viewpoints that can be explained only at length and implemented only in a closed system of their own design. However, the beautiful thing is: RMS, the NY Fair Use crowd, and their ilk have just as much right to their style of politicking as those of us who desire efficient and reasonable lobbying. And, as one Slashdotter enlightened me, it does take all kinds to really expose a tangled issue like this.

    I am largely in agreement with RMS, with the GNU philosophy, and with the notion that 'intellectual property' is both a misnomer and a vile construct. But I've also been mired in enough DC politics from a young age to know that idealism lies well beyond the goal in sight, and as disheartening as that may be, it's the price of "majority rules" democracy. I appreciate RMS clearing up our misunderstanding, and I appreciate those of you who wrote in support of a more moderate geek political platform.
  • RMS is consistent! (Score:4, Informative)

    by Omar El-Domeiri ( 10568 ) <(moc.tsixetonseod) (ta) (hsals)> on Tuesday July 30, 2002 @02:46AM (#3976556)
    I'd like to add I saw RMS do a seminar at the CFP 1998 conference (Computer Freedom and Privacy)
    at Austin with many people from the University's law program present, and I found his statements there more in line with what he states in his response then to what Al3x thought he had said.

    At the conference he said things acknowledging the difference in the kinds of law reform that should be applied to different types of copyrights (i.e. written media, online media, and software) and also towards patent laws. He didn't ever say destroy all these types of IP law, he really just proposed changes like shorting the copyright down a couple of decades from its current obscene mickey-mouse's lobbying levels, and considered ideas of making software copyrights much shorter than other copyrights (say 15 years) since it wasn't going to be that big a deal if you gave your sister a copy of dos 2.0 to put on her spare intel 286...

    I don't recall what he said in response to patents
    because something kind of funny was taking place at that time so I probably didn't pay enough attention then.

    Note that this was over 4 years ago.. His general ideas seem to be in line with those of 4 years ago, or even further back considering the inception of the FSF and his actions go much further back all seemingly steming from the same general philosophy.
  • We have to keep him around so he can argue with the asteroid in 2019.

Nothing is impossible for the man who doesn't have to do it himself. -- A.H. Weiler

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