Want to read Slashdot from your mobile device? Point it at m.slashdot.org and keep reading!


Forgot your password?

GPL 3 As Bonfire of the Vanities 426

morganew writes "Jonathan Zuck has written a CNET Op-ed stating that the GPL 3 is about returning the flock to the faith, and is reminiscent of Savonarola's 'Bonfire of the Vanities', urging true believers to burn things that took their eyes off God. From Article: 'The commercial humanists such as Lawrence Lessig with his Creative Commons initiative have turned away from the Old Testament, and the GPL 3.0 license is a call to the faithful to reject these vanities'. Given the reaction by Linus Torvalds and nearly all the OSS business community to the GPL 3, are we going to see a break in the church?"
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

GPL 3 As Bonfire of the Vanities

Comments Filter:
  • Full Disclosure (Score:5, Informative)

    by gowen ( 141411 ) <gwowen@gmail.com> on Thursday March 09, 2006 @12:45PM (#14883488) Homepage Journal
    When reading any socio-political article, be sure you know who the author works for [wikipedia.org].
  • Huh? (Score:5, Funny)

    by Moby Cock ( 771358 ) on Thursday March 09, 2006 @12:45PM (#14883493) Homepage
    a break in the church?

    I thought it was a Bazaar.
  • Well... (Score:3, Funny)

    by j0nkatz ( 315168 ) <anon@memphisgEIN ... minus physicist> on Thursday March 09, 2006 @12:48PM (#14883515) Homepage
    I like Microsoft so I must be going to hell in a handbasket.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 09, 2006 @12:50PM (#14883522)
    GPL 3: "I've created OSS Lutherans!"
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 09, 2006 @12:50PM (#14883525)
    Why is it that with every new or good thing someone should come, make a "cause" out of it, preferably a religion or something equally mindless, based on faith and not reason, and then wave banners of the newfound dogma in our faces while stuffing his proverbial coffers with capital.

    I say its technology, and any selfrighteous sermonizing jackass that wants to make religious wars based on it can go and do it with himself, for all I care.

    • by Anonymous Coward
      My Atari's better than your Mattelvision. My Spectrum's better than your C64. My ST's better than your Amiga. My SNES is better than your Megadrive (or Genesis, if you prefer). My PC's better than your Mac. My Linux is better than your Windows. I guess humans have an innate need to champion something to the detriment of its rivals. People like to feel superior.
      • Not only that, but since I've already made an investment in the technology, if I can convince other people that it's better than other tech, they are more likely to invest in it, leading to more people working to improve and support it. That helps protect my investment.
    • by Andy_R ( 114137 ) on Thursday March 09, 2006 @12:59PM (#14883603) Homepage Journal
      I'd say it's social engineering, or possibly economics, not technology. There isn't much in the GPL that could not be applied to computing 30 years ago, or collaborative text authorship 100 years ago.

      The GPL issue is possibly the first really large-scale one that the computer geek community has to address that is not simply technology-led, it's led by ideology and/or conscience.
    • I say its technology, and any selfrighteous sermonizing jackass that wants to make religious wars based on it can go and do it with himself, for all I care.

      Dear Anonymous Coward,

      This line of arguments "this is just technology, for god's sake" does not impress me one minute. The guys building defensive forts/castles on waterways and extorting levies could have said the same thing, this is just technology. It is when technology is used as a mean of control on how people live that it begins to require s
  • Wow (Score:5, Insightful)

    by endrue ( 927487 ) on Thursday March 09, 2006 @12:54PM (#14883553)
    That has got to be the most strangled and embarrasing analogy I have ever heard. It makes me feel all dirty - like I'm in some kind of cult. Lighten up!
    • It makes me feel all dirty - like I'm in some kind of cult.

      Perhaps that is the purpose of the article?

      One almost wonders what the author's motivations [wikipedia.org] are...
    • Re:Wow (Score:3, Informative)

      by tpgp ( 48001 )
      Yup - Mr Zuck is the one with religious fervour.

      Consider this quote of his: [cfif.org]

      ZUCK: Sure. ACT is an IT industry trade association based in Washington, D.C. It represents mostly small- and medium-sized information technology companies and their interests in Washington. So, we lobby on their behalf to prevent over-regulation of the industry; we fight both here and abroad for intellectual property protection;

      Errr right, fight against over-regulation.... with ip regulation?

      He also shows no understanding of the i [com.com]

  • Above religion? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by bubulubugoth ( 896803 ) on Thursday March 09, 2006 @12:55PM (#14883565) Homepage
    Aren`t we, technology advocates, above this kind of faithfull belive, and use more rational tougths and critical tougths?

    I sure know that, sometimes, only very few sometimes, almost never, we the "techs" tend to be fanatics...

    But this is getting creepy, GPL3 is just a license, to protect information, over one simple filosophical belive: Free of information.

    Hell, reading about flocks, faith, damn... what`s next? To adore the holy chip of Intel?
  • wow (Score:2, Funny)

    by ikejam ( 821818 )
    this is like 'da vinci code' in slashdot.

    1. replace the whole holy blood line thing with open source.
    2. keep the random medievel church connotations
    3. keep the poor taste, bad language (okay this ones better than the book)
    4. ???
    5. Profit!!!

  • by hey! ( 33014 ) on Thursday March 09, 2006 @12:57PM (#14883581) Homepage Journal
    Reasoning from analogies is like tying your shoes with laces made of butter.
  • by ajs318 ( 655362 ) <`sd_resp2' `at' `earthshod.co.uk'> on Thursday March 09, 2006 @12:58PM (#14883594)
    We believe that every user of software has four basic rights: the right to ENJOY the software, the right to STUDY how the software works, the right to SHARE the software with others and the right to ADAPT the software to their needs. We believe that these rights spring directly from the existence of software, are fundamental and can never be signed away.


    We believe that everyone has the right to use software that they have legitimately acquired, for any purpose: it is for the user to determine whether it is suitable for a particular application. If the supplier of a program were somehow unfairly to impose their will upon the user, perhaps by stipulating that the program should not be used for certain purposes, that would constitute an act of violence.


    We believe that every user of a program has the right to study how that program works. If the user of a program wishes to replicate a particular piece of functionality from that program, they have the right to examine the program in order to determine how the functionality is performed. Nobody should be forced to re-invent the wheel. The supplier of a program does not have the right to keep secret from any rightful user how the program works: by allowing someone else to use the program, they have invited that person in on the secret.

    If the creator of a process wishes to keep secret the details of a process, then that is their prerogative. Effectively, they are providing a service: a customer supplies the materials; the provider of the service takes them away, does something secret, and later returns a finished product to the customer. The customer has certain rights in respect of the transaction, including the right to decline the transaction altogether based upon the level of secrecy expected by the supplier. Where the right to study a program is denied, the user {customer} is expected to provide the supplier with not just the raw materials {input to the program}, but also the resources to carry out the process {computer time and disk space}. This diminishes the quid pro quo, and so is potentially an unfair transaction.

    Access to the source code is highly desirable in the exercise of this right.


    We believe that all the fruits of all human endeavour properly belong to all of humankind.

    Software can be shared without being diminished by the act of sharing: if I give a copy of a program to my neighbour, I still have a copy. {Of course, I no longer have the exclusive use of that software. This exclusivity is a form of artificial scarcity.} Nobody has the right to impose their will on my neighbour and say that they should not use a particular program: to do so would be a form of violence.


    We believe that every user of a program has the right to adapt that program to their own needs. Nobody should be forced to adapt their method of working to suit the way that someone else believes that the job should be done that would constitute unfairly imposing one's will on another, which is a form of violence.

    Access to the source code is highly desirable in the exercise of this right.


    We further believe that any user who is not skilled in the art of computer programming, or who simply desires to delegate the task to another, has the right to employ a competent programmer [2] of their choice and whom they trust, to assist them in the exercise of their rights to enjoy, study, share and adapt computer software; and that every competent programmer has the right to run a business based on providing such services in a free market. These services might include independent appraisal of the program to determine its suitability for a particular application {which is contingent upon the right to study}; modification to tailor the program to the customer's working
    • "...that would constitute an act of violence"

      Now we see the violence inherent in the system!
    • We believe that all the fruits of all human endeavour properly belong to all of humankind.

      Work is a human endeavour. The money you make is the fruit of your work, which is a human endeavour. I demand that you share your paycheck with me because it "properly belong(s) to all of humankind". When will you be sending me my money?

      The truth of the matter is a person or group of people only have the rights that society as a whole give them. No one has given you any of those "rights" you mention.

      You do not have a r

      • by fossa ( 212602 ) <pat7.gmx@net> on Thursday March 09, 2006 @01:59PM (#14884140) Journal

        I find your arguments distrubing. You say he does not have the "right" to ask for part of your paycheck. Nor does he have the "right" to copy "your" software. I say the former is very different from the latter. In the latter case, you are asking him to give up some of his freedom: the freedom to copy. His copying does not directly affect you in any way. In the former case, he is asking something of you that does directly affect you. You have no right to demand that others limit their freedom for the mere claim that you "own" the "right" to copy. Now, it so happens that we as a society have decided that allowing you to do so temporarily will be beneficial for the promotion of the progress of science and the useful arts. But there is nothing inherent that says you should be able to limit his freedom in this way as his actions do not affect you. So, please, throw out the "I own it so he can't copy it" argument. Instead, argue that society should agree to prevent him fom copying. And it better have a damn good reason to do so.

      • I'm not sure where that manifesto came from, but it's pretty radical, moreso than anything I've heard before. That manifesto is close to what RMS believes, but not quite. Even RMS recognizes copyright as valid. He believes in ownership of software.

        He believes it's immoral to put artifical limitations on the users of software, but I've not heard him say anything like "No one should own anything".

        It actually goes against the legal basis of the GPL. The GPL supports the idea that the owner of the software
  • Reformation? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by opencity ( 582224 ) on Thursday March 09, 2006 @12:59PM (#14883611) Homepage
    I like the religious schism analogy whether or not it's accurate. Does that make Microsoft the Ottoman Empire? Apple?
    • I like the religious schism analogy whether or not it's accurate. Does that make Microsoft the Ottoman Empire? Apple?

      Apple is the heretic that must be burned.
  • Troll... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by srmq ( 123358 ) on Thursday March 09, 2006 @01:01PM (#14883622)
    The article is clearly a troll. If the author had at least read the proposed draft of the GPLv3, he would have seen that in fact it brings more compatibility with the "pragmatism-driven" OSS world, as it will make possible to combine gplv3 works with software released under OSS licenses that are currently incompatible, like the Apache 2.0 and the Eclipse licence.
    • If the author had at least read the proposed draft of the GPLv3

      How can you be so naive? He DID read it. He was just paid to attack Stallman, since the GPL doesn't benefit Microsoft at all. Please, portraying Stallman as some kind of fundamentalist warlock who loves to burn books of art and science? Sheesh, that's falling low.

      At least CNET had the decency now to say who he works for at the bottom of the article.
  • by digitaldc ( 879047 ) * on Thursday March 09, 2006 @01:01PM (#14883629)
    Enter Girolamo Savonarola, a Dominican priest, who came to power in Florence in 1494. He viewed all of this "humanism" as vanity, turning people's heads away from the word of God and true religion. He took a very severe stand against the new scholarship, culminating in a series of bonfires in the town square, where many great works of art and science were lost. These fires have come to be known as the "Bonfire of the Vanities."
    Like Savonarola, Richard Stallman takes a similarly religious stance on software development, rather than a practical one. For Stallman, the concept that software be "free, as in freedom" is the only concern in the creation of software.

    At first, I was thinking that Stallman, was the opposite of someone like Savonarola, since he encourages 'freedom' in software creation and not adhering to strict rules or religion. And freedom should include the freedom to create any software you like, totally free or hybrid - though this is not exactly what Stallman envisioned. But of course, all this 'freedom' could lead to something altogether different - 'not free' code and this could not be named 'public.'

    I do not see the point of this person's article, except to stir up bad feelings against Stallman. Maybe since the guy works for the Association for Competitive Technology (ACT), he has an agenda to push - creating disdain for the concept of free software? ACT doesn't like OpenOffice, so they probably do not like Stallman either.
    • like Savonarola.

      I'm not against free software; I use and enjoy an number of free and open source apps. Heck, I've even contributed to the documentation efforts of some projects of this type. I suppose I support, in a general way, the four freedoms in the parent article, though calling software restrictions "violence" is, IMO adolescent.

      But I'm opposed on principle to any fanaticism, whether it be in favor of free software or Microsoft products. The type of rabid dogmatism propounded by Stallman is the enem
      • It's violence because if you break current copyright laws, eventually big men with guns show up to force you into the government's way of thinking.

        Some legislator said that we should keep in mind that if there's any spending bill that your grandmother doesn't want to pay for, the IRS will send people with guns to collect the money to pay for that bill. This is similar. You may not like any given law, but if you don't follow it, eventually someone with a gun will persuade you that you should follow the
      • Being against very strong beliefs per default, is being fanatical about being moderate.

        Rationalism and Compromise might be good in certain circumstances, but there are others in which it makes people collaborators and war criminals.
    • Maybe since the guy works for the Association for Competitive Technology (ACT), he has an agenda to push - creating disdain for the concept of free software? ACT doesn't like OpenOffice, so they probably do not like Stallman either.

      He does more than work for them, according to the article, he's the president of ACT, although it's easy to miss, being in tiny text inside an image with no alt attribute.

  • Religious debate? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by truthsearch ( 249536 ) on Thursday March 09, 2006 @01:01PM (#14883630) Homepage Journal
    Many in the commercial software community call open vs. closed source a religious debate. They argue they're on the pragmatic side. The open source community often tries to portray their side as practical, not idealistic. Framing this in religious tones in not going to help. It only stokes the fires and brings this article's author more readers. I see this as just media sensationalism with some facts thrown in.
    • by qwijibo ( 101731 )
      It's not a completely unfair comparison. There are people on both sides whose beliefs are so strong that they refuse to consider the other side's perspective. The other side are considered heretics because they do not subscribe to The One True Way. In the end, the only concern is with winning converts to your belief system, regardless of how right your belief system is.

      For example, GPL is touted as the ultimate in code freedom, but it's really about pushing a particular agenda. It's a constructive agend
      • Re:Religious debate? (Score:3, Interesting)

        by fossa ( 212602 )

        The GPL does two things: first, it explicitly allows the user to do whatever he or she may want and is able to do such as copying, modifying, distributing, etc, and second it requires that source code be included. The first restriction only makes the GPL less free in the context of a society that is imposing these artificial freedom limiting restrictions already. In the context of a more free society, the GPL and BSD (and any license for that matter) would be equivalent on the first point. The second res

        • The BSD license does not limit anyone's freedom to copy code. It allows the author of that code the freedom not to distribute any modifications he makes to it, or not to exempt his creation from restrictions imposed by copyright law. That it, it simply does not impose the obligation to distribute the code, either at all or under any particular license. Any code that is out there and distributed is still free to use, and using it in a closed project does not affect that. If I take a BSD-licensed project, mod
    • by ZombieRoboNinja ( 905329 ) on Thursday March 09, 2006 @01:47PM (#14884034)
      I dunno, I think the author is actually fairly clear when you RTFA. The open-source guys are the liberal rennaissance types in his analogy, and Stallman is the crazy book-burner who's trying to shut them down.

      It makes some sense to me. Many programmers and companies see open source as an appealing solution for profit-driven and nonprofit projects alike. IBM, Sun, and Google, for example, all see some potential financial gain in promoting a strong open-source community. The advantages of open source include broader standards, "many eyes" to help catch bugs and security flaws, and the possibility of programmers from competing companies working together towards a mutual goal.

      "Free-source" guys like Stallman don't seem to like this so much. They seem to think of their software as a crusade, and consider it perfectly justified to try to strong-arm people into abandoning DRM, patents, and of course copyright for their software. Stallman would undoubtably love it if there simply WAS no protection for any kind of "intellectual property." But that makes him a bit impractical, IMO, since the profit motive is the only reason a LOT of good programs get made. (Not to mention art, music, movies, books...)

      In other words, Stallman is trying to tear down the burgeoning open source/corporate alliances on ideological grounds, and I don't think the article writer is totally off base in his analogy. Although of course he's hyperbolizing quite a bit.
  • by jc42 ( 318812 ) on Thursday March 09, 2006 @01:02PM (#14883634) Homepage Journal
    I've read all sorts of contradictory stuff about GPL 3, and they can't possibly all be true. It'd be nice to read a calm, clear explanation of what it really does, and how it's different from earlier versions.

    I suppose that such an explanation should go over all the various FUD stuff and explain why each specific claim is wrong (or partially right or whatever).

    In any case, it seems that if I own the copyright on something, I should have the right to release it with extra permissions beyond the law's defaults. Much of the FUD seems to be based on the premise that there's something wrong with me giving away something that I own. What's so immoral, anti-social, or religious about giving someone a gift?

  • by Senzei ( 791599 ) on Thursday March 09, 2006 @01:04PM (#14883648)
    I only got to about four or so and quit. If anyone wants to pick up where I left off just say so and i'll post it.

    Then again, maybe we should concentrate more on getting back to the point of OSS.

  • Crossroads (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Billosaur ( 927319 ) * <wgrother@oEINSTE ... minus physicist> on Thursday March 09, 2006 @01:04PM (#14883650) Journal
    To meet the needs of the heterogeneous market, this community has focused many of its efforts on building bridges between open/free software and proprietary products. Under GPL 2, companies have found many ways to create these types of hybrid systems. Today, Linux distributions from Red Hat, Suse and others include many pieces of proprietary and nonfree code. But this "mixing" has not been without its detractors. For leading Linux users like TiVo and Adaptec, the ability to protect key intellectual property is essential. But this protection is a direct assault on Stallman's version of freedom and the need to share software with the community. How do you balance the promotional value of high-profile Linux implementations against the philosophical compromise?

    It's the crux of the problem: how do we keep software development free and open, yet allow people to create systems/software that they can market and more importantly, protect, to allow for continued commerce. The web gets more tangled with each iteration and type of licensing, not to mention the whole patentability issue. Eventually this whole idea of intellectual property in software is going to cave in to the reality that you can't wall off code or the algorithms behind code. In the end, everything will have to be open source to be accessible, but allowances will have to made for commercial use of code.

  • The issue is... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Pup5 ( 543611 )
    ... will the corporate media pimp get their ho (Sen. Hatch) to make non-DRM supporting software illegal. It's not simply that content licensing should support non-DRM language, it's that programs need the same protection.

    The issue really is one of freedom, and I think Stallman sees that clearly. So perhaps Linus doesn't want to sign onto GPL-v3 because he sees this possibility, and realizes that corporate installations will quickly go to zero. Does that make Linus pragmatic, or a sell-out to the cause?
  • by Himring ( 646324 ) on Thursday March 09, 2006 @01:07PM (#14883682) Homepage Journal
    In order to properly use this metaphore the following must be true:

    1. A pre-reformer figured must be burned at the stake by Rome (John Huss):
    2. A Luther figure must arise who, prior to converting to a 'reformed' faith beats himself with whips, sleeps on cold stone in discomfort and crawls over glass.
    3. Post conversion, he nails a piece of paper to a castle-church door listing 99 problems he has with the establisment.
    4. The peasants revolt in agreement with his claims, and he agrees to torture and kill them.

    Oh, and finally, Chuck Norris causes the real break with a roundhouse kick....

  • by tabdelgawad ( 590061 ) on Thursday March 09, 2006 @01:10PM (#14883710)
    This is a real question to those who have spent more time thinking about this and have a better understanding. My impression was that RMS is trying to respond to the possibility, courtesy of DRM and 'Trusted Computing', that a company could take GPL software, make (and publish) modifications, then release a version that cannot be modified further and still run. This would transform GPL software to a 'Look But Don't Tinker' variety. After a while, for example, you wouldn't be able to meaningfully branch a project. Is this about right? If so, is the fight about this goal of GPL3 or the particular methods/language it uses?
  • From TFA:

    According to Wikipedia, "Florence soon tired of Savonarola's hectoring," and so too are many turning their backs on Stallman. Stallman and the Free Software Foundation have every right to continue their ideological crusade against proprietary software, but will anyone follow?

    It seems the pundit would take joy in a "sectarian" fight between Free software and merely free software.

    Such a battle would probably not result in two entrenched ememies battling to the death (and to the delight of Mic

  • For a second there, I thought that Tom Wolfe was the latest convert to Open Source zealotry.

  • One Gods (Score:4, Funny)

    by Doc Ruby ( 173196 ) on Thursday March 09, 2006 @01:24PM (#14883825) Homepage Journal
    Clearly GPL 1 is the "Old Testament": the original, not very popular. Settled down after an initial conversion onslaught into just a small community handing it down thru generations on conservative faith in the simplest expression of the "One License" inspiration.

    GPL 2 is the "New Testament": hugely popular sequel, reforming the original and claiming its legacy. More complex, but more comprehensive to absorb adherents of other licenses. Taking over the world as the old "panoply of proprietary licenses" paradigm fades.

    GPL 3 is the "Last Revelation": deriving from the first two licenses in succession, attempting to leverage the success of the second edition into total world domination among a much more diverse population. Impeded by continuing success of the second version.

    This comparative license religion note brought to you by an atheist, into the public domain.
  • by RomulusNR ( 29439 ) on Thursday March 09, 2006 @01:30PM (#14883874) Homepage
    GPL is for code, CC is for content. I don't see a schism there.
  • by rumblin'rabbit ( 711865 ) on Thursday March 09, 2006 @01:39PM (#14883946) Journal
    I think the article makes a fair point, although it could have used more facts and explanation.

    RMS has repeatedly stated that he considers all proprietary software evil. Eben Moglen views are similar (e.g., read "Freeing the Mind : Free Software and the Death of Proprietary Culture").

    These are radical views, and out of sync with many supporters of open source software. Indeed many programmers wonder how they are supposed to make a living if all proprietary software is abolished. It seems a reasonable assertion that this will eventually cause a rift in the open source movement.

  • by 2901 ( 676028 ) on Thursday March 09, 2006 @01:40PM (#14883957) Homepage Journal

    The article casts Stallman as impractical. However the freedoms in the GPL are of practical importance. One might for example be using GPL software in a large organistion to get away from per seat licencing, using the freedom to share the software with multiple employees. If some "pragmatism" finds a way round GPL 2 so that you have to pay per seat for the link to the website that enables the software, that is not very practical for the users.

    If you are going to do what the article does and merely assert that freedom is in opposition to practicality, you are saying nothing at all.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    Nor would a major kernel fork. Linus is a smart coder, but I don't trust him on the political and legal side of things. It's a low priority for him. He could lose those freedoms (or never had had them in the first place) that allow him to continue without "political types" coming up with such things as the original GPL. Ignore bogus laws, patents, DRM at your own peril. You can't just pick and choose which parts of the total world to live in. We are very close to patenting and DRM and the DMCA and such to e

Information is the inverse of entropy.