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GNU is Not Unix

RMS Responds 349

RMS wrote in to send a reply to some of the discussions involing him and the FSF that appeared in the recent Metcalf Story that appeared here. Hit the link to read his comments.

People have been speaking of me in the context the Open Source movement. That's misleading because I am not a member of it. I belong to the Free Software movement. In this movement we talk about freedom, about principle, about the rights that computer users are entitled to.

The Open Source movement avoids talking about those issues, and that is why I am not joining it. The two movements can work together on software; I even occasionally recommend Eric Raymond as a speaker for a business-oriented conference. But we disagree on the basic issues. (See this document.)

For example, in the Free Software movement, we don't consider proprietary programs such as Applix or Wordperfect a contribution to our community. Instead, we work on free replacements for those non-free programs, just as we have worked for 15 years to develop a free replacement for Unix.

The Open Source people are entitled to present their views, but please don't cite the achievements of Free Software as their successes. GNU software and the GNU operating system come from the Free Software movement.

Also, for the record, I am not a Communist or anything similar. The idea that people ought to cooperate and help their neighbors is much older than Marx--in fact, one notable exponent of this view lived 2000 years ago. And the idea of inalienable rights embodied in the GNU GPL comes from the founders of the United States. People who disagree with me often find it convenient to call me a Communist, but they do so in order to misrepresent my views.

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RMS Responds

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  • Not all rectangles are squares, but all squares are rectangles.

    Not if you're an object-oriented programmer. :)
  • Collectivism means to me just the philosophy that a bunch of people working together is better than people working apart. It's a philosophy that most modern businesses seem to follow, and far from a bad thing.

    I'll use your term Statism, since your definition of that agrees with mine. I agree that Statism is a bad thing. I disagree that RMS is a Statist. He rarely addresses the Government in his writings, much less the Will of the Government. Where he does address the Government, he is critical of them, particularly how they handle the topic of Intellectual Property. Would a Statist be so critical? []

    The examples you give are not very illuminating of your ideas. You bring up the conscription of soldiers, in what way can anything RMS is doing be tied into the draft?!?! You say that a common policy is to penalize the productive so the non-productive may benifit. I can see how the non-productive benefit from what RMS is doing, but that is a costless side effect. How is anything he is doing penalizing the productive?

    You write:
    My problem with RMS is that not only does he wish to give his property away (which, of course, is his right), he wishes to establish a system where everyone is obligated to give away their property. Without property, there can be no other rights.

    Here's the rub, here's the only point where i've seen your views differ with RMS's. RMS feels that intellectual property law as it now stands is a crutch to support the non-productive publishing giants. You think that it actually helps productive people. Why bring all this name calling and false representation into it?
  • Should've hit preview.
  • The Famous Brett Watson wrote:
    I've chosen to reply to this particular post because I've rarely seen so many informal logical errors in one place at one time

    You don't read Slashdot very often, do you? I was basing my comment that RMS is not a Statist on SQL*Kitten's note that "Statism is the belief that the individual serves no purpose other than the will of the Government (or Church)." I discarded his use of the term Collectivism in favor of Statism because he appears to consider the terms interchangable, but I do not. Statism is a term that we both agree on definition, so it is easier to pick the term where there is no syntactic dispute. I am using his definition of the term Statist.

    If a Statist considers the Will of the Government to supercede the Will of an individual, than a I would think a Statist would be unlikely to criticize a government.

    When I critisize his bringing up of conscription, I am not dismissing an analogy. He makes no analogy, he is merely pointing out an example which I fail to see the relevance. In World War One, they used Mustard Gas. So there!

    When I critisize his example of penalizing the non-productive, again, I cannot dispute the meat of his point, since he gave none. I am asking for some content that I can agree or disagree with.

    Perhaps you might look into a course in logical argument yourself. I consider it useless to debate against my wild guess as to the person's argument. I would much rather encourage someone to supply me with a more complete argument, and dispute it on its merits. I know from experience that the original poster is quite capable of forming a complete, well formed argument.

    As to the points you made on the subject:

    Replacing copyright laws overnight with copyleft is nonsensical. Copyleft is the use of copyright laws to protect the freedom of the document. You cannot replace copyright with copyleft overnight, since copyleft implies copyright laws exist. If you suddenly remove copyright laws overnight, some people might suffer unnecessarily, but nobody (not even RMS) has suggested that we do this. You are guessing at arguments, and arguing against your guesses, not the reality.

    Yes, his orignal post implies that intellectual property should be treated like all other property, which is a matter of opinion. Before you can have meaningful debate on matters of opinion, however, first you have to establish matters of fact. His orignal post states as a matter of fact that RMS wants to obligate everyone to give away their [intellectual] property. I ask for some evidence that this statement is factual, because all the evidence I see indicates that it is a false representation.

    Do you understand where I'm coming from a bit better now?
  • It's not clear to me if you are reading too much or too little into my posts, but you certainly aren't getting it.

    I dismiss the notion that RMS is a Statist on the grounds that he has never said anything to indicate that he is. He never says that the Government should be paramount. He never pushes any agenda that would require the government to be paramount. I added the point about him actively critisizing the government as merely another example, yet you interpret it as my entire point. The original poster was making an accusation, and I was pointing out that he needs to back up such accusations with fact.

    The original poster defined Collectivism and Statism to be the belief that the individual serves no purpose other than the will of the Government (or Church). I was arguing that, by that definition, RMS is not a Statist. You are making up your own definition of the term, and complaining that I am not arguing against it.

    You seem to define Statism as the belief that the law is a tool to enforce sharing property. First of all, I have never heard such a definition of Statism proposed before, and you look like you are molding the definition to fit the target (RMS), which is a serious logical fallacy that I am surprised you don't recognize. Second of all, whether or not he fits this warped definition defends on what property you are talking about sharing. RMS believes that the law can and should be used to enforce that shared property will remain shared. He does not indicate in his writings that the law should be used to force people to share private property, in fact he says the opposite.

    If the original poster's line about conscription was intended as an analogy, it failed. An analogy should connect the discussion at hand to something, the line was completely unconnected to the discussion at hand. It is possible to invent connections, as you did, that were not indicated by the original poster. I feel that doing so would be intellectually dishonest. I would rather argue what the poster meant, since it's unclear, I indicated that it was unclear rather than arguing against a fabrication. If you consider that a lack of imagination or dishonest, that is your opinion.

    Regarding the replacing copyright with copyleft, you proposed it as if it were relevant to the discussion, so I assumed you thought it was relevant, and pointed out that it is impossible, and not proposed by any of the parties we are discussing. I am not deliberately trying to misunderstand you, I am desparately trying to understand you. If you toss out points along the lines of "If eggs start laying chickens, farmers would have problems", it doesn't help matters.

    I agree with your assesment that RMS does not want to abolish copyright law, but he (and I) beleives that it requires some serious work. I strongly disagree that he considers the restrictions of the GPL to be the ideal state of law. He considers them the terms under which he wants to contribute software.

    If RMS were made king for a day, and allowed to enact any laws he wants, I strongly doubt he would put in place a law saying that all software must be Free. On the other hand, he certainly would remove the penalties for copying. His ideal of law would be one that would allow and encourage Free Software to flourish, but from what I've read of his, he would not make Free Software manditory.

    I am trying to understand the intent of your posts. I am also not trying to "attack the straw man", in case you hadn't noticed, you attacked my post first, I am merely responding.
  • Look at the phrase replace copyright with copyleft. Your intended meaning, to replace copyright law with something that requires that software be Free, is certainly a possible interpretation, but not the only, or even the most common one. I generally hear that term used by the FSF's critics to mean "replace copyright law (in its entirety) with something that requires that all documents be Free." You don't have to write volumes on each point, but as you should be able to see, a little clarity is important to being understood, particularly since you are posting on the coattails of someone who has argued that RMS wants to force people to distribute software against their will.

    That is a very interesting quote you give, and yes, it does indicate that he would replace, as you say, copyright with copyleft, but limited to software, not the whole of copyright law. I am sure he would make changes to the rest of copyright law as well, just not the same changes as he would make for software.

    It sounds (to me) like we're pretty much on the same wavelength about what is going on, and we probably would be in agreement on many points as to what should go on. We're really just debating how to debate here, and if that's what you want, fine by me.
  • ...for being consistent in his message, and sticking to his guns. ("Sticking to his guns" may be a more appropriate cliche' for ESR, over RMS, but you get my point. ;) ) I don't always agree with him, but I have a deep respect for people like him who live by their ideological principles consistently and non-hypocritically.


  • ...for being consistent in his message. I don't always agree with him, but I have a deep respect for people like him who live by their ideological principles consistently and non-hypocritically.

  • by volsung ( 378 ) <> on Monday June 28, 1999 @04:23AM (#1829388)
    I get tired of hearing this "RMS is a commie" garbage. It makes me think I'm in some 1950's documentary about McCarthism.

    I still don't get why people seem to think that since capitalism works on self-interest (true), people are *only* supposed to help themselves (false), and anyone who helps others is not a capitalist (false), so therefore he must be a communist (very, very false).

    I recall a discussion about Positive Sum Games in the thread about ESR's new paper. It's an interesting idea to think that by giving something to someone else, the total value increases.

    It's definitely something to think about.
  • He does.
  • Tom, a spade is either a kind of playing card or a garden tool.

    Calm down there, Spike
    A spade is a spade. If I'm talking to a card shark, I know what he means. Likewise if I'm talking to a landscaper. It's called "context"
  • Ah yes, a gratuitous slap a Reagan. Isn't it interesting to see how things change. In the 80's, the Wall Street boom was a sign of "Republican greed", now it's a sign of the "Clinton economic miracle". Homelessness is a worse problem than ever, yet the issue seems to have dropped off the left's radar scope. Financial wealth is more concentrated after six years of Clinton than ever. (The only multi-mega-billionaires in the Reagan years were Arab oil magnates).

    The poor old lefties still want to carp about Reagan when in fact American under Clinton has been everything the left claimed about Reagan times two.
  • Who told you that communism was bad? Have you any real proof? What do you call a kibbutz if not a commune? Are they bad? No. What is bad is the perversion that occurs as a result of capitalistic tendencies of the the leaders! True communism is a worthwhile thing! Problem is... the world is populated by people. People are predisposed to looking out for number one (a fact that goes right along with capitalism). True communism (where everyone works for the common good) is or has been a pipe dream to date. So called Soviet Socialism was nothing more than a facade on top of underground capitalizm. Where people are concerned, capitalizm cannot be far behind.

    The profit motive is alive and well within the framework of the Linux community too! Each member of the community is working for his/her own good! It just happens to be good for the community as well. What's good for me is good for you and vice versa.

    I knew when I first got into Linux that I was into something good - something more than the intangible assets that computer programs represented - a community.

    The community (a word descended from commune just like communism) consists of the whole. The programmers, the documentors, the theoreticians, the users, and the abusers. The community is only as effective as it's organization and it's constituency. You cannot separate the pieces and still have a whole community. As far as I'm concerned, the BSD folks are a VITAL part of the free community! RMS and the FSF are PILLARS of the free community. ESR is a tireless spokesman of the community (the tired part may be a little exaggerated :) We don't always agree - if we did, it would just prove we were brainless.
  • Posted by The Famous Brett Watson:

    I don't wish to mount a personal attack, but I've chosen to reply to this particular post because I've rarely seen so many informal logical errors in one place at one time. To the author of this post and any others who can't pick the errors, I highly reccommend a course in logical argument or a book on the same. But now, to the matter at hand.
    I disagree that RMS is a Statist. He rarely addresses the Government in his writings, much less the Will of the Government.
    Here you have attacked a point not raised by the original poster. The original poster used "Statist" as an alternative term for "Collectivist". You seem to be working on your own definitions of these terms, and there can be no stasis in the argument if you haven't agreed on definitions.
    Where he does address the Government, he is critical of them, particularly how they handle the topic of Intellectual Property. Would a Statist be so critical?
    Even if we use your defintion of Statism, this would seem to be false. A Statist could well be critical of the incumbent system of government. Perhaps you were thinking of a patriot?
    You bring up the conscription of soldiers, in what way can anything RMS is doing be tied into the draft?!?!
    Here you dismiss an analogy by arguing that it is not the same issue. That fact is inherent in analogy, and it cannot therefore be used as a valid counterargument. What you must do is demonstrate that the analogy is faulty or irrelevant. One could argue, for instance, that the analogy is faulty because nobody is obliged to write software, whereas they are obliged to become a soldier if conscripted.
    I can see how the non-productive benefit from what RMS is doing, but that is a costless side effect. How is anything he is doing penalizing the productive?
    Once again, you fail to address the point raised by the original poster. The original point was that RMS "wishes to establish a system where everyone is obligated to give away their property." If you are suggesting that RMS giving away his own software does not penalise the productive, then your point is true but irrelevant. On the other hand, it is clear that if copyright were to be replaced overnight with copyleft then many software authors would be deprived of earnings they might otherwise have reasonably expected to receive. That being so, we could reasonably describe this as penalising the productive, or at least a certain subset of "the productive".

    A well-formed counterargument to this particular point could have challenged the premises of the original argument. The original argument implicitly assumes that software is property, for example. One can validly question whether "intellectual property" (including software) is justly "property" at all.

    When faced with a challenge to demonstrate the validity of "intellectual property" (or indeed software as property), most proponents will themselves fall into one of several informal logical errors. One popular answer, for example, is that copying is stealing. This happens to be true only because of intellectual property laws, and if the question is whether intellectual property laws should exist, then this answer constitutes begging the question. Another popular answer is that "in the absence of a legal means to extract payment, no software (or no good software) would be written". This is also demonstrably false, since if it were true, then Linux, Perl, Apache, EMACS, BIND (etc etc) would not exist because they lack said means. Alternatively, they could soften the statement to "less good software would be written", but that is just speculation and would require something like a parallel universe experiment to have its accuracy tested.

    Why bring all this name calling and false representation into it?
    I have no error to point out here, but I would like to draw your attention to the benefits of ridding your own eye of planks before pointing out the speck in the eye of another, so to speak.
  • Posted by The Famous Brett Watson:

    It seems I wasted my efforts, since you've taken much the same approach to my post as you did to the original. I do read Slashdot sufficiently to encounter bad logic with some frequency; it just so happens that I thought your example was quite outstanding in that it wasn't a flame, just pure bad logic.

    You believe that your definition of "Statist" coincides with that of the original poster, whereas it is apparent to me (a third party) that this is not the case. You dismiss the notion that Stallman is a statist on the grounds that he is critical of the government, yet the original point was that he believes in the application of law to enforce sharing of intellectual property. This enforced sharing of property could reasonably be described as collectivist, and the use of law to enforce it introduces the element of statism. I'll agree that Stallman is not a statist by your definition (which would require that he refrain from criticising government of any kind), but not in the sense the original poster was using the word.

    I believe the original poster's analogy of conscription is faulty, but I recognise it as analogy. I'm surprised that you don't recognise it as such, and that would suggest you aren't really interested in constructing a reasonable counterargument. That being so, I'm wasting my breath, but for the moment I'll assume it was just a lack of imagination on your part rather than intellectual dishonesty.

    I'll address one final point: replacing copyright with copyleft. I am quite aware that copyleft uses copyright as a means of enforcement, thank you very much. My post was quite long enough without adding the necessary verbiage to protect against that particular misunderstanding. Are you sure you are not deliberately trying to misunderstand the arguments of others?

    Stallman's ideal is not to abolish copyright on software as some may believe. The abolition of copyright on software would only be a net gain in his opinion if it were accompanied by consumer protection legislation which obliged companies to provide the source code in the same way that copyleft licenses do. The restrictions of the GPL constitute his ideal state of law, and if it were in his power, I don't doubt that he would "replace copyright with copyleft" in the way I have described, although he may not do it overnight.

    If you have an honest disagreement with my assessment here, then I'm willing to debate it, because I have questioned RMS directly via email on his position; I have first-hand evidence that what I say is a fair representation of his views (whether I agree with them or not).

    Please at least try to understand the intent of these posts rather than deliberately misinterpreting them and then attacking the straw man.

  • Posted by The Famous Brett Watson:

    I think RMS is advocating
    the most natural and normal form of human interaction.
    I believe you are correct in describing the sharing of intellectual property as natural, since in the absence of all laws on the subject there would be no restriction on it other than what you personally choose to share or not to share.

    RMS is not an advocate of this kind of "natural" freedom, however. The GPL quite deliberately eliminates a very specific right: the natural right to distribute a program in a binary-only form. In the absence of law, this would be quite possible; it is "natural". The GPL very deliberately restricts this freedom because it can be used to restrict the freedom of others. If you distribute a program in a binary-only form, then you do an "end run" around the rights of others to read and modify your program.

    RMS is more correctly described as a crusader than an advocate in any case. An advocate merely points out the correctness of a particular cause or ideal; a crusader dons his battle gear and fights the enemy. The GPL is a sword, and it has always been Stallman's intention to use that sword to advance his cause.

    Advocates of non-coercive licences (such as the X licence or no license at all) lack this kind of coercive weapon, which is one of the reasons RMS prefers the GPL. You do good, in his estimation, if you write software and place it in the public domain, but you would do better to copyleft it so that it can be used as a weapon to further his cause.

  • Posted by The Famous Brett Watson:

    You still haven't argued yourself out of your own hole.
    That's what copyrights are, enslavement of code.
    All that is copyrighted is enslaved.
    All GPLed software is copyrighted.
    Therefore all GPLed software is enslaved.

    Your own logic here is self-refuting. If copyright is enslavement of code, then copyleft is also enslavement of code because copyleft uses copyright as a mechanism.

    Fortunately for you, you have merely misunderstood Stallman's argument. Stallman believes that copyright as a mechanism lends itself to evil uses more than to good, but his argument is not with copyright. Nor is he trying to free code, but rather people.

    If we were to talk about "free software" in the natural English sense, we would either assume that it was like free as in zero cost, or free as in unrestricted. Stallman's "free software" is strictly neither of these since it sometimes costs money and always comes with a load of restrictions known as the GPL attached. This is Tom's gripe with the FSF: they are calling that which isn't that which is.

    What the FSF is really peddling is cunningly restricted software which ensures that the majority of users will be as free as possible. The GPL restricts only those freedoms which you could use to interfere with the freedoms of others, but the essence of the GPL is its specific restrictions.

    The GPL does two specific things to restrict freedom. One is that it forbids changes to the license terms. In order to redistribute GPL software (in modified or unmodified form), you must agree to abide by the GPL's license terms, which are in themselves a restriction on your freedoms. You must agree to surrender certain natural rights for the purposes of dealing with that particular piece of software. Contrast that with a public domain program which makes no such demands or restrictions on your freedom.

    The second prong of the GPL attack is to demand that you make the source code of the program available (whether you have modified it or not). This protects everyone else from nasty people who want to spread binary-only copies of programs, thereby circumventing our right to read and modify the program.

    Those points again for the people who missed them the first time. By agreeing to abide by the terms of the GPL (which is the only thing that gives you the right to redistribute GPL software, since copyright restricts redistribution by default), you agree to abide by the following restrictions on your personal freedom.

    1. It requires that you redistribute the work and all works you derive from it under the GPL also, so that you may not increase the restrictions on others (by reinstating copying restrictions) or weakening the existing restrictions (so that point two might be violated).
    2. It requires that you make source code available to your programs if you release them at all. Binary-only distribution is streng verboten.
    My personal conclusion: Tom's right. "Free" is a misleading term. "Copyleft" is a better term, as is the phrase "All Rights Reversed" (which, you will note, is not the same as "All Rights Reinstated"). The GPL places a minimum number of restrictions on the software with the noblest of intentions, but the software is fundamentally restricted, not free.

    Whether we as users and programmers are freer with the GPL or the Public Domain is an interesting philosophical question. I might even try to write an essay on it someday. (And while I'm here I'll plug my existing essay, Philosophies of Free Software and Intellectual Property [].)

  • Posted by The Famous Brett Watson:

    If you can't understand that the phrase replace copyright with copyleft means modify existing copyright law such that it embodies the essence of copyleft, that is to expressly permit copying of software and disallow withholding of source to provided binaries, then clarity is a luxury I can't afford. My posts are already too long by Slashdot standards. I think this is also your real gripe with the original post: it expressed its ideas in a compressed form which required some padding out to make a complete argument. I consider this normal and acceptable in an informal discussion.

    Mind you, for every point I expand on in an attempt to make my argument clear you seem to come up with new ways to misunderstand it. "If eggs start laying chickens?" Good heavens. This could easily lead to an infinite regression, so I'll expand on nothing further for you.

    Instead, you may be interested to hear this RMS quote from my limited personal correspondence with him. Judge for yourself whether your opinion above is accurate in light of it.

    Copyright is not ethically neutral: it lends itself much more to evil than to good. The law should not encourage or facilitate evil, so I think the law should be changed. However, simply eliminating copyright won't eliminate or even minimize the evil--it is better to do somewhat more, or somewhat less.

    For example, elimination of copyright on software, plus a consumer protection law requiring source code for software that is for sale to be made available to the user, would do the job.

    -- Richard Stallman, quoted with permission from personal correspondence

    Personally, I would summarise this by saying he advocates replacing copyright (on software) with copyleft, but since you think this is like saying eggs should lay chickens, ignore what I say and just take RMS at his word.

    The first paragraph states that "the law should be changed", so presumably if he were king for a day he would jump at the opportunity to do what should (in his estimation) be done. The second paragraph effectively means that all commercially sold software would be available on the same terms that GPL software is available now. The only software that would not be "free software" would be whatever software developers and companies kept entirely to themselves (for in-house use).

  • Posted by The Famous Brett Watson:

    For a change, I am able to write a brief reply. You ask, what natural rights does the GPL force anyone to give up? The answer: the right to keep your source code a secret. The GPL puts you under an obligation to provide source to any binary you distribute. This might be a good thing for the majority in the general case, but it is not freedom: it is a restriction and an encumberance, and a calculated one.
  • Posted by Windigo The Feral (NYAR!):

    Some anonymous coward said:

    Your average charity doesn't compete with for-profit ventures. You don't see a brick layers charity going around to construction sites and submitting zero cost bids in competition with local contractors.

    Methinks someone hasn't heard of a little nonprofit organisation called Habitat for Humanity [].

    Basically--for those who might be unaware--Habitat for Humanity builds houses for poor people under what is literally a "free housing" model. Essentially, if you qualify (you essentially have to be unable to afford other housing and be willing to contribute to helping build the house) they will set you up with loans for the supplies only and they will build one a house.

    In return, the people have to help out at construction projects that Habitat for Humanity does for other people...but it works well in the end. People who otherwise couldn't afford decent housing get good houses, and they work to help other folks get good houses.

    There are other groups, such as Mennonite groups, that do similar things for homeless families or who work with Habitat for Humanity in helping to build houses. And while they're still paying for supplies, a lot of companies donate supplies (yes, even companies that also sell to for-profit contractors) too so sometimes people can get houses close to free.

    In a way, this is similar to how GPL'd software works. Basically the main stuff that is paid for is support (akin to "buying supplies" if not exactly an analogy); people get together and build stuff for the good of the community, and if you want to use GPL'd code you agree to "help out the community" and release your code under GPL too. (Just like how Habitat for Humanity "partner families" get houses built for them, but they have to help in building it and/or help in building other houses.) If you don't want to use GPL'd code and want to keep your code to yourself there are alternatives (just like if you're poor, you can choose not to get a house through HFH and instead live with relatives or in "section 8" housing or in a shelter).

    Needless to say, many people use GPL'd software for the same reason a lot of poor folks get houses through Habitat for Humanity instead of living in section-8 housing or with relatives. GPL software (and free/libre software in general) is generally more reliable and solidly built than proprietary software because you've got a crew working on it-- for instance, we all know how much faster security bugs in Linux tend to be fixed than in Win95. (Yes, this is still directly comparable to housing. HFH houses have actually been raised in the span of a day or two, and are solidly built--one learns to do one's own homefixing stuff and one knows where everything is. Most houses done by contractors tend to take far longer. Most section-8 housing is [to put it delicately] in a state of disrepair to begin with, often has folks living there who are causing more damage, and things tend not to get fixed at all.)

    (And yes, I realise I've just compared certain Microsoft operating systems to the projects. You may please put down the sharp objects. Now. :)

    ObRMS--it's also rather interesting, in light of RMS's now-infamous "Jesus Quote", to learn that HFH is actually an offbranch of a Christian ministry (one that Jimmy Carter was involved in, if memory serves). Basically they're doing it cause they feel "Well, Jesus'd have done the same thing". One doesn't have to be Christian to volunteer time or supplies to them, though. (Just thought it'd be interesting to point that out...and yes, I support Habitat for Humanity, and I also happen to not be a practicing Christian. I think they're among the few folks I've met who do in fact "get it", though.)

  • Tom Chistiansen argues that the FSF's definition of free software is anything but free. I disagree strongly. There are limitations to what people can legally do with my free speech. For instance, there are libel laws in the United States. Also, certain forms of eavesdropping are illegal. It seems that free means many things, not all of which are compatible. Note that I'm not trying to draw a direct analogy between preventing eavesdropping or libel and the GPL. I just wish to point out that sometimes great freedoms require the sacrifice of other freedoms. The goal is to pick the freedoms worth preserving.

    Having had my life improved by the FSF, but only slightly wrinkled by Richard Stallman's sermons, I feel I have come out ahead. Some notable OSS leaders seem to be detracting from this community, making grand statments about nothing that can't be overcome by a little common sense and open-mindedness.

    -Paul Komarek
    1. Most companies don't write software.
    2. Of the companies that do write software, most don't sell it directly.
    3. Most companies however use software. For these companies, Free Software increases their profits, since they need not buy exorbitant multi-user license packs.
    Your point, again?

  • You can't easily duplicate food.

    You can easily duplicate software.

    And, my point stands regardless: Free Software is beneficial to most businesses. It is only a threat to the minority of businesses that rely on proprietary software sales.

    The problem with free food is that no one would produce food under those circumstances, so no food would exist. Free Software, on the other hand, exists, and is growing at a rapid pace.


  • You are making a bogus comparison. You are comparing a tangible, physical object, with a data stream. The data stream can be reproduced over and over again, without ever having to part with the original. *That* is what makes software fundamentally different than just about any other "good." Software isn't really a "good." It is in actuality a service, but is being sold as a good.

    No business has a right to stay in business because it relies on a dated distribution method. If and when Free Software puts proprietary software houses out of business, that's the way the cookie crumbles. I would suggest that software houses get ready for the Open Source model now, or be prepared to face the consequences later.

    You just can't seem to understand that Free Software is simply a different business model. It may be one that you don't like, but it is nonetheless a business model. If companies operating under the old paradigm cannot adapt, they will die, and there is nothing that can be done about that.


  • You proved my point. Most of your examples are, in fact, services, and are sold as such.

  • The GPL does not prohibit you from making cold hard cash from selling your software, selling other peoples' software, selling services to maintain, develop, enhance, convert, package, document, install, remove, or configure your own or existing software, or create new software. Claiming "I can't 'own' bits so I'm poor" is not using your brain. You can't disprove a business plan by finding one scenario and quitting.

    Care to explain how companies like VA Linux Systems, Red Hat, etc. are making much money if "their model is broken?"
  • What the GPL does is place a restriction on the freedom of anyone who choses to change a piece of GPL'd software: you may not give away your changes unless you give away the source. To say that placing this restriction on a person gives him greater freedom is simply Orwellian.
    You must look at the larger picture. Does the GPL inhibit the way you can use the software? Does the GPL inhibit the way you distribute software? No. It only limits a person from limiting the software. In one, single instance this might seem like a restriction. However, in the larger picture this is the only way to keep there from being restrictions.

    This postmodernist idea of complete tolerance, complete freedom, or whatever, is absurd in any practical circumstance. The result of the permissive, purportedly more "free", licenses is a situation in which there is less free software. Postmodernism is ineffective, and being ineffective is not a moral stance.

    This is why the only political achievement of postmodernism is political correctness, hardly an achievement to be proud of. Significant achievements are generally made by people with enough confidence to be a bit more righteous.

  • I'll leave your obsession with language for another day. But this keeps coming up from many people:

    The first myth is that the FSF has anything to do with free software. It doesn't. Free software is against their principles. [...]

    What the FSF espouse is open software, not free software. They require only that software be forever open. This is not necessarily bad, of course. But it is not free to tell someone else what they can do with their lives. They do not allow it to be free in the libre sense, nor do they require it to be free in the gratis sense either.

    The FSF does create and encourage free software. Free in the BSD sense is, I believe, considerably less free than the GPL sense.

    What better frees a slave? To buy him away from his enslavement, or to abolish slavery? If you abolish slavery you ensure not only that he will be free forever, but so will his children and his family and all the slaves you hadn't even known. The GPL attempts to do the same thing (even if against a less clearly morally incorrect action as slavery).

    First, the GPL demands the continued freedom of a piece of software. Never can it be made proprietary. To allow that sort of transition (as with BSD) is to accept and implicitly encourage proprietary software. That's fine if you accept proprietary software -- the FSF clearly does not, has not, and will not support proprietary software (much unlike the "Open Source" community).

    Second, by being exclusionary, the GPL attempts to abolish proprietary programs. Of course, it can't do through legal methods -- copyright law is much too entrenched to be changed now. But by being viral it gives an advantage to free software than cannot be shared by proprietary software. And if GNU and the GPL are truly successful it will become more and more difficult to produce a good proprietary product (this is not the effect of LGPLed software, however).

    These are all fitting with the goal of freedom as that the FSF pursues -- not every sort of freedom, but the freedom to use, change, and share software. This is not the semantically-anal "free" you speak of, but a pragmatic and effective free that goes far beyond it.

    Maybe their tactics take choice away from people. But so does proprietary software, and there is real competition between the two. If you feel proprietary software is wrong, then you are obliged to attempt eliminate proprietary software. In doing so you won't be coercing the vast numbers of computer users, for whom the proprietary nature of some software is never a benefit, but only the (in comparison) small number of programmers and companies who create the aforementioned proprietary software.

  • Actually, the only free licence that really makes any sense for a corporation is the GPL. The others would allow for an embrace-and-extend like what happened to RMS himself. If a corp. is at the point where they want to just 'let something loose' it's not in their best interests to have their released work to be incorporated into a competitor's work without having a right to those improvements.

    Whether a corp really wants to free a bit of code is another matter...
  • I get paid rather hansomely for programming specific applications required by my contractees, mostly made using open source tools, and running on open source OSes.

    Once I finish, the code is thiers to do with as they will. Occasionally I'll come up with tidbits during the process that are worthy of sharing with others and (after I obtain permission by the people paying me) I gift these to others.

    So, I'm using OS and FS to earn a handy living, and of the specialized products I produce, some bits are useful and get fed back to help others earn THIER livings.

    Sounds pretty feasable to me, particularly as I trip down to the bank to cash the latest batch of cheques. ;)

    -- (remove the SPAM-B-GONE bit)

  • Collectivism or Statism is the belief that the individual serves no purpose other than the will of the Government (or Church). That is to say, the wishes of the individual are considered irrelevant, and his work is considered property of the tribe, to be used and disposed of by their tribe without consultation.

    Typically, Collectivist governments participate in policies which appear to support freedom but are in fact the opposite, for example the US government conscripted individuals and sent them out to die to "defend" freedom. But since the government doesn't even respect the right of it's citizens to live, what rights can their possibly be?

    Another common Collectivist policy is to penalise the productive, such that the non-productive may benefit.

    My problem with RMS is that not only does he wish to give his property away (which, of course, is his right), he wishes to establish a system where everyone is obligated to give away their property. Without property, there can be no other rights.

  • But you can't xerox your car.

    Aye - and you can't Xerox a loaf of bread either - but even open source author's gotta eat.

    This is why their model is broken; because value must eventually resolve to an asset.

  • The fundamental freedom from which all other freedoms are derived is the freedom
    to communicate (aka. freedom of expression, free speech, etc.).

    Nonsense. Your life is given to you, your survival is not - it requires the application of your mind. It also requires the right of use and disposal over the creations of actions driven by your mind. Therefore, any idea which opposes private ownership of the product of the mind is anti-survival, and hence evil.

  • Well, for what it's worth, RMS may not be a communist, but he certainly is a collectivist, and that's just as bad in my book, But that isn't the point.

    What really irritates me is the way Linux is packaged for consumption by the world. Linux is nothing but the kernel itself, yet somehow the "linux community" gets the credit for the complete system (unlike the BSD crowd, who *do* actually maintain the whole lot). And ESR can't keep out of the limelight - he seems to think that since he coined the term "open source" he's in fact personally responsible for the entire movement!

    In reality, in terms of LOC or hours worked or any other metric, RMS and his FSF, or the BSD crowd, or UCB are responsible for far more of the average distribution than the "linux community". And it's ESR and his dreams of glory who obstructing the acceptance of the true prime movers, like RMS.
  • > It's disappointing that we must once
    > again embark upon yet another long, spiteful,
    > and completely useless Gnu-vs-Free Software
    > flamewar on Slashdot.

    Actually, the discussion had been quite civil until your post.

    > But I begin to wonder: are the lies somehow
    > indispensable to the promulgation of the cult?

    The really sad part is that all that venom (compare the tone of TC's post with RMS' initial post) is because RMS wanted some free documentation to suplement TC's gratis, but non-free (by FSF standards) Perl documentation. The whole article could have been replaced with the statement "free means gratis!" without any loss of information.

  • s/Open Software/Free Software/ig;

    RMS doesn't claim free software to be technically superior but morally. It is ESR that does the former.

    Free software can obviosly exist when proprieraty does, so you have to rebut that claim yourself.

    Personally I think it is the skill of the developers that determine the technical quality of software (not language, development process, free or proprieraty, etc). I also think the notion of "buying" software is mostly (contract jobs aside) dishonest since I won't own it. I am still out on whether proprieraty software is morally wrong though.

  • I have found him an extremely intelligent, civilised, pleasent person, working with a brillint idea which, as he says, is extremely ancient.

    If that makes him a communist, he's in good company - Robert Owens, one of the most successful mill owners of the Industrial Revolution in Britain preached the belief that a well-educated, well-fed, well-paid workforce in a non-heirarchical society produced more and were happier than the maltreated, half-starved slave-gang that was typical in the mills of the time.

  • Those are simple words. They should be used in
    the simple ways that the whole world uses
    them. It's far easier to change oneself than
    the world.

    This assumes that the whole world does, in fact, use the same words the same ways. This is simply untrue.

    Webster's aside, there is no One True Right and Holy Standard of what words mean, and there can never be. Word meanings are inevitably coloured by our histories and associations.

    I think that defining your terms, in detail, is an excellent start on the path toward clearer understanding. Assuming that we use the same strings of characters to represent exactly the same concepts sounds like a recipe for communications breakdown to me.

  • All of this presupposes that software is a form of property. Many reject that assumption. You can't "take" software in the same way that you can take food, so talking about the distribution of wealth is kind of meaningless.

  • I saw a ZD talkback a few days ago that had a common mistaken idea in it. Some guy was arguing that Bill Gates did what anyone would do: Try to screw his competition over. Now, that was fine in my opinion. But the next thing!
    He then went on to say that it was a capitalist tradition to screw your competitors over and it was"what the USA was founded on!"

    I guess he forgot all of that freedom stuff!
  • Yes, that would explain why Red Hat, VA Linux, and others wouldn't fund R&D on free projects... but they do.

    And it would also explain why companies like Digital Creations steadfastly refuse to release more than token pieces of their hard-earned code base... but they haven't.

    Red Hat is filing for an IPO, VA is rumored to be doing the same thing, and Digital Creations is raking in the money from contracts since releasing Zope. Pretty good business, if you ask me.
  • 70% of all code written is internal custom code that is never sold.

    Where I live, that number is somewhere around 99%. I know lots of programmers; very, very few of them see their code sold *at all*, and none in a shrinkwrap box at Best Buy. The one company I know of that sells software sells it as a tie-in to their main business; this software would be more successful for the company if it were free (and indeed that is one direction the company is leaning).

    If open source/free software were to take over, I can't think of any positions that would be eliminated - except possibly for some of the help desk/support positions that are needed now to support Windows.
  • Such strong words! When comparing RMS's message and yours, one wonders who the "radical" fanatic is.

    An opposing view might consider that republican (not the party) forms of government tend to foster freedom more than all-out anarchies. In some cases, freedom must have limits in order to be preserved.

    The reason is simple: in order for me to have a right, others must have an obligation. If you have the right to life, I have an obligation not to pull a gun and shoot you. If you have a right to vote, I have an obligation not to obstruct you, either through intimidation and threats or by passing laws requiring some form of "competency test" before you can vote.

    I'm not arguing here that the GPL strikes the ideal balance between rights and obligations, but it does promote certain ideas of freedom that are lacking in, say, the Artistic License. Whether you agree or not, you have to admit (and you have, if I read your response correctly) that the GPL does protect certain interests that are not protected by other licenses, and is preferable for this reason.

    I suppose my point is this: We don't need this smearing of each other. Can we have some respect?

    I think RMS has (again) set a fine example of respecting diversity in this article. He doesn't slam on Open Source or ESR (and even admits that he supports ESR in certain areas); rather, he states his differences clearly and without insult.

    (Again, not that RMS hasn't had his moments; his occasional Tcl slams come to mind. Linus seems to have the cleanest slate in this regard; even the infamous Minix slamfest is rather cool by comparison. Or maybe Larry Wall; he's such a fine wordsmith that he can slam on you and still make you feel good. :-)

    Tom, you've helped create some of the coolest software in history. I have a lot of respect for you. But I can't reconcile myself with name-calling like this. Please, if you disagree, by all means disagree, but be civil! Don't play the implication game that everyone who disagrees with you is a mindless cretin.

    (Oh, and on the name game: We all know it's a historical artifact, but it's also a well-recognized name. Everyone, even the FSF, acknowledges Unix as the inspiration behind the GNU project's architecture. I don't think many people see it as such a big deal.)
  • I'm sorry, I must have missed that clause in the GPL. Where, exactly, does the GPL require you to give up your rights as copyright holder?

    In fact, it would seem that the GPL does more to protect your rights to the software you distribute than, say, the BSD license. With the GPL, you maintain control over the distribution of your code; you can refuse to allow it to be incorporated into proprietary products, or license it for a fee for these cases, or whatever. BSD does nothing to protect against this.

    There are advantages and disadvantages to each license model. Frothing at the mouth about the "evil Communist Illuminati Overlords of the FSF" ignores the fact that their philosophy is one of the things that has made Linux possible, and that continues to make it work.
  • Go read the GNU Manifesto. (If you can keep your lunch down that long.)

    Please keep the theatrics out of it. It makes you look like a ranting idiot, especially considering how you enjoy the benefits of his ideas while railing on him. Please, at least respect the code he's written.

    He would do away with copyright protection for those who wish to have it. Instead, he would force all software to be freely distributable and sharable.

    Yes, and have you read his arguments for it? Copyright, after all, isn't some holy writ or inalienable right. There is a good bit of thought that wonders whether copyright is even enforceable on a global Internet. You may not agree, but your jerking knee won't impress anyone with the quality of its arguments.

    The problem with the GPV is that it infects whatever it touches. As Tom Christiansen pointed out in his excellent reply, this is counterproductive to their stated goal of increasing software reuse, since it forces those who cannot, for one reason or another, taint their program with GPV-infected code to reinvent the wheel. This is a Bad Thing.

    To you, perhaps. Personally, if I write some code that I don't get paid for, I don't want other people taking it and benefiting from its use without reciprocating in some way. Want to fix it up, steal parts for your pet project, or tack on some doodad you like? Fine, go ahead; just make sure you share, too, just like I did. Share and share alike.

    And if you think this hurts software reuse, imagine all the proprietary code that's been integrated into BSD/X licensed code that we don't have access to. I'd sure love to have X Inside's multi-head code, or Solaris's clustering and SMP tech, or even the source to WinSock. Imagine what kind of software reuse heaven we'd have if we had all that!

    RMS obviously believes that, if he makes good enough software, the world will suddenly drop their anti-FSF licensing and adopt the GPV instead. He's sadly mistaken, and either intellectually dishonest or delusional. While his supporters paint him as a saint, the wider world sees him as little more than a kook. Is that the kind of champion the idea of making use of open source software needs?

    Well, he's doing pretty good so far. It's not everyone that can start a movement like this and drive it for as long as he has. Like it or not, the success of Linux is built on his foundation, and without his license, it would have long ago fragmented into a million quarreling pieces, just as the *BSD scene has done.

    And when you consider using words like "delusional" and "kook" to talk about him, consider that you are following him, too. Who is the more foolish, the fool, or the fool that follows him?

  • Kind of knowing how people work, I doubt very highly that Free Software programmers are making a whole lot of money. If someone can do whatever they want with the code after they buy it, the code can easily wind up on an ftp server. An then, who in their right mind is gonna pay for program X from me when it is legally and freely (libre and gratis) available over at site Y.

    Most of the FSF advocates seem to overlook this basic fact: the main reason that Open Source and the FSF are so mainstream and well known right now is not becase the software is libre free, but gratis free. Take away the gratis portion, and I'll bet not nearly as much noise is created over Open Source and the FSF.

  • freedom can only mean absolute freedom

    This is incorrect. There are many definitions of liberty (which is what you really refer to). Taking the definition from Webster's 1828 dictionary,

    Natural Liberty is "... the power of acting as one thinks fit, without any restraint or control, except from the laws of nature. It is a state of exemption from the control of others, and from positive laws and the institutions of social life. This liberty is abridged by the establishment of government."

    "Civil Liverty is the liberty of men in a state of society, or natural liberty, so far only abridged and restrained, as is necessary and expedient for the safety and interest of the society, state or nation. ... The liberty of one depends not so much on the removal of all restraint from him, as on the due restraint upon the liberty of others. In this sentence, the latter word liberty denotes natural liberty."

    There is a lot of misunderstanding about the GPL and the FSF, and TC gets right to the point about it. RMS & Co. need to change their language of "free software". There is a preconceived notion of what that term means. I suggest what others have already begun using: freedomware, since you don't hear that word and it stirs your interest.

  • Emacs is not a do-all program - it is a general purpose editing platform + high power extension language (elisp) + a popular and comprehensive set of customizations. You are comparing apples and oranges - you should be comparing Emacs modes with "typical" unix programs. (It would be better to refer to them as unix toolbox programs.)

    It would be possible to create a version of emacs (Emacs lite?) with a much smaller set of distributed/preloaded elisp packages, with everything but the basics taken out, and get something that loads faster, has a smaller installed footprint, etc. But despite the open-source availablity of all the C and elisp sources, such a special version variant has never been created - so I guess there is no real interest in it. (Despite it being used as convient target to attack by people who don't care for Emacs or are already attached to other editors anyway.)

  • The basic notion of capitalism is, you can't make money without some sort of exchange with someone, and that person probably got something they wanted out of it too, which means the more money gets made, the better things get.

    The basic notion capitalism isn't about exchanging goods and services for money/other goods and services, its about private ownership of capital. See a previous post [] of mine. No single person or group owns the rights to a particular free software product. Once the source is out, it belongs to everyone.
    By your definition of capitalism, though, I still don't see the logic of your argument. You say free software is capitalistic, and then discuss how goods/services are exchanged for money in capitalist systems, but what does free software have to do with making money? If you post some great new program on the internet, people may be compelled to improve it and give the changes back to the community, but that doesn't involve exchanging anything. You're saying that if anyone wants to use this product, they're free to do so, and if you want to improve it they're free to do that as well. Any capital received as a result of creating this product is purely charity.

    Free software is about aiming for a bigger pie, which is fine capitalism, too. Capitalism doesn't have to be about competition; cooperation is just as good a way to make a buck and you're more likely to like what you see in the mirror in the morning, too.

    What does aiming for improvement have to do with anything? Yes, both free products and commercial products tend to aim for improvement, but that doesn't mean that these two concepts are the same. And again, free software has nothing to do with making money.
  • by tgd ( 2822 ) on Monday June 28, 1999 @05:09AM (#1829429)
    A few comments by Bob Metcalf starting this whole argument, and because he's the "father of ethernet" everyone assume's his comments are worth getting worked up over. The thing to keep in mind is that he's the "father of ethernet" which doesn't translate to meaning anything were OS's are concerned. That's like getting upset when Bill Gates says that Porsche doesn't know how to build real cars on the expertise of owning a few. I mean, come on!

    I've read a couple of interesting books on Xerox's PARC facility (where Bob Metcalf designed Ethernet) -- including currently reading one called Dealers of Lightening which mentions him several times in some detail. Not once was he mentioned in relation to the development of software systems, he was a hardware guy, and in the case of Dealers of Lightening, he wasn't exactly spoken that highly of from a technical standpoint.

    So what if he thinks Linux is a passing fad. I think baggy pants with boxers hanging out is a passing fad too, but I'm no fashion expert and don't pretend to be. Just because I don't wear them doesn't mean I'm an expert on why they're not perfectly good to wear.

    When such pointless dribble turns into attacks on other people, its really going to far. Everyone needs to get a grip. If Linux Torvalds came out and said he thought Linux wasn't going to work in the long run, lets get worked up. He knows what he's talking about. Bob Metcalf doesn't.

    And quit picking on other people too! Blad slashdotters, no cookies for you.
  • But it is not free to tell someone else what they can do with their lives

    Sorry, but being free does not necessarily have to imply being 100% free. For example, America is a free country, it is the capital of the free world. Nonetheless, we have found that laws which restrict freedom are necessary in order to maintain freedom. The GPL seems to serve the same purpose -- I see no prevarication in this.

  • Software can be replicated in ways that a physical object can't be. If I give away my bicycle, I no longer have a bicycle to ride myself. But if I give away software or documentation in the form of bits, I still have the bits I started with. Software and reference documentation also need to be modified to meet changing circumstances, which is not true of a persuasive essays or a musical composition. You could GPL the score for a piece of music and might do so as a gesture of support, but no one needs to modify the score to keep it working; music won't break on a new platform the way a program might. (On the other hand, new arrangements of scores -- Rite of Spring for string quartet and piano, or Bach for the Moog -- are somewhat akin to porting music to a new platform...)
  • There is something very wrong with only making a buck

    Why? The only way I'll buy something is when it offers greater value to me than what it costs. Otherwise, I'll keep my money. Conversely, if I want to earn a dollar, I have to offer you something worth more to you than that dollar.

    Andrew Carnegie's motivation in streamlining production of steel might have been to make himself wealthy or philanthropy. It doesn't matter. The result was what mattered, which was cheaper steel and the wealth it created.

    Despite his generous donation of money in the creation of libraries, it was the creation of his wealth and its effects that was his greatest gift.

  • Yes, someone could steal my dollar.

    File a patent for something someone else thought up, for instance.

    At least in the U.S., if you can prove you came up with the idea first, you can still receive the patent.

    Or use free software in your copyrighted program and sue everyone who makes the same "innovation" to the free software.

    This sentance confuses me no end.

  • You are wrong on some points. I'm currently in a programming project involving hundreds, at least, of programmers working in the same company. No project involving hundreds of persons is going to spontaneously unite *and sell a product* without a corporate or institutional overhead to supervise it. Free software works because there is no sales. The sales are done by third-parties providing value-added resources (such as manuals, preparation, packaging, and a CD shipped to your favorite software store).

    There are only a small number of folks who can single-handedly write a compiler or a kernel (and now those projects themselves are worked on by many), so the idea that one person is going to be able to control a sophisticated project, even if they are the founder of that project, is ill-founded, especially in a free software environment (where anyone can modify and extend your code).

    Aaron Gaudio
    "The fool finds ignorance all around him.
  • Look if you're doing work that you expect to be compensated for then why release under the GPL, unless you work for a company which is paying you to work on GPL'd code (such as Red Hat, Cygnus, etc), in which case you shouldn't care. Those companies are not selling the code, per se, they are selling their value-added services, and if they didn't feel they could make money off their particular business model they wouldn't be doing business in that way. Unofficial Red Hat distributions can be purchased on the cheap, yet Red Hat is still there and planning on going public. Why? Because enough people still feel they are getting a better deal paying $50-$80 for the official distribution and getting support (however lacking it may be) and manuals, etc than paying $1.50 for a Cheapbytes CD and getting a CD only. Plus, Red Hat (and the other distribution companies) are trying to position themselves in the corporate market, and that will be a much more lucrative endevour than hawking their wares at Electronics Boutique.
    Aaron Gaudio
    "The fool finds ignorance all around him.
  • ... and see how far you get.

    Issues are being misrepresented. RMS is right to give them redress.
  • Despite what you might wish "Free Software" to mean, unfortunately you are a couple of decades too late. It means what the FSF defined it to mean, so any argument you may make based on an alternative meaning is simply irrelevant.
  • Anyone with even half an eye open can see that one of the major strengths of Free Software is that in addition to being libre it is also effectively free of cost.

    It's not just the fact that the dollars stay in your wallet that is important, but also the lack of all the payment paraphenalia, and the fact that software is much freer when you can pass it on without worrying that the recipient should pay for it just as you have done. Removing the cost of an item makes it free in far more than just the obvious way.

    Now that the world can see that gratis software works just fine, why not bite the bullet and proclaim both types of freedom as worthy goals for software?
  • Nevertheless, the money you get from selling free software is still a donation. No matter how you want to think about it, you are getting a donation whenever you "sell" something. It's not a particularly good business model for any company to get all the income from donations, unless it is a non-profit organization like FSF.
    I know, the counter-argument is that you can sell support, manuals, etc. but then
    1) anybody else can do it, regardless of whether they are contributed code to the project or not, and
    2) the people who have contributed code do not get paid. At least not directly. If the company pays them to write free software, then they get their salary from the support money.
  • To a businessman it won't make sense . . .
    Unless of course, you're the business man who happens to take some college students Open Source research and turns it into a multi million dollar company without spending ANY R&D money! I think Redhat, Caldera, Suse and all the other other Linux distro's would very quickly argue that the GPL does make sense to a business man!

    See, the point of (open|free) source code is NOT for companies to spend lots of money on R&D and then lose it. Rather, it's to get all those people who are actually qualified to write the source they want to write to release their code to the public. That is, if I want to write some code for a particular project for myself, at home, what am I going to do with it? Sit on it? Try to find someone to buy it? Yea, good luck. Instead, I'll release it under the GPL so that EVERYONE can benefit from my hard work and late nights.

    THAT is how (open|free) source got started!

    ** Martin
  • The concept of Intellectual Property is one that gets a little touchy, but I'll present my views and let you make your own decision. . .

    What is Intellectual Property? Well, first, what is property. It is the ownership of something. In some cases that something is a unique item -- as in, a particular parcel of land -- in other cases it is not unique -- as in, a Ford Taurus, lots of those around. However, the Intellectual Property laws (ie, copyright and patent) necassarily make all Intellectual Property unique. I find this absurd.

    Claiming Intellectual Property is unique is concep t that I have trouble grasping. It basically says that I had a thought that no one else may have. This is clearly not possible. We all know of many occasions where the holder of a patent only got it because he filed a day or two before someone else and similar situations. Clearly multiple unique individuals had the same thought without ever knowing the other one had that thought. How can we say that legally only one had it?

    The other thing that the current Intellectual Property laws do is force many people to reinvent the wheel. There are companies and individuals who actually believe that their thoughts are unique and as such, no one else may have them. A friend, who promotes the BSD license, and I, who promote the GPL, were recently having a discussion about this. He pointed me to a company that is producing a high speed switch based on a *BSD with speed enhancements to the IP stack, and didn't release it. He then told me that he would like to write one of those and sell it too. I asked him why he would want to write something that had already been written!

    Clearly Intellectual Property is not a unique commodity. Many people can posses the same thought. The idea that the law states that they can't is absurd. This is NOT a communist view. It's a simple fact. In an area where ownership of something is NOT unique, making it unique by (legal) force is all together a waste of time. Both on the part of the people who try to enforce the uniqueness, and on the part of the people who decide to recreate items that have been claimed as unique.

    ** Martin
  • And what better way to make sure that you ALWAYS get credit for your "thought" than to release it as GPL, which requires that all other people who use it MUST give you credit?

    But. . .feelings are NOT what IP laws are about! They're about obtaining a monopoly on a thought or idea. That's ALL! The social agreements you speak of can be obtained through any of a number of diferent ways!

    ** Martin
  • Began, yes. Tom's "rebuttal" was anything but. He did not address any of the points I had raised. Rather, he brought in a new topic. The topic of force. I asked him to justify this topic. He couldn't and didn't. In the most terse way possible, by stating a 3 word absolute. Which, btw, is the absolute I was asking justification for.

    At no time during the exchange did he introduce any new ideas relevent to the discussion. At no time did he address my points that his freedom and the software's freedom are NOT one and the same! At no time did he attempt to clarify any of the points which I was calling into question.

    And if either you, or he, think I just wanted to harass him, I feel truly sorry for you opinions of people and their motivations. Though, it would explain much about Tom's writings.

    ** Martin
  • For point number one, insert "without giving anything back to the community that created it" to fully understand the GPL.

    As for point number two, most of your "concerns" are addressed by the LGPL, or Library GPL. That is, if the orignal author so chooses, then all others can use that code in such a way as to generate a profit without repaying the original author or the community. This is entirely the authors decision, NOT the FSF's. Don't mistake the two.

    As for the BSD ReadPotato code, don't mistake "stealing" code for "stealing the use of code". Under the BSD style license any author can steal the use of the code without ever indicating to the original author, the community that helped, or anyone else that they are using the code. On top of that, even if they so choose to indicate WHERE the code came from, they do not owe ANY form of compensation, even it the form of "intellectual property", to either the orginal author, or the community that helped.

    As of yet, I would not say that Stallman made any mistake. The GPL has had a significant effect on the world of software develpment, and will continue to do so. I do not believe that that RMS at any time truly believed that the GPL would be the ONLY license available to software developers.
    It's absolutely a utopian thought, but lets face it, if no software developer EVER had to write code that's been written before but "protected", the technology of software would increase greater than exponentially.

    ** Martin
  • I tried to engage Tom in a meaningful discussion about his ideas in private email. He however didn't want to hear anything contrary to his beliefs. Since his email address is publicly posted here, I figured I'ld share the rest of his wisdom with you. And possibly with him, if Tom should care to respond. Which I doubt.

    ** Martin
  • ESR taking credit for recent press favorable to Linux is like... Al Gore claiming to have helped create the internet because he was somehow involved [with some funding measures].

    The "Communism" stab is the most offensive. I guess that kind of politics is still OK with gun toteing tobacco chewing rednecks...
  • Gosh yes, Tom is correct. This misappropriation of the word free has got to stop. For example, it is often said that we live in a free society, yet I come to find out that I'm not allowed to take people off the streets and lock them up in my house! Where does a society claiming to be free get off telling me what I can do with my life?. Perhaps we have an open society, as we allow people to wander around whereever they want, but as long as I am denied my right to lock them up when I feel like it, we certainly can't be said to be living in a free society.

    This misuse of language has got to stop!

  • > one notable exponent of this view lived 2000 years ago.

    Someone needs glasses, sure...
  • Anyway, my real question was "What is your point". The point seems to have been, "It is okay to force some companies out of business because lots
    of others will benefit by getting something for free." Just saying that would have been a lot clearer. Unfortunately, as far as I can see that same
    argument applies to every business on the planet earth.

    So, what's your point? That that would be bad ? Or that it is unlikely to happen?
  • But it is illegal to distribute parts of KDE, because the author set the license and it didn't include distributing it linked against QT. It's like making a copy of Windows if Microsoft won't know - you may not get prosecuted, but it's still illegal.
  • How do these FSF people make money? They work, just like the rest of us. Some write closed code for companies. some are sysadmins. Some are database geeks. Some are 7-11 clerks. Some probably mow grass. And some lucky programmers get paid for writing the very free/open code they are working on, or run companies that support parallel free/open and closed versions of the program (sendmail, listserv, ghostscript come to mind as example programs with companies wrapped around them that provide free/open versions as well as enhanced closed versions of their programs, and related utilities).

    Ya need to open your eyes a little bit, eh?

    Be an Emacs consultant. Be a Linux Kernel consultant. Whatever.

    If you're out of money, you'll eventually figure out a way to make it, one way or the other.

    Stop the "sky is falling, and it's those FSF programmers' fault!" routine.
  • Yes, RMS has a different position on IP versus real property. IP can be copied infinitely with little or no effort. But you can't xerox your car.
  • 'He then went on to say that it was a capitalist tradition to screw your competitors over and it was "what the USA was founded on!"'

    Well, he's kinda correct

    The USA was founded on enslavement, genocide, and the mass accumulation of wealth.

    I agree that freedom was a key ideal of the founding fathers, and thank god we've grown past alot of the racism, sexism, bigotry and puritanical religious intolerance that we used to have; but screwing over people is clearly a part of our national heritage.
  • While I don't agree with RMS' constant, aggressive demands that Linux be called GNU/Linux, I see nothing hypocritical in his stance. He has never said that we should use other people's code without crediting them. He has consistently said that hoarding software for personal profit at the expense of the convenience of others as well as the quality of software is bad.

    He has never even hinted that Linux should stop using GNU tools, nor has he taken any action to take the GNU tools out of Linux. He simply wants credit for the work that the GNU project has done.

    You could certainly argue that he's just an arrogant fool who wants everyone to acknowledge his greatness. I wouldn't argue it, but the argument could be made. But, regardless, humility is not a part of RMS Free Software ideology.

  • He also did it a lot calmer than I did in my reply to the editor of infoworld. To be compared to an outright murderer (Stalin) would be a bit more than I could have take.

    Note: Although I was angry, my response e-mail was non-flammable.
  • Well, I fail to see the relevance of RMS's or the FSF's views on non-intellectual property; it just sounds like you suspect there's something there to use to incriminate RMS in the minds of standard-thinking Americans.

    I'd argue that intellectual property is special, because the marginal cost of producing copies of digital information is zero, unlike other types of property. It therefore irks me to have to pay a record company if I want to expend my OWN effort to copy a piece of music.

  • Unless, of course, the individual is a communist or Nazi..., then it merely become a reminder.
  • The thing that got me about Metcalfe's thoughtless comment, was it's complete stupidity.

    Emacs as a GNU project, is the refinement of almost 30 years development. It certainly wasn't 'writen over a weekend.' Only because of it's GNU development model, it's stable, portable, and so flexible.

    Unlike the microbloat product he compares it with. Which has frequent feature/version upgrades without dealing with bugs, acting as one of M$'s biggest taxes.

    Being one of the largest sources of virus problems on the win32 platform, it certainly seemes to be that the statement is the wrong way around.
  • Because some of us prefer to be better than the average human being.


  • by Angst Badger ( 8636 ) on Monday June 28, 1999 @06:17AM (#1829462)
    It find it endlessly irritating to hear the free software movement and RMS identified with communism by the inadequately educated reactionaries who like to think of themselves as representatives of the "business community".

    Free software is not communism, or even anything close to it. You will find nothing in Das Kapital that bears anything more than the most superficial resemblance to the free software movement. (For that matter, you will find very little in the software industry that resembles "capital" in the traditional sense of the word, but I digress.)

    Richard Stallman is a philanthropist. Those of you old enough to remember life before Reagan may recall a time when giving things away to society at large was considered a virtue. Back then, altruism, generosity, charity, and community service did not draw cries of "Communism!" from the peanut gallery. Even in the age of the robber barons --- probably the closest parallel to the current day --- there were esteemed philanthropists whose donations would have dwarfed the incomes of a roomful of today's wealthy entrepreneurs. When Andrew Carnegie built libraries for the entire country, did anyone accuse him of Marxism?

    Richard Stallman's contributions to free software, both direct and indirect, could potentially have a dollar value on a par with Carnegie's bequest to the nation, and certainly more than all the token charity work of today's commercial software magnates. The same is true of Eric Raymond, Paul Vixie, Eric Allman, Linus Torvalds and innumerable others.

    What has happened to the developer community, and indeed, the world at large, when people who selflessly devote years of work to building great software and donating it to the world at large are reviled for it? I was first attracted to this business in the late 70's and early 80's when hackers dreamed of changing and improving the world with computers, and later with the Internet. What happened to that idealism?

    There's nothing wrong with making a buck. There is something very wrong with only making a buck. Generosity isn't a sign of mental deficiency or sinister political views; it is a moral obligation. It's high time that the profit-above-all reactionaries were put on notice that they are social parasites, and that those who devote some or all of their time to the common good are the real contributing members of society.

  • Whatever people may say about RMS, he gets his point across quickly and effectivly. Something that I would like to see more of the regular writers who contribute to Slashdot learn to do :)

  • by sammy baby ( 14909 ) on Monday June 28, 1999 @04:50AM (#1829496) Journal
    Stallman's EMACS was brilliant in the 1970s, but today we demand more, specifically Microsoft Word, which can't be written over a weekend, no matter how much Coke you drink.
    - Bob Metcalfe
    RMS was too gracious in his response to take issue with Bob's comments on Emacs []. Using information taken directly from the Emacs homepage:
    • Emacs runs on pretty much any hardware that can run [Free|Net|Open]BSD, Solaris, SunOS, Ultrix, or Linux.
    • Emacs has a free (of course) API called Emacs LISP (or elisp, for short) enabling you to write pretty much any extension you want. Even, as the homepage notes, a web browser that runs inside emacs [].
    • Emacs has interactive/context sensitive modes for editing a wide variety of documents, including HTML, Lisp, C++, Prolog...
    All this is by way of saying that anyone (Bob Metcalfe) who asserts that Emacs could be written in a night is partaking in something a whole lot stronger than Coca-Cola.
  • Tom, I think you have a naive understanding of the political meaning of the word free (libre).

    Free has never been about doing anything you want, quite the contrary, its about responsibilities.. Freedom is about trade offs, about balancing your freedoms against everyone else's. Should you be free to shout "fire" in a movie theatre, or to make it as obvious as possible, to go kill off a few of your neighbors. I doubt you'd say that in order for people to be free they should be able to do anything they damn well please.

    Well, the FSF has always claimed to be talking about freedom in this light. It's not just about the freedom, but about the responsibilities that go along with that freedom. The FSF has made an attempt via the GPL and other documents to specify these freedoms and responsibilities. Whether they've been entirely successful or not is anther topic...

    "A society that will trade a little liberty for a little order will deserve neither and lose both."

  • The specific configuration of "Emacs lite" you describe may never have been created (and I wouldn't be too sure of that, either), but an "editor only" version has been around for about fifteen years, namely micro-emacs. Wonderful little program, I used to use it a lot because it was the only decent editor available on a (8088, 10MHz, 640k) PC.

    But I have no use for the hulking monstrosity that is GNU/Emacs.
  • I just had to reply to this because I think this is such a funny story. There are people out there who claim that if you allow anyone to redistribute the programs you sell for a lower price, then you will always only sell one copy. Someone will buy a copy and then everyone will buy from him because he's selling it 10% cheaper than you are.

    That has proved itself to be a faulty conclusion because the FSF keeps selling copy after copy after copy of manuals and CD-ROMs, even if we try to be the highest price distributor of everything we sell because we're doing this to raise money to develop free software.

    People often have the idea that if it's free software, if you are going to charge something for it, you should charge as little as possible. We think this is completely wrong. You should try to raise as much money as possible. Some of it for yourself, and some of it to donate to free software development.

    We don't want people to expect that the price will be small. We want people to expect that the price will be substantial, but there will also be a substantial donation to free software. And when someone sells a copy of something and DON'T donate money to free software development, then they should think that there is something wrong.

    Ofcourse, all GNU software and most other free software, you can also get from FTP sites for free, but we hope that people will also buy things from us. Because when they do, they help to improve the software by making it possible for us to pay programmers to work on free software.

  • There is nothing wrong with selling free software. If selling free software raises enough money for you so that you can work on the programs you develop fulltime, then by all means, go ahead and do it. You can also work as a teacher or consultant for free software if you like.
  • Personal, physical property is something that doesn't have such a buzz of restriction attached to it (patents aside). You can build a copy of a car and noone will really care. You can even improve your own. Avoiding the odd patent and you'll be fine.

    Software is a different matter. And for that matter so is Music for the most part (there is an open music movement about too which is facing that issue).

    When the day comes where matter can be copied easily then we'll face the same problems there. Would you want to be arrested and charged for copying someone's new car or house? What about food or clothes?

    There are two ways to change the way these things work.

    The first is to complain and do nothing about it. By and large you will be ignored and people will like the fact you are doing nothing. They won't give you any column space and the company directors won't loose any sleep. I say this is a way to change things becuase it does change things. It makes the "idealists" look stupid and people ignore them even more.

    The other is to get on with getting on. Make your own rules, stick to them and eventually in certain areas you'll become the choice. The FSF has done this very well. This way your opponents will mock you (witness the "they don't even have their own kernel" rubbish as if the column writer knows the first thing about writing one, also note that all too common phrase "Stallman wrote the text editor Emacs" as if that's all he ever did).

    Anyway, those opposing you will mock you since you are really threatening their 'world'. If you didn't threaten them, they'd ignore you and attack the next biggest threat instead.

    So they devote column space to you but palm you off as a passing fad. Behind that they'll be those who use your stuff and love it. Eventually the tables turn and the established norm becomes the use of free software in certain, ever increasing areas. Today that may be web servers, ftp sites, cheap clustered supercomputers etc. Tomorrow its likely to be practically everywhere. It might not be GNU/Linux but so what. The FSF isn't fighting an OS war.

    When the day of real phyical property copying arrives (if ever), then I'm sure we'll see someone set up the "Free Design Foundation" or something consisting of people producing free designs for people to copy. While the rest of the world may ban copying with some twist of the copyright system, we'll just make our own rules and soon enough who's going to want to pay so much for their products when the Free ones are perhaps better and certainly much much cheaper.

    I'm sure they'll get the same mockery abounding but at the end of it all, that author will be writing his article with some Free Software and that new car of his will be the last one that costs so much.

  • If I can save all of humanity by being nailed to a tree, hammer away. I don't think that this is the case, however.

    Jesus did the whole "nailed to a tree" thing because it was God's way of saving the Earth.

    In the meantime, we would appreciate it if you laid off the death threats.

    Thanks in advance!

  • You might ask, why did RMS bother to invent the GPL? Why not just public-domain all his code, and advocate that others do likewise?
    No, I would not ask that question. I think I understand why he did it, and I'm glad he did. I do not believe that everyone should be trying to further free software, and obviously neither does he, since the GPL isn't. What I cannot countenance is calling a heart a spade. Only spades are spades. It's the tortuous language of the propaganda that sets me off. It does not ring honest. It's hard to believe someone who keeps calling hearts spades, even when their message is at its heart sound, or when they're talking about unrelated matters. Once you've compromised your honesty, it's hard for people to believe you.
    I think the annoying complexities you're talking about aren't due to trickery or duplicity on RMS's part. I think they were necessitated by the legal climate in which he found himself.
    What do you mean? If you were to rewrite the message so that it were targetted not to lawyers but the Common Man, what would be different?

    I've already said what I think should be different. Do you have other notions?

  • There are two reasons why people might choose to protect their software under the GPL...
    Quite possibly so, but there seems to be a misconnect here. I never said that no one should ever want to use the GPL or to support the FSF. My point was that their insistence on non-intuitive use of language is a form of deception, and that this hurts their cause.

    Again, there are two mis-statements in their publicity:

    1. `The FSF is about free software, not open software.' (It's the other way around. They believe in encumbrance, which is ipso facto non-free.)
    2. `GNU is not Unix.' (Of course it is.)
    I would be far quicker to support them if they would cease and desist from using intentionally misleading language -- without changing the mechanics of anything else they do! So would a vast number of others of my acquaintance. Perhaps for some things, the GPL is a good encumbrance. I didn't say it had no valid use. But an encumbrance, a ligature, a tar-baby legalistic string that binds in perpetuity--all these things it remains. I repeat: this may in some cases be desirable! But it's far from free.

    I can't stand dishonesty, even in a good cause. In fact, I'm probably even less tolerant of it in such cases.

  • I've given up calling this stuff "free software".
    Good for you! As I have said in other fora than these, the simple point I am trying to make, the point from which I shall not waver, is that irrespective of intentions, the words which the FSF uses do end up tricking people, and that this is inherently a bad thing. Ask ten teenagers or even housewives what free software is, and they'll give you a different answer from the one used by the FSF. This simple and repeatable test is proof positive that it's long past time to adjust the message to use the vocabulary which your listeners understand. Otherwise, they're not hearing what you're saying. And you wouldn't want that, now would you? :-)
  • The whole point of the FSF is that by using the software, you should also accept the ideas behind it
    Is it really so hard to understand why this is precisely what so many have so hard a time swallowing?

    Imagine acquiring a piece of artwork gratis, and then learning that it could only be hung in a room by itself, with nothing else on the walls, and that if you did try to hang something else on your wall, even something you yourself painted to complement the other portrait, you would be forced to give that painting of yours away.

    People would balk at being told what they can do with something that's free. They do.

  • Hi Tom, nice to see that you haven't quit your GPL-bashing...
    While I may have been drawn into that, such was not my goal. I support anyone's right to use whatever licence they choose, including the GPL. It's their property, and they should be able to do with it whatever they want, even things I don't agree with. So long as a multiplicity of licences are available to choose from, we're fine.

    But as soon as someone starts defining "encumbered" as "free", they've overstepped the bounds of honesty. There's nothing inherently wrong with encumbrance, mind you. It's unpleasant in certain cases, but it's not "wrong". If there were, I would be arguing against the GPL, and really I'm not. I'm arguing against deception.

    I'm simply advocating talking to people in the language that they the listeners understand. I'm further pointing out that a consequence of intentionally using misleading language is to lose the respect of your peers, because you're now venturing into the realm of into spin control and other forms of artful deception.

    An open community has no place for such tricks. Say what you mean, and mean what you say, and do so in a way that those hearing your message hear what you've actually said, not what they merely think you said.

  •'s probably best not to use such pretentiously flowery prose.
    Far be it from me to restrict vocabulary and syntax in my writing to that of a level solely appropriate to some fifth-grade reading class. Why, even in the fifth grade, we were reading The Rime of the Ancient Mariner! Weren't you? It's important with children to push the edge, you know, so that kids have something to strive for. You don't become a better chess player only by playing those whom you can casually vanquish. But perhaps if you asked him nicely enough, Rob would be so kind as to add a "reading level" score on these postings as well, so you could filter out those that are beyond your grasp.

    Quite honestly, I'd put that piece at something like the eighth-grade level, because I was intentionally trying to keep it simple enough that even high school readers here would understand. It is hardly a matter of pretense to make full and proficient use of one's mother tongue, nor should it be something to be quickly disparaged, if for no other reason because in so doing, you in effect say more about your own personal inadequacies than you do about those of the writer whom you're criticizing.

    There was nothing pretended, feigned, dissembling, or fictitious in that particular piece of writing. For such matters, you need but look at the author of its parent article, who continues to define `free' as `encumbered'. That is an act of pretense, of dissembling. And you will note that it requires no ninth-grade terms to carry out this sleight of words. Pretense is completely unrelated to word size. However could you have thought otherwise?

    To continue, neither was that language what one could in honesty call `flowery' by any reasonable stretch of the imagination. Perhaps you are not a native speaker of English, which would I suppose explain a great deal. But to anyone with more than a fifth-grade education, that was hardly what even a high-school student could construe as even moderately florid.

    USA Today is hardly a sterling example of fine writing, you know. Well, or perhaps you don't. Therein may lie a large measure of the difficultly. If you've never been exposed to anything else, how could you know better?

    Perhaps you need a more illustrative example of purple prose, that upon your next encounter with the same you might readily distinguish it from the more pedestrian writing endemic to this and to most other electronic fora. Here's something I wrote quite some time ago in which I in a sort of game purposefully employ the writer's art to what could charitably be called an attention-taxing extreme.

    That reminds me of how I despite diligent and even prayer-filled attempts to rid myself of such traumatic experiences to this very day still recall in dreams sleeping and waking those interminably long and bleary-eyed nights sequestered chez Larry in Mountain View this past July during which I would cobble together tortuous monstrosities of innumerable clauses and moods and styles and dubious-at-best antecedents bereft of periods or even semi-colons, chthonic monstrosities long since banished to the nethermost depths of RCS purgatory whence they cry out in anguish and in irrepentant shamelessness to be brought forth again to the light of day and of my fellows so that others might with their own disbelieving eyes see how very miserable were the aborted words that a once-shimmering brain then laden with fatigue toxins was nonetheless able to spew out, all the while blisslessly unaware that those very words would cause not just Sharon and Gloria but indeed the entire Wall household immured with us for the duration to not once but rather on repeated occasions erupt in fits and paroxyms of giggles and gaffaws while feigning learnèd attempts at unravelling just what in tarnation I was in fact trying to convey when I started those labyrinthine sentences so painfully like this one.
    That was florid. The other piece was not. Do you now understand the difference?

    Perhaps I simply overestimated the average literacy level to which America has plummeted. I was unaware that I should be writing children's books. If this is the case, I suppose I'll have to write a spell checker based on some fifth-grader's reading assignments. I fear that if I were to adopt that mind-numbing strategy, something valuable would be lost.

  • Those who see restrictions as the antithesis of freedom should devote a little more thought to the subject.
    You mean, like Richard? :-)
  • Ever had a close look at the GNU Website lately? Notice how they they define software freedom, then explain the purpose of copyleft? Notice how they explain how you can be free without copyleft (like X), but they defend why copyleft is so much better? (and it is).

    This seems pretty plain language to me. Please don't slander GNU by saying they use tricks and don't say what they mean. If you go to their website it's very plain.

    I'm quite familiar with that rhetoric. If in order to understand what "free software" is, I need to read a lengthy treatise on the matter, something is obviously wrong -- very, very wrong. Those are simple words. They should be used in the simple ways that the whole world uses them. It's far easier to change oneself than the world.

    Remember when gay used to mean happy and carefree? Do you constantly speak of your "gay friend" (who is not homosexual) and expect people should just figure out what you mean? Or do you instead provide them with a manual than explains just what you mean?

    Neither, of course. You don't use words that are so easily misunderstood that their default interpretation is completely wrong. To continue to do so calls into question the motivation. I do not believe these people are studid. Therefore, they know that their words deceive people. Therefore, they know that they could easily avoid deception by using common words in the ways that they're expected to be used. Therefore, they are doing it with complete intent. This leads inexorably to "deception". (If my premise that they are not stupid is incorrect, then so too may be my conclusion that they are lying.)

    And there's just no good reason to deceive people this way.

  • OK, then you like the public domain model, the do-whatever-you-want-with-it model.
    For some things, yes, I do. For others, I don't. The GPL is also a valid model. And no, these aren't the only two. But what set me off is that despite the obvious fact that the GPL is an open source software module, not a free software model (in either sense of free). That means that reality is 180 degrees reversed from what RMS said. It irks me to read X and see that the author means !X. There's no need to apply spin and hairs-plitting. Honesty is the best policy, and that's not what I keep reading.
  • It's disappointing that we must once again embark upon yet another long, spiteful, and completely useless Gnu-vs-Free Software flamewar on Slashdot. Hasn't this topic been beaten to death long, long ago? Oh well; once more into the breach.

    Like any radical political organization, the FSF surrounds itself with terminology-twisting rhetoric whose mission is more one of proselytization than it is one of disseminating honest truth. Repetition of half-truths does not make them more true; it just makes them better known. And in any marketing campaign, that's all that eventually counts. Lamentably.

    There are two main myths of which the FSF must disabuse themselves of if they hope to be taken seriously by anyone of reputable intellectual and moral integrity. And to do so requires only an alternation of their rhetoric, not a change in licensing policies or software components. One can contemplate that in a completely different discussion.

    The first myth is that the FSF has anything to do with free software. It doesn't. Free software is against their principles. That they say otherwise can only be justified by the application of Orwellian newsspeak as common words become twisted into their counterintuitive antitheses for reasons of pure propaganda.

    What the FSF espouse is open software, not free software. They require only that software be forever open. This is not necessarily bad, of course. But it is not free to tell someone else what they can do with their lives. They do not allow it to be free in the libre sense, nor do they require it to be free in the gratis sense either. And note that `gratis' is what freeware means to everyone on the street. You can't change that perception. You can, however adapt to it. For some reason, the FSF refuse to do that.

    Free software has no restrictions on it. Period. Anything more than `do whatever you'd like with this' is no longer free. Furthermore, the notion that anyone has the right to force others to obey what they must do with their own artistic output is about as far from free as one can imagine. It's also highly immoral, because it removes the option of choice. No choice, no morality.

    The thing that chafes the honest people of this world is that it is deceptive to redefine a common word, which is what they've done. I don't care whether they've got a document somewhere where they say `Oh by the way, the word ``free'' in this document means ``comes with catsup''; that doesn't change the fundamental treachery. They didn't need to do this. They could have chosen a more honest and commonly accepted set of terms to effect the same ultimate goal. They didn't. Either they were wickedly clever, or pathetically stupid. And whatever else he is, Richard has never been stupid. I wish he could see that he's hurting himself.

    More people need to be aware of the inherent deception that something calling itself `the free software foundation' is dedicated to creating software which is neither gratis nor libre, and certainly isn't free in the way that freeware is assumed to be free. Whether you call it damage control, marketing spin, or evil deception, the bottom line is that calling something that it's not is bound to produce confusion. As I've said a million times before, the solution is simple. Just find a new word, one that's honest and broadly understood. Don't change any licences. Just fix the damn word. Something that claims to be free software, should be. You shouldn't need a complex licence to understand this. If it's something that isn't intuitive to a twelve-year old, it's too hard. `Do as thou wilt' is free.

    The second myth is that GNU is not Unix. Like the perversion of the simple word `free' into something that makes sense in no context but that of frothing fanatics, once again we see self-satisfied cleverness smugly wrapped up in word play for the smart people and consequently leaving the common man confused or tricked. Remember the environment in which this tired turn of phrase was coined: the fervent AT&T Unix policing of the word itself. This was obviously intrusive and destructive on their part, and it is no great wonder that RMS should have chosen terminology that would inherently distance himself from that minefield. Unix started in an open environment, and the crap AT&T subsequently pulled nearly killed it.

    But in the end, nothing is changed. GNU is Unix, or they wouldn't try to say otherwise. If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, and smells like a duck, then it most certainly is a duck--or if you prefer, a rose by any other name would still smell as sweet. If you reverse engineer the Unix /bin/cat program, even without ever looking at the source code, producing at last something whose input and output and very name are virtually indistinguishable from your model, then you end up with is a reimplementation of the Unix /bin/cat program. It's still a cat.

    This doesn't mean that the FSF are of no use, nor that the GPL has no use. It would be dishonest to make that claim. But there are clearly places where these are not useful. One obvious example of where it is not useful is when it comes to avoiding costly reinvention of the wheel. Consider the miserable programmer who would like to use GNU readline or gdbm or some clever search algorithm from some other GPL-licensed program within a program that needs to use closed and proprietary Oracle SQL libraries. You cannot force Oracle to open its software, so you're screwed. Have a nice time reinventing your own industrial-strength database. No employer will put up with that nonsense, so instead you get to reinvent readline(). That does nothing to further the science or art. It's counterproductive. The real world is full of compromises like this. The inflexibility of the GPL interferes with people trying to get an honest job done, and ends up causing needlessly wasted efforts What a shame!

    Of course, there are clearly other places where the FSF and the GPL in fact are useful. They shouldn't go away. If they did, something important would be lost. I do not want to lose that.

    What must go away is is the deception. If they'd only stop prevaricating, they could be taken a lot more seriously. But so far--and doubtless in the foreseeable future--what appears to be an unfortunate combination of ignorance and arrogance has prevented them from admitting their fundamental error. This sucks.

    The notably oxymoronic `FSF' are engaged in the artful lying of telling half-truths for deceptive and consequently dishonorable purposes, just like any other marketroid, ad-man, con artist, Scientologist, or similar shyster. Remove the lie and keep the religion. They have something to say, and it should be heard. But delete the lies.

    It should not hurt their cause to tell the simple truth. What does inflict grievous harm upon their cause is they way that they insist upon splitting hairs like so many lawyers and pharisees rather than honest men. I don't know why they don't see and stop this needlessly selfdestructive rhetoric.

    But I begin to wonder: are the lies somehow indispensable to the promulgation of the cult? Can the GPL exist without the deceptive rhetoric? Can the FSF? That would be a sad thing, were it in fact the case. It really shouldn't have to be that way.

  • Free software isn't free in that one can use the code for any purpose, that would be public domain or anarchy. There is an obligation to using 'free software' source code. It is that any derivative works must also release source code.. One may still sell the application, one does not have to pay any fee for using the source code.

    How is this not free? You can use the software for no price, you only have to accept a minor obligation. Thus the code is available for use free/gratis. I see no misuse of the term free/gratis by the free software community.

    Freedom in practice requires obligations too. It permits one to think and act as they see fit, but ALSO obligates them to respect how others think and act.

    If free/freedom means that I can act anyway I wish, then to say I cannot perform theft, murder, or any other things known as crime is infringing on that freedom. ``My freedom to swing my fist ends where your nose begins''. You have an obligation to respect others freedom's too.

    Thus freedom, like `free software' incurs an obligations. I see no misuse of the term libre or free/freedom as used by free software.

    I can imagine why many software developers are angry and annoyed at the GPL, and the codebase under the GPL. They see a beautiful codebase with many useful algorithms and other material, they hear 'free', but -- like freedom -- do not think of the counterbalancing obligations, then they see that they cannot grab that code and exploit it as they wish.

    Is it that they are angry that so much high-quality code is just tantalizingly out of reach? Is it that they are in a proprietary mindset and want to freeload off that codebase, and find out they can't? Do they hate the competetion it gives them?

    The obligation for using GPL code is either amazingly cheap, (if you believe in free software where all can study it), or incredibly expensive, (if one believes that source code is the crown jewels of a company or product)

    Freedom to speak incurs similar obligations. It can be amazingly cheap when you are hearing opinions you agree with. It may also be incredibly expensive when you see the Klu Klux Klan burning an american flag in a rally near a local community center or schoool.


Who goeth a-borrowing goeth a-sorrowing. -- Thomas Tusser