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Comment Re:It's a matter of trust (Score 1) 630

Your trust is very commendable, but you should think of licences as being about making permissions clear, rather than enforcement. You say that you trust people to do the right thing, but the fact of the matter is that you are giving them permission not to! (Although I acknowledge I'm making assumptions about what you think "the right thing" is here!)

On a slight side note, I always get a chuckle when I see people getting upset about some-company-or-other not acting "in the spirit of open source" when, in fact, the company's doing exactly what they have been permitted to do. It's like saying, "here, take this with no obligations whatsoever!" and then getting upset when someone doesn't do what you want with it.

The same is true for licences. If you want recipients of your code to contribute their changes back to the community, then the GPL expresses that those are your desires. Whether you (as the copyright holder) choose to enforce that or not is really a separate issue.

Comment Re:Open Source License (Score 1) 630

You're being too black and white about it. The GPL *is* about freedom: *user's* freedom. And it preserves this by *restricting* developers. It's just a matter of perspective.

The apparent contradiction of applying restrictions on developers in order to preserve user's freedom might seem confusing. I liken it to a "free society" that is achieved by putting restrictions on its members (e.g., they can't kill each other).

Comment Re:Open vs Free (Score 1) 369

[...] when the people who produce the software are denied by a license the freedom to determine the future of the software [...]

I have no idea which specific circumstances you are referring to, if any, but it sounds like a simple licensing error to me. Why would a person who produces software and who wants to retain the kind of control that you talk about over it and its source code choose the GPL? They want to write proprietary software, by the sounds of it. The GPL is there for people who don't want to retain that kind of control and want to give the software to the world.

the Open Source movement, rather than the FSF, is the reason we have such major open source software

This goes without saying. I'm sure the free software movement, rather than the OSI, is the reason we have such major *free* software.

That's cute, but I wasn't engaging in a semantic definition. [...]

While it may be convenient for you to discount any difference between free and open-source software, it is not a premise that I, the FSF, other free software developers and most open-source developers (for that matter) are likely to accept. If you want to talk about what the FSF has and has not achieved, you need to be prepared to talk about their specific goals over those of open-source. Otherwise what you are saying is meaningless.

if you notice, most [major open source software] are not GPL

That is because they are probably not as concerned with software and user freedom [...]

Not just that, but there's also the fact that the people who work on those projects need to survive on that work [...]

This is not something specific to the GNU GPL, but to all free and open-source software licences. Releasing your source code under one of these licences is akin to giving it away to the community, for free, in perpetuity. And this is usually the reason for choosing the licence.

No, [Linus] is explicitly on record as saying that he personally doesn't want to convert any of his code [to GPLv3]

OK, yes. I was trying to point out that there there is doubt as to whether it would be possible to relicense the kernel. But you are correct: my point is moot if Torvalds doesn't want to.

The FSF is not hostile to corporate interests.

Okay, name me one company whose policies on 'software freedom' the FSF endorses.

As I said in relation to RMS: just because the FSF do not endorse any companies, it doesn't follow that they are *hostile* to corporate interests.

I'd wager that the number of employees working in companies that do proprietary software is larger than the 'community' of which you're so proud of.

I'd wager you are correct! But they should still be enormously proud of their community -- they've achieved a great deal, and in the face of some stiff opposition from the larger corporate world. I see no merit whatsoever in insinuating that the community doesn't exist. On the contrary, I think they deserve a lot of credit.

Why should he? And why would not doing so make free software hostile to business? It doesn't follow.

But one does follow from another. Let's say a company wrote a software, and decided to dutifully make the source code fully available. [...]

But that doesn't make it "hostile to business". It just means that licensing your code under a free (or open-source) licence is likely to significantly hamper your ability to sell the software its self. That said, many companies still do sell FOSS directly. These companies also usually accept donations towards their efforts. And it is not uncommon to see them selling services around the software, such as support, management (of the software, not people), publishing and merchandise.

The point here is that free and open-source software is at odds with proprietary software. But it's not at odds with business in general.

Another thing - you just used the 'profit motive' like it's a less than altruistic thing

I'm afraid profiting certainly is "less than altruistic". It's entirely the *opposite* of altruism, in fact.

Very simply, if the creators and producers of 'free software' are unable to make the money needed to enable them to continue working on it, how is that in any way useful to the users (aside from those technical enough to actually understand that source code and make their own improvements, which is an asterisk even within the 'community'.

Many people who write FOSS are volunteers, but even where they are businesses, these are simply not concerns that the FSF *should* have. The FSF are concerned with furthering software and user freedom, not with how businesses make their money. Expecting them to take a less absolute stance is unrealistic - it's not that they are against business, it is simply that it's outside of the remit of the organisation. It would be like asking a human rights organisation to turn a blind eye to human rights violations because it would be more costly, or convenient for businesses not to have to bother with worker safety, or pollution regulations (for example). As with those organisations, the FSF's position is always going to be that software and user freedom should come first and that businesses should make money in such a way as not to violate those principles.

Another thing to consider is that you only seem to be evaluating FOSS from the position of a business. Many other perspectives exist that are valid and important: For education, free and open-source software is extremely useful, both practically and as an educational tool. For scientific purposes, or high-load server systems, it can often be essential to be able to get at, understand and modify the workings of software. In any scenario where security is important, such as in countries with oppressive (or failed democratic) governments, or high-profile organisations, running software where you are able to confirm that it does what it is supposed to, rather than having to implicitly trust a software vendor, is a sensible policy. And for every single home user (which, let's face it, includes all of us, our children, parents, grandparents, family and friends), having software that we know works for our benefit only is good and proper; more than just an "ideal". So this is about much more than just giving a small minority of people access to source code.

P.S. Note that in all of the above, I didn't even begin to describe my objections to the term 'free software',

On this point, we agree completely -- It's very confusing indeed. I tend to use the terms FOSS or "software freedom". On the bright side, I have noticed RMS use the term "libre software" a few times recently, so perhaps a gradual shift towards that has already begun.

Comment Re:BSD (Score 2) 266

Personally, I prefer the BSD licenses. There's more freedom in it.

This is a matter of perspective, though. Those extra restrictions in the GPL are there to prevent you from restricting others; you don't have the freedom to deny other people's freedoms. In the same way as in a free society you are not free to go around killing people. So, from that perspective, you could argue that, while more restrictive to the individual in receipt of the licensed material, the GPL has more freedom in it from the point of view of society.

Comment Re:Screwdrivers and Religiions (Score 1) 369

I agree, but with two exceptions. Firstly, it's not always "either or". For example, if you were to choose a screwdriver and had the choice between one that was made from Chinese child-labour, or one that was made locally, ethics can play a part in the decision. Secondly, you should not confuse valuing user freedom with religion. However fanatically, the former is an ethical consideration whereas the latter is superstition.

I would like to add that if you are "inventing a new protocol that you want everyone, everywhere, to integrate and ship with their software, be it open or proprietary", then the LGPL is quite suitable for libraries as well.

And also, that the GPL is not primarily about having "control over the commercial uses of your work", although it is used that way. The GPL is intended to be about enforcing freedom for all users.

Comment Re:Freedom is an absolute. You have it, or you don (Score 1) 369

Is the user more free because [...]

This whole paragraph is a bit confused. For a start you are clearly talking about a developer, and not a user. Secondly, I would like to see examples of the incompatibility issues you claim are the case (I am not aware of any problems distributing a GPL program that uses a ASF licensed library, for example). Thirdly, you are citing license incompatibilities as a reason that the GPL is not about user freedom, which makes no sense (unless you are suggesting they were deliberate?).

the GPL does not prevent the copyright holder from taking something closed source

That's because this is not possible! The thing that the GPL prevents, which the MIT (et al) do not, is someone releasing a proprietary, closed-source version of the software. It's quite simple. You are muddying the situation by saying that the copyright holder can still make a closed-source version of the software, because this will *always* be the case - they are the copyright holder! And I disagree with you when you say that this doesn't matter because some prior version was open-source -- it will matter a lot to some people.

Comment Re:Open vs Free (Score 1) 369

[free software licences have] onerous restrictions on software creators.

These restrictions are not "onerous" if you are concerned software/user freedom, which they are there to protect.

the Open Source movement, rather than the FSF, is the reason we have such major open source software

This goes without saying. I'm sure the free software movement, rather than the OSI, is the reason we have such major *free* software.

if you notice, most [major open source software] are not GPL

That is because they are probably not as concerned with software and user freedom as they are being able to make money from their software. Unless you believe these projects were ill-informed when making a choice about licensing, it follows that their license choice reflects their goals, which are not as aligned with those of the free software movement as they are the open-source movement. That's all.

Linus has decided not to make his kernel GPL3.

This has more to do with not being able to obtain permission from the many, many contributors.

Android is released under an Apache license and not GPL 2 nor 3.

Parts of Android, like the Linux kernel, *are* released under the GPL.

Unlike the FSF, [the OSI] is not hostile to corporate interests and prefers to promote the advantages of this development model, rather than moralizing about the 'ethics' of 'Free Software'.

The FSF is not hostile to corporate interests.

Speaking of which, what is this 'community' that RMS, and you are talking of? People typically [...]

Just because people "typically" aren't involved in the free software community doesn't mean that it doesn't exist!

I'd say that [the perception that the FSF is down and out hostile to business] is accurate - name me one company (not non-profit organization like FSF) that Stallman endorses.

Why should he? And why would not doing so make free software hostile to business? It doesn't follow.

It is often the case that motives surrounding software freedom clash with those of profit. That is to say, all too often companies make profit by preventing access and limiting rights to software which they have written. I'm not saying this it wrong, but only that it is often at odds with free software. But do not confuse this situation for one in which those who are interested in free software are hostile to business. That is simply untrue.

If a company, otoh, is fine w/ distributing its source code to its customers, but restricts re-distribution further downstream (for the obvious reason that they want to sell to those downstream potential customers themselves, and not have the value of their work diluted by other people who put no effort into it simply distributing it for free or their own profits)

The answer here is obvious: the company values the financial value of its work above software and user freedom. So the GPL is unsuitable for its purposes.


You seem to be rather against the free software movement, for reasons that I can not fathom. Sure, I could understand you not caring about the issues the free software folks do. Or I could understand you caring about those issues, but feeling that the free software folks are going about solving them in the wrong way. I could understand you not wanting to be part of it. But why so hostile? Before people start to assume that you are a paid astroturfer or -- worse still -- that you are ignorant, perhaps you would like to explain your hostility, rather than apathy, towards something that is largely accepted to be working for the benefit of software and user freedom?

Comment Re:Misleading headline (Score 1) 369

And the BSD-like licenses grant you more freedom, so...

...so does an anarchistic (rather than a lawful) society. But that doesn't mean its the better option. For example, would you expect a "free society" to allow you to murder people?

In the same way, copyleft licences balance your freedoms with those of others. What you are are *not* free to do under the GPL is curtail the freedoms of others to view, modify and redistribute source code. Creating an individual limitation so as to protect the freedoms of the rest of the world doesn't make the GPL "less free" any more than having laws in a free society does.

Comment Re:Write once, debug everywhere (Score 1) 47

After writing new pages for a site, I still to this day have to spend extra time getting it to work on IE7/8. All the other browsers (pretty much) work the same. But I regularly have to do things slightly differently so that IE renders pages the same as the other browsers. So, not so nostalgic for me!

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