(Fwd) The GPL (was: Re: [Fsfe-ie] 1-page letter, faxes at the

Niall Douglas s_fsfeurope2 at nedprod.com
Sat Sep 27 19:16:59 CEST 2003

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Seeing as the list do want this discussion, below is my reply to 

I had worked on the basis that divisive discussions such as these are 
best kept off public fora. But if people want to, we can.

- ------- Forwarded message follows -------
On 26 Sep 2003 at 3:19, David Golden wrote:

Sorry for the late reply, went out drinking last night unexpectedly.
Nursing a bit of a hangover this morning too :(

> Well, my first post to this list and it may seem a bit harsh :-( :

Not at all. Very reasonably toned.

> You posted (on tuesday) some comments about the GPL being
> non-free...
> That seems an odd (read: absurd) stance for an FSF list, and one
> direction that really would seem a tad inappropriate for the list to
> take while it is under the "FSF" banner.   You may have been joking
> or sarcastic, of course, and I'm not suggesting it's a _discussion_
> that's inappropriate for the list (though it's been done to death
> over the years and gets kinda boring), but as a _direction_ I'd like
> to state my not-so-humble opinion right now that it's pretty damn
> silly.

The FSF's criteria is more loose than the GPL believers would like 
because not everyone believes in copyleft. In fact, some like me 
think the GPL a necessary evil and a doubtful one still at that.  

> Of course, academically, the GPL isn't totally "free" like "I
> release this into the public domain" would be. Perhaps that's all
> you meant, but I don't really know. 

I meant that the GPL does many of the same bad things to software as
proprietary closed source does eg; duplication and thus waste of
production. The GPL seeks to permanently restrict the use of software
just like proprietary. I don't for a second call GPL software free

> Of course, what would be even freer would be if copyright didn't
> exist at all.

Well copyright is nearly dead already. Another ten years and they'll
be screaming out for a legislative replacement.

> The GPL is designed to try to preserve some of the freedom that
> existed before software ("applied discrete mathematics") became
> copyrightable late last century.  It's doing a damn good job in the
> anti-free environment that the current crop of infofascists (WIPO
> etc.) have produced.  While the GPL would be unenforceable in the
> absence of software copyright and patent law, it would also be
> unnecessary, as people have pointed out ad nauseum.

As I said, a necessary evil. But not one which should be encouraged
and most certainly, the GPL is not moral.

> Copyleft only acts "un-free" to those who would, secretly or
> otherwise, wish to "own" information under copyright law themselves
> and thus restrict the freedom of others. 

For me it's not a matter of owning information - I believe that is 
the free property of mankind and there's little the law can do to 
change it. What it is about is that if I write a piece of software 
which saves every company in the world ten euro per year, I see it 
only as fair that every company in the world should pay me that ten 
euro for the first year and thereafter the savings are mankind's.  

I don't care how it's done legally, but I cannot be swayed from the
notion that if a person or group contributes significantly to the
improvement of their fellow man, they should be adequately rewarded.
This is one of the best features of capitalism - that taking risk is
rewarded ie; entrepreneurship.

> I don't give a shit if some
> people can't sit on their arses and "sell" infinitely-replicable
> information patterns of software as an artificially-scarce "product"
> once the GPL takes over.  I could still make a packet on computers,
> doing ACTUAL WORK of installation, configuration, operational
> support, "bespoke" new development and so on, even in the complete
> absence of software copyrights (and patents).

You have, like many others, made the logical mistake of believing
there is a difference between manipulating intangibles and tangibles.
There is not.

Thus this foolish idea of working on software as being a kind of 
services industry (like where you pay an engineer to fix your motor) 
rather than a manufacturing industry (like where you make a motor and 
sell it) is extremely dangerous in the long-term. That whole idea 
must be stamped out and I unfortunately notice a strong correlation 
of this idea with those who believe in the GPL.  

The key to this logical mistake is to look at computer software as 
pure information. It is not. It is also a self-contained solution to 
a problem ie; an engineering solution ie; information without needing 
a human in its relational definition. Therefore it is much more like 
a motor in nature than information ie; it is something distinctly 
more than information (for example a computer program baking a cake 
is substantially more than the recipe for a cake).  

This is why I have proposed that anywhere information is a self-
contained solution to a problem not requiring a human (software, DNA
etc) it falls under a unique and customised legal framework. Not
copyright and definitely not patents.

> While the current furore has temporarily united in opposition to
> patents many proprietary and free software people, I would not be in
> favour of pandering to proprietary interests on an FSF list - I'm
> not one of those wishy-washy "peaceful coexistence with proprietary
> software" open-source types.  That's like "peaceful coexistence"
> with an aggressive mucormycosis.

I don't know if you'll view me as a proprietary interest. I suppose 
in some ways I am in that until the post-capitalism age dawns (next 
thirty years), I think it foolish to go around with woolly-headed 
notions such as not being able to become rich from making a piece of 

When the entire economic structure bifurcates as it surely will, I'll
be happy to change my views when everyone else is not longer doing
this. Until then, it's a dog eat dog world and you need every
competitive advantage to survive.

All I will say to you is that my views and your views are 95% 
identical. We probably differ on 5% of key things. Now compare me and
Bill Gates and we'd disagree on about two thirds or higher.

> By now you may be saying "If I Ever Meet You I Will Kick Your Ass",
> but I really don't care - I'm a just bit paranoid about fifth
> columnists, a (Microsoft-favorite) strategy that has been used to
> try to destroy computing things before (with varying degrees of
> success - e.g. even the Amiga still has a kind of unholy
> walking-death, though I prefer to stay away from the shambling
> horror and try to remember it as it once was...)

Amigas were nice. Know a fellow called Carl Sassenrath? He had a big
influence on the Amiga Workbench.

BTW I've no problem with people who disagree with me, and there are 
no shortage of those. I do get a problem when people who are wrong go 
around imposing the consequences of their wrong views on me.  

>  [quavery schlock horror voice] I know people have gone to Microsoft
>  Research, 
> and come back... different... [/quavery schlock horror voice] ...
> like invasion of the bodysnatchers different, or "I read Dianetics 
> and know that Scientology can help me" different...

You should try reading entrepreneur books (eg; "starting your own 
company") or economics books. They are so amoral it scares me that 
the majority of the holders of power actually believe that crap ...  

Microsoft are the same. I've known people who worked there who 
believed in free software just as much as I do. But in the end 
Microsoft's practices are immoral and people intuitively realise 
that. It's why Apple who have become much less immoral with OS X have 
become so popular.  


- ------- End of forwarded message -------

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