[Fsfe-ie] Re: ethical interpretations of FS

Fergal Daly fergal at esatclear.ie
Tue Feb 3 16:23:43 CET 2004

On Tue, Feb 03, 2004 at 02:23:51PM +0000, Ian Clarke wrote:
> >I do somewhat agree with that FAQ answer. I think, if I have written GPL
> >code and someone else has improved it and is letting other people use that
> >improved version remotely then I think those improvements should be
> >available to all in source form. Otherwise, the person is taking my GPL 
> >work
> >and publicly benefitting without giving anything back.
> The scenario that started this discussion, however, was not me using 
> someone else's GPLd code on my server without redistributing 
> modifications, it was my own code running on my server which I chose not 
> to distribute.

As far as I can tell, the FSF believe that all users of all programs have a
moral right to the source code. They also believe that you should avoid
using any software unless it is free in an FSF way.

I don't know if I agree with them fully but you said to Ciaran "If your
personal opinion is that source code should never ever be kept secret, then
fine, but I don't believe that position is implied by the free software
philosophy." As far as I can tell, it is central to at least one rather
important branch of free software philosphy.

I think a lot of FS advocates don't actually realise quite how radical RMS
and the FSF are.

> >>The argument that I should know what someone else's software is doing 
> >>with my hardware is strong and defensible, but the argument that I have 
> >>a moral right to know what someone else's software is is doing with 
> >>someone else's hardware (and they have a moral obligation to disclose 
> >>it) is isomorphic to arguing that nobody should have any secrets about 
> >>anything - which is silly.
> >
> >It's not isomorphic.

... example showing that they are _not_ isomorphic snipped ...

> So your position, according to what you have just said, appears to be 
> that nobody should be permitted to keep a secret unless it is in the 
> public interest for them to do so?

No, you claimed that the 2 situations were isomorphic I was merely pointing
out that they are not isomorphic. I did not say that public interest
criteria _should_ be applied to every aspect of life I showed that applying
public interest criteria to these 2 situations gives quite different
results. Therefore they are not isomorphic.

The purpose of the example was not to express my position in any way, it was
simply to (dis)prove a point.

Just in case anyone else is wondering, an "isomorphism" is kind of like a
perfect analogy, it's a maths term. If 2 things are "isomorphic" then when
you prove something for one of them, it is automatically true for the other.

I agree that "no personal secrets" is a bad thing but it is _not_ isomorphic
to "all source code must be free for all users". If you want to argue about
the second idea, then you will have to argue about it directly and avoid
using analogies that are not applicable,


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