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Facts and Friction on Open Source and Free Software

When generally talking about our community and software it builds and promotes, we use various differing terms and acronyms; "Free Software", "Open Source", "Linux", "GNU/Linux", "FOSS", "FLOSS" etc. To outsiders this may seem counterproductive because it confuses people, but in such an open and diverse community ecosystem this shouldn't come as a surprise. Various people hold various perspectives and hence form various views on issues that concern them. Some sort of a polarization is almost inevitable.

In our community this polarization is between people who promote the "Open Source" label and those who promote the "Free Software" label. The difference between views of these two "camps", as we often call them, is more in the way they prioritize certain issues than anything else. Motivations for supporting either of the labels can differ, but they usually come down to that fundamental difference.

The two do not necessarily disagree about any of the goals of the community. Both usually believe that software freedom is important just as they believe that developing superior software is important. Both think that software patents are a bad thing for the software industry. Both believe DRM and TCPA are a bad thing for consumers. There is in fact so little disagreement regarding specific issues that one would wonder what the whole fuss is all about, but there is still a minor difference which matters a lot.

The disagreement is about which of these issues is more important. It is a matter of priorities. Is software freedom more important than superior software? Is it more important than a greater market share, bigger profits, personal convenience or something else? The Free Software supporters, as represented by the Free Software Foundation, would say yes, software freedom is paramount. Open Source people, as represented by the Open Source Initiative, Linus Torvalds and some business entities would, having different priorities, say that other things can usually be more important than that. Sometimes an Open Source proponent would disagree with the definition FSF promotes for freedom or just the method which FSF uses to promote it.

If you would, based on the last sentence, assume that the Open Source is often about distancing from the FSF, you would be correct. The FSF is the founder of the GNU project and the Free Software movement and has obviously been present far earlier than the Open Source label and the Open Source Initiative (OSI) have been brought up, which was only in 1998. It wouldn't be far off to conclude that Open Source was founded in response to the FSF and in order to distance those parts of the community which disagreed with it, from the FSF. And that is exactly what Linus Torvalds has said in a recent LKML post:

Linus Torvalds wrote:

The whole "Open Source" renaming was done largely _exactly_ because people
wanted to distance themselves from the FSF. The fact that the FSF and it's
followers refused to accept the name "Open Source", and continued to call
Linux "Free Software" is not _our_ fault.

Obviously, there was a significant number of people who continued to support the views of the Free Software Foundation and hence continued to use the old term "Free Software", referring to freedom, not price, when they say "Free". Richard Stallman, the founder of the Free Software Foundation, has his own take on Open Source which basically agrees with Linus as quoted above. This is what he said recently on a 5th international GPLv3 conference.

Richard Matthew Stallman wrote:

The term "open source" was coined to avoid ever mentioning ethical issues. Specifically the ethical issues which are the centre of the Free Software movement.

Since Free Software Foundation represents the Free Software movement with these ethical issues at the center, by distancing themselves from the FSF, Open Source founders distanced themselves from these issues as well. It is not really a secret that the Open Source Initiative was founded to appeal to businesses and the mainstream under the notion that business entities do not respond well to the talks about ideological, moral and ethical issues. They believed that what corporations and the general public are instead interested in was a development model that can produce superior software. In addition, the ambiguity of the term "free" in "Free Software" supported the idea of coming up with a different label, even though this different label has its own shortcomings.

In 1999, Bruce Perens, one of the co-founders of Open Source said the following:

Bruce Perens wrote:

About a year ago, I sent out a message announcing "Open Source". Eric Raymond and I founded the Open Source Initiative as a way of introducing the non-hacker world to Free Software. Well, thanks to Eric, the world noticed.

The "non-hacker world" pretty much represents the mainstream world of businesses and the general population who, according to Open Source supporters, need to hear about the superiority of the software developed in an Open Source way more than about the ideal of freedom of computer users promoted through Free Software. They were right that the mainstream wanted to hear this considering the reputation of everything that even smells as "politics". This is a world where most prominent politicians tend to be visibly corrupt causing people to perceive politics in whole as a bad thing and extending this perception further to politicians who are not corrupt. In order to shield the Free Software movement from this perception, Open Source tried to hide the political part and show off the practical part instead.

While this may seem like a noble goal it should be noted that this obviously results in delivering only a part of the picture, not the whole. And this is what Bruce Perens recognized in 1999, only a year after helping establish Open Source. This is what he said in the same email that the previous quote was taken from, which can be read in a February 18th 1999 Slashdot entry:

Bruce Perens wrote:

And now it's time for the second stage: Now that the world is watching, it's time for us to start teaching them about Free Software. Notice, I said Free Software, _not_ Open Source.

Most hackers know that Free Software and Open Source are just two words for the same thing. Unfortunately, though, Open Source has de-emphasized the importance of the freedoms involved in Free Software. It's time for us to fix that. We must make it clear to the world that those freedoms are still important, and that software such as Linux would not be around without them.

It makes sense to assume that the part that Open Source promotes is meaningless without the part that it de-emphasizes. It is this political ideal, the freedom promoted by the Free Software Foundation, that the superior software comes from. The whole software development methodology that Open Source promotes was created by the people whose goal was freedom. It was made the way it is in order to allow for this ideal to live. It was not created with superior software in mind, but superiority still came as a side-effect. If merely this superiority is what Open Source is all about than the central tenet of the Open Source campaign is the result, not a cause, and the Free Software is a cause.

As the most vocal supporter of the Open Source view today as well as the most prominent opposition of the new GPLv3 license being developed by the FSF, Linus Torvalds is unfortunately reverting to FUD in order to promote his view. This is what he claims in the recent LKML post:

Linus Torvalds wrote:

Similarly, the fact that rms and the FSF has tried to paint Linux as a GNU
project (going as far as trying to rename it "GNU/Linux" at every
opportunity they get) is their confusion, not ours.

Unfortunately, it is Linus who is spreading confusion by this statement. It is one of those verifiable facts that what RMS (Richard Matthew Stallman) and the FSF are insisting upon is not renaming the Linux kernel to the GNU/Linux, but calling the whole operating system which is not fundamentally consisted only of the Linux kernel, but the GNU system as well, as GNU/Linux. There is a great difference between the name of a kernel and the name of a whole operating system of which the kernel is only a part of.

I said it is a verifiable fact and here is the verification. This is what Richard Stallman, the accused here, said about this particular issue:

Richard Stallman wrote:

There really is a Linux, and these people are using it, but it is not the operating system. Linux is the kernel: the program in the system that allocates the machine's resources to the other programs that you run. The kernel is an essential part of an operating system, but useless by itself; it can only function in the context of a complete operating system. Linux is normally used in a combination with the GNU operating system: the whole system is basically GNU, with Linux functioning as its kernel.

Be assured that you wont find any evidence supporting the claim that RMS has called to rename the kernel from "Linux" to GNU/Linux. And the quote above confirms that RMS respects the name of the kernel as just "Linux" even though he believes that the whole system should be called GNU/Linux because the GNU system can work with various different kernels making it meaningful to recognize which of the kernels a particular GNU system is running. The most popular free operating system is the one running the Linux kernel and is hence called GNU/Linux.

If Linus Torvalds was concerned about clarity as opposed to confusion he wouldn't be making such nonfactual claims. Disagreements are something to be respected, but deliberate misinforming is not a way to promote our views. By spreading misinformation, Linus Torvalds is doing no good to the promotion of the Open Source view and certainly no good to the community as a whole.

Despite holding fundamentally incompatible views, the Open Source and the Free Software movements can coexist in cooperation on developing and promoting Free Open Source Software, but coexistence is undermined by deliberate confusing and misinforming.

What view will you support is your own decision. It might be a good idea to base it on the result of an objective scientific test applied to the outcome of both views. Linus Torvalds would support you in this quest. Eye

Linus Torvalds wrote:

That's what open source is all about. It's about _scientific_ ideals.

As for me, I would argue that in the spirit of those scientific ideals, having freedom as a prime goal as FSF does, would be the best thing to support. This is exactly what produced the "Open Source" method Linus loves so much. Smiling

Thank you
Danijel Orsolic


Digg!

Comments

Quote:It is often said

Quote:

It is often said that Open Source is just a methodology but I don't think this is not justified. Just have a look at the Open Source definition. Two of its goals are

5. No Discrimination Against Persons or Groups
6. No Discrimination Against Fields of Endeavor

Now, are these moral principles or not? I'd say: Yes, they are!

You're right. They are. But....

Quote:

Did they? Or did they need to distance themselves because Richard Stallman and the FSF failed at understanding moral principles?

But yes they did distance themselves from those ethical issues as their *core* values. The fact that some parts of the definition imply certain moral values doesn't make those moral values central to the idea of Open Source. Besides, the author of this definition, Bruce Perens, admitted himself that Open Source drifted from values of software freedom and that those should again be emphasized. It is all in the article.

Also, saying that Richard Stallman failed at understanding moral principles is quite bold. A lot of the people and events have confirmed him being right in the way he presents these issues.

Unfortunately, you've misrepresented him in your post though. Some of the things you imply aren't true..

Quote:

Your computer may be full of free software but you can still act like a complete asshole and refused to help your neighbor. For example, you may have seen guys wearing a T-Shirt saying "No, I won't fix your computer!"

Sure, the point isn't in forcing everyone to help their neighbors and act social, just enabling them to do so if they wish so that the law doesn't *force* them to act anti-socially.

Quote:

Your computer may be full of proprietary software but you can still be a nice guy and donate a few hundred dollars to your neighbor so he can buy himself the software he needs.

What do you think is a better way to help your neighbor, giving him the money and say "buy it yourself" or just handing him your copy of the thing? Your statement doesn't quite compute in reality. It is not a socially good thing to expect from someone to shell out a few hundred bucks just to be able to help someone, even though he already gave as much money for his own copy (oh wait, it still is not his own, see a problem here?).

So the only way a proprietary software user can help a friend is to break the law or buy another copy. The first is illegal and the second is anti-social towards this user. Not helping at all is anti-social towards a friend. You can't win.

I would say the freedom to distribute copies ends up being quite important after all.

Quote:

As a result, proprietary software is not immoral or evil.

Some proprietary software vendors may have good intentions, be good people, but that doesn't mean they are incapable of doing things that are wrong. I don't want to call a software vendor evil, but I would call certain practices that I find wrong, as wrong. Why is it wrong?

Well, why would it be right for a software vendor to have a complete monopoly over every copy of his software ever made on Earth even though making this copy costed him nothing and he didn't even make all these copies himself. There are different ways for him to earn money out of his software development, which don't involve imposing such vast invasion of control over computer users. We have plenty of corporations and even some small businesses making money on Free Software.

Quote:

A very similar error is done when using the word "freedom" -- yes, proprietary software requires you to accept some restrictions. However, that's nothing unusual. You're not free to steal other people's stuff, either.

Stealing has absolutely nothing to do with it. Stealing is about depriving someone of something he rightfully owns. When someone makes an additional copy of something he didn't apparently steal it, he made a *new* copy for himself. The original copy is still intact and in possession of the original owner. The original owner can charge for a service of making copies and distributing them, but it would be wrong for him to restrict other people who get these copies from sharing them.

The only case I can imagine right now when the stealing of software would occur is if you'd break into a programmers house and stole the only disk on which he had the only copy of the program he wrote. The programmer would then be deprived of his creation and that would be stealing. But when a programmer isn't deprived of his creation, he is not being robbed. Of course, if someone would break into his house and make a copy (not just take the original) he wouldn't be stealing software, he would be making a crime of breaking into someone's privacy and using someone's property without authorization. That's a whole other thing though.

Quote:

they came to the false conclusion that proprietary software -- and thus everybody making or using it -- is immoral.

You've got that just wrong. When FSF speaks of immoral they speak of actions, not people. Good people can make bad calls. Some of those bad calls may include immoral actions.

Even then, the biggest criticism is towards proprietary software vendors, much more so than users. User is not really doing anything immoral by using proprietary software if they don't recommend or force anyone else to use it, if they don't restrict anyone else but themselves.

I think you've mixed things up a bit there.

Quote:

Second, they designed the GPL to exclude users and producers of proprietary software by making it impossible to dynamically link against GPL code, creating chilling effects and acting immoral against other developers.

You've obviously forgot about the LGPL which is designed to allow for exactly that, and it has been created by the FSF. Smiling

Quote:

This is also a matter of priorities: Defending software "freedom" for users does not justfy discrimination; especially since these so-called "freedoms" are not fundamental, anyway.

It doesn't justify discrimination and no discrimination happened. You've also obviously failed to prove how those freedoms aren't fundamental.

Quote:

I would thus argue that -- in the spirit of scientific ideals -- it's better to support the Open Source movement.

Pity your arguments seem to be quite flawed. You want to base your choice on that? Alllright.. your problem. Eye

Thank you
Danijel

RE: Quote:It is often said

 
Quote:

Also, saying that Richard Stallman failed at understanding moral principles is quite bold. A lot of the people and events have confirmed him being right in the way he presents these issues.

To be true, I find that amazing myself. Looking at several of his essays, I found every single one flawed. Just look at the GNU manifesto: 9 out of 10 arguments are basically strawmen arguments.

However, just because some people have confirmed his points of view, these points are not valid. For example, why didn't they notice that 'helping my neighbor' and 'free software' are independent? Additionally, several people have also critizised his way to present the issues so I'm not alone.

Quote:

What do you think is a better way to help your neighbor, giving him the money and say "buy it yourself" or just handing him your copy of the thing?

Does the way matter to my neighbor? No, it doesn't. He wants his problem solved. I guess, many people would agree here. Your statement of one way being "more social" looks like a desperate way to fight the fact that "free software" and "Help yur neighbor" are independent.

In fact, we should look at it the other way around: What kind of neighbor would most people like to have? The one who takes the cheap road and gives you a copy of free software that costs him nothing? Or the one who is actually willing to give up something valueable to help you, such as 400 dollars? I'd prefer to have the second one living next door.

Quote:

Not helping at all is anti-social towards a friend.

Really? What do you do, then, when you neighbor asks for a Mercedes-Benz and you have none? Since you can't help him, you're anti-social according to your own logic.

However, this is not how most people would feel about it; they would simply say: "Sorry, I have no Mercedes-Benz" and never consider it wrong in any way. Which shows me that your logic is flawed, again.

Remember the moral principle is "Help your neighbor if you can." If you can't, you've done nothing wrong. If there's a neighbor on my door, and he's asking for proprietary software, and I don't have the money, I just simply say: "Sorry, can't help you!" and that's it. This is just as if he'd asked for a Mercedes-Benz which I don't have either.

Of course, you will now say: But you could have help him because it's possible to make a copy! Yeah, right! But I could do so in the car example, too: I can steal a Mercedes-Banz anytime. Of course, I won't do that since I know that wanting to help my neighbor does not justify stealing. It also does not justify breaking the contract I have with a proprietary software vendor.

Following your and Richard Stallmans logic here, the law that enables car ownership forces people to act anti-socially. Yeah, it does. It would be cool if we could all live together peacefully in paradies. But we don't. As a result, being unable to distribute copies is nothing immoral or evil.

Thus, the feature of being able to distribute copies is not a social necessity.

In fact, nobody's going to call you anti-social simply because you're not prepared to lend your neighbor a Mercedes-Benz or any other car in the world. Only Richard Stallman and friends would call you so (by analogy). This tells me a lot about Richard Stallman and his friends. Hopefully, they will never become my neighbors.

Quote:

Well, why would it be right for a software vendor to have a complete monopoly over every copy of his software ever made on Earth even though making this copy costed him nothing and he didn't even make all these copies himself.

Your so-called "monopoly" is only created in certain special cases. You should not think in terms of Microsoft all day. In most other cases, there are many close substitutes for a given software package -- if "Doom" is twice as expensive as any other game, most people would simply buy a different game.

There are cases of monopoly power, no doubt about it. However, calling all proprietary software wrong because some of them misuse their market power, is logically false. We should fight the few monopolies, not all software vendors.

To make this absolutely clear: If you'd like to have free software, no problem! If you find people satisfying your demand, have fun! Note, however, that this is not a question of moral and ethics but of your personal and subjective preference -- ie. features of the license.

Quote:

... but it would be wrong for him to restrict other people ...

No, it would not, and I guess many people agree with me here. Effectively, the original creator and author is the owner of a work because nobody is able to prevent him from destroying his own work at the beginning, before it was published at all. There would be nothing to copy without his decision to publish.

Thus, from a public point of view, it makes sense to make the creator the owner of the software. If he wants to share it freely, he still can under a good Open Source license. ;-)

Quote:

You've obviously forgot about the LGPL ...

No, I didn't. In fact, the mere existence of the LGPL supports my point that the GPL is designed for the purpose of discrimination. Otherwise, why would we need the LGPL, anyway? Or the other variants of the GPL that have linking exceptions?

OpenOffice shows that there's no disadvantage when using the LGPL for applications so what's the purpose of the GPL if not discriminating?

Quote:

You've also obviously failed to prove how those freedoms aren't fundamental.

As far as I can see, people are trading these so-called freedoms all day to get a different (ie. non-free) product. And they do so without being forced.

According to my definition of "fundamental freedom", it's absolutely sufficient to have one guy or gal trading these "freedoms" for a better product. And since lots of people do so every day, I think I'm justified to call these "freedoms" not fundamental.

Quote:

Pity your arguments seem to be quite flawed. You want to base your choice on that? Alllright.. your problem.

Well, I can say the same about your arguments as shown above. They also seem to be quite flawed. And you want to base your choice on that? ;-)

Of course, you're free to use whatever you like -- that's indeed a fundamental freedom, btw. Note that you're one of the guys who take this freedom away from others in the long run (imaging a GPL monopoly in 25 years or so).

People willing to act moral should thus support the Open Source movement.

 

Comparing physical property to digital bits doesn't work. If you would like a copy of my Mercedes-Benz and I was able to make an exact duplicate of mine at virtually no cost, then sure, I'd be happy to do that for you. Unfortunately, that's not possible today.

But: I can give you a copy of my source code without losing the use of it, just as you may light your candle at mine and receive light without darkening me.

Quote:For example, why

Quote:

For example, why didn't they notice that 'helping my neighbor' and 'free software' are independent?

Because it is not. You are holding on to that distinction trying to prove something, but even you contradict yourself. In both of your posts you claim that these two things are not related and yet in your first post you said the following:

Quote:

Having the right to redistribute copies only makes helping your neighbor cheaper.

Really? So it doesn't seem quite that true that the two issues are so independent of each other. Even if it makes it only easier (which it indeed does), there is an apparent relation.

Your self-contradicting arguments just don't work.

Quote:

Your statement of one way being "more social" looks like a desperate way to fight the fact that "free software" and "Help yur neighbor" are independent.

What does that make your insistence on maintaining this distinction? Sounds quite desperate to me. Do you have anything better to back yourself up with?

Quote:

In fact, we should look at it the other way around: What kind of neighbor would most people like to have? The one who takes the cheap road and gives you a copy of free software that costs him nothing? Or the one who is actually willing to give up something valueable to help you, such as 400 dollars? I'd prefer to have the second one living next door.

I would like to have a neighbor who is reasonable enough to realize that he does not have to give up control over his computer, and then even pay for this, to some proprietary software monopolist. I'd like a neighbor who would use Free Software so that he can cooperate and share with me (and vice versa) without that resulting in blank pockets or illegal underground "cracking" of software.

It seems to me in your world the best neighbors are rich people and worst are the poor.

I prefer a world that provides fair chances to everyone, not just those who can afford to pay an extortionist price for a software he never owns.

Quote:

Really? What do you do, then, when you neighbor asks for a Mercedes-Benz and you have none? Since you can't help him, you're anti-social according to your own logic.

You're missing the whole point. Not only is software not a physical thing while Mercedes-Benz is, but the issue revolves more around your rights than your wallet. If it would be illegal to borrow or even give someone a Mercedes-Benz once you bought it, wouldn't that be bad and anti-social to both the owner of the car and a friend who the owner wanted to give or borrow it to?

If I pay for a piece of software, shouldn't I have the right to share and copy it to whoever I like? It doesn't deprive the original owner of his copy, so what's the problem? Oh, right, the bottom line. The owner absolutely must get a tax on every copy ever made of his software. That's apparently the paramount principle you're defending here.

Quote:

Of course, you will now say: But you could have help him because it's possible to make a copy! Yeah, right! But I could do so in the car example, too: I can steal a Mercedes-Banz anytime.

Does making a copy of your browser deprive the maker of that browser of their own copy?

No.

Does stealing a Mercedes-Benz from someone deprive them of that car?

Yes.

Can you see the difference?

But proprietary software is licensed in a way which makes creating a copy without paying a full price again, illegal. Why? To maximize profits of that software vendor? Of course, what else would it be. You try to justify that, but I see it as unfair extortion.

You would say that if it weren't so the vendor would lose money he could have made on all those copies, but that would be like saying that a potential bank robber would lose money if he doesn't rob a bank, and hence it would be justifiable for him to rob a bank.

Quote:

Following your and Richard Stallmans logic here, the law that enables car ownership forces people to act anti-socially.

No, by mine and RMS's logic private car ownership is a good thing that should be protected. If I bought it then it is mine.

If I bought a copy of software it is mine too. Why should someone be able to restrict me from modifying it, sharing it with someone else or making whatever amount of other copies that I want? Why should someone be able to restrict me from modifying or borrowing a car that I bought?

Why should someone be able to impose restrictions (through proprietary software) on the way I can use my computer by denying me the right to use it to copy certain pieces of software that *I* put on it?

All of these things are my property. My car, my computer, and my copies of software.

What we are doing is exactly defending private property rights of individuals from imposition of control over this property by someone who should have no business in it (even though they believe they do, just as a bank robber may believe his business is in robbing a bank).

Quote:

Your so-called "monopoly" is only created in certain special cases. You should not think in terms of Microsoft all day. In most other cases, there are many close substitutes for a given software package -- if "Doom" is twice as expensive as any other game, most people would simply buy a different game.

I am not talking about the domination of one software package over a given market. I am talking about domination of one vendor over all copies of a specific software package that he created. It is a monopoly on copying a given package that I believe is unfair too.

It is true, though, that by nature proprietary software has a greater tendencies of creating monopolies of the kind you are talking about as well. When the source code is withheld only one vendor can offer support for it. When you can't do anything with a piece of software without the approval of the vendor (who only cares about his bottom line) the potential to innovate is so much lower than it would be if the vendor allowed others to share among themselves, study the code and cooperate on making the original better as well as deriving new exciting innovative things on it. It is obvious that Free Software provides for a much more competitive market than proprietary software. In fact, Free Software restores the free market as it was supposed to be. In that sense, Free Software helps restore the original ideal of free market capitalism.

Quote:

There would be nothing to copy without his decision to publish.

A decision to publish bears a responsibility. When software is unpublished and used only by a programmer for his private needs, it affects only himself. When he publishes his software by providing copies (for a fee or for free) the software affects many more people. Does he have a right to impose control over the way all these people can use this software, and restrict them from modifying it or duplicating and sharing their copies with others?

I know what we're talking about here. It's all about the money. Many programmers publish their software only in order to make money on it. But there is a problem with their business plan. The plan is to first get people to pay them for a copy, but then once they payed deny them the right to actually own this copy and do with it what they want.

It is akin to someone selling you a car and then denying you the right to sell this car to someone else, as if you were not the rightful owner of it.

This business plan is extortionist as it lures people to buy software and then once they do it still expects them to pay over and over again for every other copy they want to have.

Quote:

No, I didn't. In fact, the mere existence of the LGPL supports my point that the GPL is designed for the purpose of discrimination. Otherwise, why would we need the LGPL, anyway? Or the other variants of the GPL that have linking exceptions?

Don't mud around. You've accused Richard Stallman and FSF of discriminating. Guess what. Richard Stallman wrote both the GPL and LGPL. If he was a discriminator that you put him to be, why would he write LGPL and even defend it when people ask about it? He usually says that in many cases LGPL makes sense and is necessary. This is where he is a pragmatic.

Quote:

According to my definition of "fundamental freedom", it's absolutely sufficient to have one guy or gal trading these "freedoms" for a better product. And since lots of people do so every day, I think I'm justified to call these "freedoms" not fundamental.

The fact that people often trade their freedoms for conveniences doesn't make those freedoms any less fundamental.

Good luck to yourself when you trade your freedom of speech for some delicious treat one day. Then I'll ask you how fundamental this freedom really way.

Incredible to see someone talk about freedoms as if they were some sort of a market commodity.

Quote:

Of course, you're free to use whatever you like -- that's indeed a fundamental freedom, btw.

Until you sell that one too away for some nice irresistible thing you at the moment deem to be more important. Following your reasoning above, that would be perfectly cool.

Quote:

Note that you're one of the guys who take this freedom away from others in the long run (imaging a GPL monopoly in 25 years or so).

Did I put a gun to your head forcing you to produce and use only GPLed software? What a foolish thing to say.

If GPL will dominate in 25 years it would be by the choice of the people, not by the force of RMS or whoever.

When someone chooses a proprietary software, what does Stallman say or do? He merely calls it sad, turns away and continues his talk on why is it better to choose Free Software instead.

And you guys almost portray him and the FSF as some sort of a rising dictator.

Incredible.

Quote: There would be

 
Quote:

There would be nothing to copy without his decision to publish.

With that argument, your car manufacturer should be able to control where you drive. After all, there would be no car to drive if it wasn't for them?

The OEM should be able to control the computer...
The carpenter should be able to control where you put your furniture...

exaggerating

 
libervisco wrote:

And you guys almost portray him and the FSF as some sort of a rising dictator.

Incredible.

That's an exaggeration.

Re: Mercedes-Benz

 

First, let me try to clarify the Mercedes-Benz example. Some pointed out that it's wrong to compare physical goods with physical ones since one can copy the later at no costs. These people misunderstood the example.

The Mercedes-Benz example was not intended to compare digital with physical goods, it was intended to compare the feelings of a person who got ask for a favor by his neighbor. Let's compare again:

  1. When asked for a Mercedes-Benz you don't own, you are not restricted to help your neighbor de facto -- since you can steal a car anytime. You are restricted by law (de jure).
  2. With proprietary software, you are not restricted to help your neighbor de facto -- since you can make a copy. You are restricted by contract (de jure).

In both cases, the restriction is by law or contract -- one may call it "artifical". However, both cases are indeed comparable. In both cases, the core question is whether you would feel guilty for not helping your neighbor.

  1. In the Mercedes-Benz example, nobody would feel guilty for not helping the neighbor.
  2. In the proprietary software example, nobody would feel guilty for not helping the neighbor as well.

If you're feeling guilty in the second example, you should also feel guilty in the first example. Those people should indeed say that car ownership creates anti-social behavior and should be stopped.

Second, the next thing to understand is the idea that "ownership" creates a false comparison from my point of view -- there's simply not ownership of digital goods just like physical goods because both differ in the costs of creating copies.

So what about the concept "contract" as a better base to compare these goods?

There are quite a lot of contracts which restrict you to do something you are normally able to do. In fact, this is the very idea of a contract: A promise between two persons to restrict each other's "freedoms", secured by law.

For example, if a house builder signs a contract to build a house before a certain date, he cannot change how the house looks, how it's build, and when it's build. The other party, the house buyer, is not free to spend his money for a different house. Without a contract, both would be free to create houses they like. Both would be free to spend their money how they like. However, under the contract, both are restricted.

With this in mind, let's have a look at some questions and statements:

Quote:

If I bought it then it is mine.

Yes. Unfortunately, you didn't buy proprietary software. You just paid a price to be able to use it. You can also pay someone to be able to use a car, but this doesn't make it your property. It depends on the contract. You're free to reject these kind of contracts and accept others you find fair.

Quote:

If I pay for a piece of software, shouldn't I have the right to share and copy it to whoever I like?

No. You've signed a contract that you should have know before, and you've paid only for a certain set of features. These exclude the right to share and copy. People who don't like it are free to refuse the offer anytime and choose an offer that includes these rights. No harm done to anybody.

Quote:

It doesn't deprive the original owner of his copy, so what's the problem? Oh, right, the bottom line.

Well, yes. So what? If you tell people that no copy harms the producer, you are lying to them. This is just like the RIAA and the MPAA who tell people that every copy harms the producers which is also a lie, obviously.

According to basic economics, some of these free copies harm the producers and some do not. This is due to some people willing to pay the price if there would be no free copies, and some people not willing to pay the price although they would use a free copy.

Quote:

Does he have a right to impose control over the way all these people can use this software, and restrict them from modifying it or duplicating and sharing their copies with others?

Yes, he has. A contract is initially just an offer, and if people are willing to sign the contract, they should accept the restrictions. What you are complaining about is that other users have no problem to sign the contract and you're thus in a sort-of minority position. This is bad for you, but no reason to call proprietary software evil or wrong.

Quote:

Does making a copy of your browser deprive the maker of that browser of their own copy?

See above: Some of these copies reduce him of wealth, yes.

And there's no argument that some people should have the right to improve the wealth of their neighbors instead -- just because they happen to be neighbors to somebody.

I understand that you think this is unfair because you picture large, multinational corporations with lots of power and influence. However, when you talk about proprietary software, you're also talking about small one-man companies where the developer is the owner. He just likes to be able to feed his wife and daughter. He may not be able to offer a sufficient amount of service contracts because his time is restricted, too. Don't let your prejudice about large corporations fool you into generalizing.

Quote:

All of these things are my property. My car, my computer, and my copies of software.

No. You should start reading the contract texts you sign. Your inability to do so doesn't make proprietary software wrong and evil.

Quote:

Incredible to see someone talk about freedoms as if they were some sort of a market commodity.

I understand that you have problem with that concept. However, your confusion is circular: If you don't assume these features to be "freedoms", there's is no confusion. On the other hand, if you assume them as features of a contract, then you should understand why trading (ie. choosing a non-free software with better technical features instead of a free software with less technical features) is no problem.

For example, if you decided to use KDE, you also traded its features against the ones of GNOME. You can't use both at the same time. The features of the other possibility are gone during that session. This is usual for all kinds of decisions.

a thing wrote:

With that argument, your car manufacturer should be able to control where you drive.

If a car manufacturer offers me a contract to drive a car for 1/100 of the regular buying price under the restriction that I cannot drive anywhere I like, this is an offer some people may accept. So, factually a car manufacturer is able to control that if he wants to.

In fact, some contracts from car rentals like Budget or so may include clauses that forbid people to drive anywhere they like (in a foreign country, for example). This is nothing unusual (at least where I live).

Quote:

Free Software restores the free market as it was supposed to be. In that sense, Free Software helps restore the original ideal of free market capitalism.

Really? Then, I guess you're able to show historic documents that describe how the free market was "supposed to be". ;-)

In fact, your so-called "original ideal" is probably just your personal idea of how it should look like. Economists have no problem with copyright as a foundation for the market; they just have a problem with some monopolies. However, monopolies are nothing new in economics.

Third, let's have a look at the moral of the story of other people's neighbors:

Quote:

So it doesn't seem quite that true that the two issues are so independent of each other. Even if it makes it only easier (which it indeed does), there is an apparent relation.

Yes, you're right - both issues are not totally unrelated to each other. However, we were talking about the moral value and concerning the moral value, these two sentences are indeed independent.

Otherwise any price reduction by any vendors on the world would justify a moral statement: "Gosh, Wall-mart just reduced prices. It's now cheaper to help your neighbor! Isn't this a moral company?"

Most people would consider statements such as these meaning- and useless.

Of course, you're entitled to continue to use meaningless figures of speech for proving your point. I'll let other readers decides whether this makes sense.

With all that said, the only rationale you have for calling proprietary software immoral, unethical, unjust, wrong or evil are your personal "feelings". Feelings, however, cannot prove these points. They are a matter of personal preferences, not ethics.

Thus I think I justified to say: People who believe in rational arguments -- in scientific reasoning -- should support the Open Source movement.

Quote: The Mercedes-Benz

Quote:

The Mercedes-Benz example was not intended to compare digital with physical goods, it was intended to compare the feelings of a person who got ask for a favor by his neighbor. Let's compare again:

1. When asked for a Mercedes-Benz you don't own, you are not restricted to help your neighbor de facto -- since you can steal a car anytime. You are restricted by law (de jure).
2. With proprietary software, you are not restricted to help your neighbor de facto -- since you can make a copy. You are restricted by contract (de jure).

There is a big difference between stealing a car and making a copy of software. I have already clearly explained that difference. No-one is deprived of software when someone makes a copy. Someone IS deprived of a car when someone steals it. While you rightfully equate the two on the level of mere legality, the implications make the two actions so different that the comparison ceases to make sense.

Quote:

In both cases, the restriction is by law or contract -- one may call it "artifical". However, both cases are indeed comparable. In both cases, the core question is whether you would feel guilty for not helping your neighbor.

1. In the Mercedes-Benz example, nobody would feel guilty for not helping the neighbor.
2. In the proprietary software example, nobody would feel guilty for not helping the neighbor as well.

I would certainly feel much worse in the second case if I refused to help even though I know that helping wont deprive anyone of anything, because by giving a friend a copy I am not depriving the author of the original copy from that software. But in order to escape choosing between illegal sharing and this bad feeling I choose to use Free Software where I am free to share.

What you're trying to say with this comparison is basically that proprietary software vendors are ok to restrict people from helping each other even though this sharing wont hurt the vendor. You argue it is not anti-social to refuse to share when the letter of contract forbids it, as if the letter of contract can't make people do anti-social things.

There is no such justification.

Quote:

Second, the next thing to understand is the idea that "ownership" creates a false comparison from my point of view -- there's simply not ownership of digital goods just like physical goods because both differ in the costs of creating copies.

So you seem to agree with me that there is a difference? Finally! Funny though you are starting to invalidate your own previous argument by this statement.

However, the implication you are making with this is not correct. While software as a whole cannot be owned by anyone, a single copy of software can be owned as by owning a copy you don't own a monopoly on the piece of software it represents. I can destroy my copy, I can modify it, I can share it or I can duplicate it. Licenses like GPL guarantee those freedoms. GPL as a contract merely poses certain requirements that do not go against any of these rights, but merely make sure that when creating a new copy and giving it to someone else, that someone else owns that copy as much as I own my own.

Just as there is a difference between owning light and owning a lamp, there is a difference between owning information (in this case in form of software) and a single copy as a representation of some information.

Quote:

Yes. Unfortunately, you didn't buy proprietary software. You just paid a price to be able to use it. You can also pay someone to be able to use a car, but this doesn't make it your property. It depends on the contract. You're free to reject these kind of contracts and accept others you find fair.

In a world where all software is leased, vendors own all of it and people own nothing and are as such divided from each other by the terms of these contracts. Doesn't seem like this kind of software leasing is a good thing for society at all. It does make the need for Free Software an utter necessity, not just an additional cool choice of contracts.

That said, I indeed find such contracts to be unfair and I therefore urge everyone not to ever accept them. If you find it fair for yourself that's unfortunate. This choice ultimately depends on one person's individual valuation of their own rights and based on that how much of it are they willing to give up.

Quote:

According to basic economics, some of these free copies harm the producers and some do not. This is due to some people willing to pay the price if there would be no free copies, and some people not willing to pay the price although they would use a free copy.

I've addressed this reasoning with my bank robber example. Just because he can rob a bank doesn't mean he lost when he doesn't do it.

Basic economics of bank robbers and other kinds of extortionists maybe.

Quote:

Yes, he has. A contract is initially just an offer, and if people are willing to sign the contract, they should accept the restrictions. What you are complaining about is that other users have no problem to sign the contract and you're thus in a sort-of minority position. This is bad for you, but no reason to call proprietary software evil or wrong.

I call it as I see it and I see it as wrong. Can't there be a contract that is unfair? I consider those kinds of contracts as unfair and unethical. Just because they can get people to sign them doesn't make them right, nor does it make those people any less restricted when they enter the contract and many do enter it unknowingly, or because they have no other choice. Many do not even know there is an alternative choice.

I urge people to raise awareness of this issue so that they know what they are getting themselves into and know that there is a better way, that they do not need to accept such unfair restrictions.

Quote:

And there's no argument that some people should have the right to improve the wealth of their neighbors instead -- just because they happen to be neighbors to somebody.

That's a straw. I'm talking about sharing with others you encounter in general, certainly not limited to neighboring people.

Quote:

I understand that you think this is unfair because you picture large, multinational corporations with lots of power and influence. However, when you talk about proprietary software, you're also talking about small one-man companies where the developer is the owner. He just likes to be able to feed his wife and daughter. He may not be able to offer a sufficient amount of service contracts because his time is restricted, too. Don't let your prejudice about large corporations fool you into generalizing.

I don't picture only large corporations and I've already talked about this in response to the same argument you made mentioning "Microsoft" instead of "large corporations". But does it make a difference in principle if one man offers an unfair contract or thousand men as part of a corporation? It is still an unfair contract.

I can sympathize with someone wanting to feed their family, but there are various methods to do it and programming is certainly not the only one. If he wants to earn money doing programming he can do so without offering unfair contracts on his software since there are other business models, custom coding, support, selling single copies and bundles (rather than licenses), working for a GNU/Linux corporation etc.

I am not sure it's worth responding point by point further. According to you, all contracts are fair ones if someone agrees to them and hence, however draconian restrictions may be, they are OK if you can get someone to agree to it. I just cannot be convinced by that kind of reasoning. It's like saying that just because people do bad things, bad things are OK.

In your worldview there is very little of which can be considered unfair and unethical apparently. I wonder what's the point of arguing with such a relativist anyway, when you will relativize and then twist everything.

Assume I live in a country

 

Assume I live in a country where theft is legal. I have set up a nice little business stealing bicycles and then selling them to people at the railway station who look like they need bicycles. (actually many junkies over here do exactly that, but of course it's illegal).

Now my country introduces a law against theft. I complain it breaks my business model. Am I right to complain?

Imagine I had a business model that doesn't make use of a missing law, but of a law that should be different or maybe even shouldn't exist. Does that make my situation any different?

If the law makes something legal and profitable, that doesn't make it right.

Let's think about what the artificial restrictions of copyright law are meant for. The goal is to make creative work more profitable. Is this still necessary? The most rich guy in the world would still make more than enough money if copyright law were made a little less restrictive. "But what about the little guys who are too small to do both coding and services?" you say? Well, those small guys need to make only a very small change to their business model: cooperate (merge) to improve efficiency, and then they can provide services after all.

So, at least for software, the artificial restrictions called "copyright law" could be loosened without harming creativity. Indeed it might be better for the promotion of creativity to make copyright less restrictive!

not a contract

 
libervisco wrote:

GPL as a contract

It's not a contract.

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