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ESR Writes About O'Reilly and FSF Differences

CmdrTaco posted more than 13 years ago | from the not-anything-really-surprising dept.

News 499

dopplex writes: "Over here at Linux Today, Eric S. Raymond has written an amusing piece in which A.) He analyzes the way in which we use the word freedom, B.) Examines the point of view of both O'Reilly and the FSF on 'freedom' and C.) Coins the term 'flerbage,' which I hereby suggest be put into immediate use, just because it's a really cool word." It's cheesy but it is a good way for people to understand the difference between Open Source and Free Software. (Oh, and I figured I'd just mention that I'll never use that F word since I think its stupid)

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He Got it Right! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#2193993)

CmdrTaco used "it's"!!! Huzzah!!! Congratulations; the world respects you more now, Rob. You're willing to learn.

AND BY THE WAY (-1, Offtopic)

sabat (23293) | more than 13 years ago | (#2194006)

FIRST POST

Doesn't everyone have a slightly different idea? (1)

JWCoder (471074) | more than 13 years ago | (#2193994)

When will we see the "analyization" of the common /.er vs. RMS?

Re:Doesn't everyone have a slightly different idea (-1, Flamebait)

Kike Meister (443880) | more than 13 years ago | (#2194084)

ESR is a dirty GNU/hippy

So is RMS

Re:Doesn't everyone have a slightly different idea (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#2194086)

the common slashdotter prefers being "analized" by Linus Torvalds.

Re:Doesn't everyone have a slightly different idea (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#2194088)

This is ESR, not RMS.

The primary difference between the two is that RMS looks like a dirty old hippie, while ESR has the appearence of a child-molester/NAMBLA member.

RMS is also a raving control freak, [linuxprogramming.com] while ESR is by all accounts just [tuxedo.org] plain [tuxedo.org] nuts. [tuxedo.org]

Hope this clears things up!

Re:Doesn't everyone have a slightly different idea (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#2194171)

I had no idea ESR was nutty like Magnum and Moses. Up until I saw his guns page, I actually respected him.

Um. Yeah. (-1, Offtopic)

ChrisUK (92178) | more than 13 years ago | (#2193999)

Cool.

blehk (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#2194000)

penice!

Linux Today... (5, Funny)

NewbieSpaz (172080) | more than 13 years ago | (#2194004)

Shouldn't that be "GNU/LINUX Today"...?

;)

Re:Linux Today... (3, Interesting)

Uruk (4907) | more than 13 years ago | (#2194134)

Yes, it should be.

I think lots of slashdotters are really keen on making fun of this, particularly when they think there are a few quick karma points to grab, but not many have read it straight from the source.

Rather than listening to a bunch of slashdotters make fun of things, why not read what the FSF has to say about it [gnu.org] . Far from being crazy, the argument for GNU/Linux sounds pretty damn good to me. People scream about not getting credit for their code, they scream about free software or "open-source" not getting recognition for the fact that it acts as the internet infrastructure, but they don't particularly feel like giving credit to the foundation of their own system. And we're not talking about ticker tape parades - we're talking about 3 letters and a slash.

For those who want to call it Linux, I'd just suggest this: try running your favorite distro after subtracting all of the GNU system. Have fun.

Re:Linux Today... (5, Insightful)

Waffle Iron (339739) | more than 13 years ago | (#2194162)

For those who want to call it Linux, I'd just suggest this: try running your favorite distro after subtracting all of the GNU system. Have fun.


Try running your favorite distro after subtracting all of the NON-GNU software (Apache, Perl, Python, vim, etc..). Not much fun either; yet none of those developers are clamoring to get their names prefixed to the system.

Re:Linux Today... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#2194182)

All the other software that is non-GNU is important and good software, but it's not the bedrock of GNU/Linux.

See, you can run GNU/Linux without Apache, without Python, without perl, and without Vim. You cannot run Linux without GNU.

If the GNU system's utility to Linux were roughly on the level that "notepad.exe" has utility to windows, then I would agree that GNU/Linux is silly. But Linux without GNU is like Windows without explorer.

irrelevant (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#2194194)

The bottom line is this: It's Linus Torvald's OS and he can name it whatever he likes. If the FSF wants credit for everywhere their stuff is included, they shoulda put it in the GPL. Technically, you can say Linux is just the kernel, but it's really hard to split hairs like this to laypeople. They'll just call it whatever they feel like and no amount of whining and complaing about fairness and credit will change this.

Re:Linux Today... (1)

NNKK (218503) | more than 13 years ago | (#2194198)

Oh? Why should it be? I could construct a Linux system, prehaps for an embedded device, that uses little or no GNU software, and it could get covered by LinuxToday, because it IS Linux.

C'mon people, drop the nit picking when it doesn't really matter.
If someone says "Linux is too big for an embedded system", tell them that they're thinking of GNU/Linux. If someone asks what the difference between GNU and Linux is, tell them. Don't go nit picking over what exactly to call something based around "Linux".

He should watch his mouth (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#2194007)

Sounds like real trouble. You're going to need plenty of legal advice before this thing is over.

As your attorney, I advise you to rent a very fast car with no top. And you'll need the cocaine.

Tape recorder for special music. Acapulco shirts.
Get the hell out of LA for at least 48 hours.

Re:He should watch his mouth (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#2194018)

Classic book/movie. But that doesn't mean you should post the same part over and over. Break it up. Regurgitate different parts all over slashdot. This gives you a better chance of being read and will probably waste a good 10-20 moderator points for clueless moderators (Depending of course on how many you post).
Also, wait a little bit and watch for posts/threads that are high up, or seem to be going that way, and post a few different lines in that thread.

Re:He should watch his mouth (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#2194165)

thanks for the tips, I will compile a list of rotatable fear and loathing snippets immediately.

2.2 code is rubbish. (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#2194008)

Invalid form key: 1styWsP53e !

2.2 code is rubbish.

Re:2.2 code is rubbish. (0, Offtopic)

masq (316580) | more than 13 years ago | (#2194073)

I've been getting those for a couple days, too. I switched from Opera to Netscape, and it seems to work okay.

But, as always, YMMV.
(Your Mileage May Vary)

Quote from ESR (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#2194013)

Here's the first and most important one: if you two could get a law passed making proprietary licenses illegal, would you do it?

If their answer is "no", then the dispute with Tim is over. Because that will mean they do recognize a right for developers to choose licenses as they will without being killed, jailed, or threatened for choosing the "wrong" one.

No I wouldn't, but I wouldn't pass a law that made abortion illegal either, even though I think its morally wrong. I just see the freedom to choose as outweighing the freedoms of those who lose out. That's also why I support the BSD license - I'm pro-choice.

Re:Quote from ESR (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#2194203)

Abortion? Check out esr's gun page.
He would probably recommend a post-natal abortion using a colt 45.

Fucking NRA nazi.

Foundation for Software Freedom (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#2194020)

I've always thought that the FSF should change their name to the "Foundation for Software Freedom" and stop using the "Free" moniker. They would *still* be the FSF, but we'd no longer have the confusion between "beer" and "speech".

Besides, although "free as in beer" is nice, and attracts the great unwashed hordes, "free as in speech" is going to determine whether we live or die. Patents, copyrights, the DCMA, EULAs, the UTICA, trade secrets, Congress, Disney, and an army of lawyers can't stop free... but their doing a great job of smashing our freedoms into the ground...

Time to write another check to the EFF.

He makes a valid point, but... (2)

rknop (240417) | more than 13 years ago | (#2194022)

...I disagree that open source developers should stop talking about freedom. We all accept that even though flerbage sounds nice, it will not go into the mainstream as a term. "Open source," as a term, is *far* more vague than "free software." Although the OSI defines Open Source in such a way that it's much like free software, the term itself is easy to use to describe entirely limited proprietary software where you happen to get to see the source code.



Although ESR makes valid points about the FSF perhaps going overboard in wanting to outlaw the use of proprietary software licenses, it is important to stress that freedom of use for the users is in fact what distinguishes non-proprietary software from proprietary software. For that reason, I agree with Bruce Perens that we need to keep talking about freedom-- even if we don't all agree 100% about exactly what it means.



-Rob

Re:He makes a valid point, but... (2)

Reality Master 101 (179095) | more than 13 years ago | (#2194044)

"Open source," as a term, is *far* more vague than "free software."

Yes it is, but in a good way. It's often better to have a term that has no meaning, but encourages someone to find out what it means, than a term that is almost always going to be misunderstood and no one has any incentive to correct themselves.

There's no getting around the fact that 95% of people hearing "free software" are not going to think of freedom.

Flerbage (2, Funny)

OO7david (159677) | more than 13 years ago | (#2194023)

...Coins the term 'flerbage,' which I hereby suggest be put into immediate use, just because it's a really cool word.

I think the author did that nicely himself; flerbage count in the article: fourteen.

Excellent (5, Insightful)

Reality Master 101 (179095) | more than 13 years ago | (#2194025)

He has neatly summarized my problem with Stallman, the FSF and the GPL. The big problem with Stallman is that he believes that users should have power over programmers, which I find absurd. The programmers are the creator of the work, and thus should have the "freedom" (there's that word again) to choose how their work is used.

It seems like the height of tyranny for an ungrateful rabble of users to in essence say, "Thanks for creating this product that we find useful. However, that's not damn good enough. It's not enough for us to have the freedom whether to use your product or not, you should be required to develop your software according to OUR requirements."

I hate to borrow from Libertarian philosophy, but a right is not a right if you require coercion of another person.

I also look forward to hearing Stallman's response to whether they would be in favor of laws enforcing software "freedom" GPL-style.

Re:Excellent (2)

rknop (240417) | more than 13 years ago | (#2194030)

He has neatly summarized my problem with Stallman, the FSF and the GPL.

...err, I can see where he's identified some objections to Stallman and the FSF. But where did he summarize anything that could be seen as an objection to the GPL?

-Rob

Re:Excellent (1)

aussersterne (212916) | more than 13 years ago | (#2194045)

That ungrateful rabble of users is the human race. Why hate it so? It gave rise to your mother, to your father, and to you, and your children will depend on it for their own livelihoods.

At least give the users a little respect. After all, why create software, if not for the users? Oh yes... for the cash. I find that position distasteful indeed.

Re:Excellent (2)

bnenning (58349) | more than 13 years ago | (#2194106)

After all, why create software, if not for the users? Oh yes... for the cash. I find that position distasteful indeed.


Um, how do you think a large percentage of /. readers make their living? There would be much less free/open source software if its authors weren't able to get paid writing code for their day jobs.

Re:Excellent (1)

aussersterne (212916) | more than 13 years ago | (#2194116)

I didn't mean subsistence cash -- i.e. cash for food. I meant cash, as in Bill G. and $50 billion in personal fun.

Everyone should be compensated for the valuable work they do for society. But to refuse to do that work unless you can become more wealthy than most everyone else (as is the case in the tech industry) is evil and selfish.

Re:Excellent (1)

Zimm (94553) | more than 13 years ago | (#2194190)

At least give the users a little respect. After all, why create software, if not for the users? Oh yes... for the cash. I find that position distasteful indeed.

You find the idea that a person wants/needs to feed his/her family distateful? I find that offensive.

Why would such a person develop software? (2)

underwhelm (53409) | more than 13 years ago | (#2194081)

If you are developing software for general distribution, wouldn't you accept suggestions for improvement? I think it is perticularly libertarian to view a suggestion as a coersion.

Now, if you wrote some code, and I thought I could use it somehow else, we'll I'd like to see it changed. I might do it if the source were available and I could leave you alone... but if the source is closed (under NDA, shielded by the DMCA), then I have no recourse but to ask you to make the changes for me.

It just smacks as selfish that you'd write some reasonable code for public use and then keep the source all to yourself, not even letting me modify it for my purposes for no other reason that "gee that's coersion, somehow."

Re:Excellent (1)

Xoro (201854) | more than 13 years ago | (#2194094)

The programmers are the creator of the work, and thus should have the "freedom" (there's that word again) to choose how their work is used.


Wait a minute...I thought that was the advantage of GPL over BSD-style licenses. GPL allows the creator of the work to set terms for use of source code, BSD makes no such allowances. I saw nothing in the article or links to suggest that the FSF suggested outlawing proprietary software (though they may have, and I just don't know). But by your logic, shouldn't the "creator of the work" be allowed to choose whether his work may be used in such works?

Re:Excellent (2)

An Ominous Coward (13324) | more than 13 years ago | (#2194131)

The GPL was created to combat copyright laws using those laws themselves. If the law was designed around community rights instead of developer rights then there wouldn't be a need for the GPL.

Re:Excellent (5, Insightful)

Uruk (4907) | more than 13 years ago | (#2194097)

It seems like the height of tyranny for an ungrateful rabble of users to in essence say, "Thanks for creating this product that we find useful. However, that's not damn good enough

The fundamental divide I think is that the FSF doesn't think software should have owners. It sounds like you're getting pissed at users acting that way because the developer should own and control the software - or as you put it "the freedom to choose how their work is used".

GNU believes that programs are generally useful technical information. Most people think that patenting math formulas is bullshit. I don't really see much of a difference, since in both cases they're generally useful technical information.

I hate to borrow from Libertarian philosophy, but a right is not a right if you require coercion of another person

I agree - but put a different spin on it. Who are you to say that I cannot cooperate with my neighbor by sharing generally useful technical information with them? Who are you to throw me in jail because I copied something I bought to a CD? Who are you to call me a 'pirate' (and equate me with someone who robs, murders and rapes ships) when I'm helping my friends and coworkers out? From my perspective, distributing non-free software is coercion - it's coercing users *not* to help their friends. It's coercing them to avoid using and spreading generally useful technical information in many circumstances.

Life is all about gathering, spreading, and exploiting technically useful information. If you disagree with me, disagree with me that computer programs are technically useful information. But without the ability to use, spread, and gather good technically useful information, we're never going to evolve and get off of this planet.

Re:Excellent (4, Informative)

rgmoore (133276) | more than 13 years ago | (#2194176)

I agree - but put a different spin on it. Who are you to say that I cannot cooperate with my neighbor by sharing generally useful technical information with them? Who are you to throw me in jail because I copied something I bought to a CD?

Hear, Hear! This is exactly the point that RMS gets and ESR misses- which is surprising given that ESR is a libertarian. All software licenses are inherently coercive; they use the power of the State through the means of copyright to restrict the rights of the user. The difference between a Free Software license and a proprietary license is that a Free Software license uses that power for the benefit of all (by restricting obnoxious behavior) while a proprietary license uses it for the sole benefit of the writer (by restricting socially beneficial uses like sharing). And sadly, the mere existence of Free Software does not defang the power of proprietary licenses. Big software houses like Microsoft can still engage in serious legal harrassment of just about any computer using business even if they don't actually use any Microsoft software.

Libertarians should hate ESR for this (5, Insightful)

abe ferlman (205607) | more than 13 years ago | (#2194144)

I hate to borrow from Libertarian philosophy, but a right is not a right if you require coercion of another person.


Copyright is nothing but a government granted monopoly. Wake up! If the government does not coerce people *not* to copy your stuff, then copyright doesn't exist.


Libertarianism requires government non-interference into the marketplace. Copyright is a direct intervention into the marketplace. Despite the fact that its intentions are good, it does not work, and it causes a whole heap of coercion along the way.


Property rights make some sense when they are attached to items that are scarce. Information, however, is not naturally scarce (although the ability to create it may be). Would libertarian ethics allow other sorts of interventions into the marketplace to guarantee innovation? For instance, what if it was found that better music would be created if only people with masters degrees in composition (or licensed students) were allowed to create music. Think of how much crappy music wouldn't get made if you needed 6 years of school and a license before you could strum an A chord! Is this a legitimate type of coercion? Think!


Bryguy

Re:Libertarians should hate ESR for this (1)

Zimm (94553) | more than 13 years ago | (#2194170)

Property rights make some sense when they are attached to items that are scarce. Information, however, is not naturally scarce (although the ability to create it may be).

Who told you that information wasn't scarce? You are completely wrong, this is why you PAY for an education, this is why you PAY for software, newspapers, etc. Not all the software that could exist does exist, that is why there is scarcity in software ESR has no understanding of basic economics, and he often speaks out side of his own expertise.

Re:Excellent (1)

quartz (64169) | more than 13 years ago | (#2194150)

The big problem with Stallman is that he believes that users should have power over programmers

I don't know if that's what Stallman believes. In my understanding all Stallman is trying to say is that there's no such thing as "intellectual property". When I write software, it's "my property" only as long as I keep it to myself. The moment I start distributing it, I have no moral right to dictate what the ones who use it should or should not do with it. I.e., it's THEIR software now, not mine. Which makes sense, since software, unlike physical property, it's infinitely reproductible. No matter how many people I give my software to, I still have it.

To claim that the one who wrote the software has some sort of "property rights" to it, naturally implies some sort of enforcement, since otherwise there's nothing to stop users from doing whatever they want with it. This mentality brought us the 2500 year copyright limit, the DMCA, the UCITA, the BSA-MPAA-RIAA scare tactics and it's going to still bring us countless other "joys". It's how human nature works. You can't just give someone "limited" control, without them immediately pushing for more.

So Stallman says do away with copyright altogether, because it's unnatural, unhealthy and it only begets trouble. And I can't agree more...

GPL versus BSD (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#2194185)

I can legally take a piece of BSD software, make binaries of it, and share the binaries with my neighbors.


I cannot legally do the same with a piece of GPL software.


Thus, the FSF restricts what other people do with its software, in ways that the authors of Apache do not. That's fine with me, because the FSF can choose any license that they want for their own software.


But now Bradley Kuhn is moving into a position of forbidding other people from doing what they want with the software they create.


Specific question:


Does the FSF want to make the BSD license illegal?

who cares?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#2194027)

What's the difference between O'Reilly and FSF?? Let's see, they are both probably communists, they both want to break up the most successful company in the history of the US and they both are fucking morons. So what's the difference??

Who will be replacing these guys (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#2194028)

ESR, RMS, That Cunt guy...who will carry on the torch when these guys are gone!

Their pubic hair is grey now i bet. We need to work now to ensure smooth transitions.

I nominate myself

Maybe I'm a info-communist... (2)

aussersterne (212916) | more than 13 years ago | (#2194029)

I'm not normally on Stallman's side. I think he's a lunatic who wants to give Linux a less catchy name just to get his rocks off.

But I'm definitely on his side inasmuch as I don't think that there should be an information economy. Or rather, I think that all information of all kinds should be owned by all people -- and that nobody should be able to hide information of any kind for any reason. I know that there are a billion practical pitfalls (some of them very large indeed) for this position which makes it very dangerous, unprofitable, naive, stifling to innovation and any other word you might think of.

But in my gut, I know that not only does information want to be free -- it must be free, owned by all of the people everwhere, in order for me to feel at ease. Information is just too powerful to be controlled by the few -- and yet under our current system, the more powerful the information, the fewer the people who are likely to have access to it. Somehow I know this is bad. Rational, irrational, I don't care. I don't want flerbage (was that the word?). I don't want freedom for the information makers. I want freedom for all would-be information-users and for those who would be affected by such information. I want freedom for everyone to have and to hold any information made and to use it as they will.

Yes, yes, I know... But it's a very strong gut feeling that I'll never lose. It's almost what I'd call the sense of info-entitlement. Anyway, I'm putting my "logic cap" back on now that I've had my irrational moment of gut feeling, and I'm putting my flame-retardant suit on as well...

Whoops... "an" info-communist. EOM. (0, Offtopic)

aussersterne (212916) | more than 13 years ago | (#2194055)

I hate it when I make a stupid spelling mistake in the middle of my point.

Re:Maybe I'm a info-communist... (2)

shokk (187512) | more than 13 years ago | (#2194071)

It doesn't matter what we do, because we're so transient, and information is infinite. Whatever roadblocks we put in place at this time, the information will be free at a later time and place. What we do now is not eternal.


I'm not so sure I care whether the tools that make the information are free, so long as the information flows freely. The more information that is out there, the more intelligent and wise citizens of the world will be - I know, we'll always have the ones that choose to be stupid, but that's their free choice. The more intelligent reasoning we have in the world, the less violence we'll have, and once that distraction is out of the way we can generate more information. Everyone will be more productive and better off in the long run, leading humanity to progress and not stall on the things that don't matter.

Re:Maybe I'm a info-communist... (1)

joel_archer (124897) | more than 13 years ago | (#2194128)

Or rather, I think that all information of all kinds should be owned by all people -- and that nobody should be able to hide information of any kind for any reason.

What a load of crap. As an example, please provide the following information: 1) Your address. 2) Your social Security Number. 3) Your bank account number and PINS.

Knowledge is power and in society we use power (of all kinds) to provide for our needs. Forcing anyone to give up a means they use to provide for themself is theft. Theft for the good of society is socialism. Theft from minorities for the good of the majority is slavery.

But in my gut, I know that not only does information want to be free -- it must be free, owned by all of the people everwhere, in order for me to feel at ease. Information is just too powerful to be controlled by the few -- and yet under our current system, the more powerful the information, the fewer the people who are likely to have access to it.

Again, another bunch of crap. "Information" doesn't have any wants, let alone "to be free." As an example, Where is Chandra Levy? How come that information doesn't want to be free?

As always, Eric S. Raymond's analysis hits the mark. Everyone should be allowed to act in their own self interest, so long as they don't take other people's stuff without consent. This should be true for Bill Gates, Richard Stallman, you or me.

Re:Maybe I'm a info-communist... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#2194146)

Theft for the good of society is socialism
And theft for the good of individuals is capitalism.

Re:Maybe I'm a info-communist... (1)

joel_archer (124897) | more than 13 years ago | (#2194160)

And theft for the good of individuals is capitalism.

Nope, its just plain theft. Capitalism is trading your stuff for their stuff, as long as you both agree on the trade.

Re:Maybe I'm a info-communist... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#2194184)

Or as long as one party is forced into trading.

Re:Maybe I'm a info-communist... (1)

dijjnn (227302) | more than 13 years ago | (#2194161)

joel archer, you are a retard.

1)
Knowledge, like information, is not power, it is nothing more than content. true, content is
used as a type of leverage in our very brutish way, but once upon a time so were sticks, which of course doesn't mean there are weapons lying all over the ground, it means that anything can be used for any purpose, but the purpose it's used for in one instance does not define the object.

2)
"Information wants to be free" is a metaphor that is used to describe it's nature... it's endlessly replicable, so why not embrace that aspect of it, to the benefit of society. of course information has no wants, but information is defined by society (not the individual, who may create information but cannot define it), and society may have some wants for information, which is as fundamental a situation as "information wanting to be free", if such could exist.

Re:Maybe I'm a info-communist... (1)

vinay (67011) | more than 13 years ago | (#2194135)

What about my mother's secret chocolate-chip cookie recipe? I mean, those cookies are good. She might stop making them for me if I start giving out her recipe! :-)

On a slightly more serious note, consider this: You say "Information wants to be free." There are many types of information. I'm going to classify software as a type of information (a veritable namshub, if you've read Snowcrash). Software is really just a set of instructions telling a computer to do something. So, software wants to be free. That's not an overly large stretch. The FSF [fsf.org] holds this view. I'm not entirely sure I agree, but that's not really the point.

What other types of information are there, though? Let's wax ridiculous for a second. I just bought a great birthday present for my mother (the one who makes those fantastic cookies I'm not going to give you the recipe for). I'd rather keep it as a surprise, but "information wants to be free." This is an overly extreme case. But what about other secrets? What if I've fallen in love with this girl, but I don't think my mother is quite ready to deal with this, and in fact might disown me (and stop giving me chocolate-chip cookies - the horror! -). Should I tell her because "information wants to be free?" This is most certainly a piece of information, and it does affect her.

Lets wander back to the slightly more normal (but never away from cookies!). I don't think "information wants to be free." Or even if it does, I'm not sure I care. Information isn't a person. I don't want to restrict a person's rights to maintain information's rights. I would rather hold on to the freedom to choose my freedoms. If I choose to use a proprietary operating system that limits my freedom, that's my choice. Let me make it. If I choose to hold onto that freedom, that's just a different choice regarding the same freedom.

I don't get it... (1)

Maditude (473526) | more than 13 years ago | (#2194035)

Isn't it a bit of a moot point? How in the heck could *anyone* realistically expect to "outlaw proprietary software licences"? Make them a bit less popular (eventually, more people will be clued-in to the fact that no access to the source-code and single-vendor-tie-in are bad), sure, but outlawed? That's ridiculous.

Re:I don't get it... (2)

J'raxis (248192) | more than 13 years ago | (#2194114)

The government probably couldnt actually outlaw a license, but they could make all the provisions that make the license what it is unenforceable. An example of an unenforceable clause was mentioned in this comment [slashdot.org] requiring someone to, say, convert to your religion as part of a contract is unenforceable; and, as a result, a contract that imposed that singular clause would become totally unenforceable.

So, if all the clauses that make proprietary licenses proprietary prohibiting copying and reverse-engineering, requiring payment for the software, etc. were made unenforceable, the proprietary license has just become as such.

Re:I don't get it... (2)

stevens (84346) | more than 13 years ago | (#2194174)

The government probably couldn't actually outlaw a license, but they could make all the provisions that make the license what it is "unenforceable."

That takes care of the silly things that UCITA allows, like not reviewing the product, or only suing in Ireland.

But there's still the issue of the developer who just doesn't distribute code, period. You can get rid of the entire history of copyright law if you want, but a guy who refuses to release the code has to be physically forced if you want to get it.

This guy wouldn't be offerring his program in a form sanctioned by RMS, and RMS may very well want this guy hauled into jail. Maybe to cool his heels in a cell until he comes up with the passphrase for the encrypted source on his hard drive.

This is a substantial reduction in flerbage. And I respect ESR for framing the issue in these terms.

Stallman (5, Insightful)

sourcehunter (233036) | more than 13 years ago | (#2194036)

Yet Kuhn and Stallman say they don't like this world. It appears that they would prefer a world in which people who write software cannot choose the proprietary licenses that Kuhn and Stallman dislike.

"Stallman" is starting to sound a little too much like "Stalin" for my tastes.

It is my property, I can and will choose a license that fits MY needs as a developer.

And like it or not, proprietary licenses DO foster innovation on a corporate scale. I'm not saying free licenses don't foster innovation - but they do so at a different level - the community level... and companies (and individuals) have to get paid. I gotta keep food on my table SOMEHOW! is RMS/FSF going to send me a check every month? Or is that the government's job? This is sounding more and more like communism/socialism.

Re:Stallman (1)

zulux (112259) | more than 13 years ago | (#2194108)

Here's the weird bit: Owners of Propriatary software are just about able to practice complete price-descrimination: where they charge rich people more and poor people less - to maximise profits. Using a .NET style of rental and authentication - they can tie in data about you to determine the maximum price you would pay to rent their software. And that leads us to the phrase "From each according to their means." Half of the old saw. Combined with a Nanny-state that gives money to everybody according to their 'needs', well be in the Marxist 'paradise' yet.

Re:Stallman (3, Insightful)

Uruk (4907) | more than 13 years ago | (#2194118)

I gotta keep food on my table SOMEHOW!

This is interesting - in the article, Raymond seems to contradict himself on this point. From the article, when referring to GPL'd software, he says that writing it might "decrease the software's tradeable value".

GPL'd software falls under the umbrella of "open-source" software the Raymond made up. I was under the impression that one of the entire points of "open-source" was to show corporations that the tradeable value of "open-source" software wasn't necessarily less than that of proprietary software. Yet here he seems to say that for much of open source software (that that is GPL'd) the value is less.

Well guess what guys - no matter what the value is, (I'm not getting into that, since I'm not an economist and neither is ESR) it's not all about the Benjamins for a lot of developers. It's a good thing that we can write software that has something it comes with far more important than economic value - freedom. Free as in speech that is, not as in beer. Raymond seems to want to avoid the "F" word, because he says it's "confusing" even to us.

<sarcasm>Well never have I shouldered such a heavy intellectual burden, but somehow I'll struggle through to understand the meaning of "freedom" as it was in the American Revolution, as it was in the Civil Rights marches, and as it is today in my own software</sarcasm>

Re:Stallman (1)

vinay (67011) | more than 13 years ago | (#2194159)

I think his point was that the "open source" software decreases the value of his "closed source" software.

Re:Stallman (2, Insightful)

Xoro (201854) | more than 13 years ago | (#2194173)

I'm not an OS zealot, but I think ESR uses the word "appears" very liberally here. I couldn't find anything in the Kuhn/RMS piece suggesting other licenses be made illegal. No FSF activity that I know of works towards such a goal. Instead, they advocate and code free alternatives. There is plenty of advocacy for proprietary software -- having a different camp seems to satisfy the "choice of licenses" ideal.

Instead, they argue that choice of license is insufficiently free to be called free. Only some licenses pass that freedom on to the user, and some fewer licenses guarantee that derivative work will also be free to the user. It is this type of license, and only this type, that the FSF camp wants called free. What's wrong with that?

I think ESR is just as capable of hyperbole as RMS. I would restate your quote as:

...they would prefer a world in which people who write software do not choose the proprietary licenses...

Re:Stallman (1)

sourcehunter (233036) | more than 13 years ago | (#2194181)

I think ESR is just as capable of hyperbole as RMS. I would restate your quote as:

...they would prefer a world in which people who write software do not choose the proprietary licenses...

This is, of course, acceptable... it will never happen, but is acceptable none the less... so long as we all have a CHOICE.

Eric Stalin Raymond or Richard M Stalin? (2)

abe ferlman (205607) | more than 13 years ago | (#2194188)

It is my property, I can and will choose a license that fits MY needs as a developer.

Actually, that's not true. There are many licenses that you can not choose no matter what your twisted needs are. Perhaps you are Vincent VanGogh and you feel a deep need for each user of your software to mail you one of their ears before using your software. I am no lawyer, but I would dare say that this license would be invalid.

So the real question is, what makes a license a valid restriction on someone else's behavior? Answer: the law. What part of the law are we talking about? Copyright. How should copyright work? Well, you've begged the crap out of this question. Whether it's your property depends on whether the government grants you a monopoly on the information you've assembled into a finished work. I think the FSF folks are saying that locking up information and giving somoene a monopoly on it should be invalid because it creates an impermissible monopoly on information which is not scarce.

To put it another way, it's not your property just because it came from your mind. If you thought up RSA encryption independently, too bad, it's already been patented (and expired, hooray!). So what's really at stake is not "whose idea was it" but "who got there first". With scarce goods this is an ok compromise, maybe. With non-scarce goods, we don't have to divy up the spoils, we can make an infinite number of copies.

You just want to get paid because you work, not because you are creating something that has value outside of a government granted monopoly. Who's the communist now? Stalin indeed.

Bryguy

the error in ESR's logic: (1)

dermond (33903) | more than 13 years ago | (#2194047)

if in the world today a user wants to fix a broken software. he manages to reversengineer the program (e.g. by decmopiling it..) fixes a bug and gives a version of that to a friend who also wanted that bug fixed.. then in the world of today this would be illegal with proprietary programms: the police might come to your house and arrest you. then that
disturbs your "flerbage" as well. (besides the fact that for some reason you could only use the proprietary programm because it was the only one compatible with some proprietary hardware where no one had specs.. so you had do spend a lot of money even if you would have prevered to write the code yourself... so that also affectes your "flerbage"...) it seems ESR's comparission is seriously flawed because of his right wing attitude...

Re:the error in ESR's logic: (2)

bnenning (58349) | more than 13 years ago | (#2194075)

then in the world of today this would be illegal with proprietary programms: the police might come to your house and arrest you.


Correct, and ESR opposes the DMCA for that and other reasons.


so you had do spend a lot of money even if you would have prevered to write the code yourself... so that also affectes your "flerbage"


No it doesn't. You voluntarily chose to use the proprietary hardware. You have the option of building your own hardware or reverse engineering it (ignoring the DMCA for now), so your time or property is not being taken forcibly.

Big Assumption (1)

TheophileEscargot (309117) | more than 13 years ago | (#2194049)

He seems to be making a big assumption that Stallman actually wants laws passed to make closed-source software illegal. Has Stallman actually said this? Is he actually lobbying for laws to be passed?

ESR is being silly (1)

PrimeEnd (87747) | more than 13 years ago | (#2194054)

Here's the first and most important one: if you two could get a law passed making proprietary licenses illegal, would you do it?

If their answer is "no", then the dispute with Tim is over. Because that will mean they do recognize a right for developers to choose licenses as they will without being killed, jailed, or threatened for choosing the "wrong" one.


This assertion is just silly. If you ask me if being a racist should be a crime, I will say no. But that certainly does not mean "the dispute is over." The fact that I think something should not be illegal certainly doesn't mean I can't dispute it or that I don't find it morally wrong. Give me a break; no one believes that everything which is morally wrong should be illegal.

Makes me think of Hofstadter (3, Funny)

Dominic_Mazzoni (125164) | more than 13 years ago | (#2194058)

This sentence has one nonstandard English flerbage.

Re:Makes me think of Hofstadter (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#2194151)

No: Hofstadter has intelligence and wit.

As Linus said... (2)

update() (217397) | more than 13 years ago | (#2194061)

Reading all the way through, it seems Raymond's argument is equivalent to Linus Torvalds' much more concise version: He who writes the code gets to choose the license. This is throwing a lot of cleverness after demonstrating why that ought to be so, but for those of us to whom it seems obvious, I'm not sure what's being added.

Is there some deeper point I'm missing?

Economics (5, Insightful)

underwhelm (53409) | more than 13 years ago | (#2194062)

The author of the article happly ignores one monkeywrench: economics.

The rules of economics aren't "laws," just predictors of how people will behave to further their interests. Unfortunately, the predictions of economics imply a necessary reduction of our "flerbage" in the case of a monopoly.

Specifically, ESR carries the libertarian mantle blind to the "Network Effect" of proprietary software that makes the Windows Monopoly so powerful. By flouting standards Microsoft makes their proprietary software more valuable because there is no adequate substitute in the marketplace. They have an interest in breaking campatibility with all but their own products or those they sanction in order to maintain and strengthen their monopoly (ignoring government regulation or anti-trust lawsuits that modify their behavior).

The Network Effect means that my flerbage is certainly decreased in the case of proprietary software. Microsoft operates in their best interest to break compatibility, and in order to do business I am forced to purchase their product whenever they do. My choice appears "flerb," but is really "double-plus-unflerb" because of economics. Sure, I'm free to use linux, it's just that I have to expend by precious time and resources circumventing Microsoft's artifical barriers to compatibility. That's not flerb at all.

I'm not sure if this is endemic to the libertarian view, but from my standpoint being forced to do something by the market is just as bad as being forced to do it by the government. Sure, the market can't put me in "prison" with "guns" but it sure feels like it when I don't have any *actual* choice.

This is just silly (3, Interesting)

Uruk (4907) | more than 13 years ago | (#2194066)

Towards the end of the article, Raymond attacks RMS and the FSF saying "Hypothetically, if they could pass a law that would make proprietary software illegal, they would". A hypothetical condition which has never even been discussed before being the basis for discrediting what they have to say???

Also, let's even say that such a law was passed. He doesn't address the moral idea of whether or not restricting other people's freedom to software is a bad thing or not. He just says it doesn't affect his "flerbage" because nobody is going to kill him because of proprietary software. The reason a law against proprietary software (if it ever happened - which it won't) would happen is because restricting other people's freedom is bad. You have the freedom to do what you want, but you don't have the freedom to restrict the freedom of others.

For Raymond, it seems like everything is framed in a nonsense libertarian world where the primary fear is of getting your ass kicked, shot, and thrown in jail. He makes up the term "flerbage" which no one has agreed to, yet assumes the reader implicitly agrees to it and uses it as a basis to attack others. If I were to come up with a new term and attach something that I liked to that term, would you think of it as a valid arguing style if I were to then use that term which no one necessarily agrees with to beat my opponents over the head?

This essay was just silly. Talking in the end about whether or not the FSF are "safe neighbors". Before considering issues of intellectual property law, it sounds to me like Raymond needs to consider things lower in Maslow's heirarchy of needs, since he seems overly concerned with hypothetical laws beating, shooting, and imprisoning him.

Re:This is just silly (3, Insightful)

bnenning (58349) | more than 13 years ago | (#2194158)

He makes up the term "flerbage" which no one has agreed to


He makes up that term because the word "free" has become overloaded. He then proceeds to argue, that if "flerbage" is a good thing, then Tim's position is superior to Richard's. It's entirely acceptable to disagree with his premise, in which case you have to show why flerbage is not a good thing.


You have the freedom to do what you want, but you don't have the freedom to restrict the freedom of others.


That principle would invalidate every employment contract ever signed.


he seems overly concerned with hypothetical laws beating, shooting, and imprisoning him.


I doubt Dmitri Sklyarov considers government intervention in software development "hypothetical".

Illegal Contracts: No loss of "flerbage" (1)

sahai (102) | more than 13 years ago | (#2194067)

Eric writes:

But now let's suppose that, after years of lobbying, messrs Kuhn and Stallman get a law passed that makes proprietary licenses illegal. We are now in the world of the FSF's premise.

As a user, my flerbage doesn't change. I never wanted to issue software under a proprietary license to begin with, so the new license doesn't touch me.

But as a developer, things are very different now. If I walk up to someone and offer them the same proprietary license that I did before the law was passed, police may come to my house to drag me off to jail, or kill me if I resist arrest. My flerbage has seriously decreased.


This rhetoric misleads people. I am not a lawyer, but as far as I know, an illegal contract is simply unenforceable. That means that if someone does not satisfy some illegal requirement in a contract, all that the government will do is ignore you when you come to them trying to enforce it.

Think about it this way. Suppose I agreed to a contract with someone that said that in exchange for him giving me a pen that I would pay him 10 dollars and convert to his religion. Suppose then that he gave me the pen, and I gave him the 10 dollars. But two weeks later, he sees me walking into a temple, rather than his own exclusivist church. He may be mad, but he has no legal recourse. If he tried to enforce the illegal term in the contract (the part about converting to his religion), the court would probably just say that an illegal term is not enforceable. We have the freedom to practice any religion we choose, even if we claim to have agreed to another one.

Would cops come to my door to force me to go to his church? No. Would cops go to his door and arrest him? Not unless he tried to threaten or mislead people into compliance with his illegal contract. They'd probably just laugh at the guy.

So in Eric's example where the unalianable right to distribute copies is explicitly recognized by statute, the developer who offered the proprietary license (presumably something which included a non-distribution clause) would just be laughed at if he tried to enforce this contract in court. Nobody would drag him off to jail.

No loss of flerbage here.

Near-sighted (1)

botik32 (90185) | more than 13 years ago | (#2194077)

"But someone's mere act of issuing software under a proprietary license doesn't change my flerbage."

Dear Eric,
No it doesn't. Unless they:

a) sell it with your PC and you have to AGREE with the LICENSE by default and pay for it even if you don't want it.
b) they force on you upgrades that you do not want
c) they might be sending your personal details to XYZ and there is nothing you can do about it - you cannot even legally reverse-engineer it to see what the particular piece of software is doing.

Now you'd say, but we got alternative OS. Where would that OS be if not RMS and those who wrote it in the first place?

Please. I am getting tired of things being taken out of context and presented in a "would-be" ideal world.

--- "There is no such thing as an insignificant contribution."

Re:Near-sighted (1)

Stepto (25864) | more than 13 years ago | (#2194209)

"But someone's mere act of issuing software under a proprietary license doesn't change my flerbage."

Dear Eric,
No it doesn't. Unless they:

a) sell it with your PC and you have to AGREE with the LICENSE by default and pay for it even if you don't want it.


Um...there's tons of places where you can purchase a machine with no OS, or you can build your own. Despite what people think, there is no "innate" right to own a Compaq/Dell/IBM/Mac PC with your choice of operating system pre-installed. If you like Compaq computers and you want to run Linux on one, you have to ask yourself if the price of paying for the Windows license and deleting the software is worth running Linux on a Compaq computer. If it is, then shut the fuck up. If not, still shut the fuck up and go build your own machine or purchase one from another place or vendor.

b) they force on you upgrades that you do not want


Funny. No one has ever come to my door and forced me to upgrade. Everyone makes a choice when a new version of something comes out. If you like the new features, you buy it and install it. If you don't THEN DON'T INSTALL IT. There's a million places available on the net to obtain previous versions of operating systems and software and most companies, even the dreaded evil empire, support operating system releases up to 2 versions back.

You can't blame loss of flerbage on the fact you're a whiney fuck who can't pull up an Internet search engine to avoid the companies you hate so much.

S.

Intellectual Property decreases my flerbage (3, Insightful)

spun (1352) | more than 13 years ago | (#2194079)

Here's another parable. Some time ago, there was no such thing as copyright. If I, as a musician, say, createda song (no doubt based on the art of my time and culture) and sang to you, It would then be your song as well. You could base another song on it, or sing it to your friends. If you were nice, you might mention you heard it from me.

There was a time when we knew that no one owned the earth, that we were merely stewards of it. There was a time when we knew that no one owned ideas, we were merely their conduits.

Then some greedy bastard figured they could apply the meme of 'ownership' (which previously meant something like 'something you are carrying or sleeping in') to land. Some time later, another greedy bastard figured it could be applied to the realm of ideas.

Each time, the rest of our flerbage decreased, as a previously shared resource was made private by emminent domain. Now, the greed-mongers would have us believe that we would be decreasing their flerbage by putting things back the way they were.

Or you can just wait until MegaConglomoCorp owns all the air and charges you a fee to breath.

Liberty and proprietary software (4, Insightful)

Arker (91948) | more than 13 years ago | (#2194089)

Sorry, ESR, but the flerbage nonsense is stupid. There's already a perfectly good word for that, it's called Liberty.


Proprietary software may be able to coexist with Liberty, but it will certainly take some work. The whole trend since the beginning of closed software has been for it to threaten Liberty, to eliminate it bit by bit, as quickly as it's producers believe they can get away with. The pace is ever increasing, and every time a draconian measure is abandoned because of public backlash... it returns with less fanfare a little later on.


And no, I'm not in favour of criminalising the offering of software under proprietary licenses. I don't believe the FSF is either - in that respect this article is simply an audacious straw man.


When the government uses my tax money to buy proprietary software, when it publishes public information which I am legally entitled to access, but in a form that is useless to me unless I pay microsoft their monopoly rent, my liberty is under assault. When they grant artificial monopoly privileges (software patents are one excellent example of this) and enforce them via law, this is no better than enforcing one particular license on developers would be.


Under no circumstances should tax money ever be spent on proprietary software. Under no circumstances should public information be published locked in a proprietary format. Instead of trying to break down monopolies with anti-trust law, the government should quit creating them and nurturing them in the first place.


Why ESR doesn't understand the FSF point of view (4, Insightful)

phaze3000 (204500) | more than 13 years ago | (#2194093)

Essentially, what ESR is saying is that in his opinion, everyone should have the right to publish software under whatever license they want, proprietary or otherwise.

What the FSF would argue is, to quote Star Trek, 'The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few'. Thus, whilst stopping people from publishing software under a proprietary license does, to some extent reduce the freedom of that induvidual (or corporate entity, etc.), it does so only in order to stop the rest of the world from having their freedom violated, namely the freedom to alter said software as one wishes.

Personally, I'm inclined to agree with the FSF; I believe it is more important for everyone to have freedom, even if it does reduce individual freedom.

Herein lies the fundamental difference between the 'Free Software' movement and the 'Open Source' movement, and the reason RMS and co get so uppity when the two terms are used interchangably.

Is ESR on Microsoft's payroll? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#2194095)

I can not think of any other reason why he would use a confused and twisted rethoric like that.

A law that would guarantuee software users certain rights, no matter what is stated in the license, would not imply that people who try to take away those rights from the users by releasing their software under restrictive licenses must be thrown in jail. One could compare his argument to saying that Free Speech is bad because Free Speech means you must thrown anyone who says 'Shut up!' in jail.

I have not heard of any media producer being jailed over these kinds of licensing issues even though most commercial movie and music releases here in Europe have been accompanied by notices that try to restrict the use of the media further than the fair-use provisions of our laws allow.

ESR's new law (2)

abe ferlman (205607) | more than 13 years ago | (#2194112)

ESR writes:

Here's the first and most important one: if you two could get a law passed making proprietary licenses illegal, would you do it? If their answer is "no", then the dispute with Tim is over.

I think there's another option that ESR ignores: Kuhn and Stallman would probably want proprietary licenses ruled invalid as opposed to illegal in the "haul you off to jail' sense. This ensures that no one has power over anyone else because there are no restrictions on anyone's use of any ideas. You can still offer people the license, but it would be just as valid as a contract that offers them $1,000,000.00 for the right to enslave them when they turn 30. Some "freedoms" are not worth protecting, and some contracts should never be valid.

Bryguy

Case studies (4, Informative)

BlackStar (106064) | more than 13 years ago | (#2194119)

Very interesting points from ESR, although I think RMS isn't *that* fanatical. Well, ok maybe. ANYWAYS.

What about looking at some cases in real life? Proprietary licenses. Say.... Windows. Very successful. Likley due to cost, marketing and standardization of a chaotic platform long in the past. Solved a lot of problems with proprietary platforms only running 1-2 applications you needed, so you almost bought one machine per application in some situations. Seems OK for the time. Now, however, with viable alternatives, there are some things like open sourcing (NOT GPL) that may be useful if the modifications could be redistributed, but MSFT still owned the rights to the parts they feel they need to. (Asbestos enabled)

Why not GPL? Enter point number 2. BSD/Mozilla/Extend and contribute like licenses. The SCSL from SUN. Specifically, Java. If this thing was GPL'd off the bat, it would be another fragmented, proprietary implementation of a screwed up standard left in the past not unlike CDE, or even C++ in it's early life. With SUN owning a brand, and enforcing a standard that they don't actually unilaterally define, it's a workable, reliable, and standardized open platform.

Those two cases in point, one must ask WHY the GPL seems to have such problems creating the defining third case study where GPL is the only thing that worked. Well, maybe it has. Let's take Linux. If it was proprietary, it would likely be as big as CP/M about now. If it was SCSL, the buy-in by the GPL crowd would be nill, (err... null, err.. nevermind) and the corporate adoptions to the benefit of the community wouldn't have occurred.

So, we've got three broad and incomplete categories of license, and three broad and incompletely analyzed case studies showing success in each case, and why in those particular cases that license modality was the correct choice for the goals.

So bascially, I would side with Tim on the side of choice, and promote the said flerbage as the yardstick. Evolution finds optimal solutions through excessive choice. Seems to have worked out fairly well. Odd that it still resulted in the occasional individual that opposes the primary mechanism that gave rise to them. I savour the irony.

I'd love to hear why the power of choice would be a bad thing, even if you choose a proprietary license. Try and write a cheat-resistant multiplayer game with open source on both client and server, and see just how far you get before the cheats make the game unplayable except among friends. Lots of papers and discussions on that as well.

And don't raise the "web of trust" and such there RMS and cadre. Defintion of trust on that level would have removed the success of the GPL in the case of Linux, as there could be code in there that trusted people back-doored, but no one has bothered to review. Trust is perception, and perception is in it's very nature incomplete.

Sometimes you just gotta say no when someone wants your recipe. :-)

Respond with thought or not at all if you please.

"Intellectual Property" is not a right. (3, Insightful)

UnclPedro (67702) | more than 13 years ago | (#2194120)

I think a lot of people commenting on this discussion need to be reminded that patents and copyrights are NOT fundamental rights of creators and inventors (at least, according to US law; sorry, I do have a USian bias since I don't know the laws of any other country that well). They are granted these priveleges for the sake of promoting (sorry) innovation and progress in the sciences. It's a compromise -- the people giving up some of their freedom to promote progress.

However, many people feel (myself included) that these "Intellectual Property" laws are no longer promoting anything but the continued rule of large corporations like Time-Warner, and stupidity on the part of smaller ones like Amazon. It may no longer be in the peoples' best interests to allow these patent and copyright monopolies.

When viewed from this point of view, I think ESR's argument takes on a whole new flavour. When you don't consider having a copyright on your code a fundamental right (that copyright being the basis for software licenses of all kinds, from the GPL to a MS EULA), licensing isn't even a question. It simply becomes "here's some code".

I don't know if this is a fundamentally better situation than what we have now. I do suppot the FSF rather than Open Source because I believe that promoting the idea of Freedom is more important than just getting useful software. But I think these are questions that must be considered, and I wanted to present another angle on this argument.

Would you do it? (1)

Hoo00 (123566) | more than 13 years ago | (#2194123)

ESR: if you two could get a law passed making proprietary licenses illegal, would you do it?

The answer is yes and no. But there could be many reasons for saying yes/no and the reasons do not have to be these two from ESR:

If their answer is "no", then the dispute with Tim is over. Because that will mean they do recognize a right for developers to choose licenses as they will without being killed, jailed, or threatened for choosing the "wrong" one.

If their answer is "yes", then there are many, many other moral questions we could ask them -- and should, if only so that we can get some idea if they're too dangerous to have as neighbors.

I would say "no" if the law is created by FSF and not the consents of the people and "yes" if everyone argees that this is the right(tm) thing to do. Kuhn and Stallman wants people to use GPL. It is their ideals. ESR's question and answers above make it sounds like Kuhn and Stallman force people to use GPL, which is not ture.

The only thing that was left unanswered in this story is which is more important?

The rights of a person who writes software to impose law and rules on the people or the rights of the people to impose law and rules on this person.

I think both rights are important and they need to be balanced. Tim wants more rights to the person and Kuhn and Stallman want more rights to the people. ESR's arguement is just one-sided.

Raymond evades the argument (1)

guygee (453727) | more than 13 years ago | (#2194125)

Raymond essay is disingenuous in that he evades the whole point of Kuhn and Stallman's essay [oreillynet.com] . Kuhn and Stallman clearly are talking about freedom for the user. Raymond begs the question by addressing freedom for the programmer. Ultimately, which is the more important?

One delusion that some programmer's often operate under is that they are creating a work in isolation from everybody else's contributions. Most of what we leverage in our creative works has come to us for free, under the principles of academic freedom [rbs2.com] . In many ways, RMS has simply reformulated these principles into a binding form specific to computer software. I agree with his effort to eliminate the free riders that would attempt to appropriate the vast body of prior art for their own personal gain.

some good points, but.. (2)

Dr. Awktagon (233360) | more than 13 years ago | (#2194127)

Why does this just degenerate into the same tired argument of "giving you freedom A takes away my freedom B"? Of course that will always be true, for any argument about freedom. My freedom to walk on the street without getting hit conflicts with your freedom to hit people on the street.

Of course, being able to choose any license is a freedom. But that's not the freedom the FSF stands for, don't we know that already? The stand for other freedoms, namely the freedoms described in the GPL.

What exactly do all these people (and sometimes the FSF does it too, I know) hope to gain by fighting over who's freedom is best?

Society, free markets, etc., those mechanisms will pick what's best for society.

Unfortunately, the way copyright law works for software, the power is automatically in the copyright holder's hands. You have to agree to an arbitrary contract-like agreement to have a copy at all! Sometimes you actively read and agree to the contract, sometimes it's imposed on you without your knowing by some other action (buying a new computer). Imagine if everything you bought had a contract you had to read and agree to. Free markets would be impaired (think "transaction costs" from economics).

So when TOR (Tim O'Reilly) says we should be able to choose any license for software, I think he is implicitly supporting the tilted playing field of the status quo, so it's no surprise that the FSF would not agree with that standpoint.

And to suggest that the FSF would want to pass a law to make proprietary licenses illegal is silly! Pass one law, to counteract the effects of another? ESR is starting from the viewpoint that software should have a license in the first place. He should know by now, the FSF doesn't agree with that. Why not just remove the law that lets copyright holders enforce their contracts. Then the GPL would be pretty much unecessary!

RMS has never suggested many of the things people always ascribe to him. ESR is simply inventing things that he thinks RMS might want or say. It would be like RMS arguing that ESR wants to pass a law that makes it illegal not to carry a gun. Since ESR supports our freedom to carry guns, it's only logical that he would be against a freedom NOT to carry a gun, yes?

Open-source only, doesn't violate flerbage (2)

bwt (68845) | more than 13 years ago | (#2194136)

I have the condition of flerbage when I can behave in the confidence that nobody will take my life, my physical property, or my time without my consent.

Contrary to ESR's assertion, government laws disallowing proprietary licences simply would not violate flerbage.

Let's back up: Copyright is an entirely statutory grant. It simply is not a fundamental right that you can legally exclude others from reproducing your speech. For example, Congress could abolish all copyright protection if it chose. Congress has been delegated, and justly so, the power "to promote the arts and sciences" by creating statutes (not rights) that secure authors their writings for "limited Times". Copyright is a loan from the public domain. Loans are a granted priviledge and Congress may secure the loan with restrictions aimed at promoting the ends desired by giving the loan.

It would also a coherent policy view to say that the best way to promote computer science is by demanding as part of the quid-pro-quo involved in securing copyright that source code be released and be modifiable. Can anyone argue that a reasonable man might believe this would advance the progress of computer science? If majoritarian forces in Congress were able to implement this policy into law, then I believe the answer to the question of what should happen to you if you were to release under a proprietary licence anyway is not as ESR asserts that you should be arrested, but rather that the principle of "misuse of copyright" should be applied, whereby you would not receive the governement's assistence in enforcing your copyright.

Trying to licence software under a proprietary licence in the hypothesized scenario simply would not lead to your arrest. It would lead to others violating your licence and the government refusing to help you enforce it.

"The protections afforded by copyright law are completely statutory" was the holding of the Sony Betamax decision, and traces back to the earliest Supreme Court cases. Thus, you have no rights to exclude others from your work unless those statutes recognize them as such. The public owns the public domain and tasked Congress with optimizing its expansion by choosing the most appropriate statutory scheme. If Congress decides that everything you write instantly enters the public domain, then too bad -- you have no injury under the US Constitution. Similarly, they can condition your grant of protection by requiring you to meet criteria the people deem helpful to the end of promoting science and arts.

ESR (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#2194137)

So now ESR has taken to bashing Free Software huh? Sounds like somebody has sour grapes becuase their stock is worth 1.75$ intead 175$. Lik ESR ever write anything that important. Wooo fetchmail, gee that amazing feat of programming non-talent really holds up against all the FSF has done.

ESR misses the point (4, Insightful)

Mr. Slippery (47854) | more than 13 years ago | (#2194145)

While I respect ESR, in this case he could not more perfectly fail to grasp the point.

Proprietary licenses, whereby a state-designated owner can use state power to declare some string of bits "property" and do nasty things to you if you copy them, are an infringement of "flerbage". (Or "freedom", if you prefer.)

Maximum "flerbage" would be the absense of copyright - not passing new restrictions on proprietary licences, but rather removing the exisitng restrictions that make proprietary licences possible.

(I'm not - for the present - arguing for or against such a change. Just arguing that outlawing certain uses of photocopiers, tape recorders, computers, etcetera, is not moving in the direction of maximum "flerbage".)

I'm disappointed that a self-described anarchist doesn't understand the difference.

Invertred question (1)

Fyndo (11748) | more than 13 years ago | (#2194149)

if you two could get a law passed making proprietary licenses illegal, would you do it?

How about this one: if you could repeal the laws that prevent you from copying software, would you?

In the absence of copyright law, I can copy Sicromoft's operating system. Copyright law removes that right/privelege.

ESR is also extremely disingenous when he says these things:

I have the condition of flerbage when I can behave in the confidence that nobody will take my life, my physical property, or my time without my consent. (Observe that I am not prejudicing the discussion by assuming that the software I write is my property.)
and then
Part of my flerbage is that I can offer people a license that says "I trade you my software on the condition that you (a) pay me some money, and (b) don't give a copy to anyone else."
. Now you see, this isn't part of his flerbage, by his definition. If he can't make this trade, has he lost any time? his life? his (non-intellectual) property? No. This is not part of his flerbage, as he defined it. "my software" is an interesting word, if he has not, as he claims, prejudiced the argument by assuming the software he creates is property. Nor is his flerbage decreased (unless we make the additional assumption software is property, if the government copies his software, and gives every single person on the planet a copy. He didn't lose the time he spent making it, he had the option to do something else.

so his moral committment is he's pro-flerbage. Well, the debate is flerbage-neutral. flerbage doesn't, as far as I can tell, enter into it at all. Unless, of course, you want to prejudice the argument by claiming the programs you write are your property.

Wow (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#2194153)

Wow, I'm kinda shocked. I never expected the next wave of anti-GPL FUD to come from ESR. Man that's messed up.

Question to Mr. Gill Bates (1)

masq (316580) | more than 13 years ago | (#2194155)

Gill: If you could get a law passed making open-source licenses illegal, would you do it?

That's what I thought. Fair is fair.

I love ESR, but... Microsoft views this as WAR. We normally do not. But that WILL NOT prevent us from being exterminated by Microsoft if they are able. With the GPL applied to probably far less than 5% of all the world's code, ESR shouldn't be worried about Stallman banishing proprietary software, but about Microsoft banishing Free Software. While we try to decapitate our own people, Microsoft, the 800lb. gorilla that *never loses*, is focused, tireless, and efficient in their behind-the-scenes work to discredit the GPL, Linux, and Free Software.

There's only one thing Microsoft is good at, and that's destroying their competition. And from the looks of this article, there's only one thing ESR is good at, and that's destroying Microsoft's competition. Without the GPL covering us, Linux would be BeOS. Except that BeOS is technically better than Linux.

And Linux growing to 95% market share doesn't matter, if it means we have to become the next Microsoft to do it. Selling out is a slippery slope that starts one step at a time. It's time we stop this lame infighting and get to work on our code. Everyone's fighting to control Linux, but there will BE no Linux if we don't stop fighting. I love Linux, but I'm scared as hell of Windows XP. If we don't work fast, we're dead, and all our best coders are fighting about hypotheticals.

Words, flerbage, merbage etc (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#2194156)

Good word on ESR part? Sounds like flame+garbage.

And defines well this article of his. Stallman did not argue for outlawing propriatary licences... This whole article stinks...

FAce it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#2194180)

Face it man, the FSF are the only group really dedicated to freedom. Everyone esle is in to make buck or for some fame. Why do i suddenly get this feeling the Open Source movement is ready to do some serious selling out.

Raymond is a libertarian (4, Insightful)

prizog (42097) | more than 13 years ago | (#2194189)


This is more standard libertarian rhetoric. Consider: If I "choose" to work a low-income job, and therefore "choose" to live in a high-crime area, men with guns will occasionally forcibly divest me of my property. Or, as happened to a friend of mine, they won't have guns - they'll just have lead pipes, and instead of just taking my property, they'll beat the shit out of me, putting me in the hospital for weeks and *then* take my wallet.

That's what I call freedom.

Sure, I could choose to live on Monaco, were there's virtually no crime as much as I could choose to build a rocket ship and live on Mars - that is, sure in an ideal fantasy world, but not in reality.

Raymond is comparing his ideal world, in which I would have the flerbage not to use Microsoft products, to the real world in which I have the choice of significantly fewer jobs if I make that choice. If I were a secretary, I might have the "choice" of using Microsoft products or finding a new profession, probably at lower wages.

Anyway, even if he weren't an adherent to a utopian philosophy, it's not the case that being disallowed from releasing proprietary software reduces my flerbage.

Here's what Raymond says:
"If I walk up to someone and offer them the same
proprietary license that I did before the law was passed, police may come to my house to drag me off to jail, or kill me if I resist arrest. My flerbage has seriously decreased."

And here's the definition of flerbage:
"I have the condition of flerbage when I can behave in the confidence that nobody will take my life, my physical property, or my time without my consent."

Well, obviously that doesn't include acts which are illegal - you can't expect to kill someone and get away with it. So, if you say "My flerbage is decreased because I can't break the law", well, tough. Or you might say "the law is bad because it decreases my flerbage," well, that's what all laws do - but we pass them to increase the sum flerbage of each person more than it decreases your flerbage. So, you're back in the same situation where flerbage means freedom. Oops.

Here's an interesting commentary on libertarianism:
http://world.std.com/~mhuben/faq.html

My reply: (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#2194191)

From: Gregory Maxwell
To: esr@thyrsus.com
Subject: Flerbage

After reading your article about flerbage on LinuxToday, I came away
thinking that your analysis was overly simplistic on one point to such a
great extent that it was totally handicapped by this 'over sight'.

I believe that one of the FSF's primary arguments against the *existence* of
proprietary software is that it's ill effects go well beyond the people who
choose to use it, especially in the case of popular proprietary software
(such as Microsoft Windows).

By ignoring this point, you have forced a particular conclusion: I seriously
doubt that the FSF would try to say that no one should have the right to
create proprietary software if in fact it could be shown that proprietary
software harms no more then it's users.

It would have been much more enlightening for everyone if you had followed
through enough on your article to suggest that 'flerbage compliance in
Tim/FSF world reduces to the question of the harm of proprietary software to
non-users'.

In my view, the FSF already has a strong case: The dominance of Microsoft's
proprietary OS and office productivity software have caused *me* significant
direct and indirect harm. It has made my decision to not use their software
significantly more difficult. Because I have chosen to obey the often ignored
and selectively enforced copyright laws in the context of computer software in
an effort to highlight one of the intrinsic weaknesses of proprietary
software, I have, to some extent, alienated my coworkers and family (why
won't you copy that disk for me? Don't you like me?).

I could go on, but the point is: There is a potential for the mere existence
of proprietary software to cause harm to the rest of the world. We can
prevent that harm by removing the power/freedom of the small group we call
developers to remove power/freedom from everyone else. What we must answer
is 'What is the right balance', and it may not just be as simple as
no-proprietary software or developer chooses his license.

I believe that you did a great disservice to the discussion with your
oversimplification. In the future, I hope you have more respect for your
position in the community and write a more fair and insightful analysis.

Thanks for your attention,
Greg Maxwell

Great reply! Mod up! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#2194202)

Why are people keep posting such good stuff as AC. It's idotic!

Beware of libertarians bearing "freedom" (2, Interesting)

Jay Carlson (28733) | more than 13 years ago | (#2194197)

KSR had a line in a book somewhere that went something like this:
"Libertarians want just enough government to keep their slaves from revolting."
Over the top, sure, but it's got a grain of truth in it. Ever since I read that, this former die-hard libertarian has been much more skeptical of the glorious and righteous claims from libertarians. It's important to look behind the big important words and figure out what's actually being argued.

In this case, arguments for "proprietary" software licenses are arguments for the use of government force on the behalf of copyright holders. I mean, all this talk about "intellectual property" is eventually backed up by state power (with guns as the final resort), right?

That's not to say that I think enforcement of copyright and contract law is necessarily or entirely a bad thing. In fact, we get a lot of good out of copyright. But I think we need to look at actual causes, effects, benefits, and costs when discussing these issues rather than taunting each other with "look, I have more liberty than you!"

proprietary licenses DO take 'flerbage' away (1)

cowtamer (311087) | more than 13 years ago | (#2194199)

Maybe this is too obvious to point out. But
say I do any of the following:

I violate the DMCA, get an "evaluation" copy
of win2k from my friend (without stealing anyones
_physical_ property), or violate M$'s license by disassembling and publishing a portion of their OS and publish it on my web page.

Then the police knocks down my door, tries to arrest me, or kills me if I resist arrest, thus seriously decreasing my flerbage :)

Can we really take ESR seriously ? (1)

Flabdabb Hubbard (264583) | more than 13 years ago | (#2194201)

After he wrote these tips [tuxedo.org] ?

chance (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#2194208)

You had your Chance. Why did you do this?
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