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From: Patrick Maupin on 13 May 2010 22:49
On May 13, 6:39 pm, Steven D'Aprano
> On Thu, 13 May 2010 08:06:52 -0700, Patrick Maupin wrote:
> >> Only a
> >> tiny proportion of people would discover by their own efforts that the
> >> source code was available
> > No, I tell my friends that source is available, and they can come and
> > see me if they want to know more.
> That doesn't scale to distributing hundreds of copies of the CD, let
> alone tens of thousands.
Sure it does. Each one of those CD distributions is friend-to-
friend. And if my friend gives a CD to someone interested in
programming, I might wind up with a new friend.
> If you're handing over a single copy to a friend
> (which is the example you gave earlier) then a verbal offer works well,
> and is only a technical breach of the GPL. If you're distributing
> hundreds of copies, I don't believe any such verbal offer is practical.
Right. And lots of Linux Users Groups are in breach of the GPL on
many software packages. But guess what? It really doesn't matter,
because the source is sitting there on the internet, for the taking.
> > This may have been a viable argument
> > in 1989 (doubtful) but it's extremely silly today.
> So you say.
Yes, that what's I believe. More anon.
> >>, and only a proportion of them would learn
> >> where it was available from. The result in practical terms would be a
> >> major decrease in the number of people granted the freedom to modify
> >> the source code, and a correspondingly larger decrease in the number of
> >> people both free and able to modify the source code.
> > I sincerely doubt your dystopian vision, which, like the GPL and many
> > laws, is predicated on some outmoded views about how humans interact.
> > The reason some people say that the GPL protects the "freedom of the
> > code" is because the GPL assumes that code needs to be nurtured, instead
> > of taking the viewpoint that, while there may be some freeloaders,
> > sharing code is obviously so valuable to most of humanity that it will
> > just happen. We don't live in medieval Europe any more where the rules
> > of glassmaking are so secret that you'll be hunted down like a dog if
> > you try to leave. We live in a world where "co- opetition" has been
> > shown to be so valuable we had to make up a word for it, and even for
> > those secrets that people are willing to kill to keep, we have
> > wikileaks.
> I admire your optimism, but don't share it.
I understand that. There are a lot of people out there who will
attempt to profit off of other peoples' labor without any value-add.
But it's getting more difficult to do that. A key element in any kind
of arbitrage is imperfect communications, and the internet is rapidly
perfecting almost all communications.
> > Let's face it -- a software freeloader is not the most evil thing in the
> > world.
> *A* software freeloader certainly isn't a big problem. Cutting down *a*
> tree is no big deal either, but consider what happened to the people of
> Easter Island, Ethiopia and Haiti when *everyone* did so.
In a different context, you would probably be arguing about how
software is not like physical goods, and nobody is made poorer if I
make my own copy of it.
> The terms of
> the GPL exist to discourage freeloaders, lest everyone does so. The
> obligations it imposes are not onerous by any stretch of the exaggeration.
Well, you still don't believe that if I download a CD and give it to a
friend I legally have to download a DVD's worth of source to go with
it :-) (Mind you, I don't believe for a minute anybody would be
stupid enough to try to sue over that, or that copying a few CDs
wouldn't be covered by fair use, but I *do* believe that the license
attempts to require the source to be distributed.)
> >> It's not enough to be granted freedom to modify source code in theory,
> >> if you know about it, if you can find some hard-to-locate website which
> >> may or may not be running. The practicalities are equally important.
> > That's another thing. Even if I downloaded all the source from Ubuntu,
> > what assurances do I really have that I have all the source? I could be
> > in technical violation of the GPL without even knowing it, even after
> > wasting an extra two days grabbing the source. Best to use Gentoo to be
> > sure, and even then, I need to build it twice running strace just to
> > make sure that I really built everything.
> That's a silly objection to the GPL. When you include an MIT-licenced
> library in your project, you can't be sure that the library wasn't stolen
> from Microsoft and you've therefore accidentally infringed Microsoft's
> copyright. This isn't an argument against the MIT licence any more than
> your hypothetical is an argument against the GPL.
Well, OK, it's a bit silly, but not really the same as your example,
and certainly much more likely. I have never downloaded any FOSS that
had any licensing issues I know of (and trust me, SCO tried really
hard on that front :-), but I have often downloaded .deb files and
tried to build something, but the dependencies were foobar. All I'm
saying is that, to follow the letter of the license I'm handed (not
some theoretical other license that someone upstream violated) along
with the code is easy with MIT, but might be technically practically
impossible with a binary distribution of GPLed code, as with Ubuntu.
> >> In
> >> theoretical terms, everyone has the freedom to legally modify and
> >> distribute the source code to Microsoft Windows. All you have to do is
> >> buy 51% of the stock so as to become majority shareholder, then make
> >> sufficient changes to the board of directors so that the new board
> >> grants you a licence to do so, then fight off the lawsuits from the
> >> rest of the shareholders. Anyone could do it! Not.
> > So "everyone" could own 51% of Microsoft? That means 100% of the shares
> > would be around 350,000,000,000%. Wait, that can't be right, what? :-)
> Obviously not all at once, silly. But "in theory", everyone could become
> the majority shareholder -- there is no law or physical law of nature
> that says "Patrick Maupin is prohibited from being majority shareholder
> of Microsoft".
Yeah, but I think if I put my lonely little projects out there, that
practically speaking, everybody has a better chance of being able to
download the code to those, no matter what the license, than I have a
chance of coming up with the scratch to buy Microsoft :-)
> Anti-competition laws or similar may prevent a person from becoming
> majority shareholder unless they (e.g.) gave up their shares in another
> company, but again, there's nothing stopping them from doing so, if they
> > Can you come up with a sillier analogy?
> I'm sure I could, but you seem to have entirely missed the point that
> such theoretical "freedom" is entirely illusionary, since *in practice*
> very few people actually can partake in it.
No, I saw your point, and completely disagree with it. My code is out
there. Sure, people can wrap *their* proprietary stuff around it, but
other people can still get *my* stuff, so I really, truly, don't see
the problem here. Again, it would be different if *my* stuff were so
fantastically important that I was going to make a mint off of it, but
frankly if I don't see that it is, but someone else sees some
intrinsic value and manages to make a mint off it, perhaps the world
is a better place.
> >> Another, more practical example: here in Australia our government is
> >> hell- bent on introducing an ineffective and expensive Internet
> >> censorship scheme. It seems that under Australian law, it will be
> >> completely legal to circumvent the filter, but our government is
> >> investigating ways to make it illegal to tell anyone how to circumvent
> >> it. In other words, Australians will have permission to circumvent the
> >> nanny filter, but since few people will know this, or know how to do
> >> so, it will be a meaningless freedom.
> > Yes, that's basically how the DMCA works, and that's evil, and that's
> > one of the reasons I sometimes give money to the EFF. But, you can't
> > seriously be comparing making speech a crime and making not speaking a
> > crime (or a copyright violation), can you? Maybe you *did* manage to
> > come up with a sillier analogy...
> There are situations where not speaking is a crime. If you witness a
> crime, and fail to report it, there are circumstances where you may be
> liable to be persecuted for aiding and abetting.
Usually, you have to take active measures to conceal the crime, not
just "not speak" about it: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Misprision_of_felony
> >> The GPL concerns itself with the *practical* freedom to gain access to
> >> source code, not merely the theoretical freedom represented by
> >> permission without opportunity.
> > No, the GPL is ideologically opposed to anything related to practicality
> > (although in practice, its adherents have to bend a bit to avoid being
> > made irrelevant, and Linux, the shining success, is led by someone who
> > arguably cares not one whit for GPL ideological purity).
> And yet Linux is distributed under the GPL, which pretty much sinks your
Not sure how you come to that conclusion. For example, while Linux is
arguably strong enough to start kicking out binary drivers now, at the
beginning that would have been its death-knell, and that's probably
how RMS would have proceeded. The point is, Torvalds views the
license as a good starting point for a set of behaviors, but he made
very clear the kind of behaviors he was interested in enforcing. See,
for example: http://www.linuxfordevices.com/c/a/News/Torvalds-quashes-binary-kernel-module-revolt/
Interestingly, one of the problems with Linux that has more to do with
the size of the project and pace of development than anything else, is
that people are more worried that their contributions aren't going to
make it into the kernel, rather than that they have to give them back
to the kernel.
> > But the GPL wording required to enforce what you call a practical
> > freedom imposes so many impractical costs that there are probably
> > millions of people in the world who have violated this license, in the
> > good-faith attempt to spread free software around.
> As I admitted earlier, there is an apparent grey area there, at least
> according to the FAQs, but I don't think it is anywhere near as obvious
> as you claim that it is a licence violation.
Well, take another look. I would be interested in any evidence you
can find that shows otherwise.
From: Patrick Maupin on 13 May 2010 22:58
On May 13, 6:39 pm, Steven D'Aprano
> On Thu, 13 May 2010 08:06:52 -0700, Patrick Maupin wrote:
> Perhaps the Apache model doesn't work quite as well as you think?
Apparently it's 66 percent of the web servers for the million busiest
sites, and presumably 65 for the next million, etc...
When I look at the netcraft graphs, the only thing that seemed to
cause a decline before last year was Microsoft and their marketing
muscle. For example, they incentivize godaddy and others to run all
the parked sites on IIS.
In the graphs, there was a sudden spike in "other" at the beginning of
last year. My gut tells me this is ROR, django, and other similarly
permissively licensed software. In any case, back when GPL take-up
was quite small, RMS was very dismissive of market numbers, but I
really have to ask: where are all the GPL-licensed web servers?
> As far as not-so-niche software goes, the GPLed Linux OS is far more
> popular on the desktop than FreeBSD and OpenBSD together, and about equal
> in popularity to Mac OS. I'm not suggesting that the popularity of an OS
> is *entirely* dependent on the licence, but it may be a factor.
Well, despite what others have said here, I think the lingering
effects of the Unix lawsuit helped give Linux a push. Torvalds
himself was a huge factor, and I'm willing to concede that the GPL
didn't hinder the quest for contributors.
The fact is that, in reality (Darwinian competition to determine the
best architecture aside) it's very nice to have a single primary point
of focus for an OS, and Unix was perceived to be hopelessly fragmented
by many would-be contributors who wouldn't know where to start.
I also firmly believe, as I have stated before, that the GPL is a much
more commercial license. If you want to make money off something,
then, no doubt, GPL keeps your competitors from being able to take
what you wrote and redistribute it as closed source. But, frankly I
view that as more of a business issue than a moral issue.
In any case, if you want to look, as a marketer would, at TAM (Total
Available Market), free software is completely floundering in the OS
space, and permissively licensed software owns the serious web server
From: Lawrence D'Oliveiro on 13 May 2010 23:03
In message <72888d2c-4b1a-4b08-a3aa-
f4021d2ed646(a)e2g2000yqn.googlegroups.com>, Patrick Maupin wrote:
> If I download an Ubuntu ISO, burn it and give it away (let's say I give
> away 100 copies, just to remove the fair use defense), then I have
> violated the GPL. I provided chapter and verse on this; go look it up.
I have looked it up <http://www.gnu.org/licenses/gpl-2.0.html>, and sections
3b or 3c would seem to apply. Or alternatively
<http://www.gnu.org/licenses/gpl.html>, 6b or 6c. If the source you got it
from didn't violate the GPL, then obviously you didn't either.
From: Lawrence D'Oliveiro on 13 May 2010 23:04
In message <mailman.142.1273767256.32709.python-list(a)python.org>, Ed Keith
> The claim is being made that [the GPL] restricts freedom.
What about the “freedom” to restrict other people's freedom? Should that be
restricted or not?
From: Lawrence D'Oliveiro on 13 May 2010 23:06
In message <mailman.141.1273767256.32709.python-list(a)python.org>, Ed Keith
> Assertion I:
> If person A is free to do more than person B, then person A has
> more freedom then person B.
> Assertion II:
> If person A is free do perform an action person B is not free to
> perform then person A is free to do more than person B.
> Assertion III:
> If person B is restricted in some way that person A is not them Person A
> is free to do something Person B is not free to do.
> If person B is more resticted than Peston A, Person A has mor freedom
> than person B.
> Which step in this reasoning do you disagree with?
Under the GPL, everybody has exactly the same freedoms. So which of your
assertions is supposedly a criticism of the GPL?