[nSLUG] Richard Stallman in Halifax

Daniel Morrison draker at gmail.com
Fri Jan 30 18:50:58 AST 2009

2009/1/30 Ian Campbell <ian at slu.ms>:
> On Fri, Jan 30, 2009 at 02:23:04PM -0400, Daniel Morrison wrote:
>> 2009/1/30 Ian Campbell <ian at slu.ms>:

>> >> How do you explain that most every other language in the world has two
>> >> separate words for the two separate meanings, if in fact they are not
>> >> "all that distinctly different"?

>> > I explain it as "they're different languages."
>> Your explanation is short-sighted.

> aimer -> like
> aimer -> love
> voler -> steal
> voler -> fly
> terre -> earth
> terre -> dirt

> Need I go on? Words with multiple meanings aren't exactly uncommon,
> and they're neither unique to English nor a signal of some fundamental
> failing.

So, because in English, 'free' and 'free' are written the same way,
that means that 'libre' and 'gratuit' mean the same thing.  And in
French, 'to steal' and 'to fly' are written the same way, therefore
'to steal' and 'to fly' in English have the same meaning.

Oh, but wait -- you admitted that these are "words with multiple
meanings", so you agree with me, and disagree with the original person
who said they were the same ("not all that distinctly different"). Why
are we arguing?

>> >> Challenge: name a "freedom" which is not permitted by Free software.
>> >> Hint: a restriction (i.e. the right to restrict distribution of
>> >> portions of the software, such as the source, is not a freedom).

> Forcing me to open my code if I use a GPL library isn't a freedom for me

No one is forcing you to do anything.

> It's a restriction of my freedoms. The warm fuzzies of giving more
> freedom to the opensource community are not compensation for that

You want to have the right to restrict other people's freedoms, by
taking code that is Free, combining it with your code, and then
distributing binaries, while prohibiting others from seeing what you
did? And you claim that to object to this is a violation of _your_

>> I'll concede this, but I'll only say that the philosophy behind Free
>> software simply places greater value on community freedoms than individual
>> freedoms, and in so doing guarantees that Free software grants almost
>> unlimited freedoms to everyone.  Public domain software grants unlimited
>> freedom to you, including the right to limit other people's freedoms.

> No. Closing and forking public domain code doesn't infringe on
> anyone's freedoms, the original code is still floating around in the
> ether and you're free to do with it as you please.

> You're just not free to use the closed code, and why should you be?
> You didn't write it -- if they want to open it they can.

Alright, true enough. But it doesn't invalidate my main statement
("Free software grants almost unlimited freedoms to everyone.  Public
domain software grants unlimited freedom to you").

Perhaps it's a question of how one looks at code.  If we look at it
like a product: you build a widget, you sell a widget, and it's over
-- then you can release your code into the public domain and everyone
gets unlimited freedom, right now.  But if we look at code as an
evolving thing (and here I'm back to my 'forest of trees' analogy),
then releasing public domain code is like cutting down the tree.
Here: I've spent 50 years building this tree, now I cut it down and
give it away, and anyone can take it and make furniture from it.
Releasing as GPL means here: I've spent 50 years building this tree,
and you can use parts of it (fruit, leaves, bark, etc.) but you can't
cut it down, because, in fact, we're still building it; you're welcome
to help.

>> Look, guys, I'm not RMS' lapdog. These are complex and weighty issues, and I'm
>> not even sure that I'm completely convinced.  But when I read some of what is
>> said, and think: "There's something wrong with this... how would RMS respond?"
>> I can't help but to give it a try. And much like RMS, I find an inexplicable
>> resistance.  What is it that you just don't get here?

> It's not a question of getting/not-getting. I understand what you're
> saying, I just don't agree. I prefer the BSD mentality: if I open
> code I want it to be completely open. I want people to be able to do
> whatever they want with it, including folding it into a proprietary
> program.

That's definitely your right.

> It's in their interest to contribute back to the source project
> (otherwise they have to maintain their own fork, and that sucks) --
> witness the contributions from big name companies to FreeBSD and the
> like -- but if they don't, well, too bad.

Too bad for you, too bad for your project, too bad for everyone else
in the world, except the company that took your code, did what they
want with it, and now profit.

Hey, if it's your code...

Actually, I have a great deal of respect for this "public domain"
approach, and you and I are probably far closer in opinion than it
might seem from this discussion.  If you have a nice bit of code, say
an elegantly implemented quick sort, or hashing function, or whatever,
then public domain is great; here's some free example code that helps
anybody achieve this 'sort', or 'hash' easily, and they can do
whatever they want with it.

However if you have a "project" (i.e. a collection of code about which
it is much more difficult to say "it is finished/complete"), then it
may not be particularly useful to many people, and releasing it as
public domain means it likely never will be useful to more than just a
few. But if you release with a copyleft license, it will not only
remain useful to those few, but also become more useful to more people
over time. And that's what I would like to see happen to my code.


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