[linux-elitists] RMS is at it again

Seth David Schoen schoen@loyalty.org
Mon Dec 4 22:17:37 PST 2000

Joakim Ziegler writes:

> I was referring more to the fact that absolute rights are very few, even in
> societies that are generally considered very free and democratic. In
> particular, the notion that "Restriction of rights as a means to a goal of
> increased rights" has a "bug in the design" is rather absurd, since it's very
> common to restrict some rights to ensure that other rights are furthered,
> such as threatening people with violence is illegal in most places, even
> though it's theoretically an infringement on the right to free speech. I see
> the GPL's "infringement" of the right to use the source in non-GPL software
> as a similar tradeoff.

I wouldn't view it in exactly the same way, although on a plurality of
days you can read the same argument on my back.

I argued in various places that source code is more of a courtesy than
an absolute necessity for free software, _if_ there are no legal
penalties for practicing decompilation, disassembly, and reverse
engineering.  In that case, not providing source code on request would
be more rude or annoying than a fatal threat to the "integrity of the
free software distribution system".

This is the biggest restriction the GPL imposes and the single largest
aspect of present-day software copyright being worked around, in my
opinion.  If it _weren't_ for people liable to be sued for reverse
engineering and the like, I would probably be among those complaining
that the GPL "tries to legislate politeness" or some such.  But
clearly copyright law does include those threats to free software
made proprietary (for example, that you can't possibly "take it back
out" after it's compiled into a proprietary application).  As it is,
I think Stallman has achieved a very nice hack, and I continue to be
impressed by subtleties of the GPL as I re-read it.

Maybe there should be campus GPL study groups.

	Tuesday: "GPL version 2 (or, at your option, any later
	version), paragraph 2(b)".  145 Dwinelle Hall.

Seth David Schoen <schoen@loyalty.org>  | And do not say, I will study when I
Temp.  http://www.loyalty.org/~schoen/  | have leisure; for perhaps you will
down:  http://www.loyalty.org/   (CAF)  | not have leisure.  -- Pirke Avot 2:5

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