Why is Fedora not a Free GNU/Linux distributions?

Alexandre Oliva aoliva at redhat.com
Thu Jul 17 01:32:52 UTC 2008

On Jul 16, 2008, Les Mikesell <lesmikesell at gmail.com> wrote:

> No it isn't.  There is never a down side to permitting additional
> uses. They never reduce the possibilities for the original work.

Correct.  The downside is merely the failure to provide even more
incentive for the possibilities that are effectively explored to
become something that everyone can use in as much freedom as the

You can say as much as you like about the local optimization afforded
by permissive licenses.  The wish for power to take control away from
others who fall in your trap can indeed cloud the judgement.

Copyleft is about global optimization.  It's about ensuring everyone
who receives the software can be Free.

Yes, there are unfortunate downsides because of license
incompatibilities.  This is not exclusive of copyleft licenses.  We've
also covered in fedora-devel that authors who want to cooperate to
promote a better world will find a way to cooperate.

>   To understand why, have a look at
>> http://www.lsd.ic.unicamp.br/~oliva/papers/free-software/BMind.pdf

> Your scenarios have nothing to do with real-world possibilities.

Indeed, they're very abstract.  Be creative: instantiate them and then
you'll see they do make sense.

> You need to permute your license cost chart for all possible
> recombinations of code components

No, I don't; you do :-)

> Imagine if the reference TCP implementation had been GPL'd and no
> commercial systems used it because of the restrictive license.  We'd
> still be struggling to make any two different systems communicate
> today.

It's indeed difficult to implement code to follow specifications.  Why
bother with Free Open Standards, let's just copy the code, right?

Nevermind that the kernel Linux wouldn't take code under the original
BSD license, out of license incompatibility, and their TCP/IP stacks
could (and still can) interoperate.

So there...  That implementation made life easier for all those OS
vendors who didn't want to respect their customers' freedoms, but
didn't help much other communities who did.

Alexandre Oliva         http://www.lsd.ic.unicamp.br/~oliva/
Free Software Evangelist  oliva@{lsd.ic.unicamp.br, gnu.org}
FSFLA Board Member       ¡Sé Libre! => http://www.fsfla.org/
Red Hat Compiler Engineer   aoliva@{redhat.com, gcc.gnu.org}

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