Why is Fedora not a Free GNU/Linux distributions?

Les Mikesell lesmikesell at gmail.com
Thu Jul 24 18:37:55 UTC 2008

Alexandre Oliva wrote:
>> it has always been immoral to demand that others give up their rights.
> Taking away legitimate rights, yes, that would be immoral. 

Taking  away any right is immoral.

> But taking
> away Immoral rights, that serve the purpose of exerting power over
> others and taking away their rights and freedoms, no, nothing immoral
> or wrong about that.

There is nothing immoral about the MPL, CDDL, etc., etc..

>> The GPL was intentionally incompatible because it's only purpose is
>> to force you to choose between giving up your rights or sharing
>> code.
> You can't give up a right you never had.  The GPL (or any Free
> Software license) doesn't (and can't) take away any right you had.

If you look at it that way, then it gives no permission to share at all, 
and that becomes its only feature.

> Its purpose is to ensure that all recipients have the four freedoms
> respected in all programs based on the program licensed under it.
> Permitting the program to be distributed under whatever terms you like
> would grant you the power to not respect others' freedoms.  I'd much
> rather you didn't have that power, and if you are a well-meaning
> person, respectful of others, you shouldn't mind that you don't.

A person who is respectful of others cannot demand to take their choices 

>> Of course I do.  There's never a reason for anyone to give up their
>> rights, and no need to withhold  the ability to share code.
> If everyone was respectful of others, there wouldn't be any such
> reason, indeed.

The concept of respect has no meaning unless it is a choice.  The GPL 
takes away your right to make that choice.  Or it denies your ability to 
share.  Neither are desirable.

 > Unfortunately, some people are too selfish, don't think of others, and
> need society to put some limits on them so that they get stronger
> reasons to respect others' rights.

It doesn't matter that some people are selfish.  In terms of software 
sharing they can never harm what others make available.

 > That's the reasoning behind
> copyleft.

And it is clearly misguided, given that there is no value in what it 
provides, and much harm it what it takes away.

> It has its drawbacks and inconveniences, no doubt, but
> we're much better off when someone has to decide between respecting
> others' freedoms or incurring the costs of duplicating code in order
> to not respect them: at least some of them will then decide to respect
> others, and, for those who decide not to, they wouldn't have respected
> them in the first place, so we lose nothing from them.

No, we are not better off.  We have a sort-of usable OS that is 
prohibited from having the additions that would make it able to displace 
the monopoly we've been stuck with for decades.  We have prohibitions 
that make it unlikely that a business model will ever make sense that 
gives anyone the incentive to promote it.  So basically even though 
there is some fairly good software around, the GPL restrictions make it 
as though it doesn't exist for most people.

> So the only actual loss is from incompatibility between Free Software
> licenses.

No the actual loss is in the restrictions on creating improvements in 
all forms.  The GPL either prohibits innovation or prohibits sharing, 
depending on whether you accept it or not.

>> The point is that the work-as-a-whole clause is an immoral
>> restriction.
> Granting permissions over the work as a whole is immoral?

Requiring such restrictions on other peoples' work as a condition of 
sharing any is immoral.

>> The thing that's not acceptable is forcing a decision to give up your
>> rights or to not be able to share the code.
> The only situation in which you're not able to share the code is when
> it's part of a work that is based on someone else's work. 

Would you care to estimate how many potential improvements that prohibits?

> You don't
> have a right to share that without permission from this someone else.
> If you pretend that you do, you're misleading and confusing yourself
> and others.

Fine, but since the GPL's purpose is clearly to prohibit such sharing it 
should simply say so instead of hand-waving about freedom while taking 
yours away.

>> Depending on your legal system there may or may not be a difference
>> between a license and a contract, but having agreed to:
>>   "b) You must cause any work that you distribute or publish, that in
>>     whole or in part contains or is derived from the Program or any
>>     part thereof, to be licensed as a whole at no charge to all third
>>     parties under the terms of this License."
> Ok, that's 2b.  [I realize I responded before as if you were referring
> to 3b, sorry.]  Now, please realize that this is not to be taken in
> isolation.  This is a condition on one of the various grants of
> permission for you to copy and distribute the program.

There is no way to take any of the rights that the GPL conveys compared 
to copyright law without this clause being applied.

>   2. You may modify your copy or copies of the Program or any portion
>   of it, thus forming a work based on the Program, and copy and
>   distribute such modifications or work under the terms of Section 1
>   above, provided that you also meet all of these conditions:
> There are other permissions that enable you to copy and distribute the
> program, such as 1. and 3.  As long as you operate under any one of
> them, you're covered.  And, if you have any other permissions, granted
> by other licenses or arrangements, you can exercise them too. 

No you can't, unless that other license covers the complete work. If 
there is any part where only the GPL applies you must accept the 2b 
terms or you can't share it at all.

> The GPL
> doesn't prevent you from doing so.  What you quoted above is just
> saying that, if you abide by those conditions, then the GPL grants you
> these permissions.

No, it is a mandate that you must accept.  Or not. If you don't, only 
copyright law applies.

> It doesn't say that you have to agree to never do different from that.

That is exactly what is says.

> Say, you can still breathe after you accept the GPL, even though the
> GPL doesn't say you can.  And if it did say something like:
>   2+i) You may modify your copy or copie of the Program or any portion
>   of it, thus forming a work based on the Program, and copy and
>   distribute such modifications or work under whatever terms you like,
>   provide that you meet this condition:
>   a+i) you stop breathing immediately.
> (nevermind that such a condition is unenforceable, let's pretend it
>  isn't, for the sake of the argument)
> Now, if you accept such an hypothetical IAGPL (Imaginary Asphyxiating
> GPL ;-), would you be agreeing to never breathe again?  
> No, you wouldn't.  There's nothing in it that forces you to stop
> breathing the moment you accept the license.

But if you don't you don't get the rights agreement would confer. If you 
agree, then you'd be expected to fulfill your part of the agreement.

> At this point, let's assume hypothetical Les Mikesell asks:
> ] But what if I distribute the program?  Don't I have to stop
> ] breathing immediately?
> No.  If you didn't stop breathing, and I (let's assume I'm the
> copyright holder) sue you for copyright infringement because you
> evidently didn't stop breathing, your lawyer will tell the court:
> "See, your honor, my client chose to distribute the program under
> clause 2, not 2+i, and he complied with the conditions set forth in
> it."  The judge would then verify that you have indeed complied with
> those terms, and that therefore you had indeed permission to
> distribute the work the way you did.  I'd be laughed out of the court,
> regardless of whatever clause 2+i said.

I've never argued about what you might be able to get away with.  There 
are sometimes ways that people obtain proprietary software without 
complying with its licence requirements too.  I'm talking about what the 
license actually says and what has to happen if you comply with it.

> Now, going back to the real GPL, version 2, that you quoted.  1.,
> 2. and 3. are separate, mostly independent permissions (except whey
> they explicitly refer to each other).

No they aren't.  Where you have choices, they are explicit.  There is no 
way to comply with any of the license without the work-as-a-whole 
clause.  I'm beginning to understand why you feel the license is 
acceptable, though, if you don't actually bother to comply with its terms.

>> consider all of the possibilities you have given up the right to
>> create and share.
> Easy.  None whatsoever.

Just consider the possible permutations of code with all GPL components, 
all MPL components, all CDDL components. The GPL prohibits most of those 
possibilities from ever being shared.

>> And here's a more pragmatic take on the issue.
>> http://www.oreillynet.com/pub/a/policy/2001/12/12/transition.html?page=1
> You'll note the prevalent use of open source, and the clear motivation
> on "perhaps getting more contributions from commercial corporations"
> [who don't want to respect others' freedoms] rather than "respecting
> others' freedoms".

Yes, that's a valid opinion.  They don't drink the cult kool-aid.

> No wonder they may get to different conclusions than those whose
> values they don't share.

And valid conclusions at that.

> Some key points to their assessment is:
>   those who learn to cooperate will benefit the most. We believe that
>   this cooperation should be based on mutually acceptable terms, and
>   that the best basis for cooperation is voluntary contributions.

Do you not agree that cooperation should be voluntary? Or that you 
should have the right to make that voluntary choice?

>   Based on our experience, we advise open-source developers to use the
>   least amount of copyleft necessary.
> I.e., anecdotal evidence for an unsupportable belief,

Unsupportable?  They are talking from experience.

> most likely
> already held before,

Of course, they are logical too.

> that they'd get more commercial contributions if
> they "permitted commercial exploitation", while fear of commercial
> exploitation was their primary motivator (misguided as it was) for the
> choice of a strong copyleft license in the first place.

Something that you make freely available can't be 'exploited' in any way 
that hurts it.  It can only be improved.

> Do I need to point out the contradiction here, or is it obvious
> enough?

I see no contradiction to anything but your own unsupportable beliefs 
that additional modified copies of anything can be harmful.

    Les Mikesell
     lesmikesell at gmail.com

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