Why is Fedora not a Free GNU/Linux distributions?

Les Mikesell lesmikesell at gmail.com
Sat Jul 26 17:00:41 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.
> Like, let's say, taking away one's right to own slaves?

Red Herring!  'I' don't/can't take away anyone's right to own slaves. 
The self-evident right of freedom of individuals takes it away.  There 
is no such self-evident concept that your own ideas or work must be 
encumbered by someone else's terms.  Forcing that takes away any 
possible joy someone might ever have in making their own decision about 
how to share their work. Someone improving a GPL-covered work does not 
have that choice.

>> A person who is respectful of others cannot demand to take their
>> choices away.
> Agreed.  But granting more choices that the person didn't have is
> hardly similar to this.

"Better than a sharp stick in the eye'.

> And refraining from granting other choices
> that the person wanted to get, but that would enable the person to
> take away from others,

You can't 'take away' anything that is already available.

> might be "respectful" to the direct recipient
> in some strange world, but not respectful of downstream users.

The downstream users can never have less available.  The choices when 
adding something are to permit it to be shared or not.  In many 
situations the GPL simply prohibits any sharing or improvement at all, 
the worst of all possible outcomes.

>>> 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.
> And yet, per your own arguments, sharing something that is undesirable
> never harms the sharing you regard as good.  So why do you care?
> Could you at least try to be consistent?

I am consistent and am talking about the larger set of what it 
prohibits, not the small subset of what it allows.

>>> 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?
> Not respecting users' freedoms can never be an improvement.
> Being unable to combine GPLed code with code under some other license
> is not something you can blame on the GPL alone.

Of course I can.  The entire reason for the GPL to exist is to prevent 
combining with code under other terms.  That is it's unique feature.

> It's always because
> the other license is less permissive than the GPL, and for all other
> copyleft licenses, because they were *designed* to be, to weaken the
> plan of sharing of the GPL.

No, it is because only the GPL has a work-as-a-whole clause that 
explicitly prohibits most of the potential ways of improving the work.

>> There is no way to take any of the rights that the GPL conveys
>> compared to copyright law without this clause being applied.
> And what about *other* rights you might have received through other
> means?

What about them? The only way you get rights beyond what copyright law 
would enforce is by applying exactly GPL terms to all parts of a work as 
a whole.

>> If there is any part where only the GPL applies you must accept the
>> 2b terms or you can't share it at all.
> That's false.  You only need to abide by the conditions in 2b *if* you
> choose to modify the program, and distribute modified versions.

No, you don't have the right to distribute without accepting GPL terms 
whether modifications are involved or not.  The upstream distribution 
where you got your copy would have already had to apply the GPL terms 
for you to obtain it.

> If you merely run the program, or distribute it in source code form
> the way you received it, you don't need to abide by any of the
> conditions of section 2.

Running the program is permitted without accepting the license. 
Redistributing is not, modified or otherwise. If you distribute, you 
must apply exactly the GPL terms - which in the unmodified case had to 
have already been applied.

>> I'm talking about what the license actually says and what has to
>> happen if you comply with it.
> A license (rather than license agreement) is a grant of permissions to
> do certain things, nothing but it.    The only thing you agree to is to
> receive those permissions.

That's simply not true.

> As long as you operate within those
> permissions, you're covered.  If you operate outside them, you're not
> covered by that license.  If you have another license that grants you
> that permission, you're still covered.

But you can't be 'within' the GPL permissions (terms) unless you comply 
with it's work-as-a-whole clause.  And it explicitly says that nothing 
else can give you permission to redistribute.

>> Do you not agree that cooperation should be voluntary? Or that you
>> should have the right to make that voluntary choice?
> No.  Quite the opposite.  It is a key point.  It is by no means wrong.

But you have no voluntary choice for the terms on your own work added to 
improve a work containing GPL-encumbered code.

> You're the one insisting that it's wrong for lots of developers to not
> want their contributions to GPLed programs contributed to non-GPLed
> efforts.  Consistency?

It is wrong to deny any possibility that may improve the state of the 
art in software development or provide a useful new program that may 
improve people's lives. The potential recipients of such products have 
their own inherent and self-evident freedom to choose whether the terms 
imposed are desirable or not.  Denying that freedom is the part of the 
harm.  Authors may have the right to impose the GPL restrictions, it may 
be better than copyright law alone (or a sharp stick in the eye), but it 
still is harmful because of the choices it takes away.

>> Something that you make freely available can't be 'exploited' in any
>> way that hurts it.  It can only be improved.
> The recipients can be exploited, and that's the harm that the GPL
> attempts to prevent.

You can't be 'exploited' by being permitted to have more choices. And 
those choices are what the GPL prohibits - with the result that that 
great majority of people get no use of the code at all.

   Les Mikesell
    lesmikesell at gmail.com

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