[K12OSN] Scary article from Russia (w/o love)

Les Mikesell lesmikesell at gmail.com
Wed May 20 19:05:05 UTC 2009

David L. Willson wrote:

> I certainly understand part of your point of view, but not the coercion part...

Start from the perspective of having once built a piece of software that 
combined freely available components, then being prohibited from sharing 
it because the GPL-covered component, deceptively calling itself free, 
restricted distribution with the other parts unless its own restrictions 
could be imposed on them.

> What point is there in Linux's existence, in your perspective?  What is it's key differentiator?  Is it just another MacOS or another Windows, or is there something more to it?  Is Linux an integral part of the Free software "thing" or is it just a free (as in cheap) operating system?

Linux gained its popularity because *bsd code was involved in a lawsuit 
from AT&T at the time.  The bsd base was clearly a better design and 
work on it benefits everyone - including all the parts that were copied 
into Linux.  However, that's a one way trip.  Developments for Linux are 
restricted by the GPL from being used in many other situations and thus 
can't be combined with concurrent work in other components like zfs.

As a user, I consider affordable and complete software to be the real 
objective and the GPL is an impediment to that since it prevents the 
covered works which could be used to reduce the cost of competitive 
alternatives from being combined with anything else as a derived work.

> For my part, I'm pretty sure there's an important principle being protected by the GPL.

At the cost of keeping a monopoly in business.

> I'm really confused about your last statement, with regard to your use of the word "forced".  You said: 
>> Or, you can simply be forced to continue to support the proprietary 
>> monopoly business because the GPL restrictions prevent covered works 
>> from being improved to a point where they are competitive.  Like 95%
>> or 
>> so of the population does...
> [...]
>> With the GPL, only one person actually gets the freedom to choose. 
>> Everyone else has to follow its restrictions which prevent any other 
>> choices.
> [...]
> I think you're just plain wrong on the first one.


>  Many GPL products are beautifully done and very competitive.

But as the posting that started this thread correctly stated, incomplete.

>  Let's take Red Hat, for example.  They seem to be providing a worthy product.  Same with Ubuntu and OpenSUSE.

Don't confuse the contents of a distribution with GPL-covered material. 
  You can aggregate separate programs in the same distribution and all 
distributions include bsd/mit/mpl/apache/cddl covered material too.  The 
restriction is on any single thing that might be considered a derived 
work under copyright law, and if those contain any GPL code at all, it 
must all be covered by a GPL-compatible license.

>  But that's where we have that difference of opinion.  You seem to think GPL'd products suck, because of the defining principle, and I think they rock, for exactly the same reason.

No, I don't think GPL'd products suck.  I think it sucks that the code 
that comprises them is restricted from being improved and reused in many 
other potential ways.  Imagine if the *bsd networking code had such 
restrictions - we would almost certainly not have anything like the 
interoperability we see on the internet today.

>  I ~like~ choosing my desktop environment.  I don't want KDE or GNOME to fold into the other.

That's not particularly relevant, but what if also you had choices where 
new teams could combine the best elements of both?  You can't ever have 
that choice where one part is GPL'd and the other not.  While it is the 
author's right to keep it from you, I don't understand why anyone likes it.

>  I ~like~ the fact there are some restrictions on packing in proprietary code.  I also like the fact that I can buy and install and run all the proprietary code I want, after the fact.

First, the restrictions are not on 'proprietary' code - they are on any 
code that doesn't exactly meet the GPL restrictions and affects code 
which actually is free as well.  Also there are things that belong in 
the kernel that are covered by other terms and you can't add them on.

>  If all Linux was, was freeware, or public domain, if authors couldn't protect their work from proprietization, if it ever goes there, Linux has lost, even if Microsoft goes away and the thing that is then called Linux has 85% (or 95% or whatever it is).  Linux is Free and protected to remain so.  If you want something "free-er", by your definition, try BSD or something else.  There is a lot of product out there that is freeware/public-domain/LGPL/etc...

The only reason anyone would need to 'protect' against other improved 
works would be if you expect them to be enough better than the original 
that everyone would switch.  And why would you not want people to have a 
choice to use a better product?

> I also think you're mistaken about the 95% of the people that use Windows.  They're not forced ~and~ they don't choose intentionally.

So what was the alternative over the last 10 or 15 years?  What is it 
now if only proprietary drivers are available for a hardware component?

> They just take the default, by and large.  Most people want a McComputer, and they don't care about the computer or the OS.  They don't realize (or care) that cars and McComputers are fundamentally different, in that car sales are competed for, where OS sales are (by and large) not.

Yes, the non-competitive situation has been maintained by the GPL 
restrictions as much as anything else since that code can't be used to 
lower the bar to building a compete alternative.

> And last, how does an author's choice of license restrict anyone but those that agree that his product is worth using, under that license?  Do people 

In a large software project, getting the first working code released is 
about 10% of the job.  If that code is covered by the GPL, the other 
people who want to contribute to an actual usable version have no choice 
about the terms on their own work that will eventually constitute the 
other 90% and there is no choice about the use of other library 
components that might be used for additional features.

   Les Mikesell
     lesmikesell at gmail.com

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