hypothetical(?) GPL problem

Frank Heckenbach frank at g-n-u.de
Fri Jun 22 14:51:02 UTC 2001

Marc Eberhard wrote:

> Well, it seems, that most people here are quite pessimistic about the will
> of the hardware manufacturers to cooperate. So one must come to the
> conclusion, that they will be releasing more and more binaries instead of
> less, if they're allowed to do so. Is that, because more and more parts of
> the product are moved from hardware implementations to software, so that the
> driver for that piece of hardware forms an essential part of the product and
> thus the manufacturers want to hide it from their competitors?

Yes, it might be a little pessimistic. Sure, there are positive
examples of hardware makers supporting the development free drivers,
but many do not. And I'm not sure if more would do that if it would
be made easier for them to release non-free drivers.

> As being optimistic by default, I see this as only one possibility. It could
> also be, that they take the chance to concentrate on their core business,
> being the production of hardware, and leave the driver part to others, which
> most likely results in free drivers. Why do you think, that this scenario is
> not realistic?

Actually I'm wondering myself. If I was a hardware maker and wanted
to sell hardware, not drivers, I'd be happy if other people were
writing the drivers for free. But many hardware makers don't seem to
work this way (yet?). Perhaps they're just irrationally afraid of
releasing interface specifications because they're entangled in the
old "intellectual property" world-view. If you're more paranoid --
perhaps they have some agreements with big software makers ...

> [...]
> > What it does not allow is to *distribute* the resulting binary
> > because that would deprive the recpient from the freedoms.
> And this applies to all software companies, right? They live on selling
> software. They spread new ideas into the market. They produce the products,
> most users see and use. Having no free libraries in these products, makes it
> impossible to reach people through this main path of software delivery to
> end users.

As others have pointed out, the goal of the FSF(E) is not to spread
GNU software as far as possible, but to make sure it remains free.
So a distribution of a GNU library in millions of copies of
proprietary programs would not be productive, in fact
counter-productive because it doesn't give the end-users the
freedoms. It might give them a technically better, but proprietary
program and therefore less reason to switch to a really free

> I see here again your more pessimistic view. Companies will take, but never
> give back. I can argue against it, that putting up this barrier, does cause
> some kind of confrontation. So it is just logic to me, that the companies in
> question, will not be very willing to cooperate with free software authors.
> On the other hand, if you choose to be more open and allow them to use your
> free library, its more of a collaboration and this can open a lot of doors
> for your free library too. I think, that diplomacy is a better approach here
> instead of a restrictive licence.

Well, it's each author's choice to use the GPL, LGPL or another
license, but some authors would rather have no cooperation with
companies than such that makes the software non-free.

> [...]
> > If it's that easy, why don't you just tell them about M$'s practices
> > (attempts to lock them in, i.e. make them dependent, using
> > interfaces, file formats, net protocols, patents, etc.), and windoze
> > will be gone in no time ... :-(
> I do! And I'm doing quite well at the moment in raising people's concerns
> about sending around winword or powerpoint files (I'm still new to my
> current work place). Most have stopped to send these formats and started to
> think about alternatives. The same is true for some special software used
> here. Making it known, does help a lot. It seems to me, that most people
> were just simply unaware of this and if you mention it to them, they are
> very interested in getting this sorted. And it appears to me, that they are
> also very willing to try new ideas out. Of course not on an over night base,
> but ask me again in one year and I'm sure to be able to report more
> success(es).

That's good. However, my experience is that most people will stop
sending me such formats if I ask them to, but more "out of
compassion for this poor Linux user who can't use our standard
formats" (vomit) than because of fear of lock-in or something. I.e.,
they still write their texts with winword, but export them to plain
text, HTML, PDF or something when they send them to me.

When I talk about things like freedom or that companies want to make
them dependent, most of the time I have the impression they don't
even listen. They seem to have gotten used to being out of control
of their computer, and they don't seem to care much if they can use
their documents a few years from now, or if they'll have to start
from scratch when they get a new machine. Maybe it's because they
don't have much valuable stuff on their machines, and most of their
text-processing is like "type it, print it, forget it/delete it", I
don't know.

So if it's really easy to convice typical "winusers" with arguments
based on freedom, please tell me how.


Frank Heckenbach, frank at g-n-u.de
PGP and GPG keys: http://fjf.gnu.de/plan

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