hypothetical(?) GPL problem

Marc Eberhard m.a.eberhard at aston.ac.uk
Tue Jun 26 08:25:18 UTC 2001

Hi !

On Tue, Jun 26, 2001 at 12:32:16AM +0200, Xavi Drudis Ferran wrote:
> Hey!. I want you in my company (or should I look for a job in yours?). 

Go to http://jobs.ac.uk and enter the keywords "Aston University". Had a
quick look at your companies web page... is it Spanish or Portuguese?
Couldn't really understand anything. :-))))

> Pity it must be too far away to commute. When I try to convince people 

Yes, I'm afraid it is.

> in my workplace to send stuff in free formats or at least PDF I am not 
> too successful. And when I joined I thought they knew their stuff... 
> If you have a web page somewhere with your usual arguments, it might help...
> In any case I think it is not my arguments, it must be my lack of tact 
> or something...

I don't really argue that often. I usually just send them an answer, that I
could not read their attachment, because it uses a proprietary file format.
Since they want me to read their stuff, they have to think about it. And if
they ask me to send them something, I send them a TeX file. That usually
makes them very happy. :-)

> Back to the original thread. I think in many cases we don't want 
> too much freedom, just the optimum. One's freedom ends where their 
> neighbour's begins.

Who said that? Wasn't it Matthias Claudius?

> I defend freedom of speach, but not shouting 
> out loud at 3 am when I want to sleep (well, it is justified sometimes, 
> but not just for a party). Or I don't want people to be free to carry 
> and use guns. I don't want people to be free to take another person's 
> property. I don't like free thieves.

I fully agree with you.

> So I don't want people to make a piece of free software non-free. 
> The free version could be easily lost once a heavily embraced and extended 
> non free version exists. 
> I think one of the benefits of the GPL is that (except for weird 
> circumventions that I wouldn't think are so serious as Alessandro
> fears, but I haven't thought about it at all) the set of GPL software
> can only grow, never diminish. BSD software can either grow or shrink 
> because the license may be changed and the original BSD licensed version 
> become obsolete. GPL does not allow for this, and 
> when it comes to defending freedoms, monotonicity is a very wellcome 
> property, because you can be sure that somebody will try to steal 
> your freedom some time or other if they can. Every program that adopts 
> the GPL will be GPLed forever, any BSD licensed program may disappear 
> behind closed doors.  

Well, I do see a problem here with your argumentation. Source code is not
useful forever. The problems we want to solve and the algorithms to so, do
change over the time. So some source code becomes obsolete with the years
passing by. Although the number of lines of free software only increases, it
doesn't say, if the number of "still useful" lines of code does the same. It
could well go down to zero again. So if we want to have a decent set of free
software tools, we do need to produce a certain amount of new code every
year and we do need to keep up with the state of the art. Just imagine a new
CPU and a manufacturer not releasing the instruction set without a NDA. All
your free software could become pretty useless pretty fast.

> So I don't care if a company is scared off by the GPL and does not 
> contribute free software. With the GPL we can wait an infinite time 
> until one does. With BSD we have to make sure that  
> total net contributions outweight the loses in every period. 

I strongly doubt, that we can wait an infinite time for the above given
reasons. I don't think, that we can win against companies that way, we have
to convince them. And we can't do that by completely ignoring their needs.

> You can't defend unlimited freedom because it is unsustainable, 
> but you can defend a fair balance of freedoms that sustains itself 
> and tends to bigger freedom.

Yes, and the question is: Is the GPL or the LGPL the better "balance of
freedoms" for free libraries? None of them offers unlimited freedom. Both
still have restrictions and these are a very important part of them.


email: marc at greenie.net
email: m.a.eberhard at aston.ac.uk, web: http://www.aston.ac.uk/~eberhama/

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