Fw: Query about GNU-GPL

Niall Douglas s_fsfeurope2 at nedprod.com
Thu Mar 24 12:20:11 UTC 2005

On 23 Mar 2005 at 20:21, Jeroen Dekkers wrote:

> > I as many other free software believers would argue that the GPL is
> > a necessary evil (ask any BSD believer). You know there is more than
> > one kind of free software than GPL and it doesn't help with people
> > ramming the GPL without qualification down the throat of anyone who
> > asks.
> Talking about "GPL zealots" doesn't help anything either.

Why does the term keep coming up again and again then? People get so 
fixated on there being this one single truth which just has to be 
true, because if it isn't then their nice comfortable world suddenly 
gets insecure.

People constantly forget that views on how software should be 
exchanged between people are belief systems, and as those systems 
harden they become religious in overtone. As usual, most people on 
this list will think I am spouting crap, but I think it's very easy 
to stop seeing the wood from the trees. Is the GPL or any form of 
software licensing more important than freeing software? No it isn't. 
What we all actually want, and need, is replacement of the legal 
support for computer software with something a lot better than a 
derivative of printing-press book law.

> > > The GPL FAQ is infact based on answers from lawyers (Molgen I
> > > belive), and people who have better knowledge about the GPL then
> > > you at the FSF.
> > 
> > Lawyers will write what you ask them if you pay them so long as the
> > view you ask for can be supported by a particular interpretation of
> > the law. Just as equally, I could pay often the exact same lawyer to
> > write my interpretation of the law.
> The only thing is that the FSF doesn't pay lawyers. Eben Moglen works
> pro bono for the FSF. So please stop saying ridiculous things such as
> the FSF paying lawyers to give opinions which don't stand in court.

Paying need not be monetary, it's why lawyers do pro bono work. If I 
were extremely cynical, I would say that he is seeding avenues of 
future work though from what I have read of him, he is a 
conscientious man who probably genuinely believes his opinion is 
right. Nevertheless, it doesn't change my point - lawyers don't set 
the interpretation of law, courts do - so Moglen's opinion while 
possible is by no means as sacrosant as GPL believers would like it 
to be.

There's a part of me who would like to see the GPL fully tested in 
court with the FSF up against some very good corporate lawyers. 
Almost certainly the current legal position of the GPL would be 
weakened and a distributed sigh of disbelief would emanate from the 
GPL believers. The great and true GPL FAQ would need substantial 
parts rewording and perhaps Microsoft among others would start using 
unmodified GPLed DLL's in their products with no worry about "GPL 
contamination" as they would put it.

Of course, the majority of me recognises that that would be a bad 
idea overall as most of the power of the GPL comes from its perceived 
risk to proprietary code rather than its actual, but it would sure be 
nice to see some of that zealotry wiped off some people's faces.


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