Fw: Query about GNU-GPL

Niall Douglas s_fsfeurope2 at nedprod.com
Thu Mar 31 02:22:07 UTC 2005

On 30 Mar 2005 at 23:57, Alfred M. Szmidt wrote:

>    No, theft is when you lose what was due to you by right.
> And you didn't loose the source code, hence no theft.  What part of
> this do you not grasp?

You lose the money that you would have earned if someone else hadn't 
stolen your code and sold it instead of you. I agree it's not the 
same as perhaps you were a lousy seller and couldn't have made the 
money anyway - but IMHO if you take risk and be step change 
innovative, you must get money. In an ideal legal framework, you 
would be *encouraging* people to "steal" your code because that would 
generate additional revenue for you - but under such a system, it's 
no longer stealing.

>    There is a very simple formula for determining whether a moral
>    crime has been committed - was there a victim? If there was, it was
>    a moral crime.
> And this isn't the "formula" that is used in either law or in common
> sense.

<offtopic> It's a good guiding principle, and one that should be more 
often applied everywhere - then we wouldn't have some of our stupid & 
doomed laws. </offtopic>

>    You can't surely disagree with this as it's also the basis of the
>    GPL - everyone donates their work if others do the same.
> Actually, I can disagree with this since it is completely bogus.  This
> isn't the basis of the GPL, the only basis the GPL has it to protect
> the _users_ freedom.

The GPL equates users with programmers as with source access all 
users can become programmers. Hence my statement stands - under the 
GPL, everyone donates their work if others do the same.

>    Therefore, if the Microsoft's of this world stopped innovating, ALL
>    innovation in software would cease if left up to free software
>    alone.
> Once again I suggest that you open a book about computer history,
> "Microsoft's of this world" have done either very little so called
> "innovating", or none at all.
>    You will of course disagree with this, go read my past posts to
>    this mailing list first.
> There is nothing to "disagree" with since it is false, and on the
> verge of being a lie.

Microsoft brought a whole raft of mainframe & laboratory features to 
the home user in a format they could operate without arcane technical 
knowledge. If that isn't step-change innovation in a nutshell, I 
don't know what is.

>    Under a better system, everyone who takes risks/innovates gets
>    reward. The GPL can only really be applied to things like software,
>    applying it to other intangibles like music and movies just doesn't
>    work.
> The GPL (or the principals) applies quite fine to music, now instead
> of computer history you should look at music history, classical and
> folk music are good places to start. I do not watch movies that much,
> but I cannot see why the same wouldn't apply there.

No they're not. Software is of a fundamentally different type than 
music, books or movies because /it/ /is/ /a/ /tool/ used to amplify 
human effort. It is therefore more like a spanner than a song.

Creating music requires money, and doesn't generate much in return 
naturally (it's why there were so few full-time musicians a hundred 
years ago). At the very least, it costs what the artist would earn 
working in a field or factory for the same period of time and people 
naturally don't donate much to musicians unless they are very, very 

Similarly, writing a book requires even more money and generates even 
less naturally. Before the printing press, it took people years to 
duplicate books and there was virtually no return on investment, 
hence mostly only monks did it. After the printing press, plagerism 
was rife and despite copyright, has continued ever since - if it 
weren't that economies of scale caused only a few printers to emerge, 
copyright could never have been enforced. Nevertheless, many more 
books got written than would be otherwise if it hadn't been the 
primary method of disseminating propaganda for centuries.

Lastly, a movie requires even way more money again (now you have 
dozens of professionals to pay over weeks or months) and generates 
even less again (as a proportion of its costs) than books or music if 
it weren't for the rule of law and hitherto hegemony of the US movie 

The prevalence of each form decreases under the GPL in reverse order -
 so if you GPLed a movie, it would never get made. If you GPLed a 
book, anything more than a short one would never get made and 
besides, too many cooks spoil the broth. You may have some luck with 
music that doesn't require mixing and mastering, but again they're 
all loss making ventures.

Compare to GPLed software - here releasing your software to the wild 
/makes/ /you/ /money/ because you outsource development & debugging 
costs. Everyone benefits. This is only made possible because software 
is a TOOL which gives forth to different effects than most other 

> You really should read up on computer history before making the absurd
> claims that you are doing...

And you should bear in mind that I have been defending these views 
for years in this and other more hostile forums. You'll eventually 
dismiss me after I unsettle you and you get bored of me, deciding I 
am a crackpot and go on believing what you do. But hey, maybe someday 
I'll convince someone I may have a point and until then, this lives 
on inside google.


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