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Re: (boring licensing thread) Re: WebID sketch

From: hellekin <hellekin@cepheide.org>
Date: Wed, 19 Mar 2014 12:31:48 -0300
Message-ID: <5329B864.8040101@cepheide.org>
To: Arto Bendiken <arto@bendiken.net>
CC: W3C Ruby RDF mailing list <public-rdf-ruby@w3.org>, The Unlicense mailing list <unlicense@googlegroups.com>
P.S.: Maybe that's not so boring after all.  But hold on, it's LONG,
COMPLEX, and goes WAY BEYOND LICENSES.  You've been warned!

On 03/19/2014 05:04 AM, Arto Bendiken wrote:
> On Wed, Mar 19, 2014 at 4:36 AM, hellekin <hellekin@cepheide.org> wrote:
>> On 03/18/2014 11:18 PM, Gregg Kellogg wrote:
>>> How, exactly, dos UNLICENCE not favor the commons?
> Gregg's question is a good one, as the public domain is the very
> definition of the commons.
*** I think we agree on the fact that it is important for software to be
considered like science, and therefore pertain to the whole of humanity.

>> *** The Public Domain allows defector developers to build proprietary
>> code from public code, and share it without sharing the sources.  They
>> could pick UNLICENSED code and modify it, and sell it back to you with
>> some nasty feature builtin. That's how.
> You are free not to purchase it. Indeed, you'd be a fool to purchase it.
> We hereby heartily welcome any and all nefarious efforts by little
> greedy evil corporate industrialists to fork RDF.rb and attempt to
> sell it back to us in shiny wrapping. It will make for a good laugh.
*** I'm sorry you focused on the word "sell".  That was not my point.  I
used "sell" because that is what proprietary software vendors do, but my
argument is not about economics.  I don't see any issue with selling
software, especially if that helps writing more free software.

No, the issue is about shipping unverifiable code, or more explicitly:
malicious code.  In the wake of the Snowden Apocalypse, it should be a
no-brainer for anyone on this list to agree on the fact that non-free
software must be considered insecure for the simple reason of the
demonstrated intent of some proprietary vendors to control their users,
and do to them things that free software developers would not do, for
ethical reasons.

If free software was about gratuity, one could implement free software
backdoors, and hope to reach a small enough niche market for a long
enough time to exploit their users intentionally.  But what happens
instead is that open-source developers take it for granted that 1) free
software is about gratuity, and 2) free software is about excellence.
And then you have  CVE-2014-0092, that announces a 10-year-old critical
bug.  If that one was intentional, then maybe the ethics of open-source
developers is to blame, that it overlook user's freedom and assumed
excellence and enough eyeballs would fix it.

>> In contrast, the GPL still allows defectors to keep their own
>> modifications for themselves, but forces them to share what they
>> distribute.  That is to ensure that distributed code remains favorable
>> to the user's freedom.
>> Once the code is in the public domain, it's difficult to keep it for
>> oneself, but it's possible.  The UNLICENSE fosters the commons, and GPL
>> enforces the commons.
> Slapping the GPL on a piece of software isn't enforcement. Taking
> someone to court for a GPL violation, i.e. sending men with guns after
> them, is enforcement. If you're not prepared to do the latter, there's
> little point to the former. Gotta walk the talk.
> The notion that just slapping the GPL on something will somehow make
> evil people or evil corporations behave differently is a form of
> magical thinking. Those who would benefit from your software without
> reciprocity will do so in any case, with or without the implied
> copyright-sanctioned threats; and regarding my software I say, they’re
>  welcome to knock themselves out [1].
> Indeed, this point is perhaps best demonstrated in Rob Landley's
> writings and presentations on the infamous BusyBox GPL lawsuits [2],
> which he initiated but in due course lost control over after they
> became a nasty self-perpetuating and self-funding lawyer-enrichment
> machine [3]. These days, he regrets the whole sordid affair. In short,
> Landley used to be a True Believer, even a Prophet, of the Cult of
> Stallman, but the lawsuits and the FSF's GPLv3 antics quite cured him.
> Now he's all in on permissive licensing, already even a little public
> domain-curious.
> There's some very good perspective in Landley's recent presentation
> [3] from a guy who's seen all sides of the story and converted just
> about 180 degrees. The presentation is about the project he's now
> leading to rewrite the whole Linux userland to be permissively
> licensed, and includes choice words on the futility of GPL enforcement
> (violations are matter of course) and the ongoing slow death of *GPL
> as well; as Landley puts it, "Copyleft is dying. The one thing GPLv3
> achieved was undermining GPLv2."
*** That is indeed an excellent argument.  GPL is not enforcement, and
the Busybox lawsuit demonstrates how important it is to proprietary
software vendors to avoid that the GPL be recognized as legally binding
as a contract.  For some reasons, proprietary software vendors are happy
with considering their EULAs legally binding, but really don't want that
the GPL receives the same status.

You need to understand that the GPL is fighting proprietary software on
legal ground, and therefore depends on the law.  The only issue is that
by default code without a license is proprietary.  And code in the
Public Domain can be appropriated.

As an illustration of this, one could consider another common: water.
In Brazil and Argentina, coastline and lakes are public, because access
to water is a right, and thus water is a common pool resource, in all
the extent of the legal sense.  But in practice, rich people who can
afford to ignore the law, either because they can bribe the legal
system, or because they can afford to run their opponent bankrupt with
lawyers fees, with appropriate coastlines, islands, or lakes with
impunity.  Of course, one cannot appropriate public source code, because
there's always a free copy lying around.  But take the example of Apple.

Apple appropriated the BSD code to build OSX.  They bundled it with
their proprietary software.  They achieved to make the most advanced
user experience available to non-hackers.  They saved millions of
dollars of investment in programming by using available free software.
And they could do it because it was free.  But what did they contribute
back to the community?  They're enforcing an anti-free-software policy,
and participating in NSA surveillance, and avoid paying free software
developers while being parasites to their work, and on top of it they
abuse labor laws and avoid paying taxes.  Great achievement isn't it?

All this would not be possible with GPL code, and the GPL enforced.
Instead what would happen is that millions of dollars would be thrown at
lawyers until a judge rules, like it happened in Germany, that Apple
would need to provide their code to the free software community.  And
all the embedded UX would then be liberated.

But instead what happens is that free software developers keep working
for few bucks in their vast majority, or depend on large companies that
contradict users' freedom, and overall the advancement of human science
is restrained by this situation, while the concentration of power keeps
growing at unprecedented rates.  Patent trolls will invest in more
patents, and will drive companies out of business if they see a chance
that the company cannot enforce prior art of their Public Domain or BSD
or "MIT" code. And that, my friend, is the sad reality of the world we
live in: we may not give a shit about lawyery speak, but our democracies
are cutting entire forests for printing the result of their work.

>> There's an ongoing discussion re: GPL vs. PPL.  The Peer Production
>> License is similar to the GPL but restricts commercial usage of the
>> software to producers.  That is, only active cooperators are entitled to
>> make money from their work.  That effectively cuts the middleman--i.e.,
>> the capitalist--from the equation, but it does not prevent proprietary
>> software companies to employ the same strategy, and exclude free
>> software developers--that is, really, anyone that is not their
>> partner--from contributing or using their software.
> As the original author of RDF.rb, I acknowledge that anyone and
> everyone is entitled to try and make a buck from my
> publicly-available, published work. Good luck, I hope it works out for
> you. In any case, it's no loss to me. (Incidentally, this is known as
> a positive-sum outcome.)
*** From your point of view there's a positive-sum outcome, but from the
point of view of people who are stuck on the consumer side of things,
the sum is not so positive.  Not doing harm does not prevent others from
doing harm.  It merely postpones harm done to you, directly or
indirectly.  In other words: "works for me" is not a responsible
political decision on a planet with limited resources.

>> For those reasons, I prefer the GPL, even if I consider the legal
>> framework to be a vast field on bullshit. [...]
>> In a perfect world, we would not use any license at all.
> People like to say that, but their actions demonstrate the contrary
> and show what they really believe. They might do well to note that
> their guru, the noble Mr. Stallman, is in fact forthright about being
> opposed to ending the copyright monopoly [4]: "Richard is against
> abolishing copyrights because, to his view, without copyright,
> enforcing copyleft would be impossible."
*** I'm sad you're cutting yourself from the free software movement.
Besides, Omnis lectio est selectio (all reading is an interpretation)
and IMO, this article you're citing makes the same error as you do.  To
keep things simple "without copyright, enforcing copyleft would be
impossible" because copyleft is built on top of copyright.  That is a
fact.  Copyright law imposes itself to people *automatically*, that is
exactly why it has to be like this.

The UNLICENSE in that regard is no different.  If you do not UNLICENSE
your code, it's proprietary, de facto, per the Copyright law.  So you
dedicate it to the Public Domain, that's what the UNLICENSE does.  So in
that regard, the UNLICENSE also depends on Copyright, because the Public
Domain is also relative to Copyright: it is the legal space outside of
Copyright reach.  But that space is so to speak an infinite space where
picking stuff out of it does not deprive it.

What it does however, to pick stuff out of this infinite common, and
putting it back into the Copyright space, is to allow proprietary
software vendors to freeride on the public's work and provide an
artificially restrained economic space that restrains participation to
the public domain by enforcing the rent of the capital as the main
attractor of attention and human labor.  Because proprietary software
vendors are able to pick freely in the public domain, they can produce
non-free software more cheaply, which in turn limits the public domain
(by way of more patents built on top of free contributions, etc.).

> Gregg, Ben, and I--plus many dozens of active contributors on this
> mailing list--have *by our actions* made genuine, concrete steps
> towards a post-copyright future, producing a useful, large code base
> that is free and rid of the copyright monopoly [5], wholly free and
> unencumbered for anyone to use for any purpose (including making a
> buck). It is firmly on the right side of history, free and rid of the
> poisonous legacy institution that, contrary to platitudes taught in
> civics class, in fact always had its ignoble origins in censorship and
> monopoly [6, 7], and is getting ever worse on that front, as none can
> deny.
*** I absolutely agree with the intention.  Except that for the reasons
I mentioned above, especially the asymmetry of legal firepower that you
also mentioned, this can backfire.  As long as software patents exist,
there's legal ground for censorship.  Our fight, and I mean *our*, not
"their" or "your", is to be fought on higher grounds than licensing or
unlicensing.  One aspect of the GPLv3 that is too often forgotten is "to
give advantage to free software developers" by preventing defector
behaviors.  That is one of the pillars of institutions for cooperation
that Elinor Ostrom described in her Drama of the Commons.  If you do not
punish defectors, they will keep abusing the commons with impunity.

> We are laboring at backporting the bright copyright-free future into
> the copyright-afflicted present [8], increasing the overall wealth and
> productivity of all mankind, and you say that we do not favor the
> commons? We *are* the commons, and we are the future.
*** Yes. I keep saying that because you don't make a step to prevent
defection, you participate in an environment where free software
developers must depend on non-free software industries to thrive.  As
far as I know, the Mozilla Foundation is dwarfed by Google, Facebook,
Apple, Cisco, Microsoft, Oracle, etc. And these companies, not you,
decide how technology is shaped in "the future", because they have the
power to impose this on you. If they all were forced to contribute to
the commons, i.e., if they unconditionally had to cooperate, the amount
of resources that would be effectively liberated to build a
copyright-free future would bring us to new heights.

In fact, the GPL and the UNLICENSE are two strategies towards this road.
 The intentions are the same.  But the former is saying that defectors
will keep defecting and must be forced into compliance, while the latter
is saying that defectors don't matter and cooperation will win anyway.
I tend to think that the latter is too optimistic.

But my real thought, and that is reflected by the Subject of this thread
("boring licensing thread") is that we would better spend our energy to
convince Google, Apply, Facebook, Cisco, Microsoft, Oracle, etc. that we
would all benefit thousand-times-fold if we would forget entirely about
software copyright and patents, and restore the scientific endeavor into
software development.  All of them have enough assets to make the jump
from Renaissance to General Relativity.  The problem is not law or
economic competition, but the lack of global vision for planetary

Where we stand, we don't have so much time as to wonder about licenses.
We must restore democracy and put back the human at the center of
civilization if we are to avoid self-destruction of the species within
our lifetime.


> [1] http://ar.to/2010/01/set-your-code-free
> [2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BusyBox#GPL_lawsuits
> [3] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SGmtP5Lg_t0
> [4] http://rudd-o.com/monopolies-of-the-mind/thoughts-after-my-dinner-with-richard-stallman
> [5] http://torrentfreak.com/language-matters-framing-the-copyright-monopoly-so-we-can-keep-our-liberties-130714/
> [6] http://questioncopyright.org/promise
> [7] http://falkvinge.net/2011/02/01/history-of-copyright-part-1-black-death/
> [8] http://ar.to/2010/12/licensing-and-unlicensing

Received on Wednesday, 19 March 2014 15:32:49 UTC

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