David T. McKee

The GNU Virus

21 posts in this topic

Richard Stallman - The computer's nemesis, the software collectivist, the coding communist. Okay, I guess I got that out of my system.

I want to throw something into this mix that has been discussed a bit here and there on the forum: I will include a link to an article about the so-called "Free Software Foundation" and truly free Open Source software here: When Free is not Free

I believe GNU (and specifically the GPL) is the initial thrust of collectivism in computers - but most likely not the last. The specific aspect of the GPL that is so bad is the STD like condition of it to force anyone who uses these "free" resources to make their own creations free. Well, not so fast Richie!

I am currently using some software techniques that I have developed which stops the virus of the Copyleft while allowing the use of the programs or libraries: Basically a set of Java wrappers with Socket, JMS, and REST based communications between them. The side that wraps the GNU libraries are of course GPL'd, the other side is proprietary and provides the interfaces. I am currently thinking about using the Spring framework so that the other side can be made such that the interface can be described in XML allowing .NET, C++ and Java proprietary code to work with it. It is a simple idea to get around the GPL crap if you want to use one of these so-called free programs.

What makes this possible is the fact that pure data transfer between GPL programs and other systems cannot be covered by their insidious anti-free copyleft (because if it were you could not run GPL programs on Windows machines).

Now, I am not addressing the issue of weather or not I think that using GPL programs is something you should do - I look at it like this: If somebody wants to throw their good stuff out onto the road-side for free, that makes my bottom line lower and my profits higher. I guess I am just an evil capitalist at heart.

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The specific aspect of the GPL that is so bad is the STD like condition of it to force anyone who uses these "free" resources to make their own creations free.

Despite your use of the word "force", the GPL does not depend on any initiation of force. With software released under the GPL, accepting the license agreement of the software is a precondition for distributing the software or modified versions of it, which is legitimate for the very same reason that copyright at all is legitimate.

Regardless of the philosophy of some proponents of the GPL, it may be rational to release software under that license. For example, one situation would be that you want to make sure that other users who build on the work you created either compensate you by licensing your software under different terms (such as payment), or that they release their derivative works back to the community to which you released your software in the first place--if this is a value to you.

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The problem with GPL2 is that it got used pervasively without people reading it. GPL2 is like a tar-baby and attaches itself to all software in a company. One of the first questions lawyers will ask a potential acquisition target is "do you use any GPL2 software." The insidiousness of GPL2 is why Apache wrote their own license (which is excellent).

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The problem with GPL2 is that it got used pervasively without people reading it.

That's not a problem "with" the GPL, but rather a widespread problem of carelessness. In fact, on the contrary--because the GPL is so well-known and used in so many software projects, I would expect software users to be more familiar with its terms--as opposed to most commercial software with non-open-source licenses, which are not standardized and must be inspected separately for each product, and sometimes, even worse, for each update (depending on the vendor).

GPL2 is like a tar-baby and attaches itself to all software in a company.

Only derivative works (I realize there are gray areas in this relating to linking, as David talked about--but that doesn't affect the primary issue). If a company is creating derivative works based on GPL-licensed software, I don't think it's fair to fault the license for that company's lack of research or planning if they were simply treating that software as public domain (not subject to any copyright or license).

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Only derivative works (I realize there are gray areas in this relating to linking, as David talked about--but that doesn't affect the primary issue). If a company is creating derivative works based on GPL-licensed software, I don't think it's fair to fault the license for that company's lack of research or planning if they were simply treating that software as public domain (not subject to any copyright or license).

The moral point is that GPL is deliberately structured to force any modifications or extensions to it, or even software that it is integrated into, to be no-charge, precisely because Stallman is an outright naked communist and Kantian. This is not a surmise, it is reality. If one really wants freedom to use "free" software, only licenses such as Apache and BSD are relevant.

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The moral point is that GPL is deliberately structured to force any modifications or extensions to it, or even software that it is integrated into, to be no-charge, precisely because Stallman is an outright naked communist and Kantian. This is not a surmise, it is reality. If one really wants freedom to use "free" software, only licenses such as Apache and BSD are relevant.

Perfectly formulated. To add some subtext to this - it's GPL _2_ that's the real problem. GPL was decent (from my limited legal understanding). Stallman then tried force his bizarre views on much of the software world by coming up with GPL2.

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I guess my basic concern, even with GPL-1, is that it claims to be "free". What constitutes free? There are books available which were written some time ago that are now considered to be part of the "commons" which means, other than the price to produce the printed material or the price to bring that them to your screen, they are essentially free to use - but you may not call these written works your own, and you still have to abide by the standards of quoting your sources from these kinds of works, etc. In most cases, however, you would be free to make printed copies of these kinds of "commons" works and sell them which is what book publishers do - without getting permission from any owners. I don't recall what the time-frame for this is for books, 80 years or something.

If GPL was applied to printed works, however, even if you quoted another "GPL work" in a book of your own, you would be forced to give your book away, and only be allowed to charge for the "printed" copies you sold, and would have to give out the PDF files for free. The analogy may not fit perfectly, but I think you get the drift - GPL wears the sheep's clothing of Open Source while containing within it, the wolf of forced release of intellectual property.

As stated then, your only recourse is to re-create the software on your own (most likely by viewing the GPL version and reverse engineering it - which is perfectly legal) - and it would have to be your own version of the software. Even then, (And even if you did not reverse engineer a GPL program), you may be accused of using GPL code - I am not sure how much teeth the FSF has to force people to prove that they did not use GPL, but under the current administration, probably more than we would prefer.

I have not problem with someone wanting to put their intellectual property out there for others to use - great. But don't then tell me it is "free" and at the same time attempt to impose some form of control over what I am creating - either say it is actually free, or say it is not and I need a license to use it (whatever the license is). The specific issue is the veiled attempt at trying to force a control of others intellectual property through this license. Up until GPL, a license what a license - you pay the fee, you can use the product. I can't tell you what to do with your product, just what you can do with my product. That is the essential aspect that GPL attempts to thwart.

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I have not problem with someone wanting to put their intellectual property out there for others to use - great. But don't then tell me it is "free" and at the same time attempt to impose some form of control over what I am creating - either say it is actually free, or say it is not and I need a license to use it (whatever the license is). The specific issue is the veiled attempt at trying to force a control of others intellectual property through this license. Up until GPL, a license what a license - you pay the fee, you can use the product. I can't tell you what to do with your product, just what you can do with my product. That is the essential aspect that GPL attempts to thwart.

That should read "I have no problem..." and "Up until GPL, a license was a license" - Sorry, I hit that add reply when I meant to hit the preview. I guess there are no "take-backs" on the forum :lol:

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You're right that the meaning of "free" as used by the advocates of the abolition of copyright (and, by implication, the abolition of the freedom to set terms in a contract) is philosophically wrong.

Up until GPL, a license what a license - you pay the fee, you can use the product. I can't tell you what to do with your product, just what you can do with my product. That is the essential aspect that GPL attempts to thwart.

However, this comparison with the GPL is not correct unless you meant it to refer to only open-source-style licenses. Typical commercial licenses either forbid, or don't allow, creating derivative works with the product at all. (If they don't allow it, then it's not allowed, as copyright reserves that right to the copyright owner exclusively.) Thus, with typical licenses, or with software released for sale under copyright but no explicit license, you cannot incorporate the product into your products at all. With the GPL, you can, with restrictions. Those restrictions are only binding on you once you release the modified product, which copyright (in the absence of a license) would not allow you to do.

I don't believe the GPL qua license is deceptive. I don't agree with the anti-copyright views of its creators, but I still believe the license is useful and rational in some situations. I don't believe the usage of the license implies agreement with the views of its creators, or even with its preamble.

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I don't believe the GPL qua license is deceptive. I don't agree with the anti-copyright views of its creators, but I still believe the license is useful and rational in some situations. I don't believe the usage of the license implies agreement with the views of its creators, or even with its preamble.

It has a single fundamental goal: to attack the making of a profit on software. If a programmer wants to ensure that his work will never be used for such an "evil purpose", he should definitely use either flavor of GPL.

Incidentally, I don't think open source would have been nearly as large as it is without a dominant altruist ethics in the world, in the first place.

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It has a single fundamental goal: to attack the making of a profit on software. If a programmer wants to ensure that his work will never be used for such an "evil purpose", he should definitely use either flavor of GPL.

Incidentally, I don't think open source would have been nearly as large as it is without a dominant altruist ethics in the world, in the first place.

Whether it be the goal or not, it can be used to facilitate making a profit (not that this is necessarily the best way to do so). Some projects are dual-licensed--released under the GPL, as well as licensed under other terms for those who want to incorporate them into closed-source or commercial products.

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However, this comparison with the GPL is not correct unless you meant it to refer to only open-source-style licenses. Typical commercial licenses either forbid, or don't allow, creating derivative works with the product at all. (If they don't allow it, then it's not allowed, as copyright reserves that right to the copyright owner exclusively.) Thus, with typical licenses, or with software released for sale under copyright but no explicit license, you cannot incorporate the product into your products at all. With the GPL, you can, with restrictions. Those restrictions are only binding on you once you release the modified product, which copyright (in the absence of a license) would not allow you to do.

Actually there are many commercial products that are sold as "Libraries" or "API's" that are specifically designed to allow you to create products of your own. I should have been more specific in mentioning that case, I was not talking about closed software products such as "Word for Windows". One such product that is massively used is the Oracle Database System as an example. Others are components and libraries for Java or C++ development. Some are PHP scripts for your websites...the list is endless.

If I build a machine in my machine shop I have to buy the parts, the metal, the tools, etc. If I find a bit of scrap metal on the side of the road and decide I can use that in my machine, the fact that I found it for "free" does not mean I have to give my machine away for free. If I purchase a motor from GE and use it in my machine, I do not have to do what GE says, I can use/sell my machine however I desire - I have to pay GE for the motor, and I cannot say "I invented this motor" but my machine is still mine.

GPL seeks to thwart this central principle in the software realm.

Again the specific thing I have a problem with is how the GPL in general seeks to control the use of the created product (I don't use the term "derivative work" - My use of some part does not make my creation a "derivative" of the part I used) after the fact . That, in my mind, goes outside the purvue of what a license can legally do. What makes it so insidious is that at some level I suppose it sounds reasonable: "If you want to use this software component then you must give away anything you build with it for free - otherwise, don't use it" To the extent that a product is given away for free but retains the rights of the original author - well, so far so good. It is okay to say "This is free software - you cannot claim you wrote it and then charge money for my work". I agree with that statement. And perhaps what is meant by "derivative" is - I change a few things in some GPL software, call it my product, "copyright it", and attempt to sell it as my own - well this is clear copyright infringement. GPL is not necessary here. Frankly GPL is something Richard Stallman (not a lawyer, judge, or legislative representative) "made up" - and should be considered as legally binding as my personal law that everyone should wear blue hats on Thursday.

To say: "This is free software - if you even link against anything in this software all of your software becomes free, you cannot charge anything for it beyond distribution and you must show everyone who wants a copy of the source code." - nope, that is wrong, that goes beyond what should legally be allowed.

Bottom line - use GPL software to see how to do something, then do it better and charge as much as you can get for it.

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Again the specific thing I have a problem with is how the GPL in general seeks to control the use of the created product (I don't use the term "derivative work" - My use of some part does not make my creation a "derivative" of the part I used) after the fact . That, in my mind, goes outside the purvue of what a license can legally do.
Actually, a license can stipulate any requirements the owner chooses to put into it. It could very well require you to wear blue hats on Thursday as a condition of even downloading the product if that's what turns on the guy who owns the copyright. If you don't want to wear blue hats, don't download. (At least this is the way it ought to be--not sure what the actual law is.)

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Actually there are many commercial products that are sold as "Libraries" or "API's" that are specifically designed to allow you to create products of your own. I should have been more specific in mentioning that case, I was not talking about closed software products such as "Word for Windows". One such product that is massively used is the Oracle Database System as an example. Others are components and libraries for Java or C++ development. Some are PHP scripts for your websites...the list is endless.

I see the point you're making about libraries, and how a typical closed-source commercial library would be sold for payment, rather than for control over the software it was used in.

If I build a machine in my machine shop I have to buy the parts, the metal, the tools, etc. If I find a bit of scrap metal on the side of the road and decide I can use that in my machine, the fact that I found it for "free" does not mean I have to give my machine away for free.

But if the manufacturer of the part only gave it to you on the condition that you gave away your machine for free, that condition could be written in a legally enforceable contract, and such a legal backing would be moral. (Whether that is rational for the parties involved depends entirely on the circumstances.)

But there is some equivocation occurring here. Giving away a part (provided one is not bound by contract otherwise) does not require the permission of the creator of the part. Distributing copies of software, or other copyright-protected material, does. Incorporating a physical part in a larger machine does not require permission from the creator of the part. Creating a larger work of authorship that incorporates somebody else's copyrighted material does require permission from the copyright owner, and so does distributing it.

Again the specific thing I have a problem with is how the GPL in general seeks to control the use of the created product (I don't use the term "derivative work" - My use of some part does not make my creation a "derivative" of the part I used) after the fact .

"Derivative work" is a technical term in copyright law, and in your example, it does make your creation a derivative work. If the license for your example of a closed-source, commercial API did not grant appropriate redistribution and/or modification rights, you couldn't incorporate it into your product at all, because copyright does not permit it. Also, some licenses permit redistribution, but not modification. The GPL also permits modification.

That, in my mind, goes outside the purvue of what a license can legally do. What makes it so insidious is that at some level I suppose it sounds reasonable: "If you want to use this software component then you must give away anything you build with it for free - otherwise, don't use it"

It doesn't say that with regard to using the software--it says that with regard to redistributing, modifying, and incorporating the software. Again, things you would not have the right to do at all, due to copyright, (except perhaps for "incorporating", in some circumstances) unless granted to you by a license.

From the GPL, v2:

"You are not required to accept this License, since you have not signed it. However, nothing else grants you permission to modify or distribute the Program or its derivative works. These actions are prohibited by law if you do not accept this License. Therefore, by modifying or distributing the Program (or any work based on the Program), you indicate your acceptance of this License to do so, and all its terms and conditions for copying, distributing or modifying the Program or works based on it."

(Because I don't agree with everything in the GPL, let me just state that I do agree with the quoted part, based on my own separate understanding of copyright.)

To say: "This is free software - if you even link against anything in this software all of your software becomes free, you cannot charge anything for it beyond distribution and you must show everyone who wants a copy of the source code." - nope, that is wrong, that goes beyond what should legally be allowed.

How would one consistently support the right of copyright, but not support the right for a copyright holder to license some of their rights under such terms? Note, that if one distributed copyrighted software without a license, one could be civilly liable, similar to if one violates the GPL.

The one situation where I can see a point to what you were saying is if a company inadvertently incorporated GPLed software and then wanted to backtrack out of it, paying some statutory monetary penalty reflecting supposed damages rather than have to release a large amount of source code, which would damage them greater. (I would be interested to know if there were real-life cases of this situation.) I think it may be morally valid that a contract should not be able to legally set extraordinary damages, or perhaps not to set damages at all if it is not signed (rather than just implicitly accepted).

Also, I think it may be dubious that the GPL can apply to linking, but haven't researched it enough to reach a decision. If you were only claiming that the GPL's applicability to linking cannot be valid, I wouldn't argue with you. But, the GPL applies in many more situations than that, and parts of your posts refer to the GPL universally.

Admittedly I'm debating technicalities here--but I thought it best to clear them up. Indeed, in researching this post, I read the FSF's explanation of the LGPL (which permits linking), and it is pretty clear that what Phil said is true, that Stallman and company are trying to drive out commercial software developers as a long-term goal. I'm not arguing for this goal in the slightest--but only the legal validity of at least most of the GPL, and of the rationality of using it in some cases.

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Wow, when I first read the title I actually got concerned that there was some zero-day flaw in a common Linux app and that maybe my box was vulnerable. (While Linux malware does exist, it's pretty hard to come by accidentally.) I'm glad to hear it's just someone angry at the FSF.

One of the nice things about free software is that people have different ideas of what is and is not free/of-good-quality/moral and depending on geography, legal. While these differences lead to a lot of bickering, no one is stuck with the decision of Redmond and/or Cupertino, or any other developer for that matter. If you don't like how something is done, you can change it.

I think there's a bit of misunderstanding of Stallman's position in the Linux community. It isn't as though he is standing at the gateway to the repositories I have installed saying "No, you can't install that proprietary software." While the FSF encourages people to use their definition of free software, it isn't forcing people to do things their way - like Apple deciding who can and can't distribute applications for the iPhone. They also try to persuade people to drop patent and DRM encumbered media formats altogether, instead of using the hodgepodge of questionably legal workarounds that exists in Linux today. They tend to be viewed as quixotic at best. I certainly think Fedora / Red Hat and Debian are quite free, for example.

If you don't like GPL license terms, don't use the code. How about looking at the other software licenses? There are only dozens more.

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I think there's a bit of misunderstanding of Stallman's position in the Linux community.

The last time I read about it, Linus Torvalds himself refused to use GPL2. I hope he rues the day he ever chose GPL in the first place. Certainly it is Stallman's/FSF's logically necessary position given their philosophy to do everything possible to *force* proprietary software to be "free", which is a major reason why Linux has lacked device drivers from hardware makers who do not wish to make their drivers, which necessary tell a great deal about their hardware to potential competitors, open source.

I am still trying to hunt down a article that I read long ago, written by Stallman, I think in the 1980s, in Dr. Dobb's Journal, where he describes his personal philosophy on software: that it is wrong for programmers to make more than janitors, and that software development ought to be done by some public-minded government agency, explicitly appealing to Kantian philosophy. ddj.com's archive doesn't go back that far unfortunately. I was not exaggerating by identifying him as a Kantian and a communist.

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PhilO, I think you mean GPLv3. The Linux kernel is currently licensed under GPLv2 and has been since v3 came out a few years ago. There hasn't been much in the way of adoption of GPLv3, just judging by browsing the repositories I have installed (Fedora 10 Stable free and nonfree, RPMFusion stable free and nonfree). Most of what I see is still GPLv2, v2+, MIT, and BSD.

"The FSF doesn't like that Linux in particular turned the GPLv2 into something pragmatic. The GPLv3 is designed to take the FSF back to its original 'good old days,' when 'Free Software' was a war, and RMS (Stallman) was its proselytizing general. But the fact is, it's not a war, and peaceful and happy co-existence is actually much preferable to moral jihads."
(source)

I like the peaceful and happy co-existence option, myself.

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GPL3, ok.

I like the peaceful and happy co-existence option, myself.

I use open source software but go out of my way to look for a BSD/MIT/Apache sort of license - i.e. people who don't agree with FSF's coercive altruism. I also find that such licenses seem to be associated with better software anyway, e.g. PostgreSQL over MySQL. The Java H2 database is also a very powerful system for such a small package. I'm one of the few who've donated some $ to the author, as I have with some other packages that I use. I call the donation approach "begware" myself - and unfortunately (but predictably) most people will simply use such packages and not a give a thought towards compensating the author on moral principle, though with large systems such as a given Linux distro with thousands of contributors for various little pieces, that isn't very practical.

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I am still trying to hunt down a article that I read long ago, written by Stallman, I think in the 1980s, in Dr. Dobb's Journal, where he describes his personal philosophy on software: that it is wrong for programmers to make more than janitors, and that software development ought to be done by some public-minded government agency, explicitly appealing to Kantian philosophy. ddj.com's archive doesn't go back that far unfortunately. I was not exaggerating by identifying him as a Kantian and a communist.

Isn't that or its equivalent still on the gnu website? I think it has been disgussed here on the Forum previously.

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PhilO, I think you mean GPLv3. The Linux kernel is currently licensed under GPLv2 and has been since v3 came out a few years ago.

No - GPL2 is the vile one, from what I know. Linux is probably still GPL2 because it sticks to everything it touches and can't be removed. GPL2 is the reason that Apache developed their own license (as I understand it).

The Apache license is excellent and is what I use when I open source my own code.

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Oooooooh, now I get the title of the thread! (xkcd)

Now for the anecdotal evidence ... I haven't actually met any iconic super-irrational copyleft people. There's a good bit of overlap between the "nerdy" clubs on campus, so I've met quite a few people who identify themselves as copyleft from various computer-oriented fun. I understand not agreeing with one particular person of the movement, but the talking points are generally as follows:

1- It is wrong that law is bought by lobbyists with tons of money.

2- "Music didn't start with the phonograph and it won't end with the peer-to-peer networks." (source) This is true. It may change the production, distribution, and business model of music (just as the radio, the phonograph, and sheet music did before it), but it won't end music as such. Personally, I wouldn't mind the end of boy bands for more of this. This point is also expressed as protecting the buggy whip maker (RIAA/MPAA) when the car (internet) replaced the horse and carriage.

3- It is wrong to sue people for criminal damages for civil infractions. This is actually in court at the moment. The case name is Sony BMG Music v. Tenenbaum.

4- Copyrights lasting life+70 years or 95 years from publication (works for hire) is unreasonable. Also unreasonable is the PTO approving at best ill-researched patents. Patents as hindering further innovation is another, usually related, argument.

While I prefer to use open-source software, I'm not against people using proprietary software (and still use the proprietary nVidia driver myself). Open source is for capitalists too. It's important to know that the FSF isn't the only (and certainly not the biggest) player on the software playground, just as much as knowing Microsoft isn't the only choice you have either.

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