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Re: GNU licenses

From: David Kastrup
Subject: Re: GNU licenses
Date: Wed, 06 Sep 2006 21:30:33 +0200
User-agent: Gnus/5.11 (Gnus v5.11) Emacs/22.0.50 (gnu/linux) writes:

> Because we cannot force people to make all their source code
> available, it is done by having a license that says you can use the
> free program components in your program provided that you also make
> that entire program free & GPL not just those parts, therefore
> increasing the amount of free code. I think I see it a little
> better: the belief is people have some sort of intrinsic right to
> modify software and see how it works, etc. like how one has such a
> right to modify and see how their car works. Therefore, the
> agreement that is made when one uses GPL code in their work is to
> grant the users the same right that said programmer enjoyed, which
> helped them with their work, therefore ensuring the users that
> "intrinsic right". Right?

Yes, this is pretty much the idea: people working with programs should
get the source code much like at some time the schematics of a car or
appliance, so that in the case of necessity, they or themselves can
change, adapt and fix it.  There was a time when electronic appliances
were required to come with schematics, and there were general
electronic repair shops that could work from there.

When software development happened mostly in academics, this was
pretty much the state of affairs there, too.  And then it broke down,
partly because at some point of time the price of producing hardware
dropped below that of software.

The problem with that is that it blocks progress: nobody is able to
stand on the shoulders of giants anymore.  The wheel keeps getting
reinvented, and that is a terrible waste of labor.  Programmers should
work on improving things, not recreating them, or the software world

But the laws allow stagnation and keeping the users unable to have
their programs serviced instead of having to throw them away when they
are just missing the final yard.

It is basically a distasteful state for humanity.

The GPL creates its own software pool where the wheel does not need to
get reinvented and where progress is made, and mostly permanent.

Now corporations are _required_ by law to work for the benefit of
their shareholders, not the public, and the benefit is primarily
defined as cash.  If it is legal to withhold information, and if
short- and midterm profits can be assured over the competition, they
_have_ to withhold the information.

So entirely voluntary arrangements of freeing software sources works
about as good as voluntary emission reductions.  Namely not at all.

The GPL pool creates a playing ground where the quality of software
makes it profitable to join the play, and where it is not legal to
withhold information.  Not for a corporation, but also not for its
competition.  So it is a level playing ground again.

Profiting from it entices contributing to it, and contributing to it
does not mean getting exploited by your competition.

Yes, it makes it harder to turn programming into money, but one can
also make use of a lot of existing software.

David Kastrup, Kriemhildstr. 15, 44793 Bochum

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