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Re: LGPL vs. GPL

From: JohnF
Subject: Re: LGPL vs. GPL
Date: Tue, 5 Aug 2008 18:54:31 +0000 (UTC)
User-agent: tin/1.8.3-20070201 ("Scotasay") (UNIX) (NetBSD/4.0 (i386))

David Kastrup <> wrote:
> JohnF <> writes:
>> David Kastrup <> wrote:
>>> JohnF <> writes:
>>>> Hadn't thought of that.  But, on second thought now, I'd say,
>>>> "let the best program win."  If the commercial application is
>>>> truly better, maybe its superior functional specifications will
>>>> inspire an open source "knock off."  If that doesn't happen,
>>>> then the superior commercial application has every ethical right
>>>> to dominate the market if users are willing to pay the price
>>>> (dollar price as well as closed source price).
>>> If people thought like you, child labor and slavery would be the
>>> dominant ways of producing goods even now.  You not only mandate to
>>> let the market decide about good or bad, but you also request that
>>> one should not talk about morals or responsibility.
>> You have GOT to be kidding me, right???  What kind of utterly
>> specious argument is that supposed to be?  For one thing, child
>> labor typically manufactures the cheaper product to compete
>> with the more expensive one, so you're applying the analogy
>> backwards.
> You are quite focused about price.  Free software is not about price.
> In fact, it is usually more expensive to contract free software since
> the software author is restricting his opportunity of selling his
> products more than once.
> But free software never was about price.  It was about freedom to use,
> distribute, modify and study.
>> More importantly, you seem willing to speciously inject political
>> correctness into the discussion, apparently trying to appeal to
>> emotions rather than reason.
> I am willing to not to evade politics when talking about political
> terms.

And I'm willing to agree to disagree about child labor vis-a-vis open
source software.

> The idea "may the best software win" puts the cart before the
> horse.  The GNU project started with the aim to produce a reasonable
> free operating system sufficiently close to the UNIX specs describing
> existing systems.  By _necessity_, _every_ free software component
> started out technically _inferior_ to the proprietary offerings.
> So your "may the best win" attitude would never have lead to any
> software freedoms being available to any person, since there would have
> been no incentive to use and improve free software.

For the sake of argument (though I don't believe it's always true,
e.g., might serve as one recent counterexample),
let's assume free software always starts out technically inferior.
     That doesn't automatically mean that "may the best win" always
favors commercial products, because "best" may include components
besides technical superiority.  Open source is a very strong
advantage in and of itself.  Some users may appreciate and want that
advantage; others may not.  Their choice.
     Secondly, you're amazingly incorrect in implying that immediate
user acceptance is the only reason authors have to improve free
software.  Many (I'd say most) have a vision about what they're
trying to accomplish, and will continue to improve version 0.1
until they achieve their vision.  Version 0.1 is often not intended
to achieve user acceptance or market superiority, but rather to
attract other developers (and visionary users) to participate
in an ongoing vision.
     Now, I feel absolutely certain you already knew all of this.
So you're again putting forth a known false argument just to try
to prove your own intended point.  Why not just stick to the
truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, and let
the outcome of the discussion take its own course.
To me, you seem to have settled on a preconceived conclusion,
and are obdurately putting forth any argument, legitimate or not,
that steers the discussion in that direction.

> Now it is sort of an obvious consequence that freedom benefits people
> indiscriminately whether or not they can be bothered about it.  Whereas
> unfreedom benefits some people at the cost of others.

You're absolutely right.  Acknowledging the ethical right of
program authors to keep their source code secret, to charge (or not)
what they want for their efforts, etc, will definitely harm other
people.  Let me make a rather far-flung analogy...
     Every time I buy a loaf of bread, it creates a demand for
grain, thus increasing its cost, and thus harming impoverished
people in underdeveloped countries, some of whom may starve
as a result.  So, should I not be allowed to buy a loaf of bread?
     We live in a vastly interconnected world, where everyone's
choices and actions affect everyone else, sometimes advantaging
and sometimes disadvantaging other people in the same market.
There's no way around that in a world of limited resources --
that's what economic's all about.  And the simple fact that
my action may disadvantage you doesn't immediately make my action
unethical.  It's more complicated than that.

> You are claiming that when considering only one's own benefits, the
> right decisions for everybody will fall out.

No, I'm not, as elaborated above.  I'm claiming that if I write
some software, then I can do what I want with it.  And you're
free to ignore me and my software if you don't like what I've done.
Now, if I happen to care what you think, then I'd better
consider your reaction before choosing how to distribute
my software.  But if I couldn't care less what you think,
then what right do you have to tell me what to do with my
own property?

> But that works only in
> political systems or societies or at least thought models where there
> are measures against shortcircuiting the common good for the gain of
> single persons.

Let's not get into a Hobbes vs Locke debate.
That belongs in totally another newsgroup.

> With regard to software freedom, political systems and societies work
> against it.  So that leaves the thought models and philosophical
> imperatives.
> And you want to have them blocked as well.  Why should anybody create
> free software in your opinion?   You feel fine using it, but what
> possible incentive do you leave for people creating it?

Because they want to.
There's absolutely no other reason.
Maybe that sounds like I'm trying to evade the question,
but that's all I've got.  Any time I do something I'm
not compensated for, then I do it because I want to.
You've got another reason on your mind?  I give up, what is it?...

> Yes, this is a political question and a moral one.  You can't toss them
> out of the window when dealing with free software and how it comes
> about.  Sorry for that.  But not all too much.
>>> The market will always decide against morality when left to its own
>>> devices.  90% of the buyers are apathetic to the origin of their
>>> goods.  You have to raise awareness to a level that regulation sets
>>> in, regulation that actually overrides that what most people would do
>>> on their own.
>>> Changing perception is an important first step for change to happen.
>>> It is not tantamount to changing behavior, but behavior does not
>>> change all on its own.
>> Making money isn't immoral in itself.
> But it is no substitute for morals either.
>> If you're implying that it is (I can't tell for sure what, if
>> anything, you're saying), then that's just hypocritical.  From your
>> own words at
>> we
>> have "...for the last few years I tried working on TeX-related tasks
>> self-employed, but this will have to change soon since it does not pay
>> the bills -- partly because of the expectation of people that free
>> software should be written for free..."  Right.
> No, those expectations are not right.  And I am taking the liberty of
> telling that to people.  Freedom is not defined by being cheapest, and
> it tends not to come cheap.  So one has to teach people to value it.
>> In my experience, few people like morality preached at them,
>> especially with specious arguments, and especially by people who (as
>> quoted above) don't completely believe what they're saying.
> Huh?  What makes you believe I don't believe what I am saying?  I never
> claimed that working for freedom was supposed to be an easy way in all
> respects.  Words are one way for working on it (and you want me to shut
> up), deeds are another (and I certainly have created and helped create
> quite a lot of free software, even spent years of my life exclusively on
> it and am still dedicating what I can).

Small correction: I didn't say, "don't believe."  I said, "don't
*completely* believe."  Small syntactic difference, but I meant
a large semantic one.  To wit, you acknowledged the need to make
a living, and permitted an exception, vis-a-vis free software,
in your own behavior to fulfill that need.
     I'm well aware of your TeX contributions, and therefore
know that you basically believe what you're saying.  But I think
you're taking it to an extreme, demanding that other people always
develop software according to a model that you don't always
follow yourself.

> Are you of the type who only accepts the message "respect other's life"
> from people who commit suicide rather that eat anything that once was
> alive?

Depends what "others'" refers to.  If it means respecting other
*peoples'* lives, then, no, I wouldn't accept that message from
a cannibal.  But I think you've yet again "jumped the shark"
with that analogy vis-a-vis free software.
John Forkosh  ( mailto:  where j=john and f=forkosh )

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