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Re: Copyright Misuse Doctrine in Apple v. Psystar

From: Alan Mackenzie
Subject: Re: Copyright Misuse Doctrine in Apple v. Psystar
Date: Mon, 23 Feb 2009 16:42:50 +0000 (UTC)
User-agent: tin/1.6.2-20030910 ("Pabbay") (UNIX) (FreeBSD/4.11-RELEASE (i386))

In gnu.misc.discuss amicus_curious <> wrote:

> "Alan Mackenzie" <> wrote in message 
> news:gnrq0u$8t6$

>> It seems to me, you're in favour of ignoring the GPL's conditions, yet
>> are in favour of conforming to the conditions of proprietary licenses.
>> Why?

> As I stated elsewhere in this thread, I am opposed to copyright of
> software source entirely.

OK, fair enough.  Abolishing copyright on source code would give rise to
problems of definition, e.g. for interpreted languages, but no worse
than what we have at the moment, I suppose.

However, the lack of copyright on source code would extinguish free
software, or at the very least considerably impede it.

> Keep it a secret if you don't want others to know.  If you want people
> to learn about your stuff, go ahead and publish the source and be happy
> that you helped others along.  In either case, quit being so obnoxious.

Well, thanks, and all that, yet again!  I'm happy for people to learn
about my code, and modify it.  I would NOT be happy about somebody
starting off from my code and building their own proprietary stuff based
on it.  I'm just not keen on being taken advantage of, of being
exploited, thank you very much.  However, if that somebody contributes
his enhancements back to the project, we all win.

I asked you a while back to consider why the GPL is such a popular
licence for free software.  The above is one answer.  Hackers are happier
contributing their skills when they're confident they're not being used
as unpaid labour for Megabucks Incorporated.

> I do not know of any opportunity for anyone to take an open source
> product and convert it to commercial, proprietary use.

Really?  Apple saw fit to take the BSD kernel and use it as the basis of

> It does not make any marketing sense unless you modify it so
> extensively that it has substantially different fit, form, and feel and
> provides a highly recognizable benefit to the users who would buy it
> because of that.

Are you aware of the case that sparked the GPL into existence?  The Lisp
Machine had been developed at MIT as a fully open system, much as you're
advocating at the moment.  In the mid 1980s, some of the collaborators
left MIT, forming a company, Symbolics, to market their own Lisp
Machines, using the unrestricted code from MIT.  They made proprietary
enhancements to it, gaining an unfair advantage.  This created a great
deal of resentment in those left behind, among them Richard Stallman.

One of the GPL's major goals was to prevent the like happening in the
future.  Look up the history of the MIT Lisp Machine, Symbolics, Lisp
Machines Inc., and you might come to understand the GPL better.

> The big projects, say Linux itself or OO or the GNU utilities, are so
> complex to begin with that I don't think it would even be possible to
> do that.  If someone did made a significant improvement to Linux or OO
> or any other FOSS project, I think just knowing the nature of the
> improvement would be enough of a revelation to allow it to be
> replicated separately.

Indeed, RMS was able to duplicate the enhancements made by the Symbolics
team.  But it's a stupid waste of effort to do things twice, when
there're so many fresh things to be done.

Alan Mackenzie (Nuremberg, Germany).

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