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Re: Copyright Misuse Doctrine in Apple v. Psystar

From: amicus_curious
Subject: Re: Copyright Misuse Doctrine in Apple v. Psystar
Date: Mon, 23 Feb 2009 13:35:29 -0500

"Alan Mackenzie" <> wrote in message news:gnujma$19h9$
In gnu.misc.discuss amicus_curious <> wrote:

"Alan Mackenzie" <> wrote in message

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.

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'm a believer in the land of opportunity myself. I am more inspired by there being a real chance for a rags to riches story than I am dismayed about someone else's success due to luck or pluck. Bill Gates made an exhorbitant pile from Microsoft, but to be fair, hundreds of working stiffs got multiple millions along with Bill. Some, like Allen and Ballmer got multiple billions, and I am sure there a single billionairs and hundred-millionairs in there too. Steve Jobs made a bundle, too, as did Michael Dell and others riding the Microsoft coat-tails.

It would seem to me that anyone wanting to be of service to the world, as the FOSS advocates claim that they want to be, would not be so resentful of the rest. If you resent someone else making money, what is the solution? That no one make any money? That is not good in the long term in a society where the money keeps the economy strong.

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

But they really do not sell it on the open market like Windows. They sell a comprehensive solution that is dependent on their hardware, just like Actiontec sells a router as a comprehensive functional device. What is under the hood is not important, rather it is just part of the package. Windows, however, is a commercial product on its own, sold to companies who make competing computer systems and to individuals who want to improve what they have or else build their own machines. Apple had to spend a lot of money on their proprietary UI as well.

Also, this is not much of an opportunity. If you own an extensive hardware manufacturing company such as Apple, you can avail yourself of the freeBSD and save some R&D bucks for your overall product. But that is a very limited opportunity as opportunities go. Very few have such a resource to use to leverage success. Certainly Red Hat and other Linux suppliers of commercial distributions took similar advantage of the "free" as in beer cost of Linux, too, but you have to invest a couple of billion overall in infrastructure in order to tap that well of opportunity and they are essentially competing as a low price provider in the Unix server market, which is not such a wonderful place to be.

If you wanted to commercialize Apache or OO or PHP, where would you run to? The best you can hope for is to come up with a desireable add-on that people see as very desirable to have and that others cannot clone so easily if you keep it a secret. So far I don't know where anyone has done that. The improvements to Linux seem to come from the original project team or else from the commercial suppliers like Red Hat who have a means to extract a financial benefit from their efforts.

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.

What should these folk have gotten in return for their innovation? I am not at all familiar with the details, but it seems to me that anyone who is clever enough to invent something that others can use and that other appreciate enough to pay for deserve the fruits of their innovation. If you write a good novel, you can prosper, why not a convenient program utility?

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.

Exactly true, I think. I do not subscribe to the "opportunity is an evil" theory, though. Someone has to be smart enough to see an improvement and talented enough to implement it and dedicated enough to promote it. They deserve the reward.

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.

My view is that the history of FOSS is pretty much duplicating something that is proprietary. I am sure there have been one or two things spring up on their own, but I can't think of any offhand. Can you?

Stallman seems to see profits from innovation as something to eradicate. His reaction to Sybolics success was to try to put them out of business. That seems even more stupid. There are a thousand contributors to Linux, but there are tens of millions of users. That seems unbalanced to me.

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