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Tom Sydnor trashing a Freetard

From: Alexander Terekhov
Subject: Tom Sydnor trashing a Freetard
Date: Sat, 21 Mar 2009 18:04:38 +0100

(From comments)

Tim, I must make three points in reply. 

First, you said, “I think that we agree that Stallman and company are
engaged in an entrepreneurial venture to build an alternative to
proprietary software….” I cannot agree that Stallman and Moglen are
engaged in an “entrepreneurial venture….” Nor do I understand why you
would use that term. Perhaps your dictionary defines “entrepreneurial
venture” as “an activity intended to makea socially productive activity
so unrenumerative that it must be supported and subsidized by federal
taxation.” Or perhaps you have, (again, see, e.g., your post Selective
Quotation in the Sydnor Paper), failed to review the relevant source
material, like Stallman’s early proposals for the long-term viability of
GPL-software development. In either case, while I agree that the GPL has
supported some “entrepreneurial ventures,” that was the result of
accident, not the designs of FSF. 

Second, you say, “I think that we agree that… we should wait and see how
well the [GPL] experiment works.” I do agree with that statement, but I
also think that it completely contradicts the message of your original

For example, in that post, you noted, (correctly) that Stallman did not
have to run to Congress to get permission to create useful software and
release under the GPL. One difference between us may be that I may
better understand just how critical that freedom—which was conferred
upon Stallman by copyright law—really was. 

For example, suppose that Stallman really did have to run to Congress
and get legislation enacted in order to be able to create software to be
released under the GPL. And suppose also that Stallman had to get such
legislation introduced and enacted when I happened to be, as I once was,
the Counsel for Intellectual Property and Technology to the Chairman of
the Senate Committee on the Judiciary. 

I would have taken the meeting, but its outcome would have been
irrelevant. Odds are, I would have simply dismissed Stallman as a crank
and pursued the matter no further. But even if I somehow caught
GPL-fever upon first exposure, it seems almost incomprehensible that
anyone could have been convinced to expend the political capital
required to enact the “GPL Act of 2004” in the face of the predictable

So far, events suggest that either result would have been destructive.
You are right, Tim, I am not “optimistic” about the future of the GPL: I
think that many developers fail to realize that they owe Linus Torvalds
for more than an OS kernel; he has also deferred some of the more
destructive manifestations of Stallman and Moglen’s ideology. Someday,
that dam may break. But regardless of whether or when it will, no
developer’s ability to do what they think best with their work should
turn upon whether it meets with my personal approval.

And that’s why I tend to believe—strongly—that copyright laws ought to
be designed to empower and permit, as a practical matter, all business
models that could be socially productive. Those who favor narrowing the
range of business models permitted by copyrights seem endowed with a
faith in their own powers of prediction that I cannot share.

Third, and finally, we get to the fun part. You said, “I found it most
striking that you felt it was appropriate to alter my words (replacing
“monopoly” with “property” and then put the results in quotation marks
and [indignant sniffle] attribute them to me.” Note that in the
preceding sentence, as in my prior sentence “[property]”, I have used
brackets to indicate where I am characterizing, rather than quoting,
your words.

This practice is actually quite common. Here, I used it to very gently
critique your implied insult to the intelligence of TLF readers. Since
you missed the point, I will be more blunt.

Tim, I replaced your term “monopoly” with my term “[property]” because I
assume that anyone who calls himself a “libertarian” knows that
“monopoly right,” “property right,” and “exclusive right” are generally
just three different ways to say the same thing. But no need to take my
word on this. Let’s hear—not from Stallman or Moglen—but from an actual
libertarian, Milton Friedman, from his book Capitalism and Freedom:

“[Copyrights and Patents] are different, because they can equally be
regarded as defining property rights. In a literal sense, if I have a
property right to a particular piece of land, I can be said to have a
monopoly with respect to that piece of land defined and enforced by the

So, Tim, why do you insist upon using the term “monopoly right”?
Frankly, I suspect that you do so in the hope that it will mislead some
TLF readers who are just not quite as clever as you. 

You and I both know that most people, as a result of the term’s
specialized meaning within antitrust law, associate “monopoly” with
“market power” or even “unreasonable abuse of market power.”
Consequently, most who use the term “monopoly right” when discussing
copyrights do so because they hope to confuse and mislead the gullible
through this oh-so-clever rhetorical device that makes the concept of a
“property right” sound sinister and scary.

Granted, Tim, you may using the term “monopoly right” because you
genuinely believe that all copyrights act as economic monopolies within
the meaning of antitrust law. So tell me, Tim: Are you asserting that
the mere possession of a copyright inevitably confers market power
within the meaning of the law of antitrust? Are you going farther, and
asserting that the mere possession of a copyright inevitably results in
the abuse of market power within the meaning of the law of antitrust?

These are not rhetorical questions, Tim: If you can, you need to explain
your use of this Scary Synonym. And if you insist on adopting the
fiction that copyrights are not really “property rights,” (and I advise
you to check your sources before you do) then please be so kind as to
either concoct some more neutral alternative, or adopt one of those
already concocted by others. 

But if you insist upon rhetorical overreach, then why not go whole hog
and adopt the Free-Culture-Movement practice of inserting the term
“monopoly” into a new acronym that spells out the name of a mythical
monster. My personal favorites are G.O.L.E.Ms. (Government-Originated
Legally-Imposed Monopolies) and I.M.Ps. (Imposed Monopoly Privileges).
These will really scare the dullards, if not the readers of TLF. 

Having explained why I used the brackets, let me admit that as a general
matter, I think this sort of rhetoric unpersuasive and ineffective. As a
result, if the term “monopoly right” is important to you, Tim, I will
faithfully reproduce it when quoting you in the future. Unless, that is,
I decide to re-make the points set out above. --Tom

Tim Lee's dull response:

Tom, brackets are commonly used to either summarize a long paragraph or
to make a quotation grammatical in its new context. It's totally
inappropriate to use brackets as a way of making an ideological point.
Given your history of misrepresenting others' views, I think you should
be particularly careful in this respect.

I choose to call copyright a monopoly right to emphasize that it is a
statutory right created by Congress. This is very different from
ordinary property rights, which tend to emerge spontaneously and are
only recognized and secured by government after they are recognized by
civil society.

And you totally missed my point with regard to Stallman and Congress.
The point of the GPL is to ensure that downstream distributors of GPLed
software do not use copyright or patent laws to restrict users' freedom
to use that software. In a world without copyright, the GPL would likely
not be needed because users would have that freedom by default.
Certainly, in a world without copyright Stallman wouldn't need
Congress's help to create his software.



RMS: ... Meanwhile for software, I suspect that a three year 
copyright would be enough. you see if each version of the programme 
remains copyrighted for three years after its release well, unless 
the company is in real bad trouble they should have a new version 
before those three years are up and there will be a lot of people 
who will want to use the newer version, so if older versions are all 
becoming free software automatically, the company would still have a 
business with the newer version. Now this is a compromise as I see 
it, because it is a system in which not all software is free, but it 
might be an acceptable compromise, after all, if we had to wait three 
years in some cases for programs to become free... well, that's no 
disaster. To be using three years old software is not a disaster. 


AM4: The problem with this change in the copyright laws for three 
would be that you wouldn't get the sources. 

RMS: Right. There would have also to be a condition, a law that to 
sell copies of the software to the public the source code must be 
deposited somewhere so that three years later it can be released. So 
it could be deposited say, with the library of congress in the US, 
and I think other countries have similar institutions where copies 
of published books get placed, and they could also received the 
source code and after three years, publish it. And of course, if the 
source code didn't correspond to the executable that would be fraud, 
and in fact if it really corresponds then they ought to be able to 
check that very easily when the work is published initially so 
you're publishing the source code and somebody there says alright 
"dot slash configure dot slash make" and sees if produces the same 
executables and uh. 

So you're right, just eliminating copyright would not make software 

AM5: Um libre 

RMS: Right. 



HY: Hmmm. Then tell me what you think about pirated software. 

RMS: I don't call this copying "piracy", because that is a propaganda 
word. I don't think it is wrong to copy and share information. 
Governments can pass laws against it, but that does not make it wrong, 
just illegal. 

An unauthorized copy of a proprietary program has the same drawbacks 
as an authorized copy. If you want to make more copies and share them, 
you have to do it in secret; and you cannot get the source code. 

So I think that unauthorized copies are not much better than 
authorized copies. The only good thing about the unauthorized copy is 
that you avoid giving money to the owner. This is good, because the 
owner does not deserve a reward for making software proprietary. 



(GNG is a derecursive recursive derecursion which pwns GNU since it can
be infinitely looped as GNGNGNGNG...NGNGNG... and can be said backwards
too, whereas GNU cannot.)

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