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[P]
Is Richard Stallman's Fight For "GNU/Linux" Suicide?

By Magnanimity in Culture
Tue May 15, 2001 at 07:47:28 PM EST
Tags: Software (all tags)
Software

Whether we think it is or not, the GPL is seen as a very anti-business license. And, whether we think it does or not, the Linux community needs businesses to support it. I feel, that in RMS's fight for "GNU/Linux" (as opposed to "Linux") not only accentuates the synonymity between the FSF and Linux (which I think is a bad thing in the first place), but it also hinders commercial growth of a community that needs it very much (See Slashdot's report on the fall of Eazel.)

Perhaps the name is not a simple matter of preference...?


Although the battle has died down quite a bit, the fight to name one of the most prevalent operating systems "Linux" or "GNU/Linux" was somewhat bitter. The founder of the Free Software Foundation, Richard Stallman, felt that it should be known as "GNU/Linux" due to its dependence on GNU software, or at least software licensed under the GNU General Public License.

Several people wondered and some organizations, such as Debian, even adopted the policy. This movement seems totally harmless...to some simply a nuisance...but I feel that moving to bring the bond between GNU and Linux will only harm our community.

As stated in my introduction, the GPL is seen as anti-business, whether we would like it to be that way or not. And, after the alleged failure of Eazel, probably more corporations will view GPL software as worthless and hardly profitable. What is wrong with this? In the Windows world, there is a great abundance of closed, commercial software, and a very small percentage of open, possibly GNU-based software. The result? A economically stable community where businesses can make software and consumers are expected to purchase it. In the Linux community, however, there is an extreme abundance of open, most-likely GNU-based software and a very small percentage of commercial software. The result? A community where people are happy because there are pieces of quality software with no charge tagged to them, but business and great opportunities for future development are hindered by the permanent association of Linux to GNU. Do I think the Linux community should become more like the Windows community? Absolutely not. But we must find a balance between commercial and "free" software. In doing so, that balance will allow the community to develop.

What's my solution? Eliminate GNU? Stop using Linux? Of course not. There is nothing wrong with GNU software (under appropriate situations) but allowing the Linux operating system to become permanently and solely associated with the GPL (at least within the eyes of Corporate America) and an alleged system of unprofitability does nothing but harms the entire community. So, we should not simply wait for society to understand that Linux does not always mean "GPL," but I believe we should push the ideal that Linux can exist with diversity in software licensing: Some GPL, some BSD, some commercial and closed, and some between the two extremes. There is nothing wrong with modeation.

So, whether we adopt GNU as the foundation of Linux, in name, licensing or any other aspect, we must remember that we should encourage several types of entities to join the community, and create a balanced and economically attractive operating system.

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Poll
Do you the ties between Linux and GNU have grown too strong?
o Yes, and the bond must be broken. 10%
o Yes, but I feel we don't have the right to consciously reduce that bond. 5%
o The two exist in peaceful harmony. 29%
o No, GNU is understated, but if the FSF wants more credit, they should earn it. 10%
o No, and we should give much more credit to the GNU movement immediately. 44%

Votes: 120
Results | Other Polls

Related Links
o Slashdot
o Slashdot's
o Debian
o GPL
o BSD
o commercial and closed
o between the two extremes
o Also by Magnanimity


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Is Richard Stallman's Fight For "GNU/Linux" Suicide? | 121 comments (118 topical, 3 editorial, 0 hidden)
Whatever (4.00 / 7) (#1)
by delmoi on Mon May 14, 2001 at 08:43:49 PM EST

And, whether we think it does or not, the Linux community needs businesses to support it.

Since when? Linux dosn't need Companies working on the linux kernel, it's doing fine by itself. And there is nothing stopping anyone from releasing propritary software for Linux.

And how is the GPL bussness unfriendly? The only thing it dosn't allow is people taking code that belongs to other people and profiting off it, without giving anything back. How is that any worse then any microsoft license?
--
"'argumentation' is not a word, idiot." -- thelizman
Rebuttal (3.00 / 3) (#2)
by Magnanimity on Mon May 14, 2001 at 08:48:38 PM EST

First, this editorial is not limited to the linux kernel. It is referring to "Linux" as the entire operating system and any associated software. Sorry about the ambiguity. Secondly, it doesn't matter if GNU is business-friendly or not. It is VIEWED as anti-business and that social perspective harms the community. The social perspectives must be changed, and that is what I'm calling for.

[ Parent ]
Business a must? (4.00 / 2) (#13)
by jasonab on Mon May 14, 2001 at 11:03:40 PM EST

It is VIEWED as anti-business and that social perspective harms the community. The social perspectives must be changed, and that is what I'm calling for.
You've based this article under the assumption that (GNU/)Linux needs business. I would argue that business needs Linux more than Linux needs business. I don't agree with RMS on many things, but I respect the fact that he thinks knowledge, and the common good, are more important than short-term considerations.

If we, the community, produce something that others can use, and everyone can benefit from, then that's what matters.

[ Parent ]

To be viewed as antibusinnes:not always bad! (4.50 / 2) (#27)
by Tezcatlipoca on Tue May 15, 2001 at 04:41:07 AM EST

There are many things that are perceived as antibusiness or that are business cripppling:

-Environmental legislation.
-Workers' rights.
-Antibribery laws.

Business could do far better without these "nuisances", but this probes IMVHO that to be perceived as "antibusiness" is not necesarily a bad thing.

As I said before in another comment, this is all a byzantine discussion anyway, businesses are using GPL software (not necesarily Linux, but other software). Sun compilers come with Xemacs, and all our programmers is the first thing they look for when they join our development team. Many of our scripts are in Perl, we use extensively Samba.

My company should remain nameless but it is a big one that anybody would easily identify. I can say that in all the years I have been working in the IT industry I have not yet seen a company that is not using at least one Open Source (normaly GPLed) tool, from Banks to Oil services companies, software companies, state owned companies in different countries . Heck, my admin station has always been Linux unless there are strict standards.

Business is using GPLed stuff, so to pretend that somehow is indispensable for Linux that they use it even more I think is too far fetched. Linux got to where it is mainly without big-corps help. So either they join and benefit, or they ignore it and miss the opportunity, there always be people out there ready to use Linux and GPLed stuff.


Might is right
Freedom? Which freedom?
[ Parent ]
Antibusiness == little business development (none / 0) (#35)
by farmgeek on Tue May 15, 2001 at 09:11:47 AM EST

There are many things that are perceived as antibusiness or that are business cripppling:

-Environmental legislation.
-Workers' rights.
-Antibribery laws.

So you think that businesses should be forced to develop for Linux? I think that Magnanimity is saying that Linux needs the support of businesses developing for it, not merely using it. Whether or not the GPL discourages this or not is debatable, but I think that it does simply because companies do not see a short path to profit developing under the GPL. As a matter of fact, neither do I.

While I do see money to be made supporting GPLed software, there is nothing to keep someone else from offering paid support for the software you developed as well, and since others don't have to pay for the cost of development there's nothing to keep them from undercutting your prices.

Someone please correct me if I'm wrong.



[ Parent ]
Entire OS (4.50 / 4) (#42)
by priestess on Tue May 15, 2001 at 11:32:15 AM EST

this editorial is not limited to the linux kernel. It is referring to "Linux" as the entire operating system
Surely this is exactly the point, the entire OS is GNU/Linux, the Kernel is Linux. Avoiding this confusion is at least half the reason for using the GNU term.

As for Businesses running scared of the OS because it's associated with the GPL, well, Linux is bleedin' GPL'ed, of course it's associated with the GPL and no businessman who stands a chance of doing anything worthwhile is dumb enough to forget that fact just becasue we stop calling it that.

Pre.......

----
My Mobile Phone Comic-books business
Robots!
[ Parent ]
GNU/Linux (4.50 / 10) (#3)
by reshippie on Mon May 14, 2001 at 08:56:40 PM EST

I went to hear RMS talk at Northeastern a few weeks ago, and he specifically talked about why he inisists on using that name. It's got nothing to do with the GPL, which is the license most of Linux is covered by. What it does have to do with is the enormous library of tools that make the GNU/Linux system possible.

Thinks like gcc which is the compiler used to create the Linux kernel. Or EMACS, which is a very powerful editor(among other things). Most of the tools that make Linux a UNIX-like system are GNU tools, that is why it's GNU/Linux.

Those who don't know me, probably shouldn't trust me. Those who do DEFINITELY shouldn't trust me. :-)

Rebuttal (2.75 / 4) (#4)
by Magnanimity on Mon May 14, 2001 at 09:02:23 PM EST

Another rebuttal. : ) This is, again, the point of my editorial. The software that constitutes much the "base" Linux system is GNU software, but that does not mean that we should socially and permanently assciate Linux with GNU. In doing so, I believe that we cause harm. Sure, give credit to the writers. Heaven forbid, pay them. But, at the expense of the community, we should not ever associate the entire market with a single organization. (See what happens when we associate PC's with MSFT? Lawsuits. ; ) I'm sure that won't happen to the FSF, but, nonetheless, it causes detriment to all for the benefit of the few. ...Oh, and if the software that forms this "base" is "GNU software," that pretty much implies "GPL." ; )

[ Parent ]
Well, duh... (4.00 / 2) (#75)
by darthaggie on Wed May 16, 2001 at 12:48:04 PM EST

The software that constitutes much the "base" Linux system is GNU software, but that does not mean that we should socially and permanently assciate Linux with GNU.

Well, duh, that's why it's called GNU/Linux. You could replace the GNU stuff with other tools, and you could call it Magnanimity/Linux...for instance...

I am BOFH. Resistance is futile. Your network will be assimilated.
[ Parent ]

Here here! (3.66 / 3) (#5)
by LukeyBoy on Mon May 14, 2001 at 09:04:04 PM EST

I agree completely. Every time someone types "ls", "cat" or any number of commands on their GNU/Linux system, they're invoking utilities created by the Free Software Foundation. This fact is definately not something that we should take for granted.

[ Parent ]
Offtopic (1.00 / 2) (#71)
by keyeto on Wed May 16, 2001 at 10:35:38 AM EST

The sheep in the House of Commons bleat "hear hear!"


--
"This is the Space Age, and we are Here To Go"
William S. Burroughs
[ Parent ]
Unless they are using busybox (3.00 / 1) (#87)
by Ruidh on Wed May 16, 2001 at 04:49:33 PM EST

Which provides implementations of ls cat and other command line tools.
"Laissez-faire is a French term commonly interpreted by Conservatives to mean 'lazy fairy,' which is the belief that if governments are lazy enough, the Good Fairy will come down from heaven and do all their work for them."
[ Parent ]
Devil's Advocate (4.00 / 6) (#10)
by strepsil on Mon May 14, 2001 at 10:23:44 PM EST

But none of those utilities are essential. Another compiler could be used. BSD utilities could be recompiled and used instead of GNU's ls or cat. For embedded applications, it's very feasable to not use a scrap of GNU code. Linux doesn't have to be Unix. The kernel code is the important part. Without a kernel, nothing happens.

The GNU tools are used because they are there, convenient and free. Mr Stallman just seems to be annoyed that people are happily taking advantage of the liberty he insists they should have. To my mind, it's almost like a corporation that donates money to the Red Cross complaining that their company logo doesn't appear on every first aid kit.

Philanthropists do what they do because they believe in it. Not for credit, which is what it seems RMS wants. Please note that I do not claim to know his mind - all I'm saying is what it looks like from where I'm sitting.



[ Parent ]
Devil's Prosecutor (4.50 / 6) (#18)
by brion on Tue May 15, 2001 at 01:15:38 AM EST

But none of those utilities are essential. Another compiler could be used. BSD utilities could be recompiled and used ... The kernel code is the important part.

But the kernel isn't essential. Another kernel could be used with the GNU utilities, it's possible to use them without a scrap of Linux code. Simply replace the Linux kernel with FreeBSD or Windows 2000 running Cywin, and recompile your "Linux" programs - or even run your "linux" binaries and libraries directly with system call trapping - and the user experience will be identical or nearly so.

The kernel is only one of many components in what we generally call a desktop operating system, it seems silly to argue that any one of them is the supreme important component when drop-in replacements exist for all of them...

Sure, a software environment consisting of only the Linux kernel and a single binary executable running in an embedded system is GNU-free, but it's not what most people are thinking of when they say "Linux" - they usually mean a UNIX-like system with all the trimmings, which happens to have the Linux kernel dropped in the center, the GNU utilities around it, and a whole bunch of other components around them.

How many people, plunked in front of a machine running X and KDE or Gnome or WindowMaker or GNUStep or twm w/ xterm would know whether it's running Linux, FreeBSD, Solaris, perhaps HURD, or even Windows with a full-screen X server without intentionally checking? UNIX-like ain't just about the kernel's brand name.



Chu vi parolas Vikipedion?
[ Parent ]
Objection! (4.40 / 5) (#19)
by strepsil on Tue May 15, 2001 at 01:45:04 AM EST

Firstly, I agree with you. The Linux kernel is not essential to a working system. You could do the opposite of what I mentioned previously and run a BSD kernel and replace the BSD userland with GNU utilities. Once you start X, who can tell what you've done?

But Richard Stallman wants us to refer to all our Linux kernel based systems as "GNU/Linux", and according to another post attached to this story, he now credits himself as the "principal developer of the operating system often inaccurately called 'Linux'".

What is it that we call "Linux", anyway? I use the term to refer to a variety of products, including one dedicated system I built from scratch that does nothing but play mp3s for me. I refer to them all as "Linux" systems because they have one thing in common. Their kernel.

There is no "Linux". There are RedHat, Slackware, Debian, and many other distributions. We use the term "Linux" to refer to the one thing we know they have to share. Every other component is optional and subject to change.



[ Parent ]
Overruled! Amicus curiae: Debian (4.66 / 3) (#21)
by brion on Tue May 15, 2001 at 02:30:20 AM EST

What is it that we call "Linux", anyway? I use the term to refer to a variety of products, including one dedicated system I built from scratch that does nothing but play mp3s for me. I refer to them all as "Linux" systems because they have one thing in common. Their kernel.

I think that the root of Stallman's complaint is that this courtesy is extended to 'all systems involving a Linux kernel', but is not extended to 'all systems involving the numerous GNU utilities, libraries, etc'. Both sets are extensive, and they have a huge overlap which includes all of the mainstream Linux distros - Red Hat, Debian, SuSE, etc.

There is no "Linux". There are RedHat, Slackware, Debian, and many other distributions. We use the term "Linux" to refer to the one thing we know they have to share. Every other component is optional and subject to change.

It's as valid to call these mainstream distributions "GNU" because they all share a GNU base as it is to call them "Linux" because they share a Linux kernel base. (Embedded, router, or custom distros which are GNU-free are obviously free to not call themselves GNU!) Which brings to mind, Debian has a version of their distribution available with a GNU HURD kernel. 'Debian GNU/Hurd' comes with the same packages as the 'Debian GNU/Linux' distribution, but without the Linux. So is the Linux component truly not "subject to change"?

Admittedly, Stallman's road leads to chaos as the system ends up named for every package installed on it... What we really need is a nice new generic name for "UNIX-like" that doesn't sound so wimpy. Unfortunately, "Linux" has the mindshare, so nobody's going to want to give up the name for something neutral as long as Linux itself actually is involved in most of the products.

(Personally, I'm just waiting for the day when new operating systems that vaguely follow POSIX are described as "Linux-like".)



Chu vi parolas Vikipedion?
[ Parent ]
GNU/Windows? (No Text) (3.00 / 1) (#36)
by farmgeek on Tue May 15, 2001 at 09:15:49 AM EST

Damn it! I said no text!

[ Parent ]
Just you wait (3.00 / 1) (#47)
by brion on Tue May 15, 2001 at 01:21:00 PM EST

The day Microsoft buys out Red Hat (Redmond Hat?) and starts shipping cygwin with their operating systems to provide "Linux compatibility", you can bet RMS will be screaming for them to call it exactly that...

("A Better Linux than Linux", the brochures will say - they'll be right, too. They just won't actually say that what they mean is it's better for Microsoft's bottom line.)



Chu vi parolas Vikipedion?
[ Parent ]
Solaris (4.00 / 1) (#50)
by msphil on Tue May 15, 2001 at 01:43:32 PM EST

(Personally, I'm just waiting for the day when new operating systems that vaguely follow POSIX are described as "Linux-like".)
Didn't Scott McNealy of Sun once say "Solaris is our version of Linux"? If I'm remembering correctly and he did, then it may have already started :-)

[ Parent ]
Another compiler could be used (3.00 / 1) (#23)
by i on Tue May 15, 2001 at 03:03:03 AM EST

only if you rewrite the kernel to be free of GCCisms. This is a lot of work. Just nitpicking.

and we have a contradicton according to our assumptions and the factor theorem

[ Parent ]
Tools are provided to further an agenda. (4.33 / 3) (#66)
by Wayfarer on Wed May 16, 2001 at 01:50:37 AM EST

The GNU utilities are not provided merely as a benefit to mankind. They are also provided to compete with other tools under different licenses. The greater the user base that utilizes these tools, the more credibility the Free Software Foundation has.

Without recognition that a given system uses these utilities, such an exercise becomes fairly meaningless. Hence, it is imperative to the goals of the FSF that a system that includes GNU utilities be labeled as such.

One can claim that Stallman is a philanthropist in the strict definition, in that what he does, he does because he believes it's for the common good. However, one must also remember that these tools come with strings attached, in the form of a GNU license and the philosophy behind it.

Mind you, I believe that Stallman is fighting the good fight (though I often disagree with his methods). I merely wish to stress that as the article above points out, the phrase "GNU" carries a modicum of political implications around with it, and as such, cannot be taken lightly.

-W-

"Is it all journey, or is there landfall?"
-Ellison & van Vogt, "The Human Operators"


[ Parent ]
Devil's advocate II (1.66 / 3) (#67)
by camadas on Wed May 16, 2001 at 01:59:06 AM EST

What if never actually developed anything on a Linux box. Even never compiled anything from source ? Maybe I'll be a plain end user, bought everything in binary form, why shoud I care/know/aknowledge what tools were used to build my system (actually built from scratch and various sources) ? I think it's completly irrevant for (dirty word ahead) the customers.

[ Parent ]
Gnu-less Linux (3.00 / 2) (#86)
by Ruidh on Wed May 16, 2001 at 04:47:23 PM EST

While the coding style for the kernel is intimately tied to the gcc compiler, most of the other GNU tools are replacable. gcc is still the standard compiler for Linux systems because you need it for the kernel. glibc is then also required. But not all of the GNU tools are. Emacs: I don't even install it. I'm quite happy with vim which is not GNU. Info: I despise it. Give me man. bash: I use ksh X: X is not GNU. Many of the other GNU tools can be replaced with non-GNU tools such as busybox. I have a Linux system running as a file server that has almost no GNU tools left on it.
"Laissez-faire is a French term commonly interpreted by Conservatives to mean 'lazy fairy,' which is the belief that if governments are lazy enough, the Good Fairy will come down from heaven and do all their work for them."
[ Parent ]
does anyone pay attention to him anymore? (1.75 / 8) (#8)
by rebelcool on Mon May 14, 2001 at 09:34:58 PM EST

stallman is much like ESR. Full of air and always yelling about something, just for the sake of yelling.

I dont think anyone is going to start calling it GNU/Linux anytime soon.

COG. Build your own community. Free, easy, powerful. Demo site

But... (4.33 / 3) (#15)
by delmoi on Tue May 15, 2001 at 12:02:10 AM EST

at least RMS did something. GCC is used every day by almost everyone developing in a non-Microsoft environment. He also started the free software movement that brought us Linux and lots of other great things

ESR on the other hand, took over a fairly mundane mail utility (he didn't write it himself), and wrote a couple of popus papers.

If you ask me, RMS has earned the right to bitch. He really did write a lot of the code, and he really did get things started. I don't think most of the stuff in a Linux distro is his work, but I do think most of it wouldn't be there if it wasn't for his activism. It must be really frustrating to see you hand change the world and someone else get all the credit

I'm not a free software zealot by any means (I'm writing this in word to be pasted into IE). But I think Stallman's contributions sum to be far more then a bunch of hot air unlike ESR...
--
"'argumentation' is not a word, idiot." -- thelizman
[ Parent ]
Just the GPL? (3.66 / 9) (#9)
by RangerBob on Mon May 14, 2001 at 10:21:25 PM EST

To me, the problem isn't just the GPL as it is how Stallman and the zealots go about things. Yes, he stands for his ideas and what not, no one is faulting him for that. The problem is in the fact the while he preaches about freedom of choice, he really means his intrepretation of freedom. If you decide to use a closed source solution, or if you decide to release closed source, you're seen as some kind of evil doer. But, freedom of choice means that it is perfectly ok to do something like this. I feel that the his group has a subtle double standard that is also being picked up on.

Yeah, people will counter other business practices to make money off free software. So what? Freedom of choice means that you should have the freedom to NOT choose these methods. These don't work in all situations and there are a whole lot of business failing right now that have tried these alternatives. If the movement pushes for freedom to choose, they must accept that people might not choose their solutions.

What about freedom of speech? (4.00 / 4) (#25)
by Tezcatlipoca on Tue May 15, 2001 at 04:25:09 AM EST

Stallman as far as I know is not demanding that the goverment forbids closed source software. He just dislikes, no, hates closed source software. He can rant about it, he can say how stupid or immoral or whatever one wants to call it, are poepl using close source software, but he has the right to do so.

You can say he is crazy, fair enough, but you can't fault him for being honest and consistent.

He is doing what very few do: to see beyond the technical implications of software design, and that to me is most commendable, no matter how forceful and excentric he can be some times.



Might is right
Freedom? Which freedom?
[ Parent ]
Read for content (3.50 / 2) (#33)
by RangerBob on Tue May 15, 2001 at 08:52:39 AM EST

I never said he was crazy. And what the heck does this have to do with freedom of speech. Read it again. My problem is that he's doing what you said: proclaiming to be the savior of freedom of choice as long as you choose what he likes. This is the double standard. It's cool and all that you somehow turned this into "Stallman can't say what he thinks", but you really pulled this one out of some bodily orafice.

Shees, do people around here even read a posting fully for content these days? While I appreciate that you hold Stallman to such a high degree, you really ought to read things through and think before you go off. Kneejerk reactions to a post that might be criticial of him don't do a lot to support your side.

[ Parent ]
He does not proclaim anything (4.00 / 1) (#98)
by Tezcatlipoca on Thu May 17, 2001 at 09:34:48 AM EST

I have neve ever read, hear, or seen him proclaiming he is the saviour of freedom of choice.

He has a philosophy about copyright issues relating to software, he is popular for that because what he says makes sense to a lot of people, but please show me one example where he "proclaims to be the savior of freedom of choice as long as you choose what he likes" or an example in which he is demanding the banning of non GPLed software (which would validate your statement).

You dislike him, fine, you don't like GPLed software, fair enough, but it is not valid to say something that is completely and utterly baseless unless your own personal opinion can be considered as base for any objective judgement of another person's actions.



Might is right
Freedom? Which freedom?
[ Parent ]
Son of a.... (3.00 / 1) (#106)
by RangerBob on Thu May 17, 2001 at 02:26:17 PM EST

Oh hell, now you're reading things into this AGAIN!. I never said that I didn't like GPL'd software. And to follow your method of reasoning, show me where I made the exact statement that I don't like GPL'd software. Until then, you're statements are utterly baseless unless your own personal opinions can be considered as base for any objective judgement of another person's actions.

This is silly. I never said he didn't have freedom of speech. All I said is that freedom of choice means that you can choose closed source software. All I said was that the movement had a double standard of proclaiming freedom of choice while attacking those that choose closed source. Go read GNU's site, the whole freakin movement is opposed to using closed source. If this isn't the case, why the animosity towards Microsoft?

This is tiring. Why you felt like turning this into some silly argument I don't know. But I'm tired, and I quit. If you want to continue pulling things out of your rear and claiming I'm attacking your God, that's fine. You know what I'm talking about, and you know that it's a valid point. You can't be that silly about this.

[ Parent ]
Moral choices... (4.50 / 2) (#74)
by darthaggie on Wed May 16, 2001 at 12:38:13 PM EST

If you decide to use a closed source solution, or if you decide to release closed source, you're seen as some kind of evil doer.

Correct, as RMS considers such behaviour to be morally wrong.

But, freedom of choice means that it is perfectly ok to do something like this.

No, freedom of choice means that you can make a choice. It does not speak to the (im)morality of the choice you make.

I am BOFH. Resistance is futile. Your network will be assimilated.
[ Parent ]

Uh huh (1.33 / 3) (#90)
by RangerBob on Wed May 16, 2001 at 10:02:14 PM EST

So it's immoral now to pick and choose software that Stallman doesn't support? Oh man, I quit, this is why I don't talk to zealots.

[ Parent ]
Another critical failing of RMS (1.33 / 3) (#89)
by smokedjam on Wed May 16, 2001 at 06:58:44 PM EST

is his lack of pragmatism and knowledge of economics. (Besides being a nutcase, but theres nothing immoral about being a nutcase as long as he keeps his hands off my ride!!!@@@ I can wash my own windshield thankyewverymuch.)

But of course, having freed himself of the bondage of shaves and haircuts, he has little use for material reward. Bless him. But watch your pets. Especially the goats. He likes goats.

Copyright, BSD style licensing, and pragmatic economic policy especially regarding monopoly seems to be the way to go. Use technology to prevent IP theft, and if a hippy happens to write a tool you can use, toss him a dollar! WARNING!!! DO NOT HAND IT TO HIM!!! HE WILL GRAB YOU AND NOT LET GO!!!

By the time GNU Office is ready, we should have some alternative career path for all those Microsoft programmers, at least I hope we do for WA's sake. You'll of course need a quantum computer to compile it, but they should be pretty cheap by then.

Thanks for listening.

--
I apologise for this post, but you folks really ran this debate well, and now I realise how little I have to add :-)

[ Parent ]

RMS getting more extreme? (3.75 / 12) (#11)
by Speare on Mon May 14, 2001 at 10:31:42 PM EST

Now that everyone's getting used to RMS's rants about calling it GNU/Linux, is he stepping up the rhetoric? It seems he's really bitter about his self-perceived slipping significance in the world of unencumbered source code.

In a rebuttal to an article on The Register, he signs the letter with this tagline:

    Sincerely,
    Richard Stallman
    Principal developer of the operating system often inaccurately called "Linux"
Surely he's a principal developer of the GNU tools found in various popular distributions, so I won't quibble about that. But the "operating system inaccurately called Linux" thing strikes me as a notch up in his arguments. Does he want it to be called GNU, and drop the Linux? Is Linux still an operating system if it doesn't include FSF project tools?

I figure that if a distro wants to call itself Braincandy, or Linux, or whatever, they can do that. If we have to break out every "principal" part of a distro to give it an "accurate" name, think again. I'm not about to start saying that I'm installing Red Hat Linux/ GNU/ Bourne/ Perl/ Apache/ Samba/ X11/ Enlightenment/ KDE/ Mozilla/ Etc.

Back in 1990, I thought, well, at least he was rational about the gcc licence, where it expressly said that the stuff built with gcc didn't have to be treated as GPL-tainted. Maybe he's re-thinking that decision now with his tirades on Gnu's Not Unimportant.
 
[ e d @ e x p l o r a t i . c o m ]

Its even worse than that (3.00 / 3) (#31)
by smokedjam on Tue May 15, 2001 at 08:13:56 AM EST

Back in 1990, I thought, well, at least he was rational about the gcc licence, where it expressly said that the stuff built with gcc didn't have to be treated as GPL-tainted. Maybe he's re-thinking that decision now with his tirades on Gnu's Not Unimportant.

From what I understand, gcc is now maintained in the 'cygnus' tree. ie., not Stallman. Additionally, his baby, emacs, forked, and the divorce wasn't particularily friendly. All he has left to preach is GNU itself, and the rest of the world is revisiting this, because those darn 'bills' keep coming in, and folks are now revisiting the need to pay them.

I flame Stallman relentlessly (he'll of course neither know nor care), but in reality, he's a smart fellow. If he would honestly see GNU's as a part of the world, rather than all of it, I'd pay more attention to what he says. This is probably ironic since I like Debian so much.

+1, section

[ Parent ]

hes only hurting himself (2.00 / 3) (#49)
by zzzeek on Tue May 15, 2001 at 01:38:10 PM EST

"Principal developer"? He wrote what, Emacs? I dont even use that silly thing. The more he cries for attention and such ambiguous and inaccurate recognition, the less he will get, at the expense of some very important points he makes.

[ Parent ]
Experiment (4.66 / 3) (#73)
by darthaggie on Wed May 16, 2001 at 12:17:09 PM EST

Surely he's a principal developer of the GNU tools found in various popular distributions, so I won't quibble about that.

As an experiement, remove all the GNU software from any given linux distribution. Is it still an operating system? Discuss.

But the "operating system inaccurately called Linux" thing strikes me as a notch up in his arguments.

Perhaps. Credit where credit is due.

Is Linux still an operating system if it doesn't include FSF project tools?

Linux is just a kernel, not an operating system. Much like Hurd, Mach, and even the BSD kernel. So one could have GNU/Hurd, GNU/Mach, and even GNU/BSD, in addition to GNU/Linux.

But don't think I'm going to go out and start calling it "GNU/Linux" in my day-to-day converstations...

I am BOFH. Resistance is futile. Your network will be assimilated.
[ Parent ]

Stallman cracks me up! (2.12 / 8) (#12)
by MrSmithers on Mon May 14, 2001 at 10:54:54 PM EST

The real irony of the situation is that RMS's own license is biting him in the ass. After all the work he put into writing the GPL and promoting its use because it was the One True "Free" license, he's now asking, no, demanding that Linux be called GNU/Linux.

Of course because all of the GNU software is under the GPL, the Linux vendors can do whatever the hell they want with it (as long as the source is available, of course) and tell RMS just where to stick his GNU/Linux. Classic!



GPL isn't anti-business... (3.60 / 5) (#14)
by Andrew Dvorak on Mon May 14, 2001 at 11:54:24 PM EST

I don't see the GPL as an anti-business license: it just doesn't agree with most current business models. I gather it will be a long time before we can conclude the GPL to be a business failure, since most traditional business models have been proven over greater periods of time.

what are you claiming (1.50 / 2) (#22)
by streetlawyer on Tue May 15, 2001 at 02:39:59 AM EST

since most traditional business models have been proven over greater periods of time

Are you claiming that there was ever a period in history when the business model of "selling things for money" appeared like a risky dot com start-up that might stand or fall? This is not how I understand the history of money and commerce.

--
Just because things have been nonergodic so far, doesn't mean that they'll be nonergodic forever
[ Parent ]

Pointless Distinction (none / 0) (#51)
by leviathan on Tue May 15, 2001 at 01:45:44 PM EST

You can say that GPL isn't a PITA for all businesses, but what most people say when they say GPL is anti-business is that it works against the vast majority of businesses in existence (majority being in terms of say, turnover). Since this article is about how the GNU association is turning off existing businesses that are already out there, your comment would appear to be off topic.

--
I wish everyone was peaceful. Then I could take over the planet with a butter knife.
- Dogbert
[ Parent ]
GPL vs. anti-business (none / 0) (#61)
by sigwinch on Tue May 15, 2001 at 08:47:22 PM EST

[The GPL] just doesn't agree with most current business models.
It doesn't?! Then why are so many businesses running their critical infrastructures on GPLed software compiled with gcc? What you really mean is that the GPL doesn't agree with the business model of holding the source code hostage. And that's something that most businesses don't care about.

--
I don't want the world, I just want your half.
[ Parent ]

Cornucopia of the Commons (4.57 / 21) (#16)
by Simian on Tue May 15, 2001 at 12:34:58 AM EST

The subject line's taken from an essay I've read recently in O'Reilly's Peer-to-Peer book.

I agree with those posters who've pointed out that Linux doesn't need business--to a point. But I think some confusion arises over the slight, but widening, gap between "business" and "capitalism".

Business I'll define as simply economic activity: the creation, exchange, and distribution of property. A capitalist business is a particular mode of economic organization, predicated on a particular kind of property--or rather, on a particular interpretation of what property is.

And yes, the GPL is quite ingeniously problematic to a capitalist business. Why? Because it prevents any one organization from taking control of the value represented by the GPL'ed work, and turning that value into capital. Capital, being defined in the main as being a form of property over which the owner has been granted absolute control by the state.

I know from hard experience that a) most people don't understand the connection between property and the nation-state and b) the idea of a kind of property that isn't controlled absolutely by someone is very difficult to understand. It's too bad, because it's been, historically, an indispensible part of all human communities. You might guess I'm referring to "the commons".

Everyone knows the commons nowadays from an essay written by Garrett Hardin in 1968 called "The Tragedy of the Commons". In that essay, Hardin argued that when private individuals pursuing their own ends are let loose in a space owned by no one, social property is abused until destroyed. "Freedom in a commons brings ruin to all" is the most memorable formulation.

But the digital environment changes that, mostly by subverting its most fundamental predicate: that the resources of the commons are limited, and consumed by use.

The GPL is a new form of property, "common" property reborn in the most unlikely of places--a computer, or rather, a network of computers. The transaction cost of exchanging GPL'ed property is neglible. And that's its strength.

So what I'm saying is that the difficulties that the "business world"--i.e. the capitalist establishment--has with the GPL is the same sort of problem they have with Napster. And yet the economic proposition of Napster, from a user's point of view, is quite compelling. Share a little bit of information, at little cost to yourself, and you gain your investment back a million-fold (technically, there's an infinite gain since the transaction costs you nothing, or at most, time and bandwidth).

Isn't that the benefit of the GPL? It makes wonderful sense to me, as a nascent hacker. I'm working on the core of an piece of software right now that I will release, when it has a chance of hell of attracting interest, under the GPL.

If it proves worthy, the help I could get on the project makes possible what was simply impossible for me as an individual--the full development of an idea I think is cool. No startup costs. And since the idea is one that actually works better when more people use it, opening the source just makes sense.

That's the benefit of open source, anyway. The specific benefit of the GPL is that it defends the commons I have enjoyed, profoundly, for the last three years. If I contribute to the commons, by Crom its my right to make sure my contribution stays in the commons. If it doesn't, then that is the true piracy, not the so called "parasites" that download freed software and only use it, not write it. Closing off code, based on my work, that is real potential value bleeding off into the closed beyond.

Let me point out something here. My argument might sound similar to a capitalist's at precisely this point--"hey, I have created this value, and if you want to share in the fruits of working with my valuable property you're going to do it on my terms!". This might even sound like irony, or contradiction. But the difference is that the only control I assert over "my" property is that no one else may assert control over it. The economic world is tipped on its head, when scarcity is no longer the issue.

I've always thought that property should be defined as the amount of active, personal responsibility one takes for things. Capitalists are too absolutist about property, and it's beginning to show.

One might argue that property is something one should be able to make money off of. I won't argue, but the kind of value I get back from the GPL isn't monetary, except in the savings I get from not shelling out for Microsoft products. Let people write stuff under closed licenses! Or, if you're really charitable, let someone else close up and profit from your work! Doesn't really make sense to me, but some capitalists are so idealistic...

Money loses value in an environment where things are plentiful and can be had for free. What is much more valuable is the organization of people to create new and interesting things. And as money loses its meaning, so too does theft. Or rather, the theft comes not from taking property and using it, but from hoarding it.

Shoot, parasites are great, especially when they actually write, um, bug reports! (whoops, I try to avoid puns.)

My computing needs have been met, and exceeded, by Linux and the GNU software. I've learned, at no cost, much from source code. I'm inspired to contribute to a community that has been so effective at multiplying the efforts of its contributors back a thousandfold.

Do you see, then, that closed source is now the tragedy of the commons? That the thin, paradoxical legal shield of the GPL forms the wall to a resonating chamber? Enter the commons, share or don't share, but be assured that anything you do contribute (of value...) will come back to you, multiplied and improved.

Hrmph. Stallman is an irascible old bastard. And by Jove he deserves his props. For the GPL, if nothing else!

jb




"As I would not be a slave, so would I not be a master. This expresses my idea of democracy. Whatever differs from this, to the extent of the difference, is no democracy." Abraham Lincoln
tragedy of the commons is not applicable (3.00 / 5) (#29)
by eLuddite on Tue May 15, 2001 at 07:28:56 AM EST

Do you see, then, that closed source is now the tragedy of the commons?

No. Not at all.

The Tragedy of the Commons is a basis for private property. There is no such tragedy in intellectual property because intellectual property does not devalue with use. The basis for copyright -- in the USA, particularly -- is incentive to create. As long as business' single, overriding incentive is money, business will be hostile to any license that makes owners of users. It really is as simple and as logical as all that. As long as programmers engineer for money, traditional copyright will evoke no tragedy of any commons.

(Traditional artists take an even dimmer view of copyleft because, unlike code, art is very much the expression of a single individual. If you know of an author who will voluntarily concede artistic control to the public, I'd like to know who that author is. Copyleft works for code because code is measured according to its functionality and usefulness instead of any claim to expression.)

---
God hates human rights.
[ Parent ]

let me correct the vagueness (3.00 / 1) (#32)
by eLuddite on Tue May 15, 2001 at 08:42:20 AM EST

intellectual property does not devalue with use.

Devalue as in deplete, that is. See, if a creation depleted with use, there would be reason to grant the right of copy in perpetuity, just like any other tangible property right. Anything that does not deplete with use should be free and would be free were it not for the thorny issue of its creation. Anyway, invoking the tragedy of the commons is something business does when they argue for longer copyright terms; they are wrong.

---
God hates human rights.
[ Parent ]

Actually.. (3.00 / 1) (#37)
by farmgeek on Tue May 15, 2001 at 09:34:50 AM EST

The business value (i.e. the amount of money that can be made) does decrease. Granted, copyrights have become insanely long lasting, but there is a case to be made for their existence. I would think 5 years would more than sufficient for software though.

[ Parent ]
that's incentive, not Tragedy of the Commons (3.50 / 2) (#39)
by eLuddite on Tue May 15, 2001 at 09:54:36 AM EST

The business value (i.e. the amount of money that can be made) does decrease

Who cares :-)

Seriously, there is no right to make money and even less right to makes as much as possible. I'm not talking as Communist, here; the value of ip, philosophically and under law, is *knowledge*. The value of Plato's Republic hasnt diminished in the centuries, has it?

(And I am telling you this even though I am _pro_ copyright and anti-copyleft.)

---
God hates human rights.
[ Parent ]

You're right. (3.00 / 2) (#40)
by farmgeek on Tue May 15, 2001 at 10:16:55 AM EST

But I didn't intend to assert that it was a tragedy of the commons.

I do agree that there is no right to make money, but there is a right to attempt to make money (pursuit of happiness). The value of knowledge is *power* and the value of power is *wealth* (how power and wealth are defined is another discussion altogether).

I don't see an obligation to produce knowledge (or anything else) for no personal benefit though, nor do most businesses.

I tell you this even though I am copy direction ambivalent (sp?).

[ Parent ]
Definitions of wealth (4.83 / 6) (#46)
by dennis on Tue May 15, 2001 at 12:08:23 PM EST

Americans have an odd definition of wealth. We only count it as wealth if it makes a bigger number in our bank account. We've lost sight of the fact that money is only a way of keeping track of how much non-monetary goods you can get. That can be increased either by getting more money, or by decreasing the cost of goods.

If the cost of goods is decreased to zero, our wealth goes up dramatically. If I make ten thousand bucks and spend it all on music and software, I'm not any wealthier than if I didn't make the money, but got all my music and software for free.

[ Parent ]

Very good point (3.00 / 3) (#53)
by Simian on Tue May 15, 2001 at 03:21:56 PM EST

Yes! What I was arguing is that the new Commons represented by digital IP, while resistant to capitalization and hence monetization, contributes greatly to the quality of life of those that participate, without exchanging a dime! Money is not the only medium of exchange.

Money is a convenient way of distributing property-rights to those that use and exchange their property wisely. Wisdom takes on a different meaning, however, when the stakes are no longer the allocation of scarce resources but become to creation and implementation of ideas for their own sake.

I think it was the poet John Ruskin who coined the term "illth" as a counterpoint to "wealth", which takes "health" (weal) as its root. Etymology can be historically illuminating. Money that doesn't contribute to the common-weal, isn't wealth--from the point of view of a community.

jb




"As I would not be a slave, so would I not be a master. This expresses my idea of democracy. Whatever differs from this, to the extent of the difference, is no democracy." Abraham Lincoln
[ Parent ]
Yes, and No (3.50 / 4) (#52)
by Simian on Tue May 15, 2001 at 02:42:40 PM EST

The Tragedy of the Commons is a basis for private property. There is no such tragedy in intellectual property because intellectual property does not devalue with use.

Well, that was the point I was making vis a vis the "parasites" that use intellectual property without contributing anything back to the commons. Their use is harmless. But you're missing the point that intellectual property, regardless of why it was established by the law in the first place, converts expression into an exchangable form of property, not a usable one.

IP, as presently implemented, is capital-like for two reasons: one, because it can become the basis for more creative (derivative) works, and two, because it becomes in some sense the raw material that, when published becomes a product exchangable on an open market.

Businesses, by which you mean capitalist firms, do indeed exist solely to make money. They do this my exploiting the absolute control over property that has been granted to them by the state. IP grants a publisher the sole right of distribution, and capitalist publishers exploit this competitively.

But money isn't the only way value has historically been exchanged--there is also exchange in kind, and contribution to a commons that benefits all. The latter senses are more relevant for copyright nowadays, since distribution is no longer as much of an issue.

I took some pains to mention in my post that my problem is the fact that IP is subject to strict control by the "owners" of the copyright (who are very often not the producers of the work). This is problematic given the fact that intellectual property such as code is now not only infinitely usable, but infinitely distributable and reproducible.

I admit that, in the single sentence you cite, I was kind of riffing off a variation on the notion of the "commons" I was elaborating. I don't think you got that. But the whole point of my post was that the GPL creates a new kind of commons, not IP per se which is, as you note, simply another kind of (private) property. This new commons is not subject to the same tragedy as the old one was.

And the point of the line you cite was to point out that, in the case of GPL'ed property, the true tragedy would be for someone to be able to take the code out of circulation. My point is that, given the new kind of common property the GPL represents, it makes no economic sense to permit people to take common property and close it off. It's inimical to the system, which otherwise works quite well.

You brought up artists, which I avoided in my post lest it turn into a dissertation, but I'd like to point out that the GPL, besides enforcing anti-copyright, also creates a millieu of respect for creators--out of practical economic necessity. This is why code isn't just forked left and right, i.e. taken out of the hands of creators who still show interest in guiding (not controlling) their creation. This would damage the basis of the commons, the same "human creativity" that is apparently doing quite well, in this case, without the incentive of direct profit at the expense of openness.

Because artistic expression isn't collaborative (to a certain extent) in the same way code is, I would agree that some kind of exchange needs to take place between artist and user. I respect people's responsibility for code. For the same reasons (economic sense) I respect artist's rights to compensation. Perhaps some license like MySQL's is in order here. Free to distribute, but if you profit from it or use it derivatively, you owe.

Bottom line: property is personal responsibility. That's a definition I've yet to find an objection too, unlike the regimes of property the state rams down our throats nowadays.

jb




"As I would not be a slave, so would I not be a master. This expresses my idea of democracy. Whatever differs from this, to the extent of the difference, is no democracy." Abraham Lincoln
[ Parent ]
yes, I understood (2.33 / 3) (#63)
by eLuddite on Tue May 15, 2001 at 10:24:46 PM EST

I was just pointing out incorrect usage of Tragedy of the Commons. If knowledge did evoke a Tragedy of the Commons, copyright would be a property right instead of a temporary grant.

But money isn't the only way value has historically been exchanged--there is also exchange in kind, and contribution to a commons that benefits all.

That is fine as long as you do not deny financial incentive to those who want it. There's nothing innately better about copyleft economics.

I took some pains to mention in my post that my problem is the fact that IP is subject to strict control by the "owners" of the copyright

Total, monopolistic control by design, ever since 1776.

This is problematic given the fact that intellectual property such as code is now not only infinitely usable, but infinitely distributable and reproducible.

The problematic aspect addressed by copyright is not reproduction, it is creation. You posit "sharing" as incentive for creation but that isnt a universal incentive and therefore not a replacement.

The abuse you describe is the result of a shift in thinking that has, unfortunately, turned knowledge into a property. It isnt.

But the whole point of my post was that the GPL creates a new kind of commons, not IP per se which is, as you note, simply another kind of (private) property. This new commons is not subject to the same tragedy as the old one was.

(Again, IP isnt a property right.) Copylefted knowledge is not a "commons" because its licensed instead unrestricted public domain knowledge. You havent changed anything, you've just created a web of licensees who are not motivated by money.

---
God hates human rights.
[ Parent ]

well, that was clear as mud (2.66 / 3) (#64)
by eLuddite on Tue May 15, 2001 at 11:05:53 PM EST

Let me try this again. The purpose of copyright is to create *new* work. To replace copyright, copyleft needs to demonstrate that it creates more new work instead of more copies of old work, especially if copyright terms were restored to reasonably short grants as per original intention. If it doesnt create more new work, it is a useful complement to copyright instead of a replacement. Ideologues notwithstanding, it seems to be the latter, a complement.

---
God hates human rights.
[ Parent ]

Hmm. Dare I ask, what is property? (3.25 / 4) (#65)
by Simian on Wed May 16, 2001 at 12:43:26 AM EST

You keep saying I mis-used the idea of the Commons. It keeps giving me the impression you didn't actually read my original post. It was so long I'm not sure I would have read it, but the whole thing was about why the old idea of the Commons and the tragedy thereof isn't applicable to a digital environment. But I made a case that the model was still useful, in an inverted sense. I stress, an inverted sense, which I think is where you were trying to correct me.

The problematic aspect addressed by copyright is not reproduction, it is creation.

No, you should note the word "copy" embedded in "copyright". It was primarily a protection for publishers against other publishers. It is granted to creators to give them a bargaining chip against publishers. Unfortunately, history has proved that the publishers still held most of the chips, since they really held the key to production of copies. And this is why they're being obsoleted by the age of infinite reproduction--not that you'd notice, since they have the resources to warp the "playing field" in their favor.

Let's recall why copyright had such strict limitations placed on it--precisely to prevent such work from being kept, at some point, from entering the commons. The founding fathers were indeed wise on this point, because if IP is P for too long, it is certainly going to inhibit creativity.

Question is: why isn't intellectual property, as it is defined and defended by copyright law, well, property by your definition? Sure it's temporary. Not for long, if Disney has its say, but for the sake of argument I'll teleport back to the end of the eighteenth century and pretend copyright was functioning as intended. That doesn't, to me, affect it's being property. It is a temporary grant--of property rights.

Intellectual property is property in the same a machine tool used to stamp CDs is--while copyright applies. It can be exchanged for money, it can become the raw material of new products, and if you "steal" it, you can be jailed or otherwise punished by the law. It is property, because it is capital. It is used to manufacture goods. But now there's little difference between an expression, and the infinite reproduction of the expression. So I do in fact think copyright is largely obsolete. It needs to be rethought. Not to rob artists of their means for living, but to adjust how they are compensated so as to maximize the overall benefit of their work. I honestly think they'll come out even better off, on average.

Copyleft is a new, and different, sort of property, optimized for a particular kind of work (code) in a particular kind of environment (networked). It isn't just a gang of oddly motivated people. There is an economy at work. It just doesn't use money as its currency.

Please, don't misunderstand--we all must do whatever we can to feed ourselves and our family. We're all motivated by money to meet these needs. My problem isn't with artists, or coders, or anyone trying to make a living from the sweat of their brains. I am too. My problem is with the machinations of the publishers, who are interfering quite a bit in the formation of a new, far more efficient economy of ideas and intellectual creations. Copyleft shouldn't apply to artistic work because it isn't the same kind of work as coding. But I'm sorry, copyright doesn't do the job anymore either. It has fallen into the hands of the publishers, and I think has honestly hurt many worthy artists by prioritizing easy-to-market ones.

Artists may be motivated by money, but the publishers are motivated by profit, and this makes them the enemy of the (new) commons. They're trying to stop the manna from falling from the heavens, so they can still make a few sous from their moldy bread.

To rid ourselves of the publishers, we need to address the artists with a new and viable alternative. I think a kind of collective patronage would be in order. I would gladly pay three thousand dollars a year to be counted as a patron of my favorite artists. It's half what I spend on such things already, and much more of my money would get into the hands of the artists themselves anyway.

Property is not set in stone. It is created by the laws that enforce its creation, exchange, and use.

jb




"As I would not be a slave, so would I not be a master. This expresses my idea of democracy. Whatever differs from this, to the extent of the difference, is no democracy." Abraham Lincoln
[ Parent ]
its not rhetoric, that's for sure (5.00 / 1) (#79)
by eLuddite on Wed May 16, 2001 at 02:02:23 PM EST

No, you should note the word "copy" embedded in "copyright". It was primarily a protection for publishers against other publishers. It is granted to creators to give them a bargaining chip against publishers.

(Assuming you are an American.)

Copyright is literally the right of copy, a temporary grant given as incentive to create work. The Constitution promulgates copyright for the promotion of knowledge by giving creators an exclusive right to their work. The task of accomplishing this goal - the promotion of knowledge - was given to Congress and Congress has authorized rewards in order to sustain and promote the "marketability" of this exclusive right.

The monopoly of the copyright is tolerated as a means to an end. It is preferred that *all* work be in the Public Domain but first we need some work. Copyright adopts a Field of Dreams approach to the creation of work -- if you protect it, they will come. By establishing this right to the use and disposition of one's expression, copyright supplies incentive to create and disseminate ideas.

Question is: why isn't intellectual property, as it is defined and defended by copyright law, well, property by your definition?

(1) Because you cannot steal someone's right of copy. (2) Because it does not evoke the Tragedy of the Commons that is the basis for private property (knowledge isnt depleted with use.)

But now there's little difference between an expression, and the infinite reproduction of the expression. So I do in fact think copyright is largely obsolete.

What does reproduction have to do with creation? The answer to that question is also the difference between copyright and your politics which are perfectly good politics -- as good as anyone else's politics -- except for their misuse of the term copyright in history and under law.

Copyright promulgates its "field of dreams" approach to disseminating knowledge by assuring -- *not access, nor restrictions to information and ideas* -- but rather protection of the author's interests. Those interests are usually economic. They do not have to be. If they did have to be, the GPL wouldnt work under law. I was set straight on this very point by the author of abiword, and he was 100% correct.

Artists may be motivated by money, but the publishers are motivated by profit, and this makes them the enemy of the (new) commons. They're trying to stop the manna from falling from the heavens, so they can still make a few sous from their moldy bread.

The enemy of the your "commons" is legislation extending copyright to unreasonable lengths and legislation preempting legitimate fair use. Your disagreement with that statement is a disagreement with copyright itself. You do not have to agree with copyright, of course, but if you do, it means this: The promotion of the progress of knowledge and learning to be accomplished by "securing for limited times to Authors .... the exclusive Right to their ... Writings."

To rid ourselves of the publishers, we need to address the artists with a new and viable alternative.

I buy books. I want publishers. More to the point, authors want publishers. Even more to the point, publishers are an artifact of business, not a right of copy. Whatever the fate of publishers in the brave new digital world, that is not also the fate of protection for an author's incentive to create work. The fact the GPL is a list of copyright restrictions seems to have distracted your attention. You are arguing politics (and some weird economics) instead of copyright.

To summarize my "contribution" to this thread, (1) copyright does not evoke the Tragedy of the Commons as much as you or, ironically, publishers like to think so; (2) copyright is not a method of access or restriction to work, it is an incentive to create work promulgated as protection for an author's interest in that incentive, whatever form that incentive may take for its author.

It is not a Tragedy of the Commons, it is not a system of reproduction. If it were a Tragedy of the Commons, copyright would be granted in perpetuity. If it were a system of access to reproduction, work would be public domain. If it were a system of restriction against reproduction, publishers would have all the rights. That publishers today are getting too many privileges (not *rights*) to restrict reproduction is because rhetoric on both sides has perverted the meaning of copyright in the ears of a reactionary and not necessarily enlightened legislature.

That is my objection to your misleading evocation of the Tragedy of the Commons.

---
God hates human rights.
[ Parent ]

Wherein the Author argues in favor of Patronage (1.00 / 1) (#82)
by Simian on Wed May 16, 2001 at 03:02:03 PM EST

You are arguing politics (and some weird economics) instead of copyright.

No. Let me be crystal on this point: I've been arguing the politics of copyright. Specifically, how the politics that underlies copyright (as you say, the desire to incent creativity) is no longer being served by tying incentive to reproduction.

You ask, what does reproduction have to do with creation? My answer is not much--now. Except for the political fallout due to the power of certain publisher, who insist on their "right" (which is indeed a privilege as you noted) to profit from copying!

Reproduction of intellectual property (which can indeed be stolen; ask the RIAA) is no longer much of an effort. Copyright presumes that it is, because it ties the economic incentive to the (re)production of copies. That's as clear as I can make it. Sure, I can't steal a person's "right" to their intellectual property. That doesn't make it any less of a property right. My property right to my car can't be stolen. But my car can. It's a property right because I can sue for damages, period.

To summarize my "contribution" to this thread, (1) copyright does not evoke the Tragedy of the Commons as much as you or, ironically, publishers like to think so;

Sorry, as I stated earlier you're talking past me on that. All I was saying was that, in a digital environment, to take GPL'ed work and close it off would constitute a kind of wierd theft, wierd because the creation of private property isn't usually seen as theft. Except by Proudhon. Who has a small point in this regard.

The digital environment combined with the GPL is a kind of commons, as in the ancient political concept, not the one ruined by Tragedy. It differs, again, because unlike the Tragic Commons, it is not a bounded system. I understand your point about the difference between intellectual property and physical property--because that was my point. That that's some other guy's dead horse you're beating into jello, while I'm standing next to you, nodding.

(2) copyright is not a method of access or restriction to work, it is an incentive to create work promulgated as protection for an author's interest in that incentive, whatever form that incentive may take for its author.

Quite so, no disagreements. The incentive is a property right, however, which can be sold to the highest bidder. Please note that my objection to copyright is not that it is an incentive to creators--of course it is. My objection is that it is no longer a very useful incentive, because a) it has been totally coopted by corporate interests, b) it ties the incentive to an obsolete mode of production, and c) I honestly think that because of the previous two points it is a much greater obstacle to further creative work than it is an incentive.

I just think it needs to be scrapped. The real problem is that there is precious little, once the right to copy isn't relevant, for the creator to bargain with except the very act of creating.

I'm not one to criticize without offering alternatives, however improbable. The only out, to me, seems to be a shift to a form of patronage, where artists and other creative types are paid to produce something new, rather than paid as a percentage of units moved. Collective patronage.

Say I write a book. I distribute it freely on the internet. Some people like it, others don't. A moderate success. The ones that do press a button to register me with one of the Patronage Bargaining Collective's they belong to, the one that specializes in science fiction writers. Next month, I recieve checks from a dozen Patronage organizations, asking me to do this or that kind of story, we bargain, and now I can do what I love and still make a living. Ta da!

Friend, I love books too. I'm a librarian, in fact. I harsh on the publishers because they've ceased to simply be publishers and have become malignant political forces, IMO. I just don't see how, or why, copyright shouldn't be scrapped, or at least disembowelled, to make way for new, much more efficient ways of encouraging creativity.

jb




"As I would not be a slave, so would I not be a master. This expresses my idea of democracy. Whatever differs from this, to the extent of the difference, is no democracy." Abraham Lincoln
[ Parent ]
looks like we agree more violently than disagree (none / 0) (#84)
by eLuddite on Wed May 16, 2001 at 04:35:23 PM EST

Please note that my objection to copyright is not that it is an incentive to creators--of course it is. My objection is that it is no longer a very useful incentive, because a) it has been totally coopted by corporate interests, b) it ties the incentive to an obsolete mode of production, and c) I honestly think that because of the previous two points it is a much greater obstacle to further creative work than it is an incentive.

In other words, you object to that fact that copyright has become a means of printing money instead of a means of disseminating knowledge. I agree that it has become that.

---
God hates human rights.
[ Parent ]

too much credit (4.00 / 1) (#108)
by samth on Thu May 17, 2001 at 08:33:30 PM EST

I was set straight on this very point by the author of abiword, and he was 100% correct.

Thanks for the credit, but I'm certainly not the author of AbiWord. I'm just one of many (400kloc by one person would be a lot).

Given a choice between Libertarianism and ravenous martian spores, I ask you, do I look good in this Bernaise sauce? -- eLuddite
[ Parent ]

GNU is such an awful "word" (1.28 / 7) (#17)
by Tachys on Tue May 15, 2001 at 01:04:34 AM EST

GNU is supposed to be pronounced "guh-NEW"

Whenever I hear that I think of some horrible slimy substance.

"What you think of GNU/Linux?"

"Hey, watch you mouth"

Many like to call Windows Windozes.

With GNU/Linux you can make names like that which insult Linux.

How about

DHU/Linux

"Duh-New" Linux

PU/Linux

"Pee-Yew" Linux

GNU/Linux is a bit of a stretch. (3.66 / 12) (#20)
by Shren on Tue May 15, 2001 at 01:55:20 AM EST

True - Linux depends greatly on a vast array of GNU tools.

Quite frankly - so? Did I miss the part of the GPL where it says, "free to use as long as you name your product after our efforts?" I don't remember reading that. Are the BSD people demanding it be called BSD/MacOS? No. Does Microsoft have the right to rename my product MS/myproduct just because I use thier tools and libraries with myproduct? No. Are people running around demanding to rename Linux KDE/Linux or Gnome/Linux? No.

The GPL can require the release and redistribution of the source code. It can not require gratitude. Gratitude is hardly recieved even when it is deserved.

Why should we orient Linux commerically? (3.80 / 5) (#24)
by Tezcatlipoca on Tue May 15, 2001 at 04:15:40 AM EST

Linux is a hobby project that has grown to be a very useful tool. Why should anybody feel obliged to make it commercialy viable?

That is the work of big corps, they can use it (modify it if they wish, or simply use it and deploy it) to save money, and most importantly, to be back in control of their software infrastructure. If they fail to appreciate those advantages, bad for them, I don't care.

Linux grew without their help, it can continue with or without them.

I hope they join the fun, the freedom and the flexibility GNU/Linux brings them, but I don't see the Linux hobbyst task to be preaching to corporations the obvious benefits of this kind of software.

Any way, by now most inteligent big corps are using in a daily basis Open Source software of all denominations (Perl, Apache, Linux, gcc, Samba just to mention some of the ones we use), so honestly, there are companies that understand how GPL works, and there are companies that have not got a clue, and no amount of screaming will change that.



Might is right
Freedom? Which freedom?
Why GNU/Linux (3.77 / 9) (#26)
by hulver on Tue May 15, 2001 at 04:40:26 AM EST

Debian are currently using two Kernels for their OS. The Linux Kernel, and the Hurd Kernel. That's why GNU/Linux and GNU/Hurd. They both use the same software. If you can take the Kernel out, and put in a different one, should it still be called a Linux system? No.
The Linux Kernel is a very small (very very small) part of any distribution.
I don't know myself how much of the rest is taken up by GNU software, and I don't really care. I do know, however, that the FSF built a whole operating system, called GNU. The only thing that was missing was the Kernel. They started work on one, called Hurd.
As Hurd is still a work in progress (it'll never be faster than Linux though, I'll agree with Linus on that one, Micro kernels suck), they started using the Linux Kernel.
Hence GNU/Linux.

--
HuSi!
Politics vs. Pragma (2.33 / 3) (#28)
by lucas on Tue May 15, 2001 at 05:56:35 AM EST

I like that GNU/Linux is not commercially viable. Is there any reason to have seven samba-clones and five SSH clones that are not even gratis?

"Corporations" couldn't care less about what it is named. It's free and it's powerful. This is good because that is what the software is there for in the first place -- for anyone to use.

If you're going to develop a set of software for a platform, 99% of companies would consider more than a name or a reputation. There's market research out there that assists with this.

And, if you were to read these docs, you would learn that most GNU/Linux and BSD users don't buy commercial software not because they are averse to non-free stuff necessarily, but because they know how to make the free stuff do what they want it to do and it works fine. We don't need a pretty face over a lot of stuff; sure, it's nice, but we can manage without. Without a need, there is no incentive to make a "better" Apache.

So, indeed, there is no market or core audience for about 50 - 60% of Windows software titles. GNU/Linux is primarily used for enterprise and even enterprise customers, since they know what they're doing, aren't really buying.

In terms of beautifying or disguising the petty and stupid political battles over Linux vs. GNU/Linux, I'm against that. When an entity comes into this community, it has to take the good stuff with the bad stuff accordingly. If they don't know what it's like to be flamed, ridiculed, and praised strongly all in the same day, they haven't been here long enough.

An OS by any other name ... (4.00 / 1) (#48)
by Kellnerin on Tue May 15, 2001 at 01:37:33 PM EST

"Corporations" couldn't care less about what it is named....99% of companies would consider more than a name or a reputation.

On the contrary, brand name and reputation carry a lot of weight with PHBs who aren't always versed in the relative merits (or even availability) of alternatives. There's an old saying, "No one ever got fired for buying IBM" which has more recently been extended to "No one ever got fired for buying Microsoft." It's crucial to develop a name and reputation to match.

I sympathize with RMS but "Linux" does make a better name. It's less clunky, not cleverly self-referential, and has common usage behind it. Besides, Tux is much cuter than that furry thing with the curly horns (no gnu-penguin cross-breeding jokes, please). And as has already been mentioned, this debate is primarily a geeky-academic one. "Linux" is already well-known as being GPL, or "Free" (beer, speech, software, whichever one you like) and "GNU/" isn't going to make huge numbers of people go "oh no, you mean it's associated with those people? Eeek!"

Linux has done a lot for the FSF -- aside from contributing the first working kernel to go with all those nifty GPL'ed tools, it has put the GPL itself on the map, in the media and the boardrooms. It's a shame this isn't visibility enough.

--Stop it, evil hand, stop it!--
[ Parent ]

Cute GNUs (2.00 / 1) (#77)
by Luke Francl on Wed May 16, 2001 at 01:44:59 PM EST

I beg to differ on the cuteness point. I think the penguin is god-awful stupid looking. (Though I do like this one.) If you want to see cute/cool GNUs, check out the baby gnu, the music listening gnu, and the meditating gnu.

[ Parent ]
"eh" on the GNUs (3.00 / 1) (#81)
by Kellnerin on Wed May 16, 2001 at 02:37:38 PM EST

I didn't find those any more endearing than the "standard" GNU on the FSF's main page who, after all, has a kind of wise look about him. I don't really have anything against the GNU, and Tux might be too cartoony/silly, but face it, penguins are cuter.

--Stop it, evil hand, stop it!--
[ Parent ]
Perhaps Linux/XFree86 ? (2.50 / 4) (#30)
by oolon on Tue May 15, 2001 at 07:58:50 AM EST

Personally I think it should just be linux, why its short and snappy! Many linux Systems use XFree86, Its alot larger than the kernel and probably has more lines of code than the FSF have contributed so Surely it should be Linux/Xfree86? Well No, you not NEED to have a have XFree86 in the system, likewise but perhaps harder you don't have to use FSF tools in a linux system, but the point is you could, and it would still be linux.

Gnu like XFree86 should be in the credits for distros, The Generic name for Linux should be Linux its the one thing that is the same across all distros! Thats my 2p anyway.

Linux IS licenced under the GPL (4.00 / 7) (#34)
by Builder on Tue May 15, 2001 at 08:52:49 AM EST

Whether we like it or not, Linux (the kernel) is licenced under the GPL. There is no way to distance ourselves from that fact.

Linux, unlike FreeBSD and OpenBSD is NOT an operating system. It is a kernel. That's all it is. And this kernel is licenced under the GNU GPL (except the 3rd party bits like the nVidia and Alcatel drivers).

Which brings me to my next point. nVidia and Alcatel have both released closed source kernel modules for Linux. These work (ADSL USB modem and 3D Hardware Acceleration). The companies have been able to release them without compromising their IP, or putting shareholder value at risk. This means that others can too.

Personally, I think that the BSD licence is more friendly to business, but that's just me. Linus chose the GPL for his kernel, and that's just how it is.


--
Be nice to your daemons
I believe... (4.30 / 10) (#38)
by jd on Tue May 15, 2001 at 09:40:30 AM EST

...That ANY distribution which uses GNU as the central base, with Linux as the kernel, should be identified -in some way- as such.

...That ANY distribution which uses NON-GNU software was the central base, with Linux as the kernel, should ALSO be identified -in some way- as such.

There are PLENTY of Linux distributions out there which aren't even Unix! The kernel merely happened to be handy, and the developers used it.

Like it or not, there -SHOULD- be a way to distinguish between Unix-type OS' that are built around Linux, and non-Unix OS' that are built around Linux.

Calling GNU-derived distributions "Gnu/Linux" is eminently sensible, and handles all the distinctions just fine.

As for the GPL not being "business-friendly", I've only a few thoughts on that.

First, the GPL doesn't restrict what you DO with the software, or what you DO with the results. The results aren't GPLed. Only the program is.

You are QUITE capable of using a GPLed wordprocessor for your internal documents. It's perfectly safe. It won't leap out and bite you.

If you write your own software, then using a GPLed compiler won't make any difference. The GPL won't infect your program. You can even link to LGPL libraries and be ok.

The only times a company needs to worry about the GPL is if it wants to =sell= a modified GCC, or an extended Emacs. If it wants to use such beasts internally, the GPL doesn't apply. RMS has said as much.

And how often will anyone want to modify GCC or Emacs, anyway??? These are probably not going to be high-priority tasks for Joe Average, Inc.

Then, we come to "traditional" licences. The ones which allowed Microsoft to insert back-doors into Frontpage and IIS. The ones which allowed the (infamous) AT&T compiler/login hack - a self-repairing stealth back-door.

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. If companies want to keep believing, despite all the evidence, that "traditional" licences are "safer", that's their choice to make. But may they feel the shame, every time their choices prove foolish. It's way past the first time, now.

I agree, but its more important than you think. (4.00 / 1) (#80)
by afreeman on Wed May 16, 2001 at 02:03:45 PM EST

I've already commented on this but I'll repeat again.

Yes, you're right that business's don't often alter Emacs. However, there are loads of other software tools and libraries, that I'd love to use in my project to stop me reinventing the wheel. The word from the legal department, which my boss keeps reiterating to me is "if its not GPL forget it, you might not even be permitted to read the documentation!". If its not BSD, I might as well just click to the next match in my search!

Business's can contribute to open-source, if its in their own best interest. Its own best interest is in driving enhancements made to BSD licensed softare back to the main tree. This is their interset because once its out there, they don't have to maintain it anymore. They don't have to be responsible for a *varient*.

To be honest, most business's don't care whether its Linux of GNU/Linux, because they only USE it, they don't modify or repackage. Its much more important that more libraries are under BSD not GPL.

"Men forget, but never forgive. Women forgive, but never forget."
[ Parent ]
Not quite correct.... (5.00 / 1) (#102)
by Some call me Tim on Thu May 17, 2001 at 12:24:31 PM EST

If you write your own software, then using a GPLed compiler won't make any difference. The GPL won't infect your program. You can even link to LGPL libraries and be ok.

If you read the LGPL, you'll see

...you may also combine or link a "work that uses the Library" with the Library to produce a work containing portions of the Library, and distribute that work under terms of your choice, provided that the terms permit modification of the work for the customer's own use and reverse engineering for debugging such modifications.
and
It may happen that this requirement contradicts the license restrictions of other proprietary libraries that do not normally accompany the operating system. Such a contradiction means you cannot use both them and the Library together in an executable that you distribute.

This prevents me from legally using the library in any video game I write for a console, since every console manufacturer has strict prohibitions of reverse engineering.

Tim

[ Parent ]

.GNU TLD? (2.66 / 3) (#41)
by lucas on Tue May 15, 2001 at 10:18:50 AM EST

On a related note, a friend of mine over at GNU told me today that there was probably going to be a .GNU TLD... Now, that could be a funny twist: www.linux.gnu

Fundamental decisions (4.25 / 4) (#43)
by slaytanic killer on Tue May 15, 2001 at 11:37:24 AM EST

This is one of those interesting articles that should be taken as a measure of a person. On one hand, you have a philosophy, and on the other you have the desire to sweep certain people and ideas under the carpet to be accepted by "corporate culture."

How did we all play on the schoolyard as children? Did we fawn over those who were more popular, or were we the popular ones because we did not know what it meant to be popular?

As a person who is definitely steeped more in the corporate community than the "open-source community," I admit to a contempt for this article. (Not necessarily for the author, but the article.) Do you know what the "corporate community" thinks, or do you consider it some beast that wants certain things that you must feed it?

There is a site for failed members of the corporate world, and their bones are far more numerous than those of linux companies. Read it. Think about what a company really wants, not what you think it does, and how they are all different. The companies who are not on this list more often than not are those who actually have principles they stick to. Once you sell out your principles, then you become a candidate for this little website.

Linux with GNU (3.50 / 6) (#44)
by eann on Tue May 15, 2001 at 11:39:48 AM EST

I understand RMS's point. It's cogent and valid. But there's still one reason I don't like the name "GNU/Linux". When spoken, or even written in these days of random punctuation marks replacing traditional language structures, it sounds too much like branding.

This is not GNU-brand Linux, as opposed to some other brand. This is the Linux kernel with a truckload of GNU stuff to glue it to the rest of the world. Sure, "GNU/Linux" is somewhat easier to say than "GNU+Linux" (if you pronounce the "plus"), "Linux with GNU" (or most any other variation), but it's no less confusing.

I'm going to keep calling the OS (kernel + tools) "Linux" until that's no longer sufficient to distinguish it from variants.


Our scientific power has outrun our spiritual power. We have guided missiles and misguided men. —MLK

$email =~ s/0/o/; # The K5 cabal is out to get you.


Exactly (4.00 / 4) (#76)
by Luke Francl on Wed May 16, 2001 at 01:33:15 PM EST

I wrote a little essay with exactly this point. RMS is correct to say that calling the entire operating system Linux (as is done in common usage) is incorrect. It gives far too much credit where credit is not due -- to the Linux kernel programmers. Those of you who think "open source" thrives on credit, take note. Your project might be the next to be subsumed...

However, "GNU/Linux" is just too damn hard to say. Because people prefer words that easier to say, I think RMS has lost this fight. One possible compromise would be to say "Linux", but write GNU/Linux.

[ Parent ]
GNU/Linux pronounciation (3.00 / 2) (#115)
by bigdavex on Fri May 18, 2001 at 05:29:06 PM EST

How about GNU over Linux?

[ Parent ]
This is a geek debate (2.75 / 4) (#45)
by chromag on Tue May 15, 2001 at 11:54:32 AM EST

I think this discussion is almost pointless in terms of the larger corporate market for software (the non-geek market). No one besides the hardcore has ever even heard of GNU. There are very very few corporate people out there who associate Linux and GNU at all - when they see "GNU/Linux" (if they ever do), they read "Linux". None of those people associate "GNU" with "GPL" and therefore "anti-business" either. It's all just Linux, and thus free, hacker-producing, no-money-making, no-corporate-control software to 99% of the world.

Oh, and I agree with RMS. It should be GNU/Linux. :)


--

-c
dump the zeros


Who cares? (1.00 / 1) (#54)
by Anonymous 242 on Tue May 15, 2001 at 03:36:09 PM EST

Does anyone other than Richard Stallman actually care about this?

Somehow I doubt that Linux does. I know I don't. Judging from most of the responses there aren't all that many that do.

There are businesses supporting it (4.50 / 6) (#55)
by weirdling on Tue May 15, 2001 at 03:55:28 PM EST

IBM, WebLogic and Oracle are all producing commercially-viable, closed-system products that run on Linux. Why are they doing this? No liscence for the OS means more liscence for the middleware or DB. In IBM's case, not having to maintain system tools for its plethora of platforms is a definate plus.
Essentially, there are a lot of money-conscious companies that have discovered that Linux is fast, cheap, stable, and reliable, and running something like DB2 or Oracle on it is easy, not to mention often cheaper than other platforms.
So, what I think is happening with Linux is that the OS is no longer a core product. Even M$ recognizes this, which is why they tie so heavily. If any of their tools worked on another OS, there would be no incentive to *buy* any M$ OS. M$ recognizes that to maintain their hegemony, they need to enforce the idea of their OS being tied to all their services, eg, outlook and office tie to Windows, so if you want to use office, you have to use Windows, so it makes sense to use outlook.
In the end, Linux won't be horridly commercially viable, but I think that many solutions running on Linux will be.
Now, should it be called GNU/Linux? I don't think it matters. RedHat has a version, IBM has a version, Debian has a version, all of these differ slightly, and calling it, for instance, RH GNU/Linux is a bit tedious...

I'm not doing this again; last time no one believed it.
It isn't suicide... (1.25 / 4) (#56)
by itsbruce on Tue May 15, 2001 at 04:50:12 PM EST

It's just obsessive and boring. The other word for that is "geek".


--I unfortunately do not know how to turn cheese into gold.

why the fsck should i care what they see? (3.16 / 6) (#58)
by jazzido on Tue May 15, 2001 at 06:51:21 PM EST

'Corporate America' is the thing making 3rd world countries like mine (Argentina) to starve.

Fuck (Corporate) America.
Support what they hate.

"Patriotism, sir, is the last resource of scoundrels" (Johnson)


Why is the GPL considered anti-business? (4.50 / 2) (#59)
by MoxFulder on Tue May 15, 2001 at 06:52:58 PM EST

I won't dispute that some businesses consider the GPL to be anti-commercial or harmful to their interests, but I absolutely cannot understand why they feel this is so ...

Companies big and small use GPL'd software like there's no tomorrow. At the software company where I've worked for the past three months, we develop a closed source app for Solaris, Windows, and (recently) Linux. We compile with GCC (Visual C++ under Windows), edit our code with Emacs (even under Windows, for most of us), we debug with GDB, we profile with Gprof, our product includes an embedded programming language built with Bison and Flex, we write tons and tons and tons of Perl scripts, all our code is kept in CVS, our web site runs Apache ... need I say more?

And it's not just the fact that the GPL'd GNU tools are free for us to use. Our primary development platform is Solaris, which everyone apparently thinks is some sort of advanced godlike OS, but it comes with a totally anemic set of tools. The Sun C compiler and windowing system are atrocious ... it's no wonder Sun is going to adopt Gnome. As far as I can tell, you pretty much can't do ANYTHING with a Solaris box until you put some GPL'd GNU tools onto it.

I have no doubt that other software companies make similarly extensive use of GPL'd software. So why does it have an anti-business connotation these days? GCC alone must have saved companies a few billion dollars by now ...

I see no reason whatsoever to abandon the GPL. Sure, BSD style licenses might be more appropriate in certain circumstances, but the GPL has served software developers and users well for over a decade, including some of its most outspoken critics ...

"If good things lasted forever, would we realize how special they are?"
--Calvin and Hobbes


Pre-emptive nitpicking ;-) (none / 0) (#60)
by MoxFulder on Tue May 15, 2001 at 07:02:17 PM EST

Sorry, I just remembered that Apache is NOT GPL ... it has its own BSD-ish license. I think that all the other programs that I mentioned that my company uses are indeed under the GPL (okay, Perl is dual licensed ... whatever) :-)

"If good things lasted forever, would we realize how special they are?"
--Calvin and Hobbes


[ Parent ]
While it's better for most businesses (none / 0) (#62)
by goosedaemon on Tue May 15, 2001 at 09:40:24 PM EST

It is true, free software is better for most businesses--but most businesses aren't software development firms. It's only the ones that make money/a living directly off of software who find free software funky.



[ Parent ]
BSD 4 Business (4.66 / 3) (#78)
by afreeman on Wed May 16, 2001 at 01:47:47 PM EST

I work for a software company, and use many GPL'd tools (many of which you mention) in the course of my daily activities.

I am currently looking for Java and XML tookits to use in our commercial products. There are many likely candidates out there - however when I find anything and bring it to my boss, the first question is "is it GPL". If it is I'm not supposed to download anything, or in some cases even read the documentation, before our legal team has had a closer look.

At the end of the day, the only thing I can use with confidencein our products is anything with a BSD license, which basically means shop at the Apache Foundation. From my perspective as an engineer having to break new ground with Java and XML, Apache is heaven sent, I cannot praise the organization enough!

The author of this article is correct. The average commerical reaction to getting involved with free software is like putting your hand on a hot stove - which is exactly the intention of the GPL. In general, business may use free software, but they won't contribute to it!

I believe the GPL has value here - it keeps important pieces of software like Linux free from commerical cloning. However, it means all those people in the business world can't contribute towards the software.

On the other hand take the BSD license. Business's can do what they like with the software. However, there is the incentive for them to contribute back any improvements - because if they do they no longer have to keep the software up to date themselves.

That's a big deal.

I go to great pains not to even modify any of the in house tookits I am building on - if I change it, I have to support a varient from that day forward!! If there are critical modifications which absolutely must be made, then I get the team that owns the software to integrate them into their codebase. The issue here is the responsibility of ownership. And the same incentive makes business contribute back to open-source software like Apache.

"Men forget, but never forgive. Women forgive, but never forget."
[ Parent ]
what's wrong with GNU/Linux (3.00 / 1) (#68)
by hany on Wed May 16, 2001 at 03:12:08 AM EST

Term "GNU/Linux" as the name for Linux and glibc based systems is just slighly more precise than term "Linux" because such systems consists not only from Linux kernel and some GNU libraries and utilities but also contains some BSD and other stuff.

It would be better to

  1. either rename "Linux" to "Linux kernel" and let people use term "Linux" as name for Linux, GNU, BSD & co. based systems or to ...
  2. make some new name for Linux, GNU, BSD & co. based systems (for example "LinuxOS") and start propagating this term.

hany


what would be better... (2.50 / 2) (#83)
by Shren on Wed May 16, 2001 at 04:00:22 PM EST

would be to leave well enough alone. The kernel is the core. It's what makes it boot. When you boot, you boot to a linux prompt. From there, you can bring in all sorts of stuff, FSF tools, GUI managers, whatever. But the core is Linux. Changing the name to make the loudest whiner happy is the way that madness lay.

[ Parent ]
What Linux prompt? (4.00 / 2) (#96)
by brion on Thu May 17, 2001 at 05:15:43 AM EST

Linux prompt? There's no such thing, unless you count the one-line text menu of the Magic SysRq Key...

You're probably thinking of either the boot manager's brief prompt (usually LILO or sometimes GNU GRUB, neither of which are part of the kernel) or the command shell you might end up after booting. 99% of the time this'll be GNU bash.

Saying that the operating system is the core of the kernel is like saying that the core of a retail store is the guy who stocks the shelves - after all, if he didn't put the merchandise in order every day, where would the store be? So let's name it after him.

That said, I suspect RMS should Shut The Heck Up unless he's prepared to rename GNU as the sum of all its software components: bash/gcc/emacs/grub/fileutils/autoconf/wget/zlib/tar/..../ncurses/libpng/GNU.

Chu vi parolas Vikipedion?
[ Parent ]

such things were only used... (2.00 / 1) (#105)
by Shren on Thu May 17, 2001 at 12:56:25 PM EST

Becuase they already existed and were available. I doubt seriously that if they wern't available, that Linus would have been running around for any length of time saying, "Ok, I've got a kernel but no command shell and no boot loader. I guess I'm doomed." OTOH, he might have written his own if he knew the impending intellectual terrorism that RMS would eventually launch.

Compare this to GNU's efforts to launch thier own kernel.

[ Parent ]

Already been done (3.50 / 2) (#97)
by Tachys on Thu May 17, 2001 at 07:06:11 AM EST

Everyone already calls the kernel the "Linux Kernel"

Just look at this search on Google.



[ Parent ]
Don't reach for the stars... (4.50 / 4) (#69)
by hofmann on Wed May 16, 2001 at 07:36:05 AM EST

I will never get the point in this ever repeating discussion about various open source and licensing issues in business environments.

The GPL restricts commercial modification/reuse of code? Well, that is it's very purpose. Is it illegitime that RMS wants people to know that a good chunk of their core system is GNU software? I don't think so...

So, whether we adopt GNU as the foundation of Linux, in name, licensing or any other aspect, we must remember that we should encourage several types of entities to join the community, and create a balanced and economically attractive operating system.

Why? Why do I need an "economically attractive operating system"? I want a stable OS. I want a fast OS. I want a flexible OS. I want an open OS. That is GNU/Linux as it is now. And that is the direction it will evolve. With or without the commercial market. Thanks to those hundreds and thousands of fellow developers world wide contributing to this idea.

To put it clear: I do not care about my OSs market shares. And I would rather loose all commercial support to my linux system than the freedom of open software.



Exactly (3.66 / 3) (#70)
by hulver on Wed May 16, 2001 at 09:21:54 AM EST

The author of this article misses the whole point of the GPL. It's not about being "Business friendly", it's about being free, and staying that way.
Your average Redhat/Suse/Debian/ANOtherDist wouldn't be a lot of use without the GNU part, so why miss it off the name.
Take Redhat for example. If they call their system Redhat Linux, are they saying that their system is just Redhat & Linux software?
What they should call it is Redhat GNU. With maybe a little note somewhere saying the kernel it's running (eg Kernel version Linux 2.4.3). Thats what the system is, it's a packaged up GNU system, with some Redhat extras, and a Linux kernel.

--
HuSi!
[ Parent ]
RedHat GNU? (3.25 / 4) (#72)
by Ricdude on Wed May 16, 2001 at 12:14:41 PM EST

You can't be serious. There's a *ton* of code in a Red Hat (or any) Linux distribution that comes from sources other than the FSF, and with licenses other than GPL. So, unless you want to call it GNU/BSD/XF86/Apache/Et.al./Linux, what's the point of favouring GNU over any of the other contributors? It's a packaged up GNU toolset, a lot of GPL licensed software developed by sources independent of the FSF, the XFree86 servers (X/MIT license), the Apache web server (arguably the most used piece of any non-consumer Linux distro), a mess of programming languages, typically under their own licenses (Artistic, BSD variants, LGPL, etc), a few database implementations (mysql,postgresql,berkeley db), and a whole lot more.

I always get the impression that RMS wishes to use the publicity and fame of the relatively pragmatic Linux Movement (holistic sense) to further his own more radical project. I give the man credit for his work, but I would not seek to lessen the accomplishments of the rest of the Linux world by prefixing his project's name to it.

[ Parent ]
GNU is the name of the operating system. (4.00 / 2) (#94)
by bignose on Thu May 17, 2001 at 12:40:01 AM EST

You can't be serious. There's a *ton* of code in a Red Hat (or any) Linux distribution that comes from sources other than the FSF, and with licenses other than GPL. So, unless you want to call it GNU/BSD/XF86/Apache/Et.al./Linux, what's the point of favouring GNU over any of the other contributors? It's a packaged up GNU toolset, a lot of GPL licensed software developed by sources independent of the FSF, the XFree86 servers (X/MIT license), the Apache web server (arguably the most used piece of any non-consumer Linux distro), a mess of programming languages, typically under their own licenses (Artistic, BSD variants, LGPL, etc), a few database implementations (mysql,postgresql,berkeley db), and a whole lot more.

It's not about lines of code. It's not about the license any of the code is released under. It's about the fact that GNU is the system into which all those tools are put.

It's about the fact that the goal of XFree86 is to develop an X11 implementation, the goal of Perl is to develop a programming language, the goal of *sql is to develop a database server; and the goal of GNU is to build an operating system. They achieve that goal admirably, but nobody recognises it because the piece that finally made it all usable as a Free operating system was the Linux kernel. That doesn't change the fact that Linux is a kernel, and GNU is an entire operating system.

The only contributors who can also claim to have designed and implemented an operating system are the *BSD folks. Significant parts of the GNU and BSD operating systems are used with each other; but both would agree that they are separate operating systems for all that.



[ Parent ]
I guess the issue here... (3.00 / 5) (#85)
by Shren on Wed May 16, 2001 at 04:37:16 PM EST

Who has the right to name things? Linus wrote the kernel and called it Linux, and it was good. Red Hat built a distrubition, called it Red Hat Linux, and it was good. Debian is just Debian, because it's got lots of tools and multiple kernels. All of these different naming schemes work because everyone important agrees with them... except for RMS and people who agree with him.

But what would happen if I demanded that Debian be called Debian Linux, because without linux the Debian project would have never gotten off the ground, because of the late arrival and slipshod preformance of the Hurd? My claims don't even have to have any validity for me to claim very loudly, much like RMS does now. Or I could demand that the Hurd be called the Hurd Microkernel. The Microkernel part of the name must always be attached, otherwise someone might mistake the Hurd for a kernel with a usable design.

Both of the above claims are crap, and I don't suggest either name changes. But - I have just as much legal right, currently, to demand those as RMS has to demand name changes. I predict that this may be the first naming dispute, but it sure as hell is not going to be the last. The GPL requires free redistribution of source code. Since noone owns the code, nobody has any right to name it, at least not more than anyone else.

I hearby rename the Linux kernel the PowerFoo kernel. Linus has no recourse - other than to insist that it's called Linux. He'll win, of course, but that doesn't stop me. They all said I was mad, but I'll show them! PowerFoo forever!

What happens if I rip all of the various authors names and comments out of both Linux and KDE, leaving just the source code intact, modify the source code some, change the comment style, rename all of the variables and functions, change while loops to for loops, etcetera.

Essentially it would be like burning the fingerprints off of a person. The GPL would be there, the code would be there, there'd be no license violation. I can now release the whole thing as FruitBatOS 1.0, tell both Linus and the KDE teams to blow off, never acknowledge that they had anything to do with the work, claim it all as my own, and sell it to foolish people for lots and lots of money.

Did I ever break the license? Doesn't look like it. Did I steal someone else's work? Most definately, in spirit if not legally.

Naming issues need to be faced in the GPL itself, sometime soon, or this (GNU/)Linux quandary is just going to be the first of the Naming wars. I think I'll start the second. Watch for the PowerFoo kernel, soon to be released to FTP sites near you. All my work, of course, and completely linux compatible. j/k, I think.

Maybe the GPL needs to allow for code to have a "formal name" attached to a body of code, and any derivative work or collection of works that includes that code has to include the formal name in the formal name of the collection. I dunno.

Imporant point... (4.00 / 1) (#103)
by Some call me Tim on Thu May 17, 2001 at 12:39:44 PM EST

GPL says nothing about naming a package. GPL explicitly allows a CD or package to be distributed in "aggregate", but says nothing about what the whole should be called.

So what it comes down to is Stallman's sour grapes because Torvalds was able to write a kernel more quickly than he and his cronies. Stallman is now learning the down side of Free Software: Once you give it away, other people can do with it whatever they like.

He wants it both ways: "Give it away, call it free!" and "But really, it's mine!" If he'd wanted the latter, he should have retained what are called "moral" rights in his treasured GPL. (IANAL, but I've read a lot of contracts, and "moral" rights include, IIRC, the right to say what happens to the code and to specify how it is used.)

Tim

[ Parent ]

Removing authors names (none / 0) (#117)
by Imran on Sun May 20, 2001 at 04:47:13 PM EST

Quoting section 1 of the GPL, "You may copy and distribute verbatim copies of the Program's source code as you receive it, in any medium, provided that you conspicuously and appropriately publish on each copy an appropriate copyright notice".

You can't remove the authors names without violation of the above mentioned section.

GPLed code is still copyrighted, the GPL is just a licence to allow others to copy and alter it.
TickleTux Hangman 0.3.0 (For Windows and Linux) http://tickletux.sourceforge.net/
[ Parent ]
I think you miss the point. (none / 0) (#121)
by Shren on Wed May 23, 2001 at 02:15:11 PM EST

I'm free to derive works from GPLed code. If I "derive" but do very little innovation, I can still add some code, strip the comments, rename it, and call it mine.

[ Parent ]

In that case (3.00 / 1) (#88)
by smokedjam on Wed May 16, 2001 at 06:01:44 PM EST

If you remove copyright, does the GNU lose its enforceability?

All software then becomes free (4.00 / 1) (#93)
by bignose on Thu May 17, 2001 at 12:24:56 AM EST

Yes, if copyright law were to be "removed" completely (however you envision that happening), all software licenses, including the GPL, would be unenforcible. This would leave everyone with the following freedoms for all software:

  • The freedom to run the program, for any purpose.
  • The freedom to study how the program works, and adapt it to your needs.
  • The freedom to redistribute copies.
  • The freedom to improve the program, and release your improvements to the public.

Sound familiar? The whole idea behind the GPL is to copyright the software, then relinquish most of the restrictions normally applied to copyrighted works, save for the ones that prevent others from restricting it further. Without the spectre of re-licensing otherwise free software, the GPL would not need to exist.



[ Parent ]
Freedom to hoard (4.00 / 1) (#95)
by brion on Thu May 17, 2001 at 04:47:02 AM EST

This would leave everyone with the following freedoms for all software: ... save for the ones that prevent others from restricting it further.

And therein lies the problem: in a world without copyright protections, companies or individuals who don't wish to share will fall back to 'trade secrets'. Even without special laws, as long as your security is good enough you can freely restrict people from improving your software by hiding (hoarding, according to RMS) the source code.

Somebody with a debugger can disassemble your code, but it'll be a pain in the butt for them... And if you want to base your business around selling support (because you can't prosecute people who copy your software), what better way than to obfuscate the code so only you can provide the best support?



Chu vi parolas Vikipedion?
[ Parent ]
But this is not bad. (4.00 / 1) (#99)
by smokedjam on Thu May 17, 2001 at 10:02:09 AM EST

Because for those who will produce content for pay only can rely on technology. If the platform they would ordinarily choose does not protect their work, then DO NOT PRODUCE WORK FOR THAT PLATFORM!

Another very strong argument for the trusted computing platform. It allows choice (you can choose not to use it), and will still motivate high budget content.

[ Parent ]

It's a cheap marketing campaign (4.00 / 3) (#91)
by Dink Meeker on Wed May 16, 2001 at 10:54:42 PM EST

Few people in "Corporate America" know what the hell GNU or the GPL is. Their understanding of Open Source is limited to blurbs they read in investment articles about "Line-X" companies. I've spoken with PHBs who think that Linux, GNU/Linux, VA Linux, and Redhat Linux are all products from a single company. Extreme cases like that aside, most suits believe that Open Source is some newfangled dot-com idea that was really exciting a few months back, but now the bubble has burst and only a few Open Source projects (like Linux) were anything other than total failures anyway. Like Eazel or that Mozilla thing, whatever happened to that? (I'm still talking like a suit right now, I know about 0.9 and how v 1.0 is right around the corner).

Of course, that is not the case, and whenever someone says something like that, some Open Source advocate will immediately say "What about Apache?"

Ok, we all know about Apache, but what about other projects? Forget that, the real issue is, how do we drum the idea into the public's head that there ARE other projects?

Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

GNU is arguably the most successful Free/Open Source (please consult your religious advisor as to which term is right for you) project to date. It effectively displaced many of it's direct commercial competitors years ago. It faltered a bit in providing a *NIX kernel, and Linux ended up filling that void.

That is a major argument against anyone who says, "How do I know that these code-tripping free-source hippies won't go bankrupt or get distracted by a pretty screen saver and stop developing after I've committed to using their program?" The moral of the GNU and Linux histories is that we're here, we've been here for a long time, and we're not going away.

Of course, not many non-technical people know this, but imagine how well-informed the public would be if, every time they typed or read the word "Linux" an animated Richard Stallman popped up and lectured them on why it should be called GNU/Linux and then went on to outline (briefly) the difference between Free Software and Open Source.

Now imagine that you are no longer in Hell and are comfortably back in a world where you merely have to read a news blurb stating that RMS issued a statement along those lines in response to some flamebait press release.

Both of the above methods have the same effect. Between the confused "I-could-give-a-fuck-about-such-a-tiny-semantic-difference" first time to the agonizing "Jesus-Christ-here-we-go-again" Nth time, there is a point where you understand the issues involved and why they are important.

And they are important, otherwise everyone would have said, "Fine, call it GNU/Linux" long ago. Either that, or RMS would be regarded as much as a community leader as (to pick at random some person who will not shut up) that "First Spork" guy on /.

Anyone who knows the difference between GNU/Linux and Linux is not going to be too concerned with whether one name is more anti-commercial than the other. They know that Linux is Linux (oops, my bias just slipped) and, regardless of the political agenda of the guy who packaged you distibution or wrote a particular app, you are free to run any kind of software on it. If you want to develop free software, open-source programs, closed-source programs, proprietary software or, God help you, programs that pop up with helpful hints or philosophical rants then go ahead. It won't be any more or less successful on Linux if it is preceded with GNU/.

"Everybody in this room is wearing a uniform, and don't kid yourself." --Frank Zappa
GNU is an operating system (4.28 / 7) (#92)
by bignose on Wed May 16, 2001 at 11:53:13 PM EST

GNU is not just a place where system tools come from, or where licenses come from.

GNU is, since its very beginnings, a project to design a complete, free, Unix-like operating system. All systems using the Linux kernel are, either wholly or in large part, using the GNU operating system. It is this operating system which was at a significant level of maturity when Linux was born, allowing the Linux kernel to be added to the *already developed* (but as-yet-incomplete) GNU operating system.

Many people are confused by this. They believe the argument is based on the amount of software contributed by various projects, or the compiler used, or the licensing for the Linux kernel. None of these have anything to do with the reason for the operating system being called GNU.

It's called GNU because that's what the operating system was named when it was first designed. The Linux kernel is often used in a system running the GNU operating system; sometimes the HURD is used as the kernel. Since it was released, the operating system used with the Linux kernel, has been GNU.

Those who are confused about this need to read The GNU Manifesto, the history of the GNU project, and the official argument in favour of calling GNU systems using the Linux kernel "GNU/Linux" systems.

The author has further, more worrying delusions. One is that he seems to believe Linux should become decoupled from the GPL. As others have pointed out, that's not his choice, and he's got a lot of gall talking to anyone but the Linux authors about it, since they are the only ones who can release Linux under a new license. Even then, we have ten years of GPL-licensed Linux kernels, so I doubt the link will ever be broken no matter how much the author wants it.

The author also seems to assume that placating the business world by avoiding uncomfortable issues like Free Software is something that would be of benefit to GNU/Linux. Again, others have pointed out that both the GNU operating system and the Linux kernel were developed all the way to maturity with no need to ask businesses whether they were comfortable. In contrast, business is becoming very comfortable with the benefits to be had from Free Software; why should we suddenly ignore the single differentiating factor (adhering to software freedom) that brings those benefits?

GNU/Linux will continue regardless of the wishes of people who are not comfortable talking and thinking about freedom. Any time you want to join in, feel free to do so; but don't ask us to ignore what is working so well.



you are somewhat wrong (3.00 / 1) (#109)
by Pink Daisy on Fri May 18, 2001 at 01:47:30 AM EST

The core of an OS is the kernel. That is the arguement for calling the system "Linux". The arguement for "GNU/Linux" is that most of the software comprising the system comes from the GNU project. Well, not most, but the largest single contributor to most Linux systems is the GNU project.
Personally, I think that's a silly argument. Because that's where most of the code came from, the FSF says, "The system as a whole is more or less the GNU system." I say, because that's where the model for the system came from, the system as a whole is more or less the UNIX system. To me, it makes as much sense to call it UNIX/Linux, or UNIX/GNU/Linux, if we want to include all three.
What really makes sense to me is to name it for the most important and unique component, the Linux kernel. Or, more practically, to call it exactly what the creator calls it, and most people know it as, and that is just plain "Linux".
Further, I think you missed the author's point on the GPL and Linux. I doubt he meant to license the kernel under something other than GPL. I believe Linus does not insist on handing copyrights over to him, so that would be tremendously difficult, since so many permissions would have to be obtained. As for the rest of the system, I doubt the FSF would release it's part under a license other than GPL. I think he meant to counter the perception that any software released for Linux has to be free. That is FUD, of course, but as long as the perception is there, we have to fight it.

[ Parent ]
GCE : Gross Conceptual Error (4.42 / 7) (#100)
by cryon on Thu May 17, 2001 at 10:07:37 AM EST

You are confused about the ultimate purpose of software: Software is made to be USED. Software does not exist to be MADE, but to be USED.

Yes, you are completely correct, in the respect that Free Software is Bad For Business. Yes, it is Bad For Business, but only for businesses that MAKE software. It is GOOD for for businesses that USE software, but do not MAKE it. And that, my friend, is the vast majority of businesses--not to mention all the human critters who use computers, but do not make their living creating software.

And, as soon as Linux/GNU becomes user-friendly enough for Jane/Joe Public, it will all be over for business that MAKE software. And EVERYONE ELSE--all the other businesses that do not make software, but instead use it, and all the home-based users, will be that much better off.

And trust me, Linux/GNU WILL someday, perhaps 5 yrs from now, have accreted enough code, and have enough drivers, and enough user base, to be omnipresent.
HTGS75OBEY21IRTYG54564ACCEPT64AUTHORITY41V KKJWQKHD23CONSUME78GJHGYTMNQYRTY74SLEEP38H TYTR32CONFORM12GNIYIPWG64VOTER4APATHY42JLQ TYFGB64MONEY3IS4YOUR7GOD62MGTSB21CONFORM34 SDF53MARRY6AND2REPRODUCE534TYWHJZKJ34OBEY6

correction (4.00 / 1) (#101)
by cryon on Thu May 17, 2001 at 12:19:45 PM EST

actually, I doubt that it will "be all over for businesses that MAKE software."

There will still be plenty of software development, but just not as much as before. The reason that we are even talking about all this is that the software industry is trying to curtail Free Software b/c they realize what it will ultimately do to their profits. The US govt which reaps taxes from the salaries of software workers, realizes this, and is likely to be sympathetic to the SW indsutry lobby, esp. since their wallets are personally fattened by way of bribes, err, "campaign contributions."

The question is, can they pull off the Night of The Long Knives wrt Free SOftware without Jane/John Public catching on....?

It's all up to the mainstream media, and whether they will let this happen. And since they have taken billions in from the SW Industry, guess who they are sympathetic towards....?
HTGS75OBEY21IRTYG54564ACCEPT64AUTHORITY41V KKJWQKHD23CONSUME78GJHGYTMNQYRTY74SLEEP38H TYTR32CONFORM12GNIYIPWG64VOTER4APATHY42JLQ TYFGB64MONEY3IS4YOUR7GOD62MGTSB21CONFORM34 SDF53MARRY6AND2REPRODUCE534TYWHJZKJ34OBEY6

[ Parent ]

that's an important point (4.00 / 1) (#110)
by Pink Daisy on Fri May 18, 2001 at 02:04:26 AM EST

But I think you're missing part of it. Businesses who use software care about two things: cost and quality. So where does Free Software help? Under that light, they won't buy RMS' point that it is immoral to use proprietary software, so you need to hit them on the things they do care about.
For quality, you're saying that Free Software will, within a few years, have acceptable quality for all applications. If you can level quality, that's one barrier gone. For big projects, it's probably possible. Not certain, though; proprietary software doesn't sit still. They have to do something to sell new copies, or else they go out of business. But I'll guess that you are correct and Linux matches Microsoft Windows in ease of use and general utility within a few years.
You still have to overcome the cost thing. My guess is that Linux has an advantage here, but lets look at facts. It isn't clear at all that this is the case. The biggest cost to a business is maintenance. Licensing is a significant cost, but not the largest. I say Linux is cheaper to maintain, but I'm not sure. Microsoft says Windows is cheaper. I'm sure they know, but I don't trust them completely. They do have a lot of clout with business, though. Also, their army of trained monkeys (MSCE's) are a cheap way of keeping a Microsoft system working. Well, maybe not, but at least a lower paid employee who is supposedly able to keep a system going.
Anyway, my point is that alghough the users are the often overlooked pinnacle of software, the benefits of free software to the users are not nearly so clear as you make them out to be, particularly to businesses for whom purchase cost is only a small part.

[ Parent ]
People are really missing the point here... (1.33 / 3) (#104)
by Magnanimity on Thu May 17, 2001 at 12:54:51 PM EST

If businesses support Linux, good for them. They make software that is available. But, as long as the software that is created is not forced upon the Linux community, people will still have the very viable alternative to use Linux as a hobby operating system.

My point in this editorial is that the prevalence of the Free Software Foundation and the GPL, which are seen as anti-business, regardless of your feelings or my feelings, hinders the creation of new, helpful and meaningful software. Even GNU must make software, and I am calling that we promote Linux as a friendly environment to host ALL kinds of developments.

Several companies may have wonderful ideas for software for the Linux community, but if we continue to hold the GNU movement so dear that we reject all other business philosophies, then we are only depriving one another of otherwise good products. I believe we should promote Linux as an operating system open to all kinds of developments, not only those that meet our standards. And, if they don't meet our standards, let them make the products, but just don't use them. It's as simple as that.

I hope this clears things up.

Thanks.



You're not making a good point here. (4.50 / 2) (#107)
by bignose on Thu May 17, 2001 at 07:22:57 PM EST

If businesses support Linux, good for them. They make software that is available.
You seem to have some restricted definition of "business" that only includes "businesses who want to sell software". There are many, many businesses syupporting GNU/Linux and other Free Software all day every day, who create no software at all. And yes, it is very good for them.

But, as long as the software that is created is not forced upon the Linux community
You're losing me even more here. Are you proposing that Free Software is somehow forced upon people? How?

people will still have the very viable alternative to use Linux as a hobby operating system.
As far as I can tell, the businesses making huge performance gains and saving saving money like crazy, are not hobbies, and are not having software "forced upon" them. What scenario are you trying to paint here?

My point in this editorial is that the prevalence of the Free Software Foundation and the GPL, which are seen as anti-business, regardless of your feelings or my feelings
Apparently you also want to disregard the concrete facts of how gleefully businesses are taking up Free Software. By whom is Free Software seen as "anti-business", and why should the rest of the world care?

hinders the creation of new, helpful and meaningful software.
Disingenuous in the extreme. The pace and breadth of software development in the Free Software community is breathtaking; I don't see how you can claim that development is being hindered.

Even GNU must make software, and I am calling that we promote Linux as a friendly environment to host ALL kinds of developments.
Linux is released under the GNU GPL. You cannot change that with strange arguments like this, and I doubt you can change it at all. The GPL is friendly to anyone who wants to join in; the rules to join are far more relaxed than you'll find most other places (coughEULAcoughNDAcough).

Several companies may have wonderful ideas for software for the Linux community, but if we continue to hold the GNU movement so dear that we reject all other business philosophies, then we are only depriving one another of otherwise good products.
You are forgetting that the reason the GNU/Linux community is growing so fast and is acceptable to so many businesses, is the very thing we hold dear -- the licenses that allow anyone to contribute so long as they share and share alike. Any idea that proposes to discard that is not a "wonderful idea" for the community.

However, I fail to see how a "wonderful idea for software" would be somehow dependent on the license it is released under. If it's a wonderful idea, it can be implemented and released under a Free Software license. We certainly don't have a dearth of wonderful ideas being implemented that way already.

I believe we should promote Linux as an operating system open to all kinds of developments, not only those that meet our standards.
This seems to be the core of your argument, and it's one that is continually made; that doesn't make it any more supportible. The standards for cooperation are what allows this community to operate at all; asking us to abandon the principle of sharing for some "wonderful idea for software" is a very poor and short-sighted trade.

And, if they don't meet our standards, let them make the products, but just don't use them. It's as simple as that.
Indeed it is. How are they prevented from doing so now? Anyone can write any software they like (at least until patents come into the picture), but i you want to include someone else's copyrighted work in yours, you have to follow their rules. Seems pretty simple to me.

I hope this clears things up.
I hope my interpretation of your argument is incorrect.

You seem to have created the straw man that Free Software is somehow seen as "anti-business", perhaps based on your own personal experience. Why don't you explain how it is that you think Free Software is seen as "anti-business"?

Free Software is definitely seen as "anti-proprietary-software-business", a very small sector of the IT industry. That perception is correct; Free Software does threaten software businesses who try to create artificial scarcity of information. The users of that software -- other businesses, for the most part -- do not see Free Software as an enemy at all.

Businesses abound that create Free Software, and any company is welcome to do so. They are even welcome to re-use the copyrighted Free Software of others, so long as they comply with the licenses for redistribution. I don't see how that can be perceived as "anti-software-business", let alone "anti-business".

If you want people not to "miss your point", please attempt to make something resembling a point, and don't construct perceptions as if they are axioms.



[ Parent ]
You are forgetting the purpose of the GPL (3.00 / 1) (#112)
by Highlander on Fri May 18, 2001 at 08:27:41 AM EST

You argument is completely off-mark since in almost every line, you are promoting a falsehood:
We are only depriving one another of otherwise good products
The purpose of the GPL is to allow everyone modify and use the code.
I am calling that we promote Linux as a friendly environment to host ALL kinds of developments.
You can always develop on Linux, since the LGPL addresses this problem. Releasing the crown-jewels of GNU under a different license is not an option.
Lastly, my remark of is probably off the mark too:
The point to push is that Open Source is not free source, in fact, speaking in MS terms, many Open Source licenses have severly limited code-submission and maintenance policies, which make free source development under these licenses practically useless.

Moderation in moderation is a good thing.
[ Parent ]
GNU doesn't give me freedom (1.85 / 7) (#111)
by Tachys on Fri May 18, 2001 at 07:39:51 AM EST

I hear everyone talking about the freedom that GNU provides, but the truth is I don't get any freedom. Why? because I can't program

So to the 98% of the population who can't program this freedom means absolutely nothing.

This is probably why alot of people don't want to hear lectures on Free Software. Because it doesn't actually give any freedom.

Of course it does... (5.00 / 2) (#113)
by gcc on Fri May 18, 2001 at 09:51:53 AM EST

The GNU license also gives you the EXPLICIT freedom to share the program with your friends and distribute it freely. This is something that you do not automatically get with other free software. For example, you may get free copies of, say, Sun's Staroffice, but you are not free to distribute it. Sun reserves this right. (This is just an example, I have nothing against Staroffice, I like it, as a matter of fact). GPL promotes copying and sharing. There are a lot of licences around and each one grants you specific rights. GPL is the most free. (other than Public Domain, I guess)

[ Parent ]
GNU gives non-programmers freedom (2.50 / 2) (#114)
by Amorsen on Fri May 18, 2001 at 02:46:20 PM EST

If proprietary software has bugs or lacks features, you have to beg the copyright holder to fix the problems. If you are lucky a big enough amount of money will convince them to oblige you. If the copyright holder does not feel like helping you, you have no recourse -- there is no free market to turn to. If you license proprietary software, you better license it from a big vendor that has the resources to support you and who will not be going under anytime soon.

On the other hand, if you use free software, you can pay any programmer to fix your problem. You are not tied to any specific vendor. Should your support vendor go under, you just find someone else. The competition will ensure that you will not have to pay more than is reasonable for the enhancements.


Benny



[ Parent ]
Nice..In Theory (none / 0) (#118)
by Tachys on Mon May 21, 2001 at 04:08:16 AM EST

But has this ever happened?

One problem I see is unless the change you want is really simple it would be impossible for a individual to pay for it.

[ Parent ]
I'm not seeing the point (long flame) (4.00 / 3) (#116)
by khallow on Fri May 18, 2001 at 10:11:25 PM EST

I read the first line and I see:

Whether we think it is or not, the GPL is seen as a very anti-business license.

And the Earth is seen as flat. Should I care? The point is that this subject has been talked to death, and no one has really convinced me that it makes sense to change the GPL (especially since we have LGPL) for a business-friendly reason. First, you have to show that businesses perceive it as being anti-business. Well, Microsoft does, and they are right about GPL (and Linux) being anti-business for Microsoft.

I agree that it is important to educate businesspeople about what Linux is and how it helps them. But what does this have to do with Richard Stallman? I'm not going to convince him in a million years to stop saying "GNU/Linux" and I don't see why anyone else should waste the time either. The article views his point of view as being threatening to Linux somehow, but I don't see how.

Also FSF has done great things for Linux. And a lot of FSF members do a lot of work on Linux. So how are we going to "remove" FSF from Linux, and why again was that such a great idea?

Here's my solution. Those that are marketing Linux to the business world can emphasize the business friendly aspect of Linux. Pretty much keep doing what you are doing.

Finally, I think it would be better to improve the usefulness of Linux (and it's interfaces) than to dither over the best way to present Linux (which fortunately for the future of the world is the case). Windows will continue to sell because it does so much for its users. I never went bananas installing a network card on a post-3.1 Windoze system while I've installed a couple of different Linux OS's trying to get my cheap and cheesy PCMCIA card to work. Sore, sore point with me. OTOH, (and don't post twenty ROTFLMAO posts, please) I do invite this sort of trouble by buying first and finding out later whether Linux supports the latest pile of junk I bought.

In summary, the work on making Linux Good-For-You (TM) is vastly better than the discussion over how we will Present-Linux-To-The-Masses-Today (TM). FSF and more importantly its members are integral to the effort.


Stating the obvious since 1969.

The answer is 'NO' (3.50 / 2) (#119)
by Nomad on Tue May 22, 2001 at 05:46:49 AM EST

Of course it's not suicide. And I've had this argument up to the back teeth.

In fact the GPL is what will save Linux. The word in the board room is that Linux and the GPL give corporates total and utter control over their computer systems. With GPL'd software they don't have to wait until MS, or Sun or whoever, release a bug fix or get around to sending support staff.

Corporates like having control over their systems, after all they paid for them. Isn't control exactly the point that Richard Stallman is trying to drum home?

Yes, the days of being able to make money from selling shrink wrapped boxes with CDs in is coming to an end. It is this that makes Linux a disruptive technology.

But disruptive doesn't mean bad. The GPL makes the world a better place. It is better for me, a user, it is better for companies, who are also users and ultimately it will be better for all the programmers out there who will be able to make better more reliable computer systems.

So let's have enough of this old-world Microsoft-centric chitter chatter.

tirade... (4.75 / 4) (#120)
by irwoodhouse on Tue May 22, 2001 at 08:53:10 AM EST

Before I start, I must make it clear that I really do not support either contingent, although you may note that I do not favour the "GNU/Linux" side, mainly because of the kicking and screaming oft heard therefrom. Also, sorry for the length and lateness of this post, and the fact that I almost certainly repeat points made earlier.

Tirade... I've become really fed up with this argument since I first saw it on linux-kernel at least 18 months ago.

Firstly, an "operating system" provides a "virtual interface to the hardware" by most academic definitions. i.e. OS==API==kernel. Therefore, the "OS" is Linux. Rationale: There exist full operating systems which run one and only one application (no utils, no shell). I can do the same by replacing /sbin/init with a single application. Nobody is going to convince me there is not an OS present.

Add more bits and you get an "operating environment". This is (for example) how Sun describes their product "Solaris".

If you disagree, answer these questions (assuming the propositions were technically possible)

  1. If I replace the Solaris Kernel with Linux (but otherwise keep the rest of Solaris), is the system "Solaris" or "Linux"?
  2. If I replace everything but the Solaris Kernel with GNU stuff, is it "Solaris" or "GNU"?
My answers to the above are obviously "Linux" and "Solaris", respectively. The kernel fundamentally defines the behaviour of the environment, in a way that no other part of the system does, irrespective of how things appear to the user.

All this is NOT to belittle the work that the FSF have put into their tools, or the fact that, for the most part, the likes of RedHat use the FSF tools in their distributions. What I object to the is the blatant attempt by the FSF (or RMS) to co-opt Linux into their agenda, with the flimsiest of arguments (Linux and the GNU Project) such as the fact that of one CD, "[GNU] was the largest single contingent, around 28%".

This rides roughshod over the fact that there is a host of non-Linux non-FSF code (e.g. Samba, X11, mars_nwe, KDE, apache) also on said CD. Therefore the single most appropriate name is NOT "GNU".

Give credit where credit is due, yes, and it is unfortunate that the FSF does not receive the attention that Linux does, but RMS's bigotry and sheer arrogance positively stinks of sour grapes.

As far as the rest of the world is concerned, the term "Linux" is always going to be used in favour of any other (except where dealing specifically with one product/distribution, such as RedHat) because it is shorter, and therefore easier both for use in headlines and in speech.

Finally, I don't get RMS's beef with this. The last I heard, the FSF was not about market share or public image, it was about creating a free Unix. Can we please get on with this?

IRW.

Is Richard Stallman's Fight For "GNU/Linux" Suicide? | 121 comments (118 topical, 3 editorial, 0 hidden)
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