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SubjectRe: Gauntlet Set NOW!
By the way, I'm principally a developer of communications standards and 
hardware, not so much software.

--On Saturday, January 04, 2003 18:44:49 -0500 Richard Stallman
<rms@gnu.org> wrote:

> But sometimes we can't make things free, either because it comes to
> close to core IP which we are legally bound to protect, or because
> it's a derived work of something we bought and don't ourselves have
> the right to redistribute.
>
> At this level of generality, I can only say that if the program is to
> be published as non-free software, it will not be available to people
> to use in freedom. Its effect will be to tempt people to give up
> their freedom. If I had a choice to develop that program or no
> program, I would develop no program.

Here is where we differ. I do these things because, even though they do
not promote software freedom, they can and, I hope, do promote other kinds
of freedom in other ways. I also always look to the maximally free way to
do the software parts. Sometimes it is not possible to acheive the other
goals we have and keep the software entirely free. I think, however, that
the freedom given by very inexpensive and unconstrained (that is, free as
in speech) telecommunications is somewhat more important than the absolute
freedom of the specific software we use to acheive that. In several cases,
we have chosen proprietary solutions where they make the monetary cost to
the end user dramatically lower, because one of our target problems is the
lack of economic freedom in many parts of the world. For those with an
arbitrary hardware budget, there are or soon will be interoperable free
software alternatives. We make sure of that. We make sure we use open
standards with no closed extensions, so as to make sure this continues.

> I would rather look for constructive alternatives than just criticize.
> In such a situation, I would look for a way to make the program free.

I'm often focused on the case where the total hardware + software cost is
the key factor between user of any communications and user of no
communications. I use free or partly free software wherever I can, because
I am not hostile to that goal, but that is not my overriding concern.

I am also concerned that some of the zealots in the free software, not
necessarily including yourself Richard, do not set precedents in the courts
that, while possibly reinforcing the particular technicality of the GPL,
undermine the freeness of kinds of speech other than software, such as
scientific communication, cultural artefacts and political discussion. In
the long run that would be worse for freedom in general.

> This scenario is too general to get started on that. (I explained in
> another message how the term "intellectual property" tends to obscure
> important distinctions; this is an example.) In any specific case
> there is likely to be some way.

Here I'm using that term in the sense of 'copyrighted (and possibly
patented) compilable information and its documentation', covering both
software and hardware designs. If I were to use it to cover anything else
I'd be more specific, as is common usage where I come from. I do
understand the ambiguity and hidden conflations behind the term; I have
been involved in both trademark and patenting (of hardware; software
patents are evil, no question) work, and I'm cited as an inventor on one
patent, so I have some firsthand experience.

> If there is no easy way to make the same program free, there may be a
> harder way. People who value freedom strongly sometimes choose the
> hard path to freedom rather than the easy path that extends
> non-freedom. That is how we extend freedom.

I'm principally concerned with other sorts of freedom, while attempting to
forward the cause of software freedom to the extent I can, and attempting
never to advance the cause of any sort of non-freedom. It isn't easy at
all, believe me.

> As an ultimate fallback, there is surely some other job you could do
> instead.

I could go back to being a musician or a scientist. There are freedom
issues there, too, believe me. And I'd still be debating free software,
because in those fields it's important too. It would certainly be easier
to tread the path of free software purity in those fields, but I suspect it
would make less long-term impact for me to do so.

> I have no opinion yet about what Andre said, because I cannot form a
> clear picture of what he plans to do; I don't know whether it would
> violate the GPL, or whether the issue would involve the FSF. We do
> not enforce the GPL for Linux in any case; that is the responsibility
> of the copyright holders of Linux.

I'm glad to hear that. I'm also glad that the zealot who started the
thread that has us talking about this does not appear to be one of those
copyright holders; I suspect most of them have more sense.

Andrew
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