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(emacs)Glossary::. Definition of "copyleft" excludes many free software

From: Stephen Compall
Subject: (emacs)Glossary::. Definition of "copyleft" excludes many free software supporters
Date: Mon, 02 Dec 2002 17:33:42 -0600
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Bug Report for GNU Emacs Manual, 15th ed. (for GNU Emacs 21.2)

* Summary
Definition of "copyleft" in the glossary is a confusing pun and
excludes many free software supporters

* Symptoms
The definition appears as follows in Info:

     A copyleft is a notice giving the public legal permission to
     redistribute a program or other work of art.  Copylefts are used
     by left-wing programmers to promote freedom and cooperation, just
     as copyrights are used by right-wing programmers to gain power
     over other people.

This has some side-effects for some users (if not all).

** Alienation/insult of free software supporter
Usually only occurs if user is a liberal (as in American conservative
or libertarian).

** Logic exception at stereotyping
Experienced by those who don't paint everybody with one single
political color or the other.

* Reproduce
Two methods here:

** Info node (emacs)Glossary
Run an incremental search for "Copyleft".

** Paper manual, section Glossary
Turn to page 537, and find the definition for "Copyleft".

* Comments
While it may be a humorous pun to tie copy_left_ to _left_-wing, and
copy_right_ (implying proprietary status in this usage) to
_right_-wing, I hardly think it is accurate.

As a right-winger, I don't fit into the perfect mold this definition
seems to create, as I'm sure the left-wingers reading this don't feel
they fit into a perfect mold either.  I believe in small government
(least is best), laissez-faire, truly free trade (no barriers), and
property rights (which do not include copyright, BTW) -- though not as
"the highest moral principle", as RMS asserts in his comments to
Roderick Long's `The Libertarian Case Against Intellectual Property
Rights'.  I am also pro-choice, against "homeland security" privacy
violations, against "family values" legislation -- here I would say
"just as you left-wingers are", but I'm not going to typecast like

And, I find the current copyright situation -- including that for
software -- highly unfavorable.  For myself, and for others as well.
Finally, I believe that most of the so-called "left-wing" principles
(listed above) are more compatible with the basic tenets of
libertarianism (or liberalism, or conservatism as they call it in the
U.S.) are more compatible with the right-wing than the left-wing!
Which is why I have chosen this "side".

If you've made this connection in deference to the left=left,
right=right, then I believe you've made the wrong kind of statement.
Copyleft, if my reading of the history of the term is correct, is a
play on the word "copyright": while not accurately opposing, as the
"right" in "copyright" refers to a concept of rights (albeit
inaccurate), not the direction, a humorous and catchy term

Using the logic on which this depends, however, I could just as
accurately say that since free software is about securing the _right_s
of users to copy, modify, and distribute software, then it must be a
_right_-wing principle, along with all principles dealing with

Please fix this.

- --
Stephen Compall
Also known as S11001001
DotGNU `Contributor' -- http://dotgnu.org

Sometimes I think that perhaps one of the best things I could do with
my life is: find a gigantic pile of proprietary software that was a
trade secret, and start handing out copies on a street corner so it
wouldn't be a trade secret any more, and perhaps that would be a much
more efficient way for me to give people new free software than
actually writing it myself; but everyone is too cowardly to even take
        -- RMS, Lecture at KTH (Sweden), 30 October 1986

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