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Re: [DotGNU]Forum Update 17-apr-2001

From: David Sugar
Subject: Re: [DotGNU]Forum Update 17-apr-2001
Date: Sat, 20 Apr 2002 11:08:30 -0400
User-agent: Mozilla/5.0 (X11; U; Linux i686; en-US; rv:0.9.8) Gecko/20020204

Actually, another way of saying this is that as free software advocates, we are niether against commercial nor proprietary software, but only in the commercial distribution of proprietary software due to the fundimental loss of freedom that occurs. If one thinks about this, "proprietary software", defined as a company might create and use for its sole proprietary use (or that an individual might create for personal use) is not a direct issue of software freedom, nor inhibited by free software licensing or the GPL by any means whatsoever. Unlike freely licensed software, many commercial proprietary software vendors choose thru their licensing to directly interfere with the "proprietary software" a commercial entity or individual might wish to create for thier own personal use, and might even claim to strip thru commercial contract law individuals and commercial organizations of their fundimental (and 4th ammendment) rights to own and use their own private property. A software audit is an example of such interference that many commercial entities risk by using proprietary commercial software. Other risks might be the inability to improve and commercially benefit from improvements made because the proprietary vendor claims ownership over things a commercial entity has seperately created with their product. This is just part of how proprietary commercially distributed software can devalue and destroy the companies own investment in and it's own ability to profit from software it has created, unlike freely licensed software.

Silvernerd wrote:

Barry Fitzgerald wrote:

Actually, I disagree with your assertion on a handful of counts:

1. The GNU system most certainly is open for commercial programs, just
not proprietary programs.  This is a key distinction.  There's nothing
anti-commercial about the GNU GPL - there is much that is
anti-oppression about the GNU GPL.

I guess I chose the wrong words here, I know that GNU is not against
commercial software, but I didn't realize that when writing the mail.
2. If you mean to say that proprietary programs cannot be run on the GNU
system, that's not true either.  The GNU LGPL exists precisely so that
proprietary programs (or programs under non-copyleft licenses in
general) can link copyleft code into them.  The GNU stance is not any
different than the DotGNU stance as far as freeness and licensing are

Having said this, I don't at all disagree with your decision nor the
ethical backing on it.  However, there's little if any difference
between the GNU project and the DotGNU project regarding licensing and
base philosophy.

I seem to have misinterpreted the fact that DotGNU is trying to win over
the industry as that DotGNU has another approach to the software
industry than GNU. This could be a common mistake unexperienced people
make when reading about DotGNU.

The trick here is determining whether the GNU GPL protects against these
infractions.  Would plugins link code from the rest of the project into
them?  If so, then technically the GNU GPL would serve this purpose.  If
not (say, if the plugins are executed via a system call or some other
execution mechanism) then the GNU GPL probably would not legally protect
against them.

Also, I'm not sure that one could under these circumstances.  That is of
course unless the license explicitely said that "This program cannot
call another program unless it is under the GNU GPL" which would be
nearly impossible to enforce.  Particularly since the technical
workaround for that is to create a GNU GPL'ed wrapper program that
itself calls the target proprietary program.  The result of this is an
arms race which would be very difficult to win.

Then again, the wrapper technique could also be done with a proprietary
plugin even if it did link to the code.

Having said that, the general stance is that the proper way to counter
proprietary software is with the production of Free Software.  This is,
of course, barring the outlaw of proprietary software - which we're
unlikely to see anytime soon. If Microsoft came out with a WMA plugin
for forum (even if it just used a wrapper to activate itself) the best
response is to try to counter with a Free WMA plugin.  If that's
impossible (say, because of patent encumberance) then you would try to
make it as difficult as possible for them to keep up with your changes.
Ideally, this would show pragmatic disadvantages to proprietary
software.  However, this is all postulation as to how things could go.
The best strategy is to stick with the GNU GPL and roll with the

The wrapper thing is actually a good idea for allowing plugins to be
non-GPL without changing the license of the program, I'll build the
plugin system on it. You are probably right that it isn't a good idea to
try to make plugins GPL'd, but maybe it is possible to make a black-list
of plugins working with unethical protocols and let the program read
this list. I would however prefer a way of making them disclose their
protocols under certain circumstances (like we have with the
owner-of-the-data concept in webservices), but I don't think it will be
legally possible.

Anyway thanks for making me realize my mistakes.


Silvernerd (Peter Minten)

"Using GNU/Linux is like walking over a ray of bricks, not as beautiful,
but a lot more substantial than light."
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