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Re: My Favorite soapbox : XML linkage (was Re: [DotGNU]Jabber-thon)

From: Norbert Bollow
Subject: Re: My Favorite soapbox : XML linkage (was Re: [DotGNU]Jabber-thon)
Date: Wed, 5 Jun 2002 18:51:41 +0200

James Michael DuPont <address@hidden> responded to a
posting from me:

> > The main thing is that package A is still free
> > software, and
> > whoever receives it has all the important freedom
> > rights to use
> > it in any way, to modify it, to write their own
> > add-ons etc.
> But the ability to wrap any module in a webservice and
> republish its interface over then net gives you no way
> to enforce that. 

That is true BUT let's not overlook that in this situation
where the user doesn't get "package A" even in binary form,
and just has access to its functionality via RPC over the
internet, there is such a significant loss of performance
and reliability that I think that even though this scenario is
bad, it is certainly not a serious threat against Free Software.

> The user loses the freedom to modifiy the non-free
> add-on. The will then have to reimplement the add-on
> to make any changes to it. 

This is true.  In the world of webservices, copyleft is somewhat
less effective than in the pre-webservices world.  This is a
direct consequence of copyleft being based on copyright law.
Webservice protocols give more freedoms for combining parts, that
are (from a legal perspective) different "works", into a
functional whole.  This means that the overall effects of
copyright law are getting weaker.  We're concerned about this
because it makes copyleft weaker, but we should look at this in
the broader context of this really weakening all kinds of
software monopolies.  Copyleft is a kind of monopoly to some
code, but a monopoly which is not held by an individual or
company, but by the whole community of free software users.
That's why it's a good monopoly, not an evil monoply like those
of Microsoft Corp.  However Microsoft's monopolies are weakened
also.  The vision of the DotGNU project is that instead of
trying to fight against the wind of this weakening of copyright
law, we sail with this wind and use it to destroy the effective
desktop OS monopoly which is currently held by Microsoft Corp.

> > > We still need to be rethink the entire licensing
> > > issue
> > 
> > These things have been thought through pretty
> > carefully right at
> > the beginning of the DotGNU project.
> We have had this discussion before. The problem is
> that we still dont have a resolution. 

The resolution is that Enzo, Barry and I decided to go ahead
with a GPL'd webservices and virtual identities framework
project which we would seek to make as protective of software
freedoms as we can with the GNU GPL.  In the beginning we had
serious doubts whether we would get the FSF's endorsement for
this project... we were very aware that the webservices paradigm
tends to weaken the good effects of copyleft, and in fact I was
personally pretty surprised when we got the backing of the FSF
for this project, which made it possible to use the name
"DotGNU" which Enzo had proposed.

I would say that this decision to go with GNU GPL but endorse
all useful aspects of the webservices wave is not negotiable,
it's part of the core of what DotGNU is all about.  Since you
feel strongly about the need for strong copyleft even across
RPC, you can encourage the FSF to try making a new version of
the GPL that tries to establish a stronger form of copyleft that
would work across webservice protocols (there are such ideas
under consideration), but I think that it's outside the scope of
the DotGNU project to get too deeply involved in such license
discussions, at least as long as there is no risk of the
proposed changes to the GPL further weakening copyleft or having
negative impacts on the usefulness of DotGNU.  The focus of the
DotGNU project needs to be on creating useful software that will
be licensed under whatever is the current version of the GNU
General Public License, as published by the FSF.

> As soon as you create a transport, you seem to
> magically avoid linkage.
> This is wrong.

I think that trying to change this situation is a worthy cause,
but DotGNU is ambitious enough already without opening another
front here.  We need to go forward with writing code.  Any doubt
about what license(s) DotGNU will use would slow our development

> Most of the GNU programs are written in C. RMS holds
> that we should not allow programs like compilers and
> other gnu applications even via a Shared Lib.

This is in refence to compilers etc (especially GCC) that are
not part of DotGNU.  DotGNU's C# compiler has to be available as
a shared lib, and even with C# wrappers, because otherwise we
could not be compatible to .NET (and yes, this goal has
Richard's approval too.)

> But on that note, the GPL is being infected by
> proprietary software already. 


Greetings, Norbert.

A founder of the project and Steering Committee member
Norbert Bollow, Weidlistr.18, CH-8624 Gruet   (near Zurich, Switzerland)
Tel +41 1 972 20 59         Fax +41 1 972 20 69
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