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A response to RMS (was Loading a package applies automatically to future

From: George Plymale II
Subject: A response to RMS (was Loading a package applies automatically to future sessions?)
Date: Mon, 05 Feb 2018 04:17:52 -0500

>   > Well, my understanding of the policy was that one's _contributions_ are
>   > owned by the FSF. I.e., that you have to sign waivers which tell the
>   > FSF, "Hey, I give up all rights to own any code that I give you guys in
>   > these certain projects." To me, that seems hypocritical and it seemed
>   > that indeed the actual FSF policy versus what the FSF itself expounds
>   > were in disagreement.

> If you accuse us of hypocrisy, you should be prepared to present
> particulars.  What is the principle that the FSF stands for, that
> conflicts with our practices?

Well, one of the principles which I believed you to be in contradiction
of was this:

"You should also have the freedom to make modifications and use them
privately in your own work or play, without even mentioning that they
exist. If you do publish your changes, you should not be required to
notify anyone in particular, or in any particular way."

( from https://www.gnu.org/philosophy/free-sw.html )

According to my understanding of the FSF's copyright policy, I have to
notify the FSF when I want to distribute my changes because they're no
longer mine; they're theirs.

Moreover, I believed you to be in contradiction of this principle as

"I cannot in good conscience sign a nondisclosure agreement or a
software license agreement."

( from https://www.gnu.org/gnu/manifesto.en.html )

To me, the signing of a waiver feels like it's in much the same vein as
either of those. If not a bit worse in some ways. In light of the new
information that I received from others on this mailing list, it may not
be as bad as I thought.

Regardless, that is what I meant by "hypocrisy" and it is not a word
that I use lightly nor without cause.

> My hunch is that you've been misinformed about our principles.

Your hunch is incorrect. I ascertained my opinions on the GNU project
and the FSF mainly via objective analysis of their own documents and
manifestos. It was also coupled with some examination of how their
values worked out in reality, along with comparisons to other
philosophies and facts. My conclusion of these analyses was mostly what
I have already related in previous messages.

> Our main principle is: users should have control of the software
> they use.  Therefore, a nonfree program is an injustice.

> To eliminate that injustice, we release free software and encourage
> others to do so.  We use copyleft to prevent our free software from
> being perverted by middlemen into nonfree software and thus used to
> subjugate others.

> As for copyright, we do not consider that an issue of principle, not
> directly.  We consider it a sort of weapon that can be used for good
> or for bad.  When it is used to subjugate people, that is bad.  When
> it is used, through copyleft, to protect people from subjugation, that
> is good.

All users have control over the software that they use. Oftentimes, even
hardware cannot stop one from modifying the software which runs atop
it. Enough ingenuity and craftiness trumps even the likes of
Tivo. Whether or not this is legal is an entirely different question and
forms the basis of the GNU campaign.

I know that many will read my statement and scoff. Ask yourself, though:
what stops a user from modifying the bits that run on their computer?
Not the law. It is knowledge. Knowledge of how a computer works and how
well its machine code can be understood. Indeed, the GNU project's
efforts and funds would be far better spent creating tools that would
allow users to universally understand machine code that would truly
allow them to control any software that they have, regardless of its
underlying machinery. This would enable freedom of software in a much
more tangible and truer sense than anything that anyone has done. Ever.

But instead the whole affair has become an argument of copyright or
copyleft. The ability to own capital and sell it or to have that capital
controlled and dolled out by one big entity (or maybe a few) who claim
to be in the interests of the people. Or we may call those people

Sound familiar? If not, I would highly suggest reading John Wiegley's
poignant and cogent letter to the FSF:

I didn't even want to write all of this until you stipulated that my
opinions are based on misinformation and smear campaigns done by others
to the GNU project. Such a presumption insults the intellect of very
intelligent people who I know that share my opinion and who formed the
same opinion based on rational, moral, and objective analysis.

In any case, I no longer desire to discuss these things. My opinion and
your opinion have both been stated. I doubt that either of us will
change them based on the words of the other. I am no longer as
dissatisfied or upset with the FSF's policy as I was, although I will
still need to investigate the agreement for myself to determine whether
it is indeed a fair agreement. That does not, however, convince me of
the merits of copyleft nor the philosophies which I have already
expressed disagreement with.

- George Plymale II

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