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Re: [Gnu-arch-users] OT: Slavery???

From: Stephen J. Turnbull
Subject: Re: [Gnu-arch-users] OT: Slavery???
Date: Fri, 07 Nov 2003 20:30:21 +0900
User-agent: Gnus/5.1002 (Gnus v5.10.2) XEmacs/21.5 (celeriac, linux)

>>>>> "Ron" == Ron Parker <Parker> writes:

    Ron> I usually follow your logic, but I must have missed the
    Ron> antecedent slavery reference with respect to "intellectual
    Ron> property".

First let me admit that I was mistaken.  I meant that rms himself
holds that "intellectual property is slavery", and that is easily
disproven, for example by the quotation below where he explicitly
denies it.  Now that I've looked, I've seen other such (I'm surprised
you didn't find any).

However, in my defense, he does not hesitate to use terminology which
sets up that association in others' minds.  First, in the quotation
Tom presents, he mentions "the whip hand."  In "civilized", or even
mediaeval, society, whips are used on domestic animals, convicted
felons, and slaves.  What, other than slavery, do you think he might
have been referring to by "spirit of the whip hand"?  Even public
employees, ie those who in some cases lack both the right to strike
and the right to quit and are arguably "subjugated," are not whipped!

Now, rms explicitly denies saying that "proprietary software is
slavery" (interestingly enough, he does not deny the proposition
itself; instead, he says it _seems_ like an "exaggeration") in

    rms> I use the terms "subjugation" and "domination" to describe
    rms> non-free software.  These are not metaphors; they are
    rms> descriptions which fit non-free software.  I also use
    rms> metaphors such as "chains".  But I do not describe non-free
    rms> software as "slavery", since that term seems like an
    rms> exaggeration.  The subjugation which non-free software
    rms> inflicts does not cover all of life, as slavery does, just
    rms> one aspect of life.

"Subjugation", "domination", and "chains" are all closely related to
slavery, at least in my mind.  That explains, if not excuses, my
mistake.  Others have made it; there are one or two in the list of
urls I got from Googling for "stallman slavery".  I apologize for the
typo.  It was a nasty one, and I should have checked given the gravity
of the implications.

However, I'm quite happy to change my phrase from "equating
intellectual property to slavery" to "equating intellectual property
to subjugation" is abandonment of reason, and embracing demagogery.

Subjugation is an involuntary (for the subordinate) relationship
created by force.  What is involuntary about a software purchase?  Who
is forced to buy or use software?  Domination means "to govern; to
rule", which implies much broader power than given by a software
license.  If, having downloaded Bitkeeper and checked out Linux,
Bitmover could then force you to erase CVS and svn from your system,
that would be domination.  But Bitmover can't even force you to erase
Linux; only Bitkeeper (and then only if you actually "develop" etc
other SCMs).  This isn't "domination", this is a restrictive contract.
Except that that's redundant; contracts are always restrictive, or
they'd be unnecessary.  Where is the "subjugation"?

I would like to know just what justifies the outrage that rms and
others such as Tom feel.  What justifies "outrage" at the offer of a
private contract that one is not party to, and one is free to accept
or refuse as he chooses, and one is free to advocate publically that
others not accept, either?  True, there's a dog-in-the-manger aspect
to copyright, but that's not outrageous, merely sad.  There are plenty
of other cases where goods which are free at the margin are not given
away: my lectures :-), seats in a half-full movie theater or bus,
off-peak telephone calls, bakery bread at the end of the day, etc,
etc.  Where's the outrage?

Now, if copyright were subjugation or slavery, I would get pretty mad.
But it isn't.  It's just a social contrivance to facilitate contracts.
(Well, the recent retroactive extension was outrageous; it was simply
theft from the public domain.)  Sure, it's unbalanced in favor of
authors and their assignees (with emphasis on "assignee", unless the
author's name is "Rowland"), but there are strong economic reasons for
that lack of balance---you can't get an NDA from the unborn, and that
technical impossibility becomes merely economic infeasibility when you
consider contracting with the 1 billion Chinese each individually.

The same is true of patent.  The PTO's handling of the process is an
outrage; the mere existence of patent is not.  (Although I'm convinced
that there is no economic justification for software patent, and
fairly little for hardware, cf Boldrin and Levine on "Perfectly
Competitive Innovation",
the argument depends on the ridiculously high transactions costs
involved in the current system, and all the systems I can imagine, not
on something wrong with the Constitution's reasoning regarding the
encouragement of the useful arts or a violation of inherent rights.)

N.B. There is real subjugation in non-free software: the subjugation
of the addict.  You try it, you like it, you find to your horror you
can't get free of it.  But that is an analogy that rms has not made,
to my knowledge.

    Ron> The closest reference I was able to find was an RMS interview
    Ron> at, wherein
    Ron> he likens certain jobs in "enterprise zones" to slavery.

Really?  A Google search on "stallman slavery" found dozens of
references to at least four separate publications in which rms uses
the analogy of "selling oneself into slavery" to "purchasing
non-freely licensed software".

In one case he used it to show that the argument that "the right to
agree to a non-free license is inalienable because it is simply a
matter of contract" is extremist, and makes the correct analogy to
arguing that the "right to sell oneself into slavery is inalienable
because it is simply a matter of contract."

However, in several of the references there, he omits that important
qualification, and simply presents the analogy of the right to agree
to a non-free license to the right to sell yourself into slavery.
Agreed, that's different from the equation I presented above, but I
think it shows my mistake was not implausible, in the sense that I had
no trouble finding something differing by only a couple of words from
what I thought he had said.

Institute of Policy and Planning Sciences
University of Tsukuba                    Tennodai 1-1-1 Tsukuba 305-8573 JAPAN
               Ask not how you can "do" free software business;
              ask what your business can "do for" free software.

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