[Top][All Lists]

[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]

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

From: Tom Lord
Subject: Re: [Gnu-arch-users] OT: Slavery???
Date: Mon, 10 Nov 2003 14:10:20 -0800 (PST)

    > From: "Stephen J. Turnbull" <address@hidden>

    >     Tom> Those of us who believe in software freedom reject the idea
    >     Tom> that such an offer is ever a bargain or good deal --

    > This sounds quite circular.  You're outraged because _your_ right to
    > software freedom is somehow abridged when some third party offers _me_
    > proprietary software, but the only evidence I can see for your right
    > that _overrides my rights_ to privacy and contract is your outrage.

    > Is "obviously, Steve, you are an infidel, and your mind incapable of
    > perceiving higher Truth" the best you can come up with?  :-(

Let's start with your rights to privacy and contract, and then 
move on to "outrage".

* the right to contract

  Your "right to contract" is not something that exists only between two
  parties: you and one with whom you form the contract.

  Your "right to contract" is a _social_agreement_ among all of us.
  Why is that?:

  That's because essential to the idea of a contract is the prospect
  of _enforcement_ of the contract, and that entails the entire
  legislative, juridical, and executive apparatus of our shared
  society.  It is _our_ courts, not just yours, who must decide when
  performance of contract is contested; _our_ sherrifs who seize
  property; _our_ legislatures who provide regulation.

  In short, if my "outrage" is based in a belief that your proposed
  contract is, on balance, damaging to society, then I have every
  right to pursue a society in which you may not form that contract
  because, otherwise, I must contribute to its prospects for
  enforcement.  A legitimate aspect of that persuit is expressions of
  outrage at those who would offer or accept such contracts in the

* the right to privacy

  If, in a private exchange: you give Joe 3 gold coins and he gives
  you a PC operating system; you decide not to examine the source, not
  to modify it as your needs require, or not to share it with your
  neighbors who might need it -- certainly I might call you foolish
  and/or rude; if your neighbors' need is extreme I might even call
  you criminal; but aside from that last point, you are certainly
  within your rights.

  One of the borders where your rights to privacy end, however, is the
  courts (if used in certain manners).  Should you share the OS with
  your neighbor and Joe tries to sue you, no I do not believe he
  should have a case.  In USian terms, your right to free expression
  trumps that (though, obviously, that is not the current status quo
  as implemented by the courts).  Should the OS fail to perform to
  your hopes and you sue Joe to recover your three gold coins, unless
  Joe has made you a guarantee, you should have no case.  And so

* outrage

  Why is an offer for a contract to exchange proprietary software
  outrageous?   And then, why is _this_ (the Bitkeeper free use
  license) _particularly_ outrageous?

** proprietary software in general

  As you are well aware, there are many, many pages of reasons already
  available.   Many of them at are pretty good.  I won't
  try to provide a comprehensive overview here.   One would have to
  write a book.

  Andrew's remark that at least copying and modification are, absent
  totalitarianism, de facto "inalienable" (I would have said
  "natural") rights is a worthy observation.  Interestingly, those
  arguments also apply to automated update systems for free software
  sold on a "number of CPUs" or similar basis.

  Andrew's remark doesn't address access to source code, so I'll
  briefly comment on that.  As countless examples demonstrate,
  providing access to source code is a critical aspect of socially
  responsible engineering.  Some headlines that illustrate the point
  are those regarding "touch screen voting machines" in the US, the
  recurrent ex post deployment identification of various programs as
  "spyware", and the reliance of the continued operation of the
  Internet on security patches provided exclusively by Microsoft.  We
  should not sanction contracts which require or sanction engineers to
  behave in socially irresponsible manners.  Admittedly, disclosure of
  source code is not _automatically_ a socially responsible action --
  but I see no reason why it should not be the right of all in
  possession of a program.

  The right of disclosure is clearly not without bound:

        "The most stringent protection of free speech would not
         protect a man falsely shouting fire in a theater and causing
         a panic." -- Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Junior

  But that only reaffirms that its bounds are determined by social
  responsibility, not contract.

  The right of recipients of a program to _demand_ source code within
  reasonable parameters, as protected by the GPL, closes a loophole -- 
  without it, the GPL would permit, in effect, formation of contracts
  hat prohibit disclosure.

  But the right of demand for source is important for other reasons as
  well.  On my mind, these days: we must not overlook the
  extraordinary and historically unprecendent _power_ intrinsic in
  software.  Software is capable of subverting _many_ of those rights
  that we consider fundamental when it is deployed in critical
  portions of our environment (not least, the right to privacy).  It
  is an engineering reality that there is, in essense, no such thing
  as a portion of our environment which is not "critical" in that
  respect -- all software systems are suspect.  In short, computing
  systems are _extremely_dangerous_ to our rights and the ability to
  inspect and modify programs is a critical safeguard.[2]

  Overall, permitting the software freedoms to be abridged by contract
  is at the very least, very bad social policy, and, though it is easy
  to become lost in the abstractions, a violation of those inalienable
  rights referred to in the US constitution.

** Bitkeeper In Particular

  Very briefly: Bitkeeper has subverted the free software movement and
  undermined the efforts of that movement to protect the essential
  freedoms outlined above.  Whereas many examples of proprietary
  software are "off to the side" of the free software movement,
  Bitkeeper is a direct and sustained attack on both the movement and
  the community.

  Faults in our legal system permit Bitkeeper to be licensed as it is.
  Bitkeeper and its license have been employed to use those faults to
  divide and exploit the free software movement.
  Damn right that I'm outraged.

Slogan for a new era: "We're computing professionals -- We cause
accidents!" -- Nathaniel Borenstien

[1] "A legitimate aspect of that persuit is expressions of outrage at
     those who would offer or accept such contracts in the meanwhile."

  Linus deserves at least as much criticism and outrage as Larry.  He
  seems to be positioning himself publicly as the poster child of
  "engineers unconcerned about the social implications of their

[2] "In short, computing systems are _extremely_dangerous_ to our rights
     and the ability to inspect and modify programs is a critical

  I look forward to GPL3.  I shudder at initiatives aimed at producing
  a world in which people buy "thin clients + computing services".

  I am not convinced that GPL3 is needed, though it may be pragmatic.
  In my tentative view, the concept of "distribution" begins with
  "ability to run or interact with a running instance of".

  I would (again tentatively) not consider it absurd to think, for
  example, that when I run a card through the payment system at the
  grocery store -- in effect, the software that reader runs, the cash
  register software, the server-side of these components -- all have,
  in effect, been distributed to me.

  Another example: no, I don't think anything at all should depend on
  the security of ATM software or even the networks connecting an ATM
  to the bank.  Yeah, I'd like to get a copy of the ATM software,

reply via email to

[Prev in Thread] Current Thread [Next in Thread]