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Re: [Gnu-arch-users] Front page to wiki now modifiable again

From: Stephen J. Turnbull
Subject: Re: [Gnu-arch-users] Front page to wiki now modifiable again
Date: Mon, 29 Mar 2004 19:49:51 +0900
User-agent: Gnus/5.1006 (Gnus v5.10.6) XEmacs/21.4 (Portable Code, linux)

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

    Ron> Yet, the point is that there are two equal sides to
    Ron> "promot[ing] the progress of science and useful arts".
    Ron> First, the authors and inventors need to be able to support
    Ron> and sustain their work.  "[A] workman is worthy of his
    Ron> hire."[5] Second, the people have a right to profit from the
    Ron> knowledge and artful contributions of such.

Actually, there is a third side, which is the information about value
in use that is communicated by the price system from "the people" to
the "authors and inventors".  This is the most important aspect of
"promotion" (without it, little promotion would occur), although I
doubt you'll find it anywhere in Jefferson's writings.

    Ron> Knuth seems to have found an interesting way to balance this
    Ron> triangle in his own life and it lays in the separation of
    Ron> internal and external documentation.

But Knuth is an academic, and the beneficiary of millions of dollars
of NSF and other grants that require publication and free licensing (I
forget the exact terms, it's been many years since I was anywhere near
one of those, and the Japanese government has quite different terms.)
I don't think Knuth is as useful an example as you might hope.  AFAICT
he released TeX and Metafont under the terms that he did for open
source kinds of reasons, but that was a one-off.

    Ron> According to U.S. law, as I understand it, Mikhael should not
    Ron> be prevented from using portions "of the Wiki in projects
    Ron> licenced under canonical 'GNU GPL; either version 2 of the
    Ron> License, or (at your option) any later version'"[8], provided
    Ron> they adhere to Fair Use.

But his intended uses presumably don't.  Fair use is "for purposes
such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including
multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research". (NB, a different
source from Ron's, but I suppose identical.)  Ie, meta-usage.  But he
pretty clearly intends to create a work with similar purpose, not as a
comment on the original.

Fair use is pretty much irrelevant to the goals of free software

    Ron> Only in proprietary software and software-embedded hardware
    Ron> does there exist a basic inability to see the thing for what
    Ron> it is, to take it apart and learn how it works and for a
    Ron> skilled individual to repair it independent of the original
    Ron> producer when it breaks down.

There's no prohibition of repair if the medium stops being a faithful
copy of the original; that's the purpose of the explicit permission to
make backup copies.  Bug-fixing, of course, is preparation of a
derivative work, but fixing hardware bugs without a license is
prohibited by patents on hardware.  It's just that fixing bugs is so
much easier in software that it is a qualitative difference in the
social effects.

As for taking it apart to see how it works, that would seem to be
"fair use" for research.  Of course, you can't use what you've learned

I assume you're also referring to DMCA provisions prohibiting
interfering with the lavatory smoke detectors, but those are not yet a
"basic disability", and experience with copy-protection schemes in the
past suggests that without a government mandate such as Clipper,
they're unlikely to be used except for very high-value monopolized
applications, at least at first.

    Ron> This seems to me a basic violation of the principles of
    Ron> Article I, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution.

Sure.  But be careful.  The obvious answer is that like a machine, to
understand or fix software you need to take it apart, and therefore
the idea it embodies should be protected in the same way as the idea
that a machine embodies.  Now there's no violation of principle, but I
think we all agree that applying patent to software is too painful to
accept.  So I think the gratuitous violation of principle here is a
red herring.  The real point is that all the ways we can think of to
protect the IP-holder's interests are _far_ too expensive in terms of
discouraging, rather than promoting, the advance of the useful arts.

What would be nice is to find a way to show that without enumerating
the icky things that could be done.  I think this needs to point to
the basic fact that improving (most kinds of) software is generally
safe and easy, and that we really do want to say "Yes, kids, it's
educational and useful to Try This At Home!  Do it today!"

    Ron> But looking at what I have written, I have to say that I
    Ron> disagree with allowing open-source to be included into
    Ron> closed-source projects.

Could you expand on that?  I don't see how it follows.  This approach
has worked fine for Tex, Perl, Python, Apache, and X, and arguably has
been neutral for the *BSDs (none of which existed until after the
commercial exploitation of BSD was common practice, yet they've done

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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