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Re: [OT] Re: realplay.el interface with Real Player v. 1879

From: Joost Kremers
Subject: Re: [OT] Re: realplay.el interface with Real Player v. 1879
Date: 20 Jul 2007 02:25:25 GMT
User-agent: slrn/ (Linux)

[as one poster remarked, this does indeed not seem the right place for this
discussion. i have no idea where to take it, however, so i'll just post
here. if there are suggestions for more appropriate groups, i'd be happy to
follow up there.]

Tim X wrote:
> No, I'm afraid you totally missed my point. I appreciate what David was saying
> and said as much and in fact summarised what I thought was the argument pretty
> much exactly as you put it when I wrote about some GNU Linux distros and
> software making it easier to use non-free codecs to encourage increased 
> take-up
> of GNU Linux. 

ok, perhaps i've read your post too quickly, if so, i apologise for jumping
to conclusions. i got the impression, however, that you mainly saw a
"people want it, so let's be practical and include it" kind of argument.

> I'm not subscribing to any specific school of thought/arguement and in
> fact had the exact same perspective as you outlined at one time.

the phrase "at one time" implies that you see it differently now, which (to
me) implies that you *do* subscribe to a specific school of
thought/argument. (which is perfectly ok, of course.)

> The point I think you miss is that bringing people over to a free OS is
> pointless if in doing so we sacrifice those freedoms in order to do it. The
> objective isn't to make GNU Linux the most popular OS or even increase the 
> size
> of its user base - the objective is to protect our freedoms.

yes, i realise that. the question in the end is what is the best
strategy. making some compromises along the way to enhance the
spread of one's ideas, or sticking strictly to one's ideals, even if that
means that your message won't be heard by as many people.

> If we sacrifice
> those freedoms for the sake of popularity, then we have possibly won a battle,
> but lost the war.

not necessarily. the war is won by winning the key battles, and the bigger
and stronger you are, the better your chances of winning those.

> If the objective is to foster a social belief in free
> software, how is that advanced by facilitating the use of non-free codecs 
> (even
> if that does expose more people to free software?).. 

that social belief is advanced exactly by the fact that more people are
exposed to it. if you identify along the way very clearly the parts that
you believe are really free, and the parts that you only accept for the
time being for practical reasons, to encourage the adoption of free
software, no-one can claim you're being a hypocryte, and people may in
general be more inclined to listen to what you have to say. (people
generally don't like strict points of view not open to compromise.)

> The alternative argument that believes attracting more people to free 
> software,
> you increase its exposure and increase the likelihood of creating more demand
> for a free software model and content that is based on such a model. However,
> this comes at a high cost if you believe that the freedoms the GPL attempts to
> protect are what is important.

again, not necessarily. it really depends on how you deal with it. if you
make it clear from the onset that you only accept certain non-free software
for practical reasons and have the aim to replace them as soon as possible
with free alternatives, i do not believe the cost is too high. sure, there
is a cost, but the gains may outweigh the costs.

> I also suspect that there may be a flaw in this
> argument in that it assumes that if enough people support free software 
> through
> their use of GNU Linux et. al, content providers will begin to provide content
> based on free codecs. I'm not convinced this does actualy follow and
> wonder what the incentive would be for content providers to switch anything if
> they know that users of free software are still able to access their content. 

that, however, is a simplistic presentation of the argument. (i admit,
though, i wasn't very explicit about it myself.) schematically, the
argument is this: the more people that use free software, the louder the
message behind it; the louder the message, the more people hear it; the
more people hear it, the more people may be convinced by it; the more
people convinced by it, the bigger the social pressure on content providers
and software makers to use free licenses.

it all comes down to this: i believe that if you want to change the world,
you're not gonna do it by being a niche. you're gonna need to be big. and
if you need to make some compromises in order to become big, one must at
least consider making those compromises. as long as you clearly deliniate
them, and keep the final goal in sight, those compromises can be

(my actual belief is that the software world is never going to be
completely free in the FSF's sense anyway, which means that making
compromises becomes even more important. free software would not be able to
exist if it didn't make a few compromises here and there.)

> A part of the reason for my skepticism is that I don't believe the majority of
> GNU Linux and other free software users are doing so because they are 
> concerned
> about the potential loss of freedm associated with proprietary closed systems.
> I think the vast majority use it because it is free in the sense of free beer.

that's probably true, yes. i also think there are a lot of people that use
free software because they like the tit-for-tat principle, as linus
torvalds calls it.

and i don't think that's a bad thing.

> I regularly see people posting from GPL based software stating they don't
> support the GPL or agree with its philosophy, yet they are quite willing to
> take advantage of it.

yes, you can count me among those. (though let me be clear about that: part
of the reason i prefer free software over non-free software is for
principled reasons, it's just that those reasons don't always coincide with
what the FSF believes.)

> I suspect that as you don't personally agree with the GNU philosophy you
> also likely don't feel the freedoms it attempts to protect are as
> important or are at as great a risk as Richard and others believe.

i think the main difference between my point of view and that of the FSF is
that i see a different balance between the freedoms that the GPL aims to
protect and several other freedoms. to put it bluntly, i don't think that a
world in which *all* software is released under the GPL is a (morally) good
world. the reason being that in such a world, a software developer is
*forced* to use the GPL for his own software, even if he may not wish to
use that license. in other words, a software developer's freedom to decide
how he wants to make the results of his labour available to the world would
be restricted.

a software developer invests his own time and effort in producing his
software, and i believe that gives him the *moral* right to decide how he
wants to make his software available. i realise this freedom conflicts with
the freedoms the GPL wishes to protect, and this is where i diverge from
the FSF's point of view. i do not think that the freedoms granted by the
GPL should nullify a software developers freedom to do with his work as he

the reason for that is that in what i consider to be an ideal world,
*no-one* is *forced* to use proprietary software. a software developer may
release his software in binary-only format, may ask money for it, and if i
find his software to be good value for money, and if i decide that (in this
particular case), i do not care about the fact that i don't have any
control over what the software does, and am not allowed to pass it on or to
modify it, i may buy the software. if, on the other hand, i *do* find those
things important, i may also choose *not* to buy it. my choice.

and as long as that choice exists, i do not believe the freedoms the GPL
tries to protect are truly at risk. and for that reason, i find it morally
objectionable to force developers to use the GPL (either practically,
because there is nothing but the GPL, or through some form of
legislation). however, i believe that it is *essential* that this choice
exists, which is one of the reasons why i will usually prefer a free
piece of software to a proprietary alternative, even if that buys me some
inconvenience. (there is a limit to the amount of inconvenience i will
accept, though...)

obviously, from this point of view, making compromises in the GPL's
philosophy makes even more sense, since the ability to choose between free
software and proprietary software is directly dependent on the install base
of free software: the more users, the more developers will be interested in
developing free software; the more developers, the higher both quantity and
quality of free software.

> I
> therefore don't expect you to agree with an argument that emphasises the
> importance of protecting freedom over expanding the user base.

well, in my last post, and in my explication of my point in the first part
of this message, i was trying to reason from the point of view of believing
in the FSF's philosophy. and even from that point of view, i still believe
there is something to be said for making compromises.

Joost Kremers                                      address@hidden
Selbst in die Unterwelt dringt durch Spalten Licht

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