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

From: Tim X
Subject: Re: [OT] Re: realplay.el interface with Real Player v. 1879
Date: Fri, 20 Jul 2007 15:38:22 +1000
User-agent: Gnus/5.11 (Gnus v5.11) Emacs/22.1.50 (gnu/linux)

Joost Kremers <address@hidden> writes:

> [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.]

Agreed, so I will refraim from further posts and will restrict my response to
responding to the points you raise (and not bring in any new ones).

> 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.)

As I think I said in another post, I'm beginning to lean more towards Richard's
perspective, but to be honest, the jury isn't in yet. Thats why I said I'm not
subscribing to a specific point of view (yet). 

>> 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.
I agree that compromise is an important part of making change. However, I'm not
convinced that compromising the core/fundamental principals is the right way to
go because I suspect that once you do, you won't be able to go back later,
despite any justification or statement to the contrary that is made initially.

>> 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.)
I sort of agree in part, but something still disturbs me with this in that I
suspect this is a double edged sword. Once you openly accept the more pragmatic
position of accepting non-free software, I suspect yo will have an even harder
battle to reverse that perspective in the future. Note however that I do think
there may be some justification in implicitly or unofficially accepting it, but
officially denouncing it (recognising of course the possible claims of
being a hypocrite). 

>> 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 guess that is possibly the basis for the difference in ideological

>> 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.
But that last part is my point of concern. Why would there be greater pressure
on content providers if they know people can access and do access their content
anyway? this argument assumes consumers preferences have a lot of influence on
suppliers - while I don't deny there is some influence, I'm not convinced it
would be sufficient enough for the suppliers to change. What really changes
suppliers is when they feel they are losing customers or where there is a
market they are not reaching. If they know free software supporters are able to
access and do access their product, the noise they make about formats is more
likely just seen as moaning - its only when it really affects sales they take

> 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
> beneficial.
> (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.)
I do agree you need to have a fair level of idealism with respect to free
software (reach for the stars knowing you probably won't get there, but you
will get closer etc). The real debate is on what to compromise and my concern
is that we will compromise too much of the core values to regain them later.

>> 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.
My issue with this is that if you use free software as part of your labors, you
have benefited from what others have done and if others decided that work which
benefits from their work shuld also be free, its there right. 

I would never advocate that we should be forced to use the GPL (this would
itself go against the freedoms it attempts to protect). However, if you benefit
from free software, its reasonable that you are required to extend those same
freedoms to users of your software. The key point here is that your not forced
to use GPL'd software - you choose to. 

> 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
> pleases.
The FSF doesn't do that unless you have benefited from the use of GPL'd
software in your efforts - in which case, I think it is perfectly resonable
because you chose to use the GPL's software in the first place. The FSF
encourages people to use a free license, but they don't force you to unless you
have used free software to create your own software.

> 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.

Now this is a very important issue and I think one which people tend not to
fully understand. The problem with your argument is that it assumes we will
always have choice regarding what software we can use. However, too often,
things which start out as being choice end up becoming a requirement. 

as an analagy, consider the telephone. Over 40 years ago, it was not uncommon
to find homes without a telephone and there werre lots of public phones
available. However, now, if you don't have a phone, you can be denied access to
many services and there is a shrinking number of public phones available.
Essentially, you are required to have a phone. 

You may think this is extreme. However, try a little experiment. When you go to
the doctor or try to obtain some service and they ask for your address and
phone number, see what happens when you say you don't have a phone or yo won't
give them your number. I've done this and have actually been refused service
because they didn't believe I didn't have a phone and wouldn't accept it was my
right not to give them my number. 

We are already beginning to see this sort of behavior with computers and
software. I have come across businesses that would not accept my job
application if it wasn't in MS Word format. A few years ago, this was  a real
problem. Amittedly we now have open office, so its not as bad. However, if MS
had got therre way, they would have prevented Open Office (and they certainly
made it as difficult as possible for them to be compatible - at elast
I also know of government departments and services that cannot be used unless 
have specific proprietary software. 

Part of the difficulty in understanding the ideology underlying the FSF is that
the freedoms it is trying to protect are not necessarily obvious to everyone
(especially users who are not technical) because its not yet obvious to most
that those freedoms are under threat. If we are lucky, the FSF and Richard have
over stated the threat and it will never be realised. However, if they are
right, its critical we fight to prevent those freedoms from being lost because
once they are lost, its very unlikely we will ever get them back. 

> 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...)

I guess this is the crux of the matter. You don't appear to feel the threat to
our freedoms is as high as people like Richard (and to a growing extent me)
feel they are. I actually believe there is a threat to the very freedom of
choice you refer to. Note that I'm not subscribing to a conspiracy theory here
- I just think that the combinations of economics, capitalism and desire to
protect profits will lead to this loss of freedom without the need for a
coordinated 'evil empire' that is actively working to remove our freedom. 

As I already stated, I don't believe the FSF is trying to force people to use
the GPL and certanly wouldn't support them if they did. I think its reasonable
to require that anyone who benefits from using GPL's software pass on those
benefits to users of software they have written, but thats very different from
forcing people to use the GPL. 

> 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 don't agree this follows. In fact, I suspect that such a compromise would
likely result in the destruction of the FSF and free software movement - it
would just become a note in history. The reason I feel this is that I think too
many developers would just take advantage of the free software, but would want
control of the fruits of their labor and would release their work in a closed
restricted manner. To some extent, the real problem is that we have moved
towards a society in which individualism and the benefits of the individual
have higher importance than doing what is best for the wider society. People
are only prepared to 'sacrifice' what they can spare and not sacrifice what is
actually going to cost them something. 

I realise this is sounding more like a communist/socialist manifesto and that
I'm anti the individual or the ability of the individual to improve their own
situation. this isn't the case. My issue is with getting the right balance. At
the moment, I think we are very much 'out of balance'. This is also being made
worse by corporate capitalism, which has less moral and social values because
it is more 'anonymous" with respect to its management (compared to a situation
wehre you have a single person at the top that has overall control and is more
likely motivated to some extent by their own personal moral and social values). 

>> 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.

I made my comment as you stated in your first post that you didn't agree with
all of the FSFs philosophy, so I didn't expect you to agree with any argument
that focuses on the core principles of that philosophy. It was my lame attempt
to say that I expected a difference of opinion, which I could understand and



tcross (at) rapttech dot com dot au

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