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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: 22 Jul 2007 22:39:54 GMT
User-agent: slrn/ (Linux)

[Followup-To: set to gnu.misc.discuss]
Tim X wrote:
> 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).

since you write a few things that i would like to respond to, i set the
Followup-To: to gnu.misc.discuss. (someone suggested in a private mail that
that would be a better place.]

> 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.

that's a valid point, i admit.

>> 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
> notice.

i agree that most content providers would only be convinced by dropping
sales. (a few may be convinced by the philosophical argument, but i doubt
that will be a substantial part.) my argument is based on the assumption
(and it really isn't much more than an assumption) that a larger install
base of open source and free software spreads the message further, and may
bring more consumers to the point where they think "hmm, i don't like this
non-free crap anymore, they can keep it. from now on, i'll only buy stuff
that adheres to certain principles of freedom." people that might've come
to use GNU/Linux not so much for philosophical reasons, but because it's
free as in beer, or because it's not Microsoft, or for some other
reason. such people may not have switched if they aren't able to use things
like flash, view certain movie types, use their whizz-bang graphics card,

> 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.

well, i was talking about the hypothetical situation in which all software
in the world is licensed under the GPL. in such a situation, a developer
*is* forced to use the GPL for his own software, or either reinvent all the
wheels needed to make his software run, including libraries and OS, which
is not a practical possibility.

given that it is the stated goal of the FSF to create a world in which all
software is free, and given that "free" is defined by the FSF in terms of
the GPL, it follows logically that the ultimate goal of the FSF is to
create a world in which software developers are forced -- in practice -- to
use the GPL. of course the FSF is not gonna put a gun to anyone's head and
tell them to use the GPL. (i have no idea how they would feel about
legistalation that mandates the use of the GPL, though. personally, i'd be
dead against it.)

i will never dispute anyone's *right* to use the GPL for his software. i
can understand the sentiment that you'd want people who use your software
to build software themselves to give their users the same rights that you
give yours. but although i understand the sentiment, i personally subscribe
to it only in a very limited way. if i were the developer/maintainer of
some library that i distribute under a free license, i would *not* feel
that people who build software that uses that library have any kind of
moral obligation to release their own software as free software. of course,
the existence of this library would have saved them much work, but at the
same time they invested a lot of work themselves, and they have the right
to decide for themselves how they distribute the fruits of their work.

> 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. 

in general, i try to refrain from arguing by analogies, because analogies
are rarely completely analogous.

> 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
> initially). 
> I also know of government departments and services that cannot be used unless 
> you
> have specific proprietary software. 

i completely agree with you that this is a *very* bad situation, one that
must be fought. however, i also think that this is an issue that is
separate from the issue of how software is written and
distributed. information storage and information exchange should be
open. this calls for open standards for file formats and communication
protocols. the file format that a company requires for applications should
be one that is open. i see no need, however, to require that the software
with which that company processes your application is free software. if
they, for some reason, prefer to use proprietary software to do so, they
have that right. the fact that the file format is open means that there is
no need for you to be tied to that same proprietary software.[1]

> 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.

well, if you're talking about the so-called four freedoms for users of
software, the FSF has up to now failed to explain to me how those are
indeed essential freedoms in the same way that e.g. the freedom of speech
is. now, the actual threats that you just spoke of, yes, those are things
that fall into that category. and i do admit that free software is an
important tool in protecting those freedoms, but as i said, i believe that
they are a separate issue.

>> 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.

i have no problem with someone controling the fruits of his labour. i in
fact see that as a basic right that someone has. and note that no-one, in
any field or endeavour, can achieve anything without making use of the work
of others. for example, software in general is not possible without
hardware to run it. so *every* software maker benefits from the work of all
the people involved in creating the hardware his software runs on. is he
then taking advantage of their work?

following what i understand to be your logic, i think you'd have to say
yes. and by that same logic, it would seem that hardware makers have the
right to dictate how the software maker uses the hardware. i suspect,
however, that that is not a view you actually hold. nor does our society in
general, of course. (and that is a good thing.)

i realise i'm now coming dangerously close to reasoning by analogy, and
obviously there is a difference between the way software makes use of other
software and the way software makes use of hardware. however, i do see
certain similarities, in the sense that we always make use of what others
have done before us, and we usually do not believe that this means that
those from whose work we benefit may put restrictions on the way we make
the fruits of *our* labour available to others.

i'm not saying this to argue that a software maker never has the right to
demand of those who use his work to release their own work with the same
freedoms he himself has given to his users. i myself feel that there are
cases in which it is reasonable to do so. i'm just arguing that we must ask
ourselves where the limits on this right lie. obviously, my views on that
question differ from the FSF's.

[1]  provided of course that someone went through the trouble of writing a
free software package that produces files in this particular open format.

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

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