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Re: Advice Workplace that Forces Non-Free Software

From: Jean Louis
Subject: Re: Advice Workplace that Forces Non-Free Software
Date: Mon, 7 Sep 2020 09:44:17 +0300
User-agent: Mutt/1.14.0 (2020-05-02)

Dear Mike,

* Mike Gerwitz <> [2020-08-30 08:53]:
> > Employee working on software that cannot be improved, verified,
> > distributed, is certainly deprived personally of many freedoms,
> > employee cannot get the same software for himself, cannot study it,
> > and cannot improve it for the company, cannot help other companies to
> > use the same software. Right? So employee is denied personal
> > freedoms to help others. We are back to same injustice and same
> > sharing liberties.
> Software freedom is different than entitlement.  Just because software
> is free, doesn't mean that you have, or should have, access to it.  But
> when you do have access to it, it ought to be free.
> When a company distributes software internally to employees, that does
> not count as distribution under the terms of the GPL, for example.  If
> the employer distributes it outside of the company, then it is.

I am sorry, please clarify it to me, I have been reading in that
context some texts in past, yet I do not find it today.

If software is on the computer that any person is using that in my
opinion is not conveying of software. The GPL says:

To “convey” a work means any kind of propagation that enables other
parties to make or receive copies. Mere interaction with a user
through a computer network, with no transfer of a copy, is not

But if software is given to employee through network, as a copy of
software, that is conveying by my opinion.

You said when company distributes software, so that distribution is
conveying of software. And the GPL license would apply, if such
software is under GPL.

So please clarify that opinion of yours, that I may find references to
it, as how I read the GPL, at least this newest version, it is
contrary to what you stated.

> If an employer develops software internally, as another example: if that
> software is kept internally, and not distributed to users outside of the
> company, it makes no difference to users' freedoms (under the four
> freedoms) if it's freely licensed or not.

I do not see any word "employer" or "employee" in the GPL in the
license text:

So I cannot know how do you interpret the license, as it is irrelevant
for the license who is employee and who is employer.

So please clarify it, as you are interepreting the license now, and
your interpretation is on the public mailing list, and I cannot find
any references to that interpretation, and to me it looks contrary to
GPL statements.

It would not be nice that many people reading the public mailing list
get confused about that, as we are all guarding the GPL and its

Let me also comment on other statements:

> The employee, as you described above, is denied freedoms, but they
> aren't personal freedoms.

I guess you refer to business freedoms.

> When I work for my employer, I do not have the freedom to inspect
> many things.

That is because of organizational policies, not all organizations are
setup ideally, they have mostly secrets including from their

Organizational setup should be such that all flows of products or
services are made known to each staff member and each staff member
should be able to quickly understand what other staff member is doing
as that way it helps flows in organization to move and products and
services to be delivered smoothly.

And if there is anything wrong in organization, each staff member
should be able to freely report to correction departments on what one
thinks is wrong.

> I can't view my manager's emails.

Reason is simply that you are not the manager, but emails are not
resolutions or decisions. Phone calls as well.

What counts in organization are organizational resolutions or
decisions, and such shall be made public so that each staff member
knows them and that actions of all staff members get aligned easily.

> I can't inspect payroll data.

Did you ask to inspect it?

In order not to cause havoc in organization, not everybody should be
doing everything, that is why it is called organization. Staff member
may not be capable to inspect payroll data, but may be capable to
inspect one's own payroll statement, right? So that is what matters
for a person.

Inspection of whole payroll data is for those staff members capable of
doing so and assigned to be doing that. Like accountants or those in
the treasury departments.

> can't eavesdrop on board meetings

If you are not a board member, why should you? Also board members are
not interested much to participate in meetings of other groups of
staff members, as they already gave their resolutions and staff
members on lower hierarchy are to discuss things that are not
necessarily even understandable by senior staff members.

Yet, what you should look upon is if resoluton of board meeting can be
made public, as such resolutions do affect everybody in

Eavesdropping is listening without speaker's knowledge, so that may be
illegal action, and there is no reason why you should be doing so

The issues about organization you mentioned are not related to the GPL
license terms.

> But the injustice isn't in whether a program is free or not.  It's
> whether someone has been deprived of their freedoms in running it.  A
> nonfree program that nobody uses isn't taking away any freedoms.

If it is conveyed to other person, it does take away freedoms
automatically. It plays no role if the program is used or not by first
recipient, as that recipient cannot convey it to other person, so
cannot share the program to persons who could potentially use it in
future. Some programs are not in use for decades and get in use in
future, I have been reading it now many times, like computer game 30
years old can become again popular in present time.

> Similarly, the subject of those violations depends on the context in
> which software is distributed.

>From GPL:

2. Basic Permissions.

All rights granted under this License are granted for the term of copyright on 
the Program, and are irrevocable provided the stated conditions are met. This 
License explicitly affirms your unlimited permission to run the unmodified 
Program. The output from running a covered work is covered by this License only 
if the output, given its content, constitutes a covered work. This License 
acknowledges your rights of fair use or other equivalent, as provided by 
copyright law.

You may make, run and propagate covered works that you do not convey, without 
conditions so long as your license otherwise remains in force. You may convey 
covered works to others for the sole purpose of having them make modifications 
exclusively for you, or provide you with facilities for running those works, 
provided that you comply with the terms of this License in conveying all 
material for which you do not control copyright. Those thus making or running 
the covered works for you must do so exclusively on your behalf, under your 
direction and control, on terms that prohibit them from making any copies of 
your copyrighted material outside their relationship with you.

Conveying under any other circumstances is permitted solely under the
conditions stated below. Sublicensing is not allowed; section 10 makes
it unnecessary.

>>> end of quote

Now the above says exactly about the context, so only of the software
is not conveyed, that what you referred applies to. Alright?

> It's an issue worthy of consideration, but it's not the one that I was
> talking about.  I was talking about compromise, as a necessary social
> behavior for coexisting in an environment where people hold different
> opinions and ideals.

If the person or potential employee is free software user and
promoter, it will not in the first place get employed at positions
where non-free software is used. As principles or foundation of a
person would automatically steer to free software.

For example, I am faced often with question "Do you use Whatsapp" and
so I say, I do not use it, and I mentioned many reasons, and have page
for that, and what really works is when I say because that company
steals my contacts and I do not know even one person in that company,
I do not know who they are and what they will do with my contacts, and
I say that they are forcing me to use Whatsapp under emotional
threats, as if I do not use it, I would lose contacts to my friends --
so these two arguments work well for me, and I have found them after
explaining it many times, and I still do not use Whatsapp. And number
of people started using free software XMPP applications because of
such simple explanation, and while I am writing this, I am
coordinating with my staff members, not employees, by using free
software applications.

So the whole approach to free software promotion depends of the mind
attitude in the first place.

Just ask yourself, would RMS accept a task or assignment where he
would need to be subjugated to use non-free software?

> I am happy for you that you do not have to make sacrifices that conflict
> with your ideals.  But you saying "I don't find it difficult" does
> nothing for those of us who do struggle with that, and have made and
> continue to make the best efforts that we can given our situation and
> the compromises we're willing to make.

I do not find it difficult due to my personal starting points, my mind
attitude to free software. Sadly I am in geographical area where I
cannot replace my BIOS with free BIOS or Coreboot, but I am to do that
soon. At least I have here inexpensive T400 Lenovo Notebooks and
others. As European, I am missing many things here in East Africa.

There are many many free software jobs in Europe, that is what I know.


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