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Re: The sad decline of copyleft software licenses? :(
Re: The sad decline of copyleft software licenses? :(
Tue, 22 Sep 2020 08:08:20 -0700
see footnotes and links there too, such as
There's a lot of issues, but they include:
- lack of understanding about the *harms* of proprietary software
(anti-copyleft people *usually* think proprietary software is fine and
just Open Source is *preferred*, thus copyleft blocking proprietary
isn't a goal they understand
- enormous growth in permissive software used by proprietary companies
(they have a specific anti-copyleft interest)
- legitimate concerns about incompatibility
- active political undermining of copyleft by anti-software-freedom
None of this is simple, and the list could go on and on. This is all
nothing new, but the trend is for younger developers especially
it without any real pro-social long-term thinking about society or
anything. They care mainly about the obstacles or lack thereof in their
day-to-day programming experience.
Personally, I think the *primary* issue by far is to spread the
understanding of how proprietary software is the means by which unjust
power is gained today. It's one of the main tools of **monopoly** in our
ever-more consolidated and corrupt economy. And if people understand
that, then from that view, it's easier to emphasize the importance of
Tragically (but in some ways a good sign), there's a growing movement of
people who DO care about the harms of proprietary software — but they go
all the way to building unworkable misguided proposals around
"copyfarleft" and similar e.g. https://firstdonoharm.dev/ which is legal
and practical nonsense built on good intentions. These people do not
understand where, how, and why copyleft is not working, and they've come
up with no-go solutions. But we need to promote copyleft with the same
pro-social, ethical focus so people understand *why* it matters.
Keep up the fight! Talk to everyone in science and tech who you know.
Bring up why this concern is related to power and justice. Talk about
how Android phones everywhere are built with non-copyleft free software
but the thing the users get is among the most controlled, invasive, etc.
and advertises manipulatively to people based on where they are as they
walk through a store or based on the movement signals that tell
advertisers when the person is a little depressed and more vulnerable etc.
I want to see the really effective message of https://humanetech.com/
tied to a statement that the solutions involve more copyleft!
P.S. I don't want to get written off as always focusing on my efforts,
but the vision for Snowdrift.coop is about building the *economic*
foundations to support software freedom, and with that in place, we
could much better build competitive-quality copyleft **end-user**
software. We're still working to get launched and always could use help
(we're all volunteers). And we're 100% copyleft, AGPL and CC-BY-SA.
On 2020-09-22 3:02 a.m., Pen-Yuan Hsing wrote:
> (whew, finally changed my registration on this list to my FSF member
> alias address! :D)
> I don't know if it's by chance, but recently I've read many an opinion
> claiming that copyleft free software licenses such as the GNU GPLv3 are,
> among other terrible qualities:
> 1. Viral
> 2. Cancerous (!!!)
> 3. Harmful to the "open source movement/principles/ethos"
> 4. Restrictive
> 5. Anti-social
> 6. Unfriendly
> 7. [other negative adjectives...]
> Usually, the same people would advocate for the "permissive" set of free
> software licenses like the increasingly popular MIT license, or BSD,
> Apache, and so on. Some reasons I've seen are that these "permissive"
> licenses are easy to use so "you don't need to think about it", are
> highly compatible with other licenses, "truly open source", "truly free"
> because they don't come with any restrictions like the "restrictive"
> GPL, or that "history has clearly shown permissive licenses to be more
> successful and welcomed." Once, I asked a self-identified open source
> (not free software) advocate whether they're concerned "permissively"
> licensed code would be incorporated into proprietary software, and they
> said no: "If I create a piece of open source software, and it helps
> others even if that means it being used in proprietary products, I'm
> fine with that."
> What prompted me to write this post is an academic paper I just saw:
> Wilson, G., Bryan, J., Cranston, K., Kitzes, J., Nederbragt, L., & Teal,
> T. K. (2017). Good enough practices in scientific computing. PLOS
> Computational Biology, 13(6), e1005510.
> This paper is licensed CC BY (which is commendable and sadly still rare
> in peer-reviewed academic literature, though I'd prefer CC BY-SA even
> more), and IMHO it's actually very good in recommending "good enough
> practices" so that scientists who are not programmers can begin to
> improve their scientific computing practices. Quick side-note: I have an
> academic science background and I can write a thesis lamenting the
> terrible state of software development in many academic disciplines.
> Physics/mathematics/astronomy are better for sure, but scientists in
> most fields are well-meaning but horrible programmers (if they can write
> code at all, many still use proprietary GUI spreadsheets to wrestle with
> huge datasets) who don't comment their own spaghetti code that manages
> to just squeak by (usually just once, before a reboot) to produce an
> analytical result just "worthy" enough of publication. And since they
> don't really know much about programming, many genuinely think that's
> adequate. So I can say with some confidence that the paper I just cited
> is already huge progress.
> To their credit, the authors of this paper emphasise the importance of
> including a LICENSE with your code, which - believe it or not - most
> other "recommendations" in the scientific literature don't mention at
> all, effectively keeping tons of scientific code unintentionally
> Sadly, those authors also state:
> "We recommend permissive software licenses rather than the GNU General
> Public License (GPL) because it is easier to integrate permissively
> licensed software into other projects; see chapter 3 in "
> Where  is the book:
> St Laurent AM. Understanding Open Source and Free Software Licensing.
> O'Reilly Media; 2004. http://www.oreilly.com/openbook/osfreesoft/book/.
> The above was literally the only justification they gave for
> recommending a "permissive" license. Now, many scientists will just read
> this without critically considering its implications (somewhat ironic in
> itself) and use MIT (or similar) licenses for their code. In my opinion,
> that statement is misleading and gives the impression that the GNU GPL
> is somehow bad for code.
> In case it's not already clear, I'm deeply disappointed by the almost
> complete lack of support I've seen for copyleft free software licenses.
> Other than perhaps some people on this mailing list, I have *literally*
> not interacted with any other human being who prefers copyleft licenses.
> Also in case it's not clear, a value I hold deeply is to assume good
> faith and by default I truly respect other opinions regardless of how
> much I might disagree. Here the disagreement is regarding the nature of
> free software licenses, and it troubles me deeply.
> My personal reason for desiring copyleft licenses is, in my opinion,
> simple: Software freedom is a value I hold dearly, and I want to ensure
> that freedom is perpetuated. In my view, the only "restriction" of a
> copyleft license is that it insists that freedoms are not infringed. On
> a high level, isn't a crucial mechanism for freedom to work the rule
> that "you are free to do anything as long as it doesn't infringe on
> other people's freedom?" Unless I am grossly mistaken, this is what a
> copyleft license does. Is that so bad, or "cancerous", as some might
> say? If anything, licenses such as the GNU GPL *protects* freedom, yet
> practically everyone I've ever talked to think it *limits* freedom. I
> totally understand why the FSF lists permissive licenses as free
> software-compliant, because they technically are free. But without
> protection of those freedoms, we have seen time and again how derivative
> works of free software have been locked up into proprietary products
> (with Apple's Mac OS lineage of operating systems perhaps being a famous
> example that derives much of its core from free software - some
> technically cool features, yes, but tragically proprietary and
> ultimately user-hostile).
> At this point, if you also prefer copyleft licenses, I hope for your
> constructive thoughts on two sets of questions:
> (1) WHAT are some common well-intentioned arguments YOU encounter for
> permissive licenses and against copyleft licenses? And what are your
> constructive responses?
> (2) WHY do copyleft licenses seem to be in steep decline? What are
> positive, constructive solutions to encourage its adoption? Any big
> success stories other than the Linux kernel?
> Or, if you do prefer permissive licenses, are you concerned about
> software using those licenses being used in, or made into, proprietary
> software? Are there concrete ways to secure software freedom with
> licenses such as MIT?
> If there are lots of constructive responses to this post, I'd be happy
> to compile them into a FAQ of sorts and put them somewhere like the
> Libreplanet wiki or elsewhere. Ideally, I hope to foster some sort of
> curated and well-reasoned set of constructive arguments to advocate for
> copyleft licenses.
> It goes without saying that I know this can be a contentious topic, but
> I know we are much better than starting flame wars and making personal
> attacks. So let's be excellent to each other. :)
> Hope to learn from you!
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