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Re: The sad decline of copyleft software licenses? :(

From: Jim Garrett
Subject: Re: The sad decline of copyleft software licenses? :(
Date: Tue, 22 Sep 2020 18:28:08 -0400

(Not responding to Marinus specifically, just getting a few thoughts in
the thread.)

1. First, the FSF has a community team of volunteers who try to respond
to this sort of public issue.  The public-facing PR arm of the FSF, as
it were.  Perhaps it should send a rebuttal to the journal?  Thoughts,

2. I recall an anecdote that might help crystallize things.

I recall reading a comment from the founder (and copyright holder) of
the LLVM project, saying that he chose a permissive license for the
project because he had the intention of someday making a proprietary
product based on it. (I probably can't find that quote, sorry!)

Now, if you're an expert in writing compilers and have a notion to
contribute to LLVM, how do you like the fact that you could offer your
contribution freely, but the copyright holder could take it, add his
own contributions, and put it not into LLVM but into a proprietary
"LLVM+".  You would have no access to the improved version; you could
pay for a binary blob but you won't have the source code.  All you have
is an assurance that LLVM--as of the version you contributed to--will
always be available.  Not a bad thing, but aren't you a bit of a
sucker?  You gave, he took; he gave, and now you can't get.  Wouldn't
you rather contribute to a project with a strong Free license, so you
know you'll get the benefit of future contributions from others? 

3. *Of course* corporations are expressing a preference for permissive
licenses.  This benefits those that would like to make proprietary
products based on them.  *Of course* the GPL makes it harder to work
with such software projects.  This is simply a matter of large,
powerful entities generating discourse that benefits them, and people
not really paying attention to the deeper phenomenon.  It seems
critical these days in all areas of our lives:  we need to evaluate the
power and financial dynamics involved, and the motives of the entity
generating the discourse.

(Isn't it the case that Google has made a rule of no additional GPL
software in Android?  And of course they are developing their own
kernel so they can get rid of Linux.  Is it our business to make life
better for Google?)

4. 99% of people, including (especially?) highly computer-literate
people, have never even thought about associating ethics with
software.  We haven't lost the debate; we haven't *had* the debate.
Just getting the question on the table would be a success.

-Jim Garrett

On Tue, 22 Sep 2020 23:00:33 +0200
Marinus Savoritias <> wrote:

> On 9/22/20 8:39 PM, Pedro Lucas Porcellis wrote:
> >> The second criticism is kind of a sign of the times if you think
> >> about it. 30 years ago when GPL there was the big war of us versus
> >> them. And evil corporations and all of that stuff. Not that these
> >> dangerous corporations don't exist now of course. The danger of
> >> corporations is more than ever. But the people have changed.  
> > 
> > I don't think those people have changed. They just adapted to the
> > current environment. By marketing "open-source" libraries and
> > components you can have cheap and free labor. "Don't worry, people
> > will fix that React bug for you, while you don't really respect
> > people's freedoms, keep spying, storing user's data, doing
> > unethical things, and even fucking up things outside the
> > non-digital world, I mean, look at facebook and Google, etc.  
> I was talking about the developers. The companies of course haven't 
> changed. The backend has become more free software though among other 
> stuff. Not copyleft though.
> >   
> >> People nowadays are far more collaborative and diverse. The simple
> >> number of programmers and licenses and software that we have is
> >> hundreds of time more than 30 years ago. Expecting people to stay
> >> only in the GPL ecosystem, which is not that big to begin with, is
> >> basically driving people away. I can't think of a single
> >> programmer that I can convince to use GPL with all of the
> >> legalities and considerations of dependencies it can have.  
> > 
> > Again, that's just a lack of understanding and lazyness of today
> > most developers. If a developer randomly picks a permissive license
> > this person can trade that for GPL. The key difference is that all
> > derivative-works will keep enforcing that premisse while building a
> > chain of respect.  
> I guess it depends how you look at it. For me its a lack of outreach
> and connection from FSF and GNU to the rest of the developer
> community.
> >   
> >> One big success story of Copyleft license is the Activity Pub
> >> ecosystem if you know it. Mastodon, Pixelfed, Peertube,
> >> WriteFreely and more all under AGPL-3.
> >>
> >> The thing we have to keep in mind with Copyleft is that it is
> >> still not the time for it in my opinion. We live in a time of
> >> extreme corporate propaganda. And fake openness everywhere. While
> >> at the same time they lock into their ecosystem. Two big examples
> >> is the Web with the Google-Chromium monopoly and systemd.  
> > 
> > That's EXACTLY why we need Copyleft. We need to push forward and
> > show that companies and products can be built around licenses like
> > the GPL. For instance, sourcehut (AGPL) is one of the most
> > promising examples of a company built around a complete free and
> > open-source ecosystem, and which truly enforces and contributes
> > more and more towards this goal.  
> Agreed. it would be a good idea to show that GPL can be profitable.
> Personally I don't really care about companies that much though.
> >   
> >> 1. Is FSF and GNU as a whole happy with the current situation? We
> >> technically have more Free Software than ever. But the Copyleft
> >> and user abuse is as high as it has ever been.
> >>
> >> 2. Is FSF and GNU the center of thing anymore? Do we want it to
> >> be? Because I can tell you that there are Copyleft Licenses
> >> outside of GNU. Few but exist. And there are developers that left
> >> GNU for some reason but still work on Copyleft software. And of
> >> course the young developers that haven't heard of FSF or GNU. Or
> >> don't want/bother to join.  
> > 
> > I think this is about perspective. FSF and GNU still _works_.
> > They're being undermined because we live in a society where we
> > enforce _non free software_ and make it even harder for people who
> > wants to write free software, after all, _in order to write free
> > software we need to write proprietary software first as we need to
> > pay some bills_.
> > 
> > I think this is all deeply related to how we structure ourself as
> > society and depoliticization of the free software movement.
> > 
> > I hope it made sense, I wrote in a bit of a hurry while writing
> > proprietary software for companies that literally throw thousands of
> > pesticides in my country's food.
> >   
> I think its also because FSF and GNU have a trouble of being
> relevant. They are not known so much among devs and if they are they
> don't like them or they don't care. I think its a lack of outreach as
> I said above.
> What do you mean depoliticization?
> Marinus Savoritias
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