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Re: Should distros take steps to reduce russian access to Free Software?

From: Miles Fidelman
Subject: Re: Should distros take steps to reduce russian access to Free Software?
Date: Sun, 13 Mar 2022 14:51:57 -0400
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That's a pretty much substance free comment.  An axiomatic pronouncement - of both an opinion & judgement.

And, just for the record... of COURSE politics has a part in thinking about software freedoms - copyrights, enforcement/protection thereof, business practices - all are subject to law, regulation, courts, police action (official & secret), etc. - and hence politics.

Beyond that, if you're going to condemn someone's positions as "ethically questionable" - might you at least afford them, and the rest of us, some elaboration of which positions you're referring to, and what it is that you find ethically "questionable." (Which, I might add, is a rather dubious term.  Pretty much EVERYTHING in life is "questionable" - unless you're a religious or political zealot.  The use of "questionable" as a derogative label, is prejudicial, and itself, "questionable.")

Now, if you don't want to think about the politics associated with software freedom, and/or the impacts of software (free & otherwise) on politics - that's your prerogative.  But then, please, stay out of the discussion, while the rest of us think & talk about the issues.

Miles Fidelman

gregor wrote:
hi aa, all

my perspective is, that politics has no part in thinking software freedom(s).

also, i find your positions on the question very ethically questionable, shame on you.


On 13. 03. 22 16:07, Aaron Wolf wrote:
I agree with most of that, but I don't accept the idea that centralized vs decentralized is simply a questions of personal inclination/assumptions.

I think we can recognize shared concerns about ethics and consider that the structure of power might be a pragmatic implementation issue. It might be too abstract to easily pin down, but I don't think centralized vs decentralized is a matter of opinion or of ethics. It's a question of risk and potential. What do we risk and what do we lose with either centralized or decentralized power?

Software freedom as a focus argues against centralized power specifically in terms of control over computing. The argument isn't just opinion. I see it as claiming that companies and governments having control over computing by others is unjust because it stifles and limits all sorts of legitimate and ethical uses of computing and because rather than primarily block unethical actions, the centralized powers often use their power unethically.

I'd like to hear others' insights and perspectives on this question.

On 2022-03-13 01:51, Federico Leva (Nemo) wrote:
Il 13/03/22 05:52, Aaron Wolf ha scritto:
The inventors of nuclear technology might feel guilty about their role in the threat of nuclear war, but it's too late now to undo that.

The same is true or any invention or creation. You can hope to keep it secret if it's so dangerous, but once it's out there in the world, it's too late. If you restrict access, chances are only the worst actors will get access to it.

This concern about dangerous software seems related more to trade secrets than to copyright. Keeping something secret so that nobody knows about it is a completely different kind of problem than "what's the best copyright regime for the use of this work by copyright-complying entities". Making it public but regulating its usage by private actors is more likely to be a matter of patenting and the like. (If a software is so dangerous, it must be for the ideas/inventions it contains, rather than for the creativity of the specific software implementation.)

As usual, the "intellectual property" bandwagon probably makes people more confused. People often forget the basics, so it's useful to spread pages where trade secrets and patents are discussed, like:

As for the example of nuclear, it's not particularly useful because any conclusion depends entirely on your personal assumptions, particularly about whether centralised power is good or bad. If you like centralised power, you will argue for more trade secrets, more patents, stricter copyright; and vice versa. I would argue that nuclear catastrophe has been avoided due to popular pressure and decentralised actions of responsible people, more than by exercise of central power, therefore I would argue for less secrets, less patents and less copyright restrictions.

See for instance how Stanislav Petrov saved the world:

He was able to make the correct decision because he knew some details about how the alert systems worked. If he had trusted the software, we would not be talking now. More transparency (at least internal, possibly external too) would increase the chances of such correct interpretations.


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