Re: capitalist religion (was: NANO: _Forbes_ cover story)

From: Mike Lorrey (
Date: Mon Jul 23 2001 - 11:19:33 MDT

Miriam English wrote:
> At 11:11 AM 22/07/2001 -0400, Mike Lorrey wrote:
> >Miriam English wrote:
> > >
> > > Even Richard Stallman, the most hard-line free software advocate doesn't
> > > suggest people steal software. He wants people to cease using any
> > > closed-source software -- bought or stolen....
> >
> >Yet his purpose in launching the GNU was to drive his former colleagues
> >into the ground without making a profit, thus keeping his 'hands
> >clean'... Stallman is nobody that should be held up for respect or
> >adulation in the open source movement. It is he who is primarily
> >responsible for the degree of socialist ideology in OSM.
> What colleagues are those Mike? He was at MIT AI Lab. Even when he left MIT
> he remained an honorary member. His purpose was not to drive anybody into
> the ground, but to change the focus of software creation so that people's
> freedoms were not taken taken away when they used software.

According to Brent Glass, several of Stallman's colleagues at MIT's AI
Lab left and started their own software companies which allegedly made
them oodles of money. Enraged by having his sense of intellectual purity
and camaraderie violated, he devised GNU as a means of ruining the
ability of his former colleagues to profit from software, but he found
that framing the arguments for GNU in language of retribution and
revenge didn't win him many converts, so he formulated his soft and
pretty arguments to convince people to join him.

I'm not the only person who thinks bad things of the GPL but is still
pro-open source:

Open Source - Says Who?
by Dave Avery
> GPL - Sounds Good
> The two most common source code licenses are GPL and BSD.
> GPL stands for General Public License. GPL supporters (like the
> LINUX crowd) often talk about how nice and open they are,
> and that they'll give you their code.
> This sounds nice, and like they are sharing freely, but be sure
> to look this gift horse in the mouth.
> I think of it like this -- GPL code is "open", but it has cooties.
> If their code ever touches yours, your code has cooties too,
> and thus has to be shared with the world (whether you want
> to or not).
> You can use this code, if and only if you agree to the terms,
> which includes giving up all rights to anything you produce
> that ever got near their code, and that your code will carry
> the GPL license around as well since it will be distributed with
> their code. If you have any part of your code that you want
> to keep private or you consider intellectual property, then you
> can't easily use GPL. In other words, it's all or nothing.
> So with GPL you don't have a choice to share. You have
> someone with a gun telling you to share or else. Some call
> that open, others call it extortion.
> Better Share Dance
> On the other hand, BSD (Berkeley Software Distribution, a.k.a.
> Berkeley UNIX) is far more open and basically says that you
> can use the code in whatever way you want, but please be
> nice and give back. Not that you have to give back, and not
> that you will be hunted down and flogged if you don't.
> You don't even have to sign away rights to any code that
> ever got near a BSD license.
> If you want to truly give or get something without conditions
> (or with fewer conditions), then the BSD license is far better.
> BSD is giving -- GPL is bartering (at best). BSD takes the high
> road and trusts you to share, and assumes that you're a good
> person and that you'll give back. GPL takes the low road,
> assumes that you are a bad person, and that the only way to
> get you to share is with force.
> But be careful about stating this publicly or you will get
> thousands of angry e-mails from annoyed purists who think
> that the end justifies the means, and GPL is a good way to
> force others to be as free and open as they are, or else.

end quote...

> I don't understand your hatred of the guy. He is an honorable (if somewhat
> impatient) person, with an incredibly sharp mind. In many ways the computer
> industry owes him a debt. Open-source is revitalising the industry. A
> secretive industry would have ended up suffocating itself.

Open-source existed before Stallman, and was destined for its present
place if Stallman never existed. The only reason Open-source has become
as big as it is is because of Linus Torvalds. If GPL didn't exist, he
would likely have placed linux under BSD instead of GPL, and people
would still be as psyched about open source, and there would be far less
low trust commie types running roughshod over the motives of anyone who
didn't agree with them in the movement.

Look, Linus screwed up. He put linux under GPL as an idealistic kid, a
time in life when most of us think we are commies for various spans of
time, and then grow out of it at faster or slower rates than others.
Most of us try to rationalize away any bad things we did in the name of
our commie ideals during that period. Very few are willing to openly say
"hey, I screwed up, I'm sorry". Human beings are rationalizing creatures
that way, and we don't want to be bad people. Linus was not aware of the
original reasons why Stallman wrote the GPL any more than American 60's
hippies (or the atomic spies like Fuchs and the Rosenbergs) were aware
of the heinous crimes of Stalin (I'll leave aside the interesting
phonetic similarities....), so blaming Linus for anything, or looking
negatively at his accomplishments is wrong. That doesn't mean we
shouldn't rationally and honestly admit what Stallman did and why he did

It's illustrative that GPL is a low trust contract, while BSD is a high
trust contract. I think its rather obvious, based upon my other writings
on this list, which one I prefer and is more useful toward building true
freedom in software.

Besides just BSD, there is also MIT X which pre-exists Stallman, and
which does not have its punitive characteristics. Brett Glass also
illustrates the problems with not only the GPL, but the new LGPL, which
is supposed to be called the 'Libary General Public License' for use in
cloning Windows under the Mono project, but it's indicative of
Stallman's true sentiments that he calls this the 'Lesser General Public

As Brett Glass writes:

> Born Free
> If the actual goal of Mono is to provide freedom, it should
> license its libraries (and other components) under a truly free
> license, such as the MIT X license, which allows commercial
> development and commercial reuse of code.
> To do so would demonstrate that Mono is not motivated by a
> vendetta against Microsoft (or against more ethical
> commercial developers), but rather by a spirit of true freedom.
end quote.

Mike Lorrey

This archive was generated by hypermail 2b30 : Fri Oct 12 2001 - 14:39:54 MDT