Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 2nd Jan 2012 19:12 UTC
GNU, GPL, Open Source Late last year, president Obama signed a law that makes it possible to indefinitely detain terrorist suspects without any form of trial or due process. Peaceful protesters in Occupy movements all over the world have been labelled as terrorists by the authorities. Initiatives like SOPA promote diligent monitoring of communication channels. Thirty years ago, when Richard Stallman launched the GNU project, and during the three decades that followed, his sometimes extreme views and peculiar antics were ridiculed and disregarded as paranoia - but here we are, 2012, and his once paranoid what-ifs have become reality.
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mtzmtulivu
Member since:
2006-11-14


The 4 freedoms are not bad per se, but when strictly enforced, they can not exist in a world that gives users the freedom to use software who's license does not specifically adhere to these concepts. Hence, not real freedom.

The GPL is completely moot when a user uses a GPL based work. It comes into effect ONLY when the work is about to be distributed and hence you are no longer talking of users but of distributors when discussing GPL restrictions. users != distributors, this is an important distinction to make.

Think of it this way, i can not give you the right to live and give others the right to kill you for whatever reason simultaneously. If i give to one, i have to take from the other. GPL takes power from distributors and give it to users. Again, if you are complaining of GPL restrictions, then you are a distributor, not a user.


Why should the software itself be free (as in speech), so long as it is able to output non-proprietary formats? For example, would it be considered 'immoral' to use a proprietary word processor that could save documents in ODF format?

You are talking about usage of software here, not distribution and hence should not be complaining of GPL restrictions since they are moot.

you are free do as you wish on your computer and i am free to do as i wish on mine. If we have to collaborate, i should not care what tool you use as long as we can collaborate seamlessly and this only happen when we collaborate over open standards.

Reply Parent Score: 14

tanishaj Member since:
2010-12-22


The GPL is completely moot when a user uses a GPL based work. It comes into effect ONLY when the work is about to be distributed and hence you are no longer talking of users but of distributors when discussing GPL restrictions. users != distributors, this is an important distinction to make.


You and I seem to have a completely different understanding of the Open Source and Free Software movements. I think a huge part of it is about giving all users the power to be distributors. I would expect Richard Stallman to agree with me on that point.

From the FSF website:

"Free software is software that gives you the USER the freedom to SHARE, study and modify it. We call this free software because the user is free." (emphasis mine)

Perhaps more importantly, your assertion that the GPL does not impact users is quite false. If you cannot distribute software to me then I cannot use it. As a "user", I do not see software like Lego pieces; I may not want to or be able to combine software from different sources myself.

Just like a proprietary license, the GPL restricts how software from different sources can be combined. You are correct that as a "user" I can combine them on my own machine for my own use. Of course, to realistically do that I have to be a developer. If I am a developer, I am probably a "distributor" of software and not just a "user".

Another class of "user" is somebody that is using software as part of their business. The business does not have to be software-oriented to still want to "distribute" software.

For example, I wrote an employee benefits management package a few years ago for an insurance broker that used some GPL software in a few places. Some of this system was available to his clients via a website. Some clients wanted to be able to run the software off a CD locally to support remote staff (Alaska) or workers in the field (away from the office). This was not possible because he would have become a "distributor".

From my client's point of view, the software that I had provided restricted the use of that software in his business quite significantly. Also, the clients could not "use" the software the way they wanted because he could not "distribute" it to them in this way. The software generated PDF documents and populated a database that took the place of hand-written forms and faxed documents. The business was not charging any money for the software. The clients had no need for the software other than as a component of the non-technology service (insurance and benefits management) that he provided to them.

It could well be that the GPL is the best model. I am not arguing for or against it. I have two points:

- The license terms certainly do impact users. Whether or not that impact is worth it or not is a different debate.

- A string distinction between "users" and "distributors" seems contrary to the goals of the Free Software movement. The GPL creates this distinction more than many Open Source licenses

Reply Parent Score: 1

mtzmtulivu Member since:
2006-11-14


You and I seem to have a completely different understanding of the Open Source and Free Software movements. I think a huge part of it is about giving all users the power to be distributors. I would expect Richard Stallman to agree with me on that point.

Isnt that what i said? The GPL deals with distribution of modified or unmodified version of the GPLed work.The restrictions of the GPL will affect only distributors, not users of the work. I think we have the same understanding, maybe i do not express myself clearly or you are failing my understand me clearly.

Or what do you mean by "all users"?


"Free software is software that gives you the USER the freedom to SHARE, study and modify it. We call this free software because the user is free." (emphasis mine)

Yap, completely agree with that.
How does it do so? My answer, by putting restriction on all who are btw the user and the creator of the work and all who are in the middle are known as "distributors", whats your answer?

Perhaps more importantly, your assertion that the GPL does not impact users is quite false.

It does impact users, vlc was pulled from apple store because apple(a distributor) could not satisfy restrictions of the GPL and vlc users on idevices were negatively impacted.

The negative impact on users comes from distributors failing or unwillingness to abide by the term of the license.

I fail to see how you came up with this line of reasoning from my writing but i agree with it. I talked walking about restrictions of distributors and you came up with impacts on users.The two may be related but they seem distant enough to me.

If you cannot distribute software to me then I cannot use it.

True, but why can i not distribute software to you? If the license of the program says i can not do so, then i can not do so, if the license of the program puts restrictions on me on what i have to do to give it to you, then i have to satisfy all those restrictions before i give it to you. The negative impact on users comes from distributors inability to satisfy terms of license.


For example, I wrote an employee benefits management package a few years ago for an insurance broker that used some GPL software in a few places.

Your writing suggests you were one entity and you created a piece of work with GPLed code in it for another entity. You therefore were a distributor and hence what you did was a license violation.


From my client's point of view, the software that I had provided restricted the use of that software in his business quite significantly.

The error was on your part for failing to understand what they wanted to do with the work you gave them. The problem is not the GPL but of you failing to give them licensed code that agreed with their use case.


- The license terms certainly do impact users. Whether or not that impact is worth it or not is a different debate.

They do but the impact solely lies on distributor's feet. As in your case, you use licensed code that worked against your customer use case and they suffer from your bad decision. The blame should not be on GPL but on your decisions.

Reply Parent Score: 3