Subject: Re: Get ready....
From: Seth David Schoen <>
Date: Wed, 14 Apr 1999 20:51:53 -0700

Derek J. Balling writes:

> Your position seems contradictory. You support "freedom for the people",
> but you don't support the right of people to pick the pieces of licenses
> that best suit their needs.
> >> The only true freedom you have is choice -- the choice of not using
> >> software if you cannot abide by its license agreement, or developing your
> >> own application using the license of your choice to compete with the
> >> offending product.
> Allowing someone to use portions of a license does NOT deny people freedom.
> It is simply not necessarily granting them privileges the same privileges
> as others choose to. Let's remember that any alteration of a copyrighted
> work is a PRIVILEGE, not a right. It is something which is granted by the
> owner of the copyrighted work, NOT something which you inherently have by
> being alive. Rights CANNOT be taken away, privileges can. I can say that
> "no future versions of my software will be released under the GPL", and you
> no longer have the privilege of copying the code.
> The sooner you stop confusing "rights" and "privileges", you'll be a lot
> better equipped for the discussion. :)

The author of the GPL, as far as I can infer from his writings and talking to
him, does not believe that "alteration of a copyrighted work is a PRIVILEGE,
not a right", because he does not believe that software should have any owners
at all.

Without understanding that, you can't understand the language of the GPL in
its proper context.  To put this another way, if copyright is not a real
right (or intellectual property is not real property), then "true freedom"
includes the choice to _ignore_ license restrictions altogether.  Since
copyright law does not provide this, Richard Stallman invented copyleft in an
attempt to emulate as far as possible what life would be like if that choice
were recognized as a right.

If you think it's obvious that intellectual property exists, you'd naturally
say that it's essential for software authors to have the choice of what
license to use.  If you think it's obvious that intellectual property doesn't
exist, you'd equally naturally say that it's essential for users to have the
freedom to copy (etc.), and that it's wrong to try to use licenses and
copyright law to deny these freedoms to users.  The philosophy of the GPL,
which you don't have to accept in order to use it, and which accounts for
Stallman's decision to copyright the GPL itself, presupposes that users have
the right to use and copy software, and that software owners do not have the
right to stop them: in other words, that IP does not exist.

As Martin Pool just wrote in another message:

> The text of the GPL is not licensed to you under the GPL: you may think
> that's inconsistent, but it makes sense in terms of the FSF's goals.

(And, of course, it doesn't make sense in terms of goals which are at odds
with the FSF's goals.)


                    Seth David Schoen <>
      They said look at the light we're giving you,  /  And the darkness
      that we're saving you from.   -- Dar Williams, "The Great Unknown"  (personal)  (CAF)