Subject: Re: the perpetually perplexing GPL
From: Jonathan Magid <>
Date: Mon, 15 Oct 2001 02:01:03 -0400 (EDT)

On Mon, 15 Oct 2001, Tom Lord wrote:

>   Isn't the level/nature of copyright enforcement needed for GPL the
>   same as the level of enforcement needed to shut down napster and
>   large-scale deployments of decentralized p2p technology like
>   gnutella?  How can you be in favor of Free Software without being
>   opposed to napster and gnutella?

This seems to me less related to FSB than discussing the interaction of
Ransom and GPL. But I'll bite. I think the GPL is IP jujitsu- it uses the
force of the opponent against him. Some would disagree that strong-IP is
the enemy of free software, but I would submit that in original intention
(the mind of God being more hidden that that of RMS) this is its essence.

Although open to the objection of "using the enemy's device against him"
(JRR. T. not RMS. :) ), this "jujitsu" seems fair to me. Note that the GPL
is not really a legal instrument. It looks like one. It was written by a
law professor. But it's really an instrument of social change. The GPL and
it's proponents have never taken a case to court. The combination of a
legal threat and *the threatened sanction of a part of the public
important to the success of technical firms* has been enough to put
blatant abusers into line. Think of the case of Apple and the Objective-C
front-end to gcc. This is the action of moral suasion, not the blungeon of
legal firepower. The FSF and the OSS community doesn't have it to use. If
they did, and they used it like the RIAA does to enforce compliance with
their vision of IP and its uses, then they'd be in the same league.

Not exactly an answer to your question- there is still an ethical and a
legal question about whether unauthorized copying of IP for use is good. I
believe that both ways of looking at Napster/P2P file trading are
compatible with Free Software. It's true that users of Napster are copying
bits against the wishes and licenses of their owners, and if they were
distributing emacs against the GPL, we'd scream bloody murder. But on the
other hand, they're engaging in an activity that many in the Free Software
community endorse as an important part of doing OSS: the right to make a
copy to share with a friend. Even if its with a friend you haven't yet
made.  :)


Global Village Idiot
Email: jem@sunsite^H^H^H^H^H^H^Hmetalab^H^H^H^H^H^H^