Subject: Re: "On Virus" -- get real
From: Richard Stallman <>
Date: Mon, 27 Sep 1999 19:55:11 -0600 (MDT)

    Hereditary fails the hierarchy test; heredity is hierarchical,
    software reuse is not.

Heredity is not hierarchical in species that reproduce sexually.
Nor in object-oriented programming systems with multiple parents.

    Your GPL imposes binding conditions on my use of
    a public good.

A free software package has some of the characteristics of a "public
good", but it may not precisely fit that category.

But suppose for the moment that we call it a public good, there is
nothing wrong with imposing some conditions on its use, for the sake
of the community.  There are binding conditions on the use of other
public goods, such as parks and roads, and that is a good thing.

    As for "the spirit of all parties being equal," you will always be
    free to sell a license on your code to Microsoft, for any price with
    any terms for them (except that you can't abrogate anybody's free
    software rights on already published portions), and I never will.  Not
    on your GPL code.

I think you have misunderstood the situation here, because it is
entirely symmetrical.  He could license his code in some other way,
but not your code; you could license your code in some other way, but
not his code.  Neither of you could license the combination in
any other way, except by mutual agreement.

      But the clause itself is
    merely evidence of the lack of trust of one programmer for another.

I agree.  If we could trust all the programmers in the world to make
all software free--or if we could trust all the users to reject
non-free software so it would fail in the market--then we would not
need the GPL, or any kind of free software license.

But our world is not like that, at least not yet.  There are plenty
of companies that would make proprietary versions of GNU programs
if we let them.

      The infection takes place through intentional activity of the
    infected, although as an unwanted but predictable[2] side-effect.

You have cleverly worded your statement to focus on minor similarities
and obscure important differences.  Should I congratulate you on your