Subject: Giving Richard His Due
From: "Tony Stanco" <Tony@FreeDevelopers.net>
Date: Wed, 13 Feb 2002 18:54:40 -0500

Why is it so hard for people to give Richard his due? But for Richard, there
would be no GPL. But for the GPL, there would be no Free Software nor,
arguably, Open Source.

Yes, there are other licenses, but only the BSD even comes close to creating
an alternative body of code to proprietary's. But the BSD has the fatal flaw
(in my opinion) that it allows the community to be an unfunded research
department for the proprietary companies, who then use their marketing power
to benefit the most from the work. This is fine, I guess, if the BSD
developers are fully informed and give implicit consent that their code will
help proprietary, so they know the score going in.

But for those who want to create a completely fair and equal body of code
that can't ever become proprietary, the GPL is the best way to go. I don't
think it is a coincidence that GNU/Linux is seen by many, if not most, as
the only long-term competitor to a proprietary OS (esp. Windows).  I know
that it is only the GPL that Microsoft fears (and for good reason).

Maybe the goals of the communities are different and it should be left at
that. Perhaps, Open Source would be satisfied with always being second class
to companies like Microsoft (though how that squares with the oft proclaimed
notion of World Domination is a mystery to me).

Still, I would suggest that there is a no lose Pascal's [?] wager with the
GPL (and therefore siding with Richard), even if you don't believe in it or
him. For if GPL software development replaces the proprietary paradigm (as I
think it will in the next couple years), it will be Richard who history will
rightfully remember. He wrote the GPL. He fought for it for almost 20 years.
He dedicated his life to it. Anyone who too strongly opposes Richard runs
the risk of being condemned by history, if the GPL wins. If the GPL fizzles,
history will not remember those that opposed it, since the world was not
changed and no one will care. Therefore, there is nothing to gain in
opposing the GPL/Richard. It is a only a losing bet in both end states.

Also, I would remind people what Rousseau said -- that the world had
progressed by the time of the Enlightenment, because it use to kill
philosophers, and they only banished him. If you believe, like I do, that
Richard is a true philosopher*, it looks like we have progressed still,
since we don't even banish them anymore. Now we only ridicule them. But even
that falls short of understanding them and giving them their due and respect
in their lifetime.

Finally, I would say, the world has always rewarded those who took ethical
stands over those who compromised for expediency's sake. Maybe that is the
ultimate difference. Free Software cares what history will say. Open Source
cares only what people now will say.


* -- look at his attributes -- 1. argues principles, not personal interest;
2. spends his life wandering the world explaining his worldview; 3. his
disinterest in worldly goods and appearances; 4. for Pete's sake, he often
doesn't even take money for his teachings, living off of the kindness of
strangers, which no one has done since Socrates and Jesus. But the most
telling characteristic of all is that most people viscerally hate him for
what he stands for in his own lifetime.