Subject: Re: [open-source] [Fwd: [icecast-dev] announces Vorbis Beta 4 and the Foundation]
From: Stefano Mazzocchi <>
Date: Tue, 27 Feb 2001 20:08:36 +0100

Richard Stallman wrote:
> The GPL is not an end in itself; it is a measure to protect our
> freedom.  In general I would rather see software copylefted, which is
> one way of defending users' freedom against one particular danger.  In
> the case of Ogg/Vorbis, there is a bigger danger from another
> direction: the danger that people will settle on MP3 format even
> though it is patented, and we won't be *allowed* to write free
> encoders for the most popular format.
> To overcome the inertia that supports MP3 format will require
> strenuous effort.  Even if we do our utmost to encourage everyone to
> replace MP3 format with Ogg/Vorbis format, it is not certain they will
> do so.  Consider how long we have been trying to replace GIF with PNG.
> Ordinarily, if someone decides not to use a copylefted program because
> the license doesn't please him, that's his loss not ours.  But if he
> rejects the Ogg/Vorbis code because of the license, and uses MP3
> instead, then the problem rebounds on us--because his continued use of
> MP3 may help MP3 to become and stay entrenched.
> Thus, my agreement with the idea of a lax license in this special case
> is just as pragmatic as my preference for the GPL in most cases.  In
> both cases it is a matter of how we can attain freedom.

Richard, I'm very happy to read your wording on this.

It occurs to me that your reasoning could well be applied in many of the
ASF projects where we try to protect our "freedom" by making sure that
open standards remain so and don't get "polluted" by lock-in.

In one article (sorry, don't remember where), you make an example on how
the kerberos system was "polluted" by Microsoft and you suggest that the
use of the GPL would have prevented this from happening.

I disagree: I'm sure Microsoft has enough work-power to rewrite every
piece of software they want and the GPL doesn't prevent the creation of
clean-room implementations with proprietary enhancements.

The ASF's main focus is to keep the web "free" and avoid proprietary
lock in. We do this for the HTTP protocol, and we do this for the XML
language, for XSLT, FO, SVG and all a bunch of other open standards.

How can we be sure that everybody behaves as they should, protecting our
(and their) freedom? By making it valuable for them to do so.

This is what you ackowledge with Ogg-Vorbis. Can you tell us why this is
different from what the ASF is doing?

We are happy to give up some rights (yeah, some freedom) on our code for
the net gain of keeping the standard open and the web a place where
everyone of us can feel free. Isn't this what you like as well?

So I posed myself this question: would a GPL-ed Apache HTTPD increase
the freedom for web users and web developers? I don't think so, rather
the opposite! It would force corporations to leave the bandwagon and
implement their own server, thus increasing the chance of
incompatibilities (either incidental or made on purpose).

This can be said for XML and related technologies as well (look at for more info on this), this can also be said for almost
all the technologies that the ASF hosts.

Yes, there is a difference between Ogg-Vorbis and Apache: they need to
gain market-share, we already have it (and keeps rising!). But is this a
real difference? If turning Apache into GPL-ed code (or even worse, dual
licensed) spits the community, wouldn't this hurt the freedom of the web
as a whole?

Why am I saying this to you? well, your opinion on the BSD license is
notorious and normally indicates that the BSD license is, somewhat,
less-free than the GPL. While this might be the case for lots of
software, there are cases where BSD means more freedom than GPL.

This Ogg-Vorbis case is an example.

Unfortunately, there is no indication of this on the web, not even in
the FSF web site and many people see BSD licenses and reject the notion
alltogether, failing to understand that there is as much care for
freedom as there is for "official free software".

I don't care that much since I believe I'm doing the right thing for
myself and for my fellow neighbour and I'm even willing to loose part of
the control of the software I write for this.

But people should not be scared-away from the BSD license just because
the concept was not invented by the FSF.

Thanks for your patience.

Stefano Mazzocchi      One must still have chaos in oneself to be
                          able to give birth to a dancing star.
<>                             Friedrich Nietzsche