Subject: Re: GPL and trademarks and brandnames...
From: Scott Goehring <>
Date: Sun, 15 Nov 1998 12:39:29 -0500

"Brian" == Brian Bartholomew <> writes:

Brian> Suppose you recorded your knowledge of comic book trivia in
Brian> Latin, and then GPL'ed it.  You could claim this is free, and
Brian> everybody is free to spend the time required to understand it.
Brian> But isn't this is a transparent trick to hoard your IP by
Brian> making it less accessable?  I feel that libre requires putting
Brian> IP in the most accessable and widely usable form, all other
Brian> things being equal.

Brian> In another license hack, you could also publish your GPL'ed
Brian> book in English by blinking it in Morse code from the top of
Brian> your house.  Even though the language barrier is gone, I would
Brian> argue that is not the "preferred form of the work for making
Brian> modifications to it", because "preferred" implies a
Brian> user-preferred distribution channel.

One of the things that bothers me about this line of thought is that
it implies that authors are morally obliged to disseminate their works
in the manner most convenient for readers.  Frankly, I think this is
naive: it places not only the cost of creation of the work on the
author, but also the costs of dissemination.  (The distribution
channel logically most preferred by users is the one that
hand-delivers the article in question to the user at no cost; hence,
by your logic, the author should pay for this as well.)  The author's
benefits from creation are minimal, and from dissemination arguably
nil (excluding ego benefits, which are nebulous and speculative).  I
would contend that this creates a substantial disincentive to create

The reason libre software works at all (and, as others have noted, it
only works in some areas) is that there are a lot of people who will
create software for personal reasons.  The notion that people should
develop all intellectual properties for the common good without
concern for compensation would, amongst other things, leave us without
dictionaries, car repair manuals, telephone books, and any of a huge
number of other "works" that are highly useful, but uninteresting to
create.  This is why quality "office" applications have been so hard
to develop under the libre model: the people who tend to do libre
coding work aren't really interested in writing word processors.

I don't think people should "hoard" their IP, but I do think that
refusing to offer compensation for the costs of creation and of
distribution is a sure-fire way to seriously diminish the rate at
which useful IP is created.