Subject: Re: the walls have ears
From: "R. Brock Lynn" <>
Date: Tue, 25 May 1999 17:06:46 -0500

Richard Stallman wrote:
>     However, what _I_ disagree with, Richard, is what I perceive as your
>     strongly held belief that there is only one way to free software, and
>     that is monopoly[1] free software, namely GPL programs with copyright
>     assigned to a single holder powerful enough to defend them, in a pure
>     free software environment.

There are many ways to free software, but I honestly believe there is only one
true way: to revoke copyright law altogether. (=:]

But if we must live in a society that believes in ownership of knowledge, then
the next best way to free software is to use the terms set forth in the GNU
General Public License version 2, as the license terms for the use of the source

Apart from my finding one itty bitty "flaw" in the wording of the GPL, it is a
very solid document.

In the face of copyright law, that (copyright law coupled with the GPL), IMHO is
really the *only* *best* way for the long haul (Can you extend your thinking
into the coming tens of thousands of years? If you can't, you are short sighted!
Perhaps you need "planning glasses"?).

I disagree with assigning the ownership of copyright to FSF, or any other single
entity... but rather instead, I think joint ownership by MANY people and
entities is better, to protect the "viral" nature of the terms of the GPL. But
hell, it's a good virus, it inflicts one with freedom. And what's more, you
don't have to become infected if you don't want to. What other virus gives you
such a choice? :)

If you don't like a GPL'd work, then build a proprietary one from the ground up,
and be done with it. What you say? you are not skilled enough to do so by
yourself? Too bad. I suggest you join the society that shares, and perhaps you
can benefit from that sharing, more than if you went about your project as a
loner... You might not be able to get all that you would want from the spoils of
owning a monopoly in the software industry, but you would benefit quite well
nonetheless, I propose.

"You can't always get what you want, but if you try some time you just might
find, you get what you need."

--Mick Jagger.

If you want a product that you can later legally close the sources to and make
into a proprietary system, then by darnit you don't have to use GPL'd software.
But if you do use GPL'd software, then you are legally bound to it's conditions.
The GPL is here to stay, and I back it 100%. Almost all knowledge belongs to all
people. Go Cicero!

> I hope you'll be glad to know that I don't think this way, and I never
> have.  I think that all the ways of releasing free software are
> basically good.

Agreed, but I think licenses like the BSD one are misguided. I much prefer a
license that once and for all provides for the free use of the source code, and
never permits it being made into proprietary software. It will much more provide
incentive on the coders to look to other ways to make money, like service and
support, (coding specific features that are only wanted by a minority etc.)
rather than the sale of proprietary licenses to use their hard won discovered

Just admit it Richard, you have created the "Godfather" of all free software
licenses... ;^)

And we, the consumers of free software, are the richer for it.

I go so far as to say that it's pretty much the highest form of free software
license out there. What other license ensures freedom for all, forever?

> I think some are better than others; I've thought about this for a
> long time and have careful reasoning for it.

Damn well right some are better than others. But of course one cannot speak of
"better" and "worse" without speaking of some goal that one is trying to
achieve. If the goal is freedom of knowledge for everyone forever, or at least
of software source code, then the GPL beats 'em all hands down. If another
license allows someone to restrict freedoms then it is worse not better than the
GPL. Perhaps someone might see this as a restriction on their freedom to offer
non-free software. I say yes it does, but phooey on them.

To allow the ability to restrict the freedom of use of the source code is worse
that to restrict the freedom to allow non-free versions of it.

Anyone wanna argue with me on this? Go ahead, make my day...
[I'm picking a fight, can't ya see... (=:]

> When the issue arises of
> which way is best, I argue for copyleft with the best of my ability.

At least someone else agrees... But of course you have to agree Richard, you
guided the writing of the GPL.

And more power to you. :^)

> But that doesn't mean I condemn the people who are arguing the other
> side.

I don't condemn them either, they are just misguided. Poor souls. We need to
educate them. Those that know and understand need to educate and lead those that

> These issues are a matter of what is more or less effective,
> not a matter of right or wrong.

I disagree, it *is* a matter of what is "right" and "wrong", or rather "better"
and "worse" with respect to the ultimate Goal Set of Life, the Universe, and
Everything. (the ultimate goal set as I understand it is available upon request.

> The bottom line is, non-copylefted
> free software IS free software, which means it is basically a good
> thing.

True, but it could be "better", or rather more free. It could stand to be argued
that some software licenses are "more free" than others.

> I have said this time and again, in speeches, in interviews, and in
> messages--every time the issue comes up, for a decade or more.  I am
> sure I would never say the opposite.  If you thought so, it must
> be due to a miscommunication.

> But I wonder, how did you become so *certain* that I hold a view which
> I have never endorsed, and often denied?  Didn't you feel at least
> a little doubt?
> Another person wrote to me privately, urging me not to condemn people
> who write non-copylefted free software; he too was completely sure
> that I do condemn them, and saw no need to confirm that.

Heh. I do not condemn the BSDers or the X Consortiumers and the like either, I
do however feel a bit of pity for their misunderstanding ot the ultimate goals
we are all trying to achieve here.

> This seems to happen often; many people are quite sure I think this or
> that ridiculous or outrageous thing, when I don't.

Such a pity. We all know what happens when we assume without verification... (it
makes an "ass" out of "u" and "me", or the assumers, so goes the saying. :)

> This pattern seems
> to play a significant role in the waves of criticism I receive.  Does
> anyone understand why these misunderstandings happen so often?

Perhaps because people speak out on topics they don't fully understand, and only
make matters worse, and not better.

People, let's try to do a little more research before we open our mouths eh?

--Brock Lynn

---------------------  PGP key ID: FED76A3D <> 4 / 5 / 1999

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