Subject: Re: the walls have ears
From: "Karsten M. Self" <>
Date: Thu, 27 May 1999 15:33:46 -0700

William C. Cheng wrote:
> Alessandro Rubini <> wrote:
>   | William Cheng:

>   | But there's nothing new in what you say: it's
>   | written in the GPL itself:
>   |
>   |       To protect your rights, we need to make restrictions that
>   |     forbid anyone to deny you these rights or to ask you to
>   |     surrender the rights.  These restrictions translate to certain
>   |     responsibilities for you if you distribute copies of the
>   |     software, or if you modify it.
> Why will this give me (as the recipient of the code) more freedom as
> compared to the case where the code is put under another free license?

The recipient is given the 'freedom' of knowing the code, and any
derivative work(s) based on it, will always be free, according to
Stallman's definition of same:

 - You can use the code
 - You can study the source
 - You can distribute the code
 - You can modify the code

Slightly paraphrased from (  

If you don't read and get this, you are arguing a non sequitor:

> ``Free software'' refers to the _users'_ freedom to run, copy, 
> distribute, study, change and improve the software. 


> Compared with other free licenses, does GPL gives the *author* more
> freedom?  Certainly not.  The author is free to choose any license.
> Does GPL gives the recipients more freedom?  I don't believe I've seen
> a convincing argument for it!

RMS isn't concerned with authors' rights, except to the extent that if
an author wishes to grant the four freedoms enumerated above, that the
author's directive be honored.  Early in the history of emacs, RMS found
himself in the position of having written and distributed as free
software a product which was being remarketed as proprietary, excluding
_even him_ from using, viewing, distributing, or modifying _his own_

> I'm not against GPL, I'm simply against the claim that GPL gives
> people more freedom than other free licenses!

As discussed previously, the GNU GPL defines its freedoms explicitly. 
It does so by specifically excluding certain actions.  If you'll read
the GNU GPL and RMS's philosophy papers.  You'll find that RMS addresses
this specifically:

> The GNU GPL is not Mr. Nice Guy. It says ``no'' to some of the things 
> that people sometimes want to do. There are users who say that this 
> is a bad thing--that the GPL ``excludes'' some proprietary software 
> developers who ``need to be brought into the free software 
> community.'' 

Yes, the GNU GPL has strings.  It tries to use them to do good things. 
If you don't want strings, choose another license, or place your works
in the public domain.  However, the GNU GPL's strings exist for clearly
enumerated reasons, and IMAO, serve these reasons extremely well.

> --
> Bill Cheng // <URL:>

Karsten M. Self (

    What part of "Gestalt" don't you understand?
    Welchen Teil von "Gestalt" verstehen Sie nicht?

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