Subject: Re: the walls have ears
From: "William C. Cheng" <>
Date: Thu, 27 May 1999 21:18:42 -0400

  "Karsten M. Self" <> wrote:
  | 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:

I read it and I don't get it!  What's a ``sequitor'' anyway?

If I'm not allow to *not* to get the source, I, as the recipient, has
received less freedom if I obtained the code under some other free

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

(Umm...  This must be a mis-quote because I dind't write this.)

  | <snip>
  | > 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_
  | software.


  | > 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 GPL defines freedoms explicitly and does so by specifically excluding
certain ``freedom'', why is it not true that GPL gives people less
freedom?  Why is giving recipients less freedom has to be a bad thing?

  | 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.

And you call that more freedom?

  | 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.

I totally agree with this last part!  I think that ``GPL gives more
freedom'' is a *big lie* and people should stop saying it.  IMHO, I
think that GPL restricts freedom for a greater good and it serves
that greater good extremely well.
Bill Cheng // <URL:>