Subject: Re: the perpetually perplexing GPL
From: Ian Lance Taylor <>
Date: 15 Oct 2001 10:29:19 -0700

Tom Lord <> writes:

> I find rehearsing the very well known details and implications of GPL
> tiresome (isn't gnu.misc.discuss better for that?) -- so I'll ask an
> advanced question:
>   Isn't the level/nature of copyright enforcement needed for GPL the
>   same as the level of enforcement needed to shut down napster and
>   large-scale deployments of decentralized p2p technology like
>   gnutella?  How can you be in favor of Free Software without being
>   opposed to napster and gnutella?

What this has to do with FSB, I don't know.

Personally, I think that if the artists who originally created a song
do not want it to be copied, then it is wrong for people to copy it
(other than for fair use, of course).  I believe that is essentially
the point of view which the GPL supports: the original creator
controls the form of copying which is permitted.

This does not imply being opposd to Napster and Gnutella, which are
merely technologies.  It implies being opposed to some of the ways in
which they are used today.  If Metallica does not want their songs to
be made available on Napster, then Napter users should honor that
request.  Napster users who do not should suffer opprobrium.

It would be appropriate and convenient for Napster et. al. to provide
some mechanism for easily determining the desires of particular

On the wider issue of controlling the copying of digital information,
it's clear to me and I presume to everybody on this list that complete
control is impossible.  Proprietary software which has a license which
forbids copying is, in fact, widely copied.  GPL code has been used in
ways which violate the GPL.  BSD code has been used in ways which
violate even the minimal BSD license.  Napster is a technology which
makes copying music particularly convenient, but if there were no
Napster there would be something else.

So the question is what degrees of control short of complete are
desirable and appropriate.  The GPL currently relies on community
approval--the equivalent of the old punishment of shunning.  Much
proprietary software relies on rewards and threatening letters from
the SPA.  Music companies rely on the U.S. courts and the fact that
Napster is an easy single point of attack.

This is an interesting issue and I suspect that over time it will
radically change the economics of the various businesses related to
creative works.  But I'm not sure it has much to do with FSB.