Tech Insider					     Technology and Trends

From bryan.murdock at hp.com  Fri Aug 15 17:02:53 2003
From: bryan.murdock at hp.com (Bryan Murdock)
Date: Fri Aug 15 17:03:02 2003
Subject: [uug] where to learn more about RMS philosophy?
Message-ID: < 1060988573.5157.32.camel@tomislav.vcd.hp.com>

Every now and then I have this crazy desire to understand what exactly
Richard Stallman is really talking about, what he would do if he could
draft some new copyright and intellectual property laws.  I just read an
interview where he stated that Debian is basically not his favorite
distro. any more (though it's still on his laptop), because they
distribute some non-free software.  His new favorite distro. is called
GNU/LinEx, distributed by the government of Extremadura, because it is,
"the only installable distribution that consists entirely of free
software."  (I am _not_ making this up, see [1] and search on google for
"gnu/linex" and you'll see).  He just seems insanse about Free with a
capital F, and I just wish to understand him better, maybe see that he
isn't insane, I mean, I like his software and lots of others do to,
maybe we are all just insane too though...  

Anyway, Is there a book I could read, or some online essays to help me? 
The small quotes and soundbites I've heard just aren't cutting it.

Thanks,

Bryan

P.S.  Maybe I don't really want to know more, if so, just don't tell me.

1. http://www.ofb.biz/modules.php?name=News&file=article&sid=260

From mike at halcrow.us  Fri Aug 15 22:50:38 2003
From: mike at halcrow.us (Michael Halcrow)
Date: Fri Aug 15 20:48:04 2003
Subject: [uug] where to learn more about RMS philosophy?
In-Reply-To: < 1060988573.5157.32.camel@tomislav.vcd.hp.com>
References: < 1060988573.5157.32.camel@tomislav.vcd.hp.com>
Message-ID: < 20030816045038.GC3643@halcrow.us>

Need I mention this?

http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/

I have spent many hours on that page.

RMS's philosophical inclinations strike at the heart of what makes a
society and a culture.  Knowledge, and informational derivatives of
knowledge, should not be hoarded, hidden, and exploited at the expense
of our societal advancement and - most importantly - our freedom.  We
have, most unfortunately, grown accustomed to the idea that
intellectual constructs should be ``owned'' and controlled by those
who appeal to the government to grant to them that power.  In so
doing, the government takes away from all members a fundamental
liberty that we are all born with: the freedom to copy.

Everything that makes our existence revolves around copying.  The DNA
that forms our physical bodies is a copy and a derivative of the DNA
of our parents.  We are formed in the likeness and the image of
God's.  As we grow and develop, we observe the behavior of those
around us, and we assimilate and mimic that behavior.  When we go to
school, we refine our ability to copy information into our brains.  We
memorize (copy) facts, algorithms, languages, and other information.
The free flow of information allows us to learn, develop, and be like
the great ones who have gone before us.  Then, we hope to be able to
add a little to that pool of knowledge from which we have so freely
taken.

The justification for the government to take away our freedom to copy
that is most often used is that by creating an artificial scarcity of
the availability of knowledge by granting select individuals to
control the dissemination of that knowledge, people will have a profit
motive for organizing the knowledge in the first place.  The framers
of the Constitution made it abundantly clear that copyright law exists
for the sole intent of increasing the benefit to the people.  There is
no mention of profits.

I question the effectiveness of copyright law in accomplishing its
purpose.  But, like all economic theories, the only testbed is the
real world, which makes it next to impossible to conduct a controlled
experiment.  All we have for now is... the status quo.

In any case, to suppose to restrict our freedom to copy in an attempt
to provide motivation for the organization of knowledge is an
*extremely* sensitive task, and so far, our legislature has been
utterly botching it.  Heavy lobbying by special interest groups (those
who stand to profit from the government restricting our freedom to
copy) have tipped the scales to the degree that profits seem to
override all other considerations.  Copyright now lasts 95 years.
College kids are getting sued for billions of dollars.  This is
clearly against the express intent of copyright law that our founding
fathers wrote into the Constitution.

Am I against copyright?  In its current incarnation, you bet.  But
only because, as it now stands, it severely restricts our freedom and
damages our societal progress.  I might be willing to trade 1-2 years
of my own freedom to copy if it means increasing the pool of organized
knowledge by a significant amount.  No *way* am I *at all* willing to
trade *95* years of my own freedom to increase the pool by a marginal
factor!

Now, whenever people talk about copying information, they feel like
that have to discuss it in subdued tones - like they're being bad
people because they're copying.  University professors put big black
posters with handcuffs on them to remind you that you are a criminal
if you copy.  People genuinely think that copying is a sin!  And just
because something is illegal does not mean that it is also immoral
(feel free to pull out your American Heritage notes).

The very thing that makes us human is being repressed in a malicious
and destructive manner.  RMS simply refuses to be a part of it all.
He will not make you promise not to do that which expresses your
natural altruistic tendencies to help your neighbor by copying.  He
outright rejects any license or agreement that would entail the
restriction of the freedom to copy.  He does not violate copyright
law, unjust as it is in its current common usage.  He abides by it,
and leverages it to guarantee freedom, rather than restrict it.

And so it becomes necessary to come to terms with using proprietary
software with anti-copying terms for usage.  In the end, it is much
more than just a matter of ``pragmatism.''  The question reduces to
this:

Are you willing to take away other peoples' freedom?

You do so the minute you slap a copyright on something with the
phrase ``All rights reserved'', which is itself a fallacy, since
copyright is more of a privilege granted to information organizers
than it is a ``right''.  The only real ``right'' is the right to
copy, which is itself infringed by ``copyright'' law.

Or:

Are you willing to give up your own freedom (by agreeing to not copy
and share)?

By telling people that they are not allowed to copy, and by enlisting
the enforcement power of the government to restrain people from
copying, you are, in a very real way, taking away other peoples'
freedom.  For whatever reason (control, money, etc.), you consider
your own personal gain to be worth more than the monumental loss
incurred by society by its inability to copy what has been organized.

RMS extrapolates this all the way to mandating the availability of
source code, no matter what the circumstances.  This is the point
where most people draw the line.  I am not yet entirely convinced that
this constitutes a prerequisite for true freedom (the freedom to
copy).  Other freedoms that I consider secondary (yet still important)
to the freedom to copy are spelled out here:

http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/free-sw.html

Now if you'll excuse me, I have some Free Software to write.

Mike

PS - These opinions are my own.  Copying them will result in severe
penalties.

On Fri, Aug 15, 2003 at 04:02:53PM -0700, Bryan Murdock wrote:
> Every now and then I have this crazy desire to understand what exactly
> Richard Stallman is really talking about, what he would do if he could
> draft some new copyright and intellectual property laws.  I just read an
> interview where he stated that Debian is basically not his favorite
> distro. any more (though it's still on his laptop), because they
> distribute some non-free software.  His new favorite distro. is called
> GNU/LinEx, distributed by the government of Extremadura, because it is,
> "the only installable distribution that consists entirely of free
> software."  (I am _not_ making this up, see [1] and search on google for
> "gnu/linex" and you'll see).  He just seems insanse about Free with a
> capital F, and I just wish to understand him better, maybe see that he
> isn't insane, I mean, I like his software and lots of others do to,
> maybe we are all just insane too though...  
> 
> Anyway, Is there a book I could read, or some online essays to help me? 
> The small quotes and soundbites I've heard just aren't cutting it.
> 
> Thanks,
> 
> Bryan
> 
> P.S.  Maybe I don't really want to know more, if so, just don't tell me.
> 
> 1. http://www.ofb.biz/modules.php?name=News&file=article&sid=260
> 
> 
> ____________________
> BYU Unix Users Group 
> http://uug.byu.edu/ 
> ___________________________________________________________________
> List Info: http://uug.byu.edu/cgi-bin/mailman/listinfo/uug-list

-- 
------------------------------------------- | ---------------------
Michael Halcrow                             | mike@halcrow.us     
Developer, IBM Linux Technology Center      |                      
                                            |
"Campus sidewalks never exist as the        |
straightest line between two points."       |
  - M. M. Johnston                          |
------------------------------------------- | ---------------------
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