Subject: Re: "Well, I want to switch over to replace EMACS LISP with Guile."
From: Erik Naggum <>
Date: 15 Oct 2002 22:47:05 +0000
Newsgroups: comp.lang.lisp
Message-ID: <>

* Steven E. Harris
| The negative aspects you mention aren't problems with a particular
| license; they're social problems with any collaborative effort.

  On one level, this is true...

| That the GPL encourages personal modification endeavors only makes these
| social problems more manifest.

  ... but another level, the question is indeed whether the GPL is an
  enabling legal framework or a disabling legal framework.  There are many
  other enabling legal frameworks and many proponents of free software
  would benefit greatly from real insight into copyright and contract law.
  All too frequently, they believe in myths and what they believe is better
  is only better than what they believe the opposition believes, but when
  the opposition does not actually believe it and the benefits are only
  better than some imaginary, not better than any real alternatives.

  Many other contracts have worked very well in the history of mankind, and
  the legal framework within which most business is conducted is far better
  at their job than the GPL is when it comes to sharing knowledge.  The
  myth that the GPL is freedom and everything else is not is a bad one.

| Perhaps they didn't take the time to probe what you meant.  You're
| offering a spare lure with "supposedly free."

  Interesting imagery, but far more flowery than "supposedly free" was ever
  intended to communicate.  My point is quite simply that it is supposed to
  be free, but when you look closely and carefully at it, it is restricting
  and confining.

| Maybe you could ask, "Even though you have a legal right to take this
| software and make it your own, do you expect to be able to build a
| separate user base and developer community around your effort?"

  It is the "make it your own" part that is what the freedom should have
  been about.  This is where Free Software actually fails.  You are free to
  donate your work to the community, but not to make it your own.  A huge
  aspect of the social framework we have erected in the Western world is
  that we both want people to help maintain society, but also to reward
  people for their work and encourage those who can improve it.  The Free
  Software model encourages people to maintain the society created by Free
  Software, but they are not rewarded for their work and those who want to
  build on what they have been taught in order to build a better mousetrap,
  find that their investment of time in Free Software is detrimental to
  their ability to be rewarded for their inventions.  When we as a society
  are willing to pay taxes and force children to get an education and not
  only work for their living as soon as they can, the point is to raise the
  baseline of human endeavors and encourage people to work together over
  the years to raise it even more.  This is where Free Software does not
  deliver, but real education and research and commercial intellectual
  property rights actually do their job pretty darn well.  However, as is
  typical in the computer industry, people are so unskilled in social and
  legal frameworks that they favor revolutionary over evolutionary progress.

| Most people are first concerned with having rights and later with
| actually using them.

  I find this a very odd statement, but it is perhaps what happens when not
  even your parents had to fight for these rights and they become so
  abstract that "having rights" is worth something by itself, as opposed to
  what your grandparents wanted to do with them.

| Your argument hinges on the latter, and perhaps your opponents focus only
| on the possibility of success - if not the likelihood - enabled by having
| this right.

  My argumet is that success is not enabled by these rights, but is harder
  to obtain with them than without them.

| Are we looking for some derivative project that wound up in court where
| the GPL saved the day, or just a fork that lived on and attracted a
| healthy following?

  The GPL has never really been tested in court as far as I know, but I
  have not kept track of that aspect, but more important to me is that the
  GPL community has been much better at /not/ forking than actually making
  use of the supposed freedom, to the point where forks are /fought/.

Erik Naggum, Oslo, Norway

Act from reason, and failure makes you rethink and study harder.
Act from faith, and failure makes you blame someone and push harder.