The GPLv3 violates the 4 GNU freedoms ...
Posted Oct 3, 2006 22:46 UTC (Tue) by mingo
In reply to: Licence text and fabs
Parent article: Busy busy busybox
The GPL has *always* been about ethical issues and the four freedoms.
I actually believe the 4 freedoms almost directly derive from the thousands of years old "tit-for-tat" concept on source code, and thus if the GPLv3 violates the "tit-for-tat", it inevitably violates the 4 freedoms too.
Please let me prove this to you. For example, the proposed GPLv3 violates freedom 2, which is described by RMS as:
The freedom to redistribute copies so you can help your neighbor (freedom 2). (link)
Example: take the full Tivo userspace binaries (unmodified), and put it on a stock PC. (That is the only GNU piece of software on that PC, all the rest and the hardware was created independently of any GNU software.) You can freely redistribute that copy to your neighbor, as per freedom 2.
Take the very same binaries and move the harddisk to the Tivo. (All the other stuff on the Tivo (including the hardware) is independent of any GNU software, it's not a derivative nor a modification of any GPL-ed code.)
But under the proposed version of the GPLv3 now you can not redistribute that same copy to your neighbor! Just because it has been put into a Tivo - which Tivo has no GNU code in it except this harddisk which the user has put there.
How is this possible? The GPLv3 uses one of the legal powers of the copyright holder, which allows the control of how "redistribution to neighbors" happens, in a new way: to control the handling of a piece of information that was created independently of any GNU software. That piece of information is Tivo's private key, which is only in the hardware.
The GPLv3 tries to control hardware that was not copied, modified or from any GPL codebase, and prevents the redistribution of that copy of GPL-ed code, and thus GPLv3 violates freedom 2.
GPLv3 proponents might argue that this violation of freedom 2 is done to strengthen another, more important freedom, but this brings in two new problems.
Firstly, it is not acceptable to violate any of the 4 freedoms, especially not for a proposed new GNU Public License. If a measure in the GPLv3 violates one of the freedoms, even if it is done to strengthen another freedom, that measure still violates a freedom and should not be used at all. Another measure is needed.
Secondly, in reality the "freedom to tinker" [the right to modify freely] never existed in a pure form because this world is based on matter and on physics, which does bring some hard constraints of modifiability with it.
"Freedom to tinker" has been invented well after the GNU Manifesto, well after Linus released Linux under the GPL, well after i started contributing to the Linux kernel and well after even the 4 freedoms were invented. So how was Linus or i supposed to consider it when accepting the GPLv2? Furthermore, this physical world has hard constraints which are inevitably assymetric between "would be modifiers" and "producers of the hardware". For example, to modify a ROM that a hardware maker produced is fundamentally harder for someone who is not intimately familiar with that process of hardware creation - whether there's crypto in the picture or not. (But i am not blaming RMS for not realizing this, he's a mathematician after all and thus probably not infallible in matters of physics ;-) I do blame him for not listening (yet) though, and i do blame him for a license modification process that does not self-correct such errors.)
I believe your point is also missing a fundamental moral question: does RMS have the moral right to unilaterally and retrospectively change the contribution dynamics of a codebase that is roughly 1 billion lines of code written by hundreds of thousands of contributors, via a 340 lines license RMS wrote 15 years ago, without considering the motivations and moral background of the many contributors that wrote that codebase?
I know he did not want this whole "Open Source" stuff to happen, he fought against it tooth and nail, but it happened, and he has ended up with a unique legal position to affect it significantly, and he has to weigh the moral implications of that responsibility. Even if he does not feel to be part of that "Open Source" stuff. The baby has been put on his doorstep (which door has "Orphanage" written on it in large letters ;-), and he has to take care of it, whether its his or not.
Or as Lawrence Lessig has recently pointed it out
in his blog
The real challenge here will be Richard Stallmans. [...]
So his challenge is whether he evolves these licenses in ways that fit his own views alone, recognizing those views deviate from many important parts of the movement he started. Or whether he evolves these licenses to support the communities they have enabled.
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