Re: [OT] an Amicus Curae to the Honorable Thomas Penfield Jackson

From: Bill Anderson (
Date: Sat May 06 2000 - 13:10:47 EST

James Sutherland wrote:
> On Fri, 5 May 2000, Richard Stallman wrote:
> > The concept of inalienable rights, rights that you cannot cede because
> > everyone should always have them, is a fundamental part of the legal
> > system of the US and many other countries.
> Yes. Now find me the section of the US Constitution, or the European
> Convention on Human Rights, which guarantees you the right to MY source
> code?

Strawman. Richard didn't claim it ixisted.

> > For example, selling oneself into slavery used to be permitted in most
> > parts of the world. But people eventually recognized that this led to
> > less freedom for a large number of people--and eventually slavery was
> > abolished. This is one example of an inalienable right. There are
> > many others. For example, in the US a noncompetition agreement
> > lasting many years is legally void--because it conflicts with the
> > inalienable right to practice one's profession.
> >
> > Of course, being a slave is much worse than using a proprietary
> > program. So am I not exaggerating by making an analogy between them?
> > No, because it is not just an analogy--it is a counterexample. The
> > "truly free" argument against copyleft applies just the same against
> > prohibition of slavery, or any other inalienable right.
> >
> > That argument rest on an extremely general assumption: that *any*
> > inalienable right is intolerable; that as long as you have any rights
> > you cannot give up, you are not truly free. They reject copyleft as a
> > special case of this general assumption. To disagree with copyleft is
> > not an extremist view, but the general premise is one.
> I agree that the "right" to give up your inalienable rights is a
> fundamentally flawed concept. I just don't agree that your access to my
> source code without my consent is such a right...

I don't see him making that claim.

> > People have a right to disapprove of copyleft; they even have a right
> > to advocate legalization of selling oneself into slavery. But the
> > people who use this argument against copyleft typically do not admit
> > the extremist nature of their premise. They usually try to pass it
> > off as uncontroversial, rather than a fundamental rejection of much of
> > our legal system. At that point, their argument becomes disingenuous.
> Yes. I agree there. The point at which we diverge, I think, is where you
> start imposing restrictions on one person's freedom, on the assumption
> that other people have certain rights over him.
> My only real objection to the GPL is that it seems hypocritical: it denies
> one person the right NOT to publish their source code, in order to grant a

I disgree. To restate your argument:
"You allowing me into your house with the agreement I won't shoot you
violates my rights to shoot you." Using someone else's work (code) to
further, or add oyur own becomes an agreement.

> third party some rights to this person's source. Using GPL software as a
> user grants me rights; using it as a programmer removes them.

I don't see how you make this conclusion. The programmer and the user
have exactly the same rights with a GPL program. I see no distinctions
in the GPL that say programmers are nay different than users.

> Why should I not have the right to decide whether or not to publish the
> source code to my own software, simply because it depends on someone
> else's? If I write Windows software, depending on Microsoft's proprietary
> software, MS do not impose restrictions on how I license MY code; why
> should yours be more restrictive?

Because it is a _choice_. And you are incorrect regarding licensing of
code from microsoft. If you license code from MS, and your code
contains that code, yes, you are limited in what you can license out.
For some companies, hardware (think drivers for various cards) you are
likewise limited. Think the opposite of the GPL. If you get access
(legally) to MS code, it is under an NDA. That means, if your code
links in or uses some of the MS code, you can't show it to anyone.
That means you can' put it in the PD, GPL, BSD-ish, anything which
shows the code. Sounds restrictive to me.

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