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RE: [ox-en] Does the GPL imply exchange?

Hi Stefan,

Thanks for your great reply to my post.

You're only forced to release your patches if you release
the whole derivative work.

Exactly.  The GPL implies a forced exchange in the case of derivative works,
which was my point.

And that's the basis for Stallman's claim that using copyleft
is not only idealistic, but also pragmatic.  Read the example
he gives.  Because we published a free C compiler, he writes,
we got a free C++ compiler.  "The benefit to our community is
evident."  That's an appeal to a bidirectional flow, isn't it?

Yes, but not on the basis of forced exchange.

But in your first sentence, you agreed that it's a forced exchange in the
case of derivative works.  The C++ compiler in Stallman's example was a
derivative work.  And as you (and Stallman) go on to say, the FSF threatens
creators of derivative works with a lawsuit if they don't comply with the
GPL.  That's an appeal to the legal system, and it's therefore an appeal to
state-sponsored force, and therefore it's a forced exchange.

All I'm really saying here is that the GPL is an application of copyright
law.  Stallman emphasizes that point all the time.  My own point is simply
the obvious one that copyright law depends on state force, and that the GPL
consequently does too.

In fact, I think the FSF's definition of "derivative work" is the
Achilles heel of the GPL.  Even assuming that their interpretation
of this legal term of art would hold up in a court of law (and as
far as I know, it's never been tested)

AFAIK: No. However, the reason for this is, that lawyers when
confronted with the GPL they recommend their clients to not take the
risk of loosing the lawsuit. Actually the FSF *does* ask corporations
to stop violating the GPL.

So far, yes.  But it's only a matter of time before somebody will decide to
test the FSF's definition of "derivative work" in court.  I don't think it's
obvious that it will hold up.  If a court strikes it down as unenforceable,
that's the end of the GPL.  We won't know for sure until a judge actually
rules on it.  Eventually, some judge will.

You're right of course, but there are two points. First, the GPL has
been created at a time where things were much simpler. Even dynamic
libraries did not exist in most Unix systems of that time. Second,
that cases are complicated does not make them undecidable in the field
of law. After all there is a difference between computers and humans

I think your first point supports my argument.  The enforceability of the
GPL depends on being able to tell whether the code in question calls GPLed
code.  Back in the days when there were only procedural languages and static
linking, and configuration management was simply a matter putting files in
directories, that was fairly easy.  Now it's not.  In addition, the
deployment of modern software systems is often dynamic, not static.  The
practical enforceability of the GPL is consequently much more difficult now
than when it was first written.

I think your second point also supports my argument.  As you said, there's a
difference between computers and humans.  Computers don't practice law or
preside over courtrooms, and humans don't resolve symbol tables.  And humans
don't have time to analyze the millions of lines of code in a typical
enterprise software deployment as part of legal due diligence.  I think
these facts present a real problem for enforcing the GPL.  We're talking
about the real world here, and that means we have to consider practical
questions like these in order to determine whether the enforcement model
implied by the GPL is scalable.

Even if there are a few lawyers who actually understand such things,
they would never be able to make sense of it to a judge or a jury.
That's why a lot of law firms involved in corporate mergers are now
requiring possible acquisition targets to certify that they don't
have a single line of GPLed code anywhere in their company.  They
simply don't know how to handle the legal risk.

Firms not releasing software in any way are not subject to any risk.
They may use Free Software just as I am.

Of course, but I was talking about companies that DO release software.  To
me, the great thing about the GPL is NOT that it allows people or companies
to get something for nothing as long as they don't release derivative works.
If that's all the GPL can do, then it sucks.  It's just exploitation.  I
think even a money-based economy would be more ethical than that.

Oekonux exists, of course, because we see a lot more potential in the GPL
than simply that.  In other words, we suspect that the GPL model might
provide a way to structure society so that nobody is forced to do something
they don't want to do, or that would demean them.  That means the GPL will
succeed only if it can encourage millions of people, not just a few, to
offer freely the products of their diverse labor.  Isn't that possibility
what's really interesting about the GPL?  If not, then we really ARE talking
only about "free beer."

I think the only thing pleasure has to do with compensation is
the fact that starving to death is unpleasant, and that's
exactly what will happen to most of us unless we're compensated
in some way for a fairly significant portion of our time.

But why needs this to be linked?  Why not asking for the right to live
a decent life completely independent of what you're doing?

Why not?  Metabolism.  The facts of biology are such that living things need
to work in order to eat.  Even plants compete for water and sunlight.  If
you don't work and still stay alive, that just means that somebody else has
done the necessary work for you.  That's what child-rearing, pensions,
charitable institutions and foundation grants are all about.  Richard
Stallman, for instance, lives on foundation grants.  But somebody along the
line had to do the work to grow or slaughter whatever it is that Stallman
eats.  That's why only a few of us can be privileged to live on foundation

And in anticipation of a possible response, I'll go ahead and say now that
we can't automate every aspect of sustaining life.  That's just a variation
on the old, thermodynamically impossible argument for a perpetual motion
machine.  Somebody will always have to work in some form or another, and
social justice requires that it be all who are capable of it.

Again, thanks for a great post.  But you didn't mention my point about the
"Library/Lesser" LGPL.  I'd be interested in knowing your thoughts about it.



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