Re: [ox-en] Re: usage of software and the CGPL
- From: John Bywater <john.bywater appropriatesoftwarefoundation.org>
- Date: 17 Mar 2004 03:53:00 +0000
On Tue, 2004-03-16 at 04:00, George Dafermos wrote:
I have no problems with creating software that will be used for good
and not evil. I wish everyone did this. I have a problem with trying
to codify this as a form of discriminatory licensing; I have a bigger
problem with doing this in a way that is, by most accounts, is
unenforceable and counterproductive to the enforceability of the less
controversial parts of the license.
Yes, it seems that something might usefully be done. But it is hard to
see what could work.
G: i agree. experimenting on alternatives doesn't harm.
Sure :-) but experiments always require some caution!
Yet, Rousseau said that what is good is what is common. So perhaps GPL
already encodes goodness perfectly?
G:although i mean no disrespect to rousseau, and he did get it because what is common is most of the times good (and i personally 'd rather live in a communal sharing everything and myself) and in addition, public ownership if not administered by a few good men is also a noble goal to stive toward, but despite all that, what Rousseau surely failed to foresee, and this is the critical point here, is that digital artifacts are not subject to diminishing returns and can be reproduced infinitely at negligible cost. this property renders digtal life amenable to ill motives that the community (for if there is common, then there has to be a community too)is not able to regulate. this, i believe, is an exception to the rule that lessig has taken mainstream, namely that code is law.
Hmm. Could you explain me a bit more how the ease of reproduction of
digital artifacts provides a new opportunity for ill motives?
If we take the illness of health of motives out of consideration for a
moment, and just look at the ease of reproduction of digital artifacts,
this is referred to as 'non-rivalrous' consumption.
This characteristic does not have its advent coincident with the advent
of digital artifacts, but long before, with the advent of the sun
shining, providing us with light to see, and with the advent of the wind
blowing, providing us with air to breathe.
This is the nature we feel within, or of, free software.
In his famous consideration of two people draining a meadow to farm,
David Hulme considered that the development of political society is
motivated by the need to produce commonality. Without such development,
nobody within a population would expect that *their* contribution to
common things would prevent the existence of those common things from
which they will still benefit. At that point, everybody independently
doesn't bother, and the common things are in fact not produced.
Everybody regrets the lack of cooperation, and some somehow seek and
aquire the means to cooperate (amongst themselves). The rest, as they
say, is history.
It may be that the internet is the precondition for universal
co-operation, and hence the precondition for universal participation
within (in today's enunciations) political society, in other words the
precondition for the democratic adminstration of things, instead of the
despotic adminstration of people.
As I'm sure you know, most commonalities do eventually suffer from
conjestion or exhaustion when consumption demand becomes too high. As
I'm sure you also know, such conjestible goods are termed semi-public
But free software is such a pure public good, and so it really brings
the non-rivalrous aspects out. It must be because software is so
universal to the Information Age, and so similar to so many of the other
offspring of our time, that these aspects seem to be being brought out
with such force.
But the question of what political society would pertain to the optimal
production of non-rivalrous goods, like software that have been made
non-excludable by the GPL, remains.
I'm not sure if code is law, because I don't really know what law is (or
at least what it is that makes it essentially the same as code).
So just now I realise that I don't understand what the legal basis is,
that makes the GPL able to be what it is. I need to find this out! I
know nothing about law.
But there might be good reason to use a series of bilateral contracts to
ensure a Nash stable, Pereto optimum investments in free software. This
is from Club Goods theory, a branch of micro-economics, but I think it's
progressive application might increase investment in free software quite
Here, the theory is built. But can we build the new practices?
If anybody is looking at this in any way, maybe actually trying to make
it happen, maybe you know it doesn't work, I would really like to know.