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Advogato post for 2000-07-18 18:57:16

Hey, first time I see a reply to one of my diary entries ;-)

Ste­fan: the free­dom of the de­vel­op­er is para­mount. If noth­ing else, be­cause the de­vel­op­er is the pro­duc­er. You know, the land is for those who work on it, and such ;-)

Be­sides, say­ing that the GPL de­fends the rights of the us­er fight­ing the rights of the de­vel­op­ers and dis­trib­u­tors still sounds a bit fishy for a few rea­son­s.

a) It pre­sumes there is a firm bound­ary be­tween one side and the oth­er. Pre­sum­ably, one of the free­doms grant­ed to users by any­thing that can be called free soft­ware, is the right to cross that bound­ary!

b) I don't see where the GPL ac­tu­al­ly pro­tects the rights of the us­er in a way BS­DL does­n't. Let's take a pro­gram called pro­gA, un­der the BS­DL. The us­er has more rights over it than over a progB un­der the GPL.

The usu­al GPL ad­vo­cate re­sponse is that if some evil com­pa­ny takes pro­gA and pro­pri­eta­rizes it, the user's free­dom di­min­ish­es. Well, AFAIC­S, it does­n't, since pro­gA is still just as free as it was.

Then, it must be as­sumed that the evil com­pa­ny ac­tu­al­ly IM­PROVES pro­gA while pro­pri­eta­riz­ing it. In that case, the free­dom is on­ly im­proved by a hy­po­thet­i­cal GPL ver­sion of it, if the GPL ver­sion would be bet­ter than what the BS­DL ver­sion would be, per­haps by forc­ing the Evil Com­pa­ny (T­M) to im­prove it and keep the im­prove­ments GPL (mak­ing it a Not Evil Com­pa­ny (t­m)).

That is so be­cause if the GPL ver­sion would be no bet­ter than the BS­DL ver­sion, the avail­able free­dom is:

A) Free­dom to use the BS­DL ver­sion or the pro­pri­etary one (pay­ing)

B) Free­dom to use the GPL ver­sion.

There­fore, if the BS­DL ver­sion is as good as the GPL ver­sion, free­doms in A) and B) is at least equiv­a­len­t.

Now, as­sum­ing that all that hoopla about the cathe­dral and the bazaar was ac­tu­al­ly cor­rec­t, should­n't the free BS­DL ver­sion im­prove at least at the same rate as the pro­pri­etry ver­sion? (Or the GPL ver­sion, for that mat­ter).

And when con­front­ed with the al­ter­na­tive be­tween a very free and a pro­pri­etary ver­sions of pro­grams that are ba­si­cal­ly just as good as each oth­er (per­haps the free one be­ing bet­ter), should­n't the pro­pri­etary ver­sion be marginal­ized?

So, we end, it seem­s, in a strange de­ci­sion. Ei­ther open soft­ware de­vel­op­ment is not re­al­ly bet­ter, or copy­left­ing is not re­al­ly bet­ter.

At least that's the way I see it, and I de­cid­ed to drop copy­left­ing, be­cause if it is not any bet­ter, it lacks any rea­son to be. Open de­vel­op­ment at least has oth­er good sec­ondary ef­fect­s.

Fi­nal pre­emp­tive re­buke: yes, I could keep on do­ing both things, even if one was ap­par­ent­ly use­less. But I am start­ing to find copy­left­ing moral­ly in­fe­ri­or (there was a good ar­ti­cle about ethics and free soft­ware a while ago).

So, when I find some­thing both moral­ly in­fe­ri­or, and in­ef­fec­tive, to me it's time to drop it.

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