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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