The GPL and secrecy

Francois-Rene Rideau
Sat, 15 Jan 2000 03:06:02 +0100

Dear RMS,
  thanks for your attention and answer, even though you disagree
with my position.

On Fri, Jan 14, 2000 at 06:41:08PM -0700, Richard Stallman wrote:
>     In a recent slashdot discussion, someone reasserted the often-expressed
>     opinion according to which a company may choose to keep modified GNU
>     GPL'ed software secret, as long as it didn't distribute either source
>     or binaries of it, just like anyone is free to make private
>     modifications of such code and not redistribute.
> I agree with that position, as a question of legal interpretation of
> the GPL.  The reason is that the company is not distributing the program
> in that case.
Do you understand the implications of that collective licensing?
It means you the negate personal freedoms you ought to promote,
you submit individuals to whichever "group" they may belong to,
company, government, association, family, church, community or whatever.

What if I license my modified GNU GPL'ed code to an "association" of
which I'm the life-long manager, and require people to sign-in the
association so as to access the code, at which time they'll have no
choice but withdraw their individual liberties?
If I accept your interpretation of the GNU GPL, then I can take GPL'ed code,
and transform it into SCSL'ed code, by requiring people to enter my rackety
"community" so as to access the code. "All hope abandon, ye who enter here!"

Either the license is strictly personal, or it is worthless.

Up to now, I've accepted all the minor inconveniences of the GPL for
the major benefit of clearly participating into what I felt was the Right(tm)
political community. If you stick to that interpretation of the GPL,
then I fear I will decide not to use it anymore, because it doesn't defend
the liberties I cherish.

> I don't think it is ethically right to permanently withhold useful
> improvements.  But that is a different question from what the GPL
> permits.
I agree with both these statements, and extend them to my interpretation
of natural law. Law (and licenses) cannot force people to be ethical,
only to be just. Ethics is strictly a matter between Individuals and God
(aka Mother Nature, themselves, etc).

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A good criterion for an oppressive government (as opposed to a merely
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and take innocent hostages, as opposed to individual responsibility where
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