The GPL and secrecy

Francois-Rene Rideau
Tue, 18 Jan 2000 12:49:39 +0100

> While I agree that the law favors large corporations with lots of
> financial resources, the laws that exist to protect businesses,
> including copyright law, came
> into existence for very good and valid reasons.
It depends on what one calls "good and valid reasons". In so far as you
accept the law of the strongest as such a reason, then yes, they did.
But if you mean that natural law supports them, then no it doesn't.

I can join Bastiat's "Abondance, Disette" in saying that whenever there
is a conflict of interest between the consuming public and the producing
businesses, natural law favors the public, because the interest of the
public is in abundant, cheap, quality goods/services and in competition,
whereas the interest of the business is in scarce and expensive
goods/services whose quality doesn't matter, and in monopoly.
Favoring the public is favoring public wellfare. Favoring the businesses
is favoring public ruin. In as much as law may favor anyone (and it
shouldn't, according to natural law), then that anyone must be the public.
A law that favors business is by definition a protectionist law, btw,
and it's been more than one century that no serious economist says any
good of protectionism, unless it's cleverly disguised as in IP law.

The whole free software movement confirms that: in as much as information
is not a good, but that information-processing/producing is a service,
free software yields dirt cheap information, and abundant, cheap, and quality
software service. Proprietary software yields information hoarding, and
scarce, expensive, and low-quality software service.
The publishing, broadcasting, and movie businesses give us other examples
of industries that yield scarce valuable information (but abundant noise),
in expensive ways, low overall quality, each hoarded by a monopolies;
and in as much as some form kind of information or another is abundant,
it's the competition between companies able to publish it, not monopolies
granted by IP law, that cause such abundance.

> One can certainly argue
> about the ethics of witholding information from the public, but that
> wasn't ever the purpose of copyright law.
One thing is to privately withhold information, which is sure compatible
with natural law. A completely different thing is to ask the armed government
to enforce non-distribution of your information, which is protectionism,
and an oppressive measure. I invite french-reading people to read my
Manifesto of Free Information.
Other people may still read one of these articles:
	Benjamin Tucker's take on "Intellectual Property":
	Roderick T. Long's
	"The Libertarian Case Against Intellectual Property Rights":
	Eben Moglen's
	"Anarchism Triumphant: Free Software and the Death of Copyright.":

> Historically, it was very time-consuming and expensive to press say, a
> book. The most time consuming and expensive part was determining what
> layout should be used so that all the words fit neatly on a page, owing
> to the fact that the pages of a book were not printed consecutively.
So what? Nobody claims that information-producing is not a _service_.
It is, and a valuable one. Which is precisely why it won't disappear.
Just let a free market give it its proper value, and it will optimally

> It then became very inexpensive for a second printer, having already
> seen the correct layout of the book, to copy the original, undercutting
> the first printer, and making a heftier profit.
Why heftier? Do RedHat cheap-CD-makers make heftier profits than RedHat?
Not AFAIK. In as much as they make a profit, it's a legitimate one: they
must provide competitive CD-pressing and distribution service, while making
clear they are second-hand quality; they help keep the prices down,
for the benefit of the public. The same applies with books.

> If you owned your own business, I think you would more readily see the
> importance of having rights as an individual,
If I had political power, I'd more readily see the importance of denying
political liberties to the public. If I had economical power, I'd more
readily see the importance of denying economical liberties to the public.
If I were me (and I am), I'd more readily see the importance of giving me
additional rights over other people (and I see it).
But again, law isn't to promote anyone's particular interest.
It's role is solely to maintain justice, and prevent people from
taking away from other people. Giving additional rights to corporations
(as compared to the expression of the rights of participating owners)
can be done but by depriving other individuals of their rights, for the
benefit of the corporation's owners.

> particularly after
> less-scrupulous people tried to take advantage of you by engaging you in
> frivilous law suits.
And now you'll have less-scrupulous corporations threatening people with
frivolous law suits instead. What do you gain? Nothing. What do you lose?
civil liberties.

> The question that needs to be answered is where to draw the line.
That question I have answered already. Companies and collectivities
should be legally considered as what they factually are: collections of
people (the owners, not the employees, least an unnatural law makes them
slaves owned by the employers), who put part of their life into a common pool,
and can add up their rights (and consequential liabilities) in this common
pool, without any further advantage than union yielding force.

> Large corporations with lots of resources are allowed to
> become too powerful, and enjoy way too many protections, IMO, much akin
> to criminals in this country. But in each case,they still need to have
> them.
Large corporations ARE criminals. They are, because arch-criminal law-makers
automatically make public-robbers out of them, with they protectionist laws.
If you're a corporation under current laws, you're ipso facto a robber;
but that won't serve you much unless you're large enough to pay the racket of
the arch-robber, government. And no, they do not "need" have protection.
Protectionism is detrimental to the public at large.

> Unfortunately there will always be unethical people who will take
> advantage of whatever loopholes they can find.
That's some kind of argument that's doesn't support any particular side
of any discussion, because it's always valid both ways.

> The real problem, if you ask me, is that the laws we have are way too
> complex, and often too ambiguous, to be well enforced.
That's true; and if this particular argument supports either side of 
the IP law vs freedom debate, it's in favor of freedom, i.e. lack of
ever complex and renewed protectionist law.

> And law makers like it that way.  They also tend to be long-winded and
> have lots of clauses added to them that have nothing to do with the heart
> of the law.
Legal lobbies want it that way. They are indeed a form of
lawyer-protectionism just as much as protectionism in favor of the
ever increasing number of "protected" industries.

>> Yes, I know that collective licenses may be enforceable in some countries.
>> Hence the hole in the GPL, that doesn't explicitly preclude it. If the GPL
>> had a "this license is strictly personal" mention, there would be no hole.
> It's impossible, at least here.  You can't give rights to some
> individuals and not others, and we've already said that corporations
> have the same rights as individuals.
Of course you can give rights to some individuals and not others.
And no, corporations are not individuals, even if they "share some rights".
And yes, you could add restriction clauses in the license anyway so as to
enforce individual liberties as a condition to copy and use within
a corporation, even though it mightn't be as easy as the five above words.

> Or, that is to say, it can be
> done, such as the case where "handi-capped" people are given special
> priveledges.  However, for the most part, rich people make the laws, and
> since most rich people got that way by owning businesses, you can be
> sure that they will not allow such a restriction to be placed on them.
Well, if you accept oppression without fighting, then you're yielding your
citizen's rights, and there's no point in discussing further potentialities
for action. Just go away and submit.

> The bugroff license is cute, but very idealistic, and probably doesn't
> offer the "owner" a lot of protection, in the sense that I don't think
> it would prevent an unscrupulous software vendor from claiming the code
> as its own, and making it entirely proprietary.
No it doesn't; but as I showed, neither does the GPL, unless fixed.
And at least the bugroff license, being lawyer-unfriendly, will help
limit the amount of blood sucked by these parasites.

> This, as I understand it, was the problem with public domain licenses
> that RMS was trying to head off with the GPL.
> But I'll leave that for RMS to comment.
Yes, and if that is so, then the GPL must work against or around collective


[ François-René ÐVB Rideau | Reflection&Cybernethics | ]
[  TUNES project for a Free Reflective Computing System  |  ]
Because people confuse information and information-related services
(which include searching, creating, processing, transforming, selecting,
teaching, making available, guaranteeing, supporting, etc), they are afraid
that Free (libre) Information mean free (gratis) information-related services,
which would indeed kill the industry of said services. On the contrary,
Free Information would create a Free Market in these services, instead of
current monopolies, which means they will be available at a fair price,
so the result would be a flourishment of that industry!       -- Faré