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GNU is Not Unix

Nick Moffitt Interview 146

Posted by michael
from the give-the-monkey-another-hit dept.
Swedish hacker-wannabee writes "Nick Moffitt is in an interesting interview at Gnuheter. Moffitt: 'I want to see a future where when I buy something, I own it. I don't want corporations and governments telling me how I may or may not use my own private property in my own home or among my friends. I want the ability to take apart my toaster or my alarm clock and see how they work, or combine them into something new. I don't think this future is possible without some serious effort on the part of hackers.'"
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Nick Moffitt Interview

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  • ... Jack Moffitt of Ogg Vorbis [slashdot.org] fame? :)
  • knowledgeable buyers (Score:2, Interesting)

    by SuperDuG (134989)
    Who here doesn't know what they're buying? And if you don't know and you don't like it, you can return it to where you bought it from (most of the time). If you own something, can you destroy it? Yes. If you own something is it anyone elses responsibility to make it better or fix it when it's broke? No. This is why we have consumer awareness groups, so you know what you're actually buying. You can't buy a car and whine because it's not a convertable, but you want to easily make it a convertable.

    Basically this is a whiner article if you ask me.

    • I missed his point at first, as I believe you have. he does not care about the ability to destroy his property, nor does he desire the manufactures to make it easier for him to hack his property. His desire, I believe, is to protect that very right to hack, which is so quickly disappearing. Some may scoff, but the trend in software--of protecting intellectual property so greatly as to render any consumers impotent to hack--can very easily be caried over into the "physical" world. These laws, such as the DMCA, pose a serious threat to the hacking of other, non-computer items. This is the threat which hackers must take seriously.
      • that very right to hack, which is so quickly disappearing.

        Isn't some of that disappearing due to progress and integration and not just evil corporate intent? Once upon a time you could hack on logic cards with discreet resistors, diodes and transistors, often get schematics for maintenance. Now you just get a 74xx IC and use it, if it malfunctions you toss it out. You can't fix it or alter it. Once upon a time car engines were fairly simple and easy to work on with a complement of common tools - now with EFI etc you need expensive equipment to 'hack' on one. Part of the price of 'progress' is loss of fine grained techno-control and dependance on factory service, special tools and unique parts, which most people don't mind at all, other than the monopolistic price gouging it give them.

    • No, but you can whine when the federal government throws you in jail because you decided to show a group of people how to saw off the top of a car so tall people can sit in it!
    • Moffitt's concern is legitimate. Patent owners sometimes attempt (with varying degrees of success) to restrict the ability of purchasers of products covered by the patent claims to use/modify/dispose of the products that have been purchased.

      For example, there is something called the "doctrine of permissible repair", which I believe attempts to draw a line between a purchaser's repair of a patented device, and the unauthorized "making" of the device (and resulting patent infringement).

      There is also a case where Company A sold a nebulizer (a device for administering medication in aerosolized form) with an imprint "for single use only". Company B began a business of refurbishing the nebulizers (stripping off unsterilizable parts, sterilizing the rest, and adding replacement parts) that allowed hospitals to reuse the devices at a fraction of the cost. Company A sued Company B for patent infringement and won.
    • If I buy a car that's not a convertible, but I want to turn it into a convertible, that's fine.

      The manufacturer doesn't have to help me, they don't have to give me any details, but I -am allowed- to take a saw, forcefully remove the car top, and hack a soft top in there.

      (Note: I haven't read the article because it's \.'ed, so I might be completely off-base, but I don't think so.)

      OTOH, the way things are going now, with the DMCA and all, it is going to be legally prohibitedfor me to make modifications on items that I OWN, which is not right under any circumstances; and that's not the kind of future I want.
  • Seems to be slashdotted already, so here's the text (don't mod up, karma is just fine thanks):

    So who the hell is that Nick Moffitt? He keeps showing up at mailing lists and in any context where the GNU might be mentioned. Moffitt is always rather militant, but never boring. I decided to pick Moffitt's brain on behalf of the Gnuheter readers.

    As a general rule, Gnuheter never publishes interviews or news stories in any other language than Swedish. After all, Gnuheter is all the leading forum on open source and free software in the Nordic countries. The Americans have Slashdot, Newsforge. The British have The Register. So why publish an interview in English? Well, I thought Nick Moffitt is interesting enough to reach a wider audience. Plus - and probably more important to yours truly - most of his answers can not be easily translated, regardless of Moffitt's crazy rants about localization. Please be advised that some of the hyperlinks in the interview will crash your computer, should you use Microsoft Windows and Internet Explorer.

    That much said, I leave the microphone to the soon to be famous Nick Moffitt. Enjoy!

    # Who is Nick Moffit?

    It's Moffitt, actually. The name is Scottish, and was originally "Moffat". Centuries of misspelling have created 24 different variations on the name that are recognized by clan Moffat. I've actually been to Moffat, which is also a town in the lowlands off of M74 somewhere.

    I'm a big fan of urban rail, and I've been getting into photography both with the aiptek pencams (which are marketed as spycams in the UK), and with the Russian LOMO LC-A 35mm camera. I'm a Debian bigot, but I've been fiddling with Gentoo recently. I'm mostly hacking on the LNX-BBC lately, and maintaining GAR.

    I've lived in San Francisco for the past seven or eight years, and have instigated a lot of nefariousness around here. I've seen the dot-coms come and go, which means I've seen a full cycle of San Francisco's life go by. Much of SF's growth has been based on gold rushes, whether it be gold, military construction during WWII, the magazine industry, or whatever. You can see a brief explanation of San Francisco's most recent craziness in the FAQ.

    So right now my city is in hard times, but I plan to stick with it. It's the only real city West of the Mississippi river!

    # Why?

    I was a big BBS weenie in the late 1980s/early 1990s. I probably wouldn't have cared so much, but I found that the Citadel BBS software had such a neat development community in the Seattle area. It was just so cool to see development of the BBS being discussed ON the BBS network. After all, the source code was "public domain" (which is impossible under current copyright law in the US, but emulatable via the MIT X license nowadays).

    So I got hooked on this whole free-for-all, where prospective developers read up the code on their own time and flung code into the discussion areas for prospective inclusion or adaptation into the BBS. It was only natural that I'd get hooked on the GNU community in the same way.

    # What is Crackmonkey and why should we care?

    So around about 1997 I wrote what was probably my first GPL'd program. Before then I had just been throwing code snippets out and figuring that licensing wasn't important. The program was a hideous Perl CGI that solved some problems I saw with the then-current state of Web-based BBSes and guestbooks.

    But when there was a bug with the BBS, it meant that no one could discuss the problem on the BBS! So I started the crackmonkey mailing list. The original message never made it to the archives, but my brother quoted the entire thing in a mockery of novice listserv users.

    Eventually the list dwarfed the BBS (since Web pages are still clumsy for holding conversations), and the phenomenon known as CrackMonkey was born. I think it was about 2000 when I implemented the "no Windows MUA" filters, making it so that you pretty much have to use Free Software to post to the list (or be clever enough to fake it).

    The list was modeled largely after the discussion list that accompanies Pigdog Journal. They were a bunch of San Francisco Bay Area BBS weenies, while the original CrackMonkeys were old Seattle BBS weenies.

    The crackmonkey.org Web site has always been just sort of this neglected pile of pages that lead you to the list. Even the FAQ is just a bunch of mailing list postings that I felt like including. It's also been a source of controversy, since it used to garble the kernels of folks who visited it with IE5. See the fanmail section for some love I got from IE users.

    Crackmonkey's motto is "Non Sequitur arguments and Ad Hominem personal attacks".

    # Seven Dollar history of Unix - is that something to send to my mother?

    It's funny, but that document is three years old, and incomplete. I had always planned to write a final chapter about the San Francisco user group community and the progression of the dominant distro among hackers as SLS -> Slackware -> Red Hat -> Debian. I was just stuck in the middle of it all, and couldn't find a smooth way to work it into what was essentially a historical document.

    I am always surprised when I see reporters including my own sentences in their boilerplate descriptions of Unix and Linux. That paper is designed to help spread the meme that the Unix community always wanted Free Software, and it just took GNU, Linux, and BSD to get it to us. In that aspect, I have been incredibly pleased with its popularity.

    I never expected it to be so heavily linked. It's currently the sixth real hit for "unix history" on google, after Open Sources and the official Dennis Ritchie documents.

    Some day I'll add a little more to it, I suppose. I'd like to add a bit in between Unix and BSD about the Software Tools book (which was sort of the Cygwin of the 1970s), and finish the final section. The user group communities in the Bay Area have dwindled away, largely because installing and using GNU/Linux isn't as exciting or new or challenging any more. Installfests made sense in the Slackware era, but now any newbie can point-and-click through a Mandrake install. I can now safely write about the user groups in the past tense.

    It's definitely something to send to your mother, though. It's a nice quick introduction to the assumptions made by free software hackers. It presents the perspective that proprietary software is this weird thing from the 1980s that really should never have caught on.

    # Why should we not use GIFs? What should we do instead?

    The original GIF spec was written by someone who wanted an open standard that could be implemented independently by anyone. Unfortunately, he didn't realize that the compression algorithm he had specified was patent pending.

    Now, decompression algorithms are often self-explanatory, since it is the job of the file format to tell decompressors how to unpack something. But the compression algorithms are prone to all sorts of arbitrary distinctions without differences.

    So if you ask 17 programmers how they would have solved the problems that LZW solved, you get 17 different (but correct) solutions. Thus, the patent is difficult to challenge in US courts.

    As a result, the displaying of GIFs is not under threat by patent claims -- mozilla is likely in good shape. But the generation of GIFs is subject to the whims of UNiSYS, which is this old dinosaur company that doesn't make anything anymore (relying on old patents for revenue).

    So this means that if you distribute a GIF that you made with the gimp, you're liable to be sued by UNiSYS! This is because neither the UC Berkeley XCF or the GNOME folks or the FSF licensed the LZW compression algorithm from them. So if you put up a Web site in the US that has GIFs on it, you're likely in trouble.

    So what do you do if you have a bunch of GIFs on your site, and you don't want to be sued by Unisys? You pay Unisys US$5000! That's what they charge for people who distribute GIFs that were made using Free Software. If you run 72 Web sites on your machine, you'll have to pay US$360000!

    PNG, however, uses the same algorithm that gzip does. It's an unencumbered format for lossless compression, and the browser support for the basic features is already there! People complain about how the PNG support in old IEs and suchforth isn't very good, but they're usually talking about the features of PNG that GIF doesn't have. PNG files tend to be smaller than their GIF counterparts, and they even support alpha channels!

    # If GNU is the answer, then what was the question?

    How can I use computers without being antisocial? How can I be sure that my hacking won't be sealed off from the light of day? How can I connect with other hackers via What It Is We Do?

    # What should the Scandinavians do about the Windows domination?

    It seems that Microsoft is now giving away software to governments that are looking to avoid them. It's tough for people to see the hidden costs in their stuff, since they usually charge you up front. They've been able to FUD about Total Cost of Ownership because people really are skeptical about things being free (as in beer).

    I recall about two years ago, Iceland was having trouble convincing Microsoft that their market was big enough to warrant an Icelandic localization. They couldn't even convince Microsoft to let them do it for free. I thought this was an excellent opportunity to show how GNU could be made to work in places that no other OS could. As a bonus, they would create jobs inside Iceland instead of sending more dollars to the US economy.

    The real trick is to make the localization seamless. If I were to see a Russian OS that was later localized to fit the US market, I'd probably still think of it as this strange Russian thing that was trying to break into the US market. GNOME and KDE have major development efforts in Northern and Central Europe, and the Linux Kernel was started by an ethnic Swede. Yet things are still primarily in English (just look at dmesg or syslog!).

    Quite possibly my most widely-used project is GAR, which is the build system used by the LNX-BBC project and GARNOME. It's a lot like the BSD ports system, but GNU make is much cleaner to write in than pmake. I regularly see output from a localized make, but with all sorts of English compile errors and such:

    | dparammanager.c:914: dereferencing pointer to incomplete type
    | make[5]: *** [libgstcontrol_la-dparammanager.lo] Erreur 1
    | make[5]: Quitte le répertoire

    If you can make it readily apparent that GNU is not specifically a US product, you may be able to stir up some nationalistic pride and anti-US sentiment about the majority of proprietary OSes. Keep the money and the jobs at home! This stuff is written by Scandinavians!

    # What was refund day really about?

    It was originally someone's idea of a protest. Everyone should go to their vendors and demand refunds as per the Windows license that came with bundled PCs. It said right there in black-and-white that if you didn't use Windows, you should return it for a refund.

    But that lacked pressworthiness. It would be loose and there would be no visible statistical record that "wow, all these people are demanding their refunds!". So Rick Moen and Don marti and I started planning a trip down to Foster City, CA to demand our refund from Microsoft. We'd already tried the vendors; and they weren't the ones who wrote the license, so they ignored us!

    Ultimately it was a way to get the message out that there were people who didn't want Windows. We were pointing out that PC does not mean Microsoft. We were challenging a lot of people's assumptions. We had to convince people that
    1: no, we actually never used this stuff even once and
    2: the license plainly encouraged us to get a refund.

    # Will you ever give up?

    No way! We hackers now have our own page in history, and the GPL lets us hack in perpetuity. We've got the leverage to fight for the rights of hobbyists and hackers everywhere. I see a lot more fighting ahead for the GNU and EFF types. It's going to be a lot of legal bickering, but free software is also just going to keep getting better!

    So we'll have lots to fight for, and lots to play with. Beaujolais to our side!

    Here are some things that I still want to fight for:

    1: Even though Unix is 32 years old, GNU is nearly 20 years old, Linux is 11 or 12 years old, and Windows 95 is 7 years old, articles always refer to "the upstart Linux operating system".

    2: Every year that goes by, RMS's "The Right to Read" seems less and less like Science Fiction and more like a realistic projection of the future. We need to defang the DMCA in the US and other laws that threaten our ability to distribute our original works as artisans and hackers.

    3: Software patents are still going strong in the US, and working their way into other countries. What a horrible state of affairs!

    I want to see a future where when I buy something, I own it. I don't want corporations and governments telling me how I may or may not use my own private property in my own home or among my friends. I want the ability to take apart my toaster or my alarm clock and see how they work, or combine them into something new. I don't think this future is possible without some serious effort on the part of hackers.

    # Finally, I guess Bill Gates wonders why you are such a nuisance. Why is that?

    Heh. I doubt I even show up on his radar. I went to a rival high school to his (I grew up in Seattle), and never really paid that much attention to Microsoft after Windows Refund Day. My attitude toward Microsoft is usually

    "Oh yeah, don't they make keyboards or something?"

    We live in a wonderful era, where GNU lets us more or less totally ignore these proprietary systems if we want to. It's good that some developers are playing with these systems in order to write some of their best features into GNU, but they use Windows so that I don't have to!
    • The real trick is to make the localization seamless. If I were to see a Russian OS that was later localized to fit the US market, I'd probably still think of it as this strange Russian thing that was trying to break into the US market. GNOME and KDE have major development efforts in Northern and Central Europe, and the Linux Kernel was started by an ethnic Swede. Yet things are still primarily in English (just look at dmesg or syslog!).

      Think this guy played Ultima Online too?

      You have found: a magic boardsword [accurate/power]

    • Seems to be slashdotted already, so here's the text (don't mod up, karma is just fine thanks):
      nino@vic20:~$ uptime
      20:20:46 up 37 days, 2:22, 7 users, load average: 172.39, 165.60, 134.11
      Thanks, Slashdot!

      And I was trying to read my mail on that box...

    • karma is just fine thanks

      Just fine? Mine's "excellent"!
  • This is why the government is trying to put a stop to hackers fiddeling with things. People go run apache on thier toaster, and it has problems with saturated connections to the database on thier alarm clock. This must be stopped now!
    • I'm concerned with all the traffic in between my household devices they'll one day become self aware and I'll find myself waking up to the digitized voice of the apartment collective telling me: "resistance is futile... make your own toast".

      -Matt
  • by Medevo (526922) on Friday July 19, 2002 @01:52PM (#3917903) Homepage
    What scares me is what is he going to do when he combines that toaster and alarm clock.

    Are we going to get toast at 6:00am every day or an Alarm that burns your head if you do not turn it off quick?

    Medevo
  • Amen! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by ajs (35943) <<moc.sja> <ta> <sja>> on Friday July 19, 2002 @01:55PM (#3917926) Homepage Journal
    You know, I think we need to start thinking of the hackers of years gone by. This sort of clear, concrete idea of what's at stake will really help get through to the baby-boomer engineering crowd and explain, "You know that radio you took apart when you were a kid? For the next generation, it will come with an EULA and be protected from tampering by at least 4 fedral laws that carry fines and prison terms."

    There is a generation out there, most of whom have no idea what this generation think, but who will feel compelled to action if they think future engineers and tinkerers will be disuaded from early experimentation.

    How can we get that message out? Where do we tell that story? Certainly there are media outlets like Popular Science, Scientific American, etc.

    Anyone out there a well credited sociologist and want to take on the comparison of 1950s/60s egineering boomers with the early 2000s hackers and the threats to their future that boomers never had to worry about?
    • The difference in most computer products (software atleast) is that they can be duplicated with little cost or effort on the part of the duplicator
      With other types of copying the cost to duplicate is higher so it acts as a deterent in a way
      Not that I am fully supporting copying restrictions but there is two sides to the story
      • by ajs (35943)
        The difference in most computer products (software atleast) is that they can be duplicated with little cost or effort on the part of the duplicator

        I'm too young to remeber it, but if you look back, you will find that when photocopiers were introduced the same arguments were made about books. Oddly, what has destroyed the value of books is not the the increased publishing power of the consumer, but of the publisher. Publishers have flooded the market with cheap, bad books that make the wave of pulps in the middle of last century look like a local reading circle, and now they only stay in business by flagrant market manipulation and ripping off authors as often as possible.

        Here is the fallacy: we start this discussion with the idea that the software market has to be as safe for the publishers as any other market. Why do we think this way? Why is it unreasonable to say that software is a risky business where it's hard to control end-users? Why do we have to guarantee a stable and safe market in an inherently unstable and unsafe medium? How does a software publisher earn that right?

        Certainly, we should punish those who break the law, and copyright law infringement is no exception (though note that until the DMCA it was a civil matter, not a criminal one). But, I don't see that that gives anyone the right to tell me how I can interact with my legally purchaced CDs or operating system software. Fair use should not be trampled on just because you would prefer to have a well-ordered market that makes you money whenever you release a new version or add-on.
    • ...given the contempt and animosity your generation has usually shown to us. Generation X'ers blame boomers for just about everything that doesn't go their own way.

      Don't be too surprised if, when you ask us to get involved with this issue, some of us reply with, "You treat us with contempt and now you want our help? FOAD!"
      • Contempt and animosity? How so? Any more so than the boomers showed for the establishment in the 60s?! Please, this is a joke. Anyone who doesn't care about the strength of research and engineering for future generations is probably not in the target audience for such public debate.
  • Eventually, the future will consist of two classes of people. Those obedient peons that follow all the rules laid down by Big Brother and Big Corporations, and those that just say fuck it and carve their path in life.

    I'm in latter category. You won't see me coming.

    • You won't see me coming.

      Right, except that you just REVEALED YOUR CUNNING PLAN in a PUBLIC FORUM.

    • [...], and those that just say fuck it and carve their path in life.

      We have those now, they're called inmates.
    • Re:The Future... (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      "...and those that just say fuck it and carve their path in life. I'm in latter category. You won't see me coming."

      A funny thing about life is that people who actually need to state this tend to be some of the most boring SOBs youc could ever met. And when you really analyze them, they are just following another group or trend, just one that isn't in the media's top 40 list.

      The really creative and unique people never actually declare themselves as such.
  • by tps12 (105590)
    This is a good interview. The right of property ownership was a basic tenet on which this country was founded. I agree that it is tragic to see laws passed such as the DMCA that dictate what one may or may not do with one's property. Indeed, the last time we had a crisis over property ownership, it lead to the bloodiest war of our history, the Civil War. This is an issue that affects us all.

    That said, we have seen a growing trend towards larger corporations. Improvements in communication and transportation technologies have made larger, more distributed businesses practical for the first time. This trend shows no signs of slowing.

    Sadly for the consumer, this implies a decrease in the number of providers of any given service or product. This need not (and likely will not) bring with it a decrease in the competitiveness of the markets involved, though anti-globalists will no doubt wail about the end of "competition," which is apparently a count of corporations rather than a metric for economic efficiency.

    The long and short of it is, even in the absence of patent and copyright laws (and there's no reason to suspect that they would go anywhere) that specifically give businesses extra rights in these situations, manufacturers will still have the ability to contract with their customers (retailers), who will have the ability (and, for the sake of argument, the contractual obligation) to contract with we, the end users. And these contracts will largely prohibit us from hacking, reverse engineering, and anything else that the manufacturer deems threatening.

    If we do see a time when property may be freely modified and inspected, unhindered by contracts and EULAs, then it will be in a true free market system, well after the government has been done away with and the economy has had time to restabilize. Until then, the market will just not be competitive enough (in the true meaning of competition; number of businesses doesn't matter) for corporations to risk their intellectual property by offering consumers less restrictive terms.
  • I do not see his ideas coming to bear any time soon. The government doesn't see fit to allow us to actually own our own land (try not paying personal property taxes and see what happens to your house) why would they allow us to actually own anything else we've paid for?

    Big Brother owns you, the only way to get your soul back is to vote some intelligent and moral people into government. I do not see that happening either, as there is no profit in it.
    *shrug*

    Id
  • by bons (119581) on Friday July 19, 2002 @02:17PM (#3918094) Homepage Journal
    "I want to see a future where when I buy something, I own it."

    As nice and simple as this sounds, I find that I end up not really understanding it. If I buy the toaster and the alarm clock and take them both apart and put them together in a new way, I should also be able to sell my creation.

    Ok. I'm fine with that. And I can see where licenses, patents, and other legal entities get in the way of this.

    Unfortunately, the Open Source community depends on a number of licenses that completely prevents this. If I actually buy a copy of Linux I can tear it apart and modify it, but I don't have the rights to simply resell my new creation. There are a number of requirements I have to meet before I can do that. I have to essentially provide a free copy of my changes in raw form to Big Brother and everyone else in order to do that.

    Hmmmm. This has just gotten a lot more complicated. Do I want other people tearing apart my work and distributing the new creations as theirs? Do I want to tear apart other people's work and distribute the new creation as mine?

    I think that's a question we need to ask ourselves. Do we want everyone to have these freedoms and are we willing to accept how these freedoms can be abused by corporations and individuals?

    • You have a good point. It amazes me how more people don't see that "Free" as defined by the GNU people doesn't match anyone else's common definition of free.

      The licensing hoops that you have to jump through when using and distributing any changes you may have made make it very much not "Free".
    • That is exactly where most people will attack this idea.

      However, there is a fairly easy counter to this. (Bear in mind, however, that I do in fact agree with you.)

      The counter is simple. You simply don't have a right to profit. Where are people given a right to profit from their labors? Especially when they are built upon contributions from others.

      To give an example, you have EVERY right to do whatever you wish to the copy of linux you download. Even (or especially) under the terms of such licenses as the GPL. This freedom, of course, disappears when you try to distribute the changes.

      So, with that in mind, just how much would it hurt to insure that in the future you own what you buy? And, just as important, what are you buying when you buy software? Afterall, isn't that the whole crux of the problem in computers? There is very little in the way of tangible property, right?

      -josh
      • "The counter is simple. You simply don't have a right to profit."

        That doesn't really work. I'm still violating the GPL if a give away a binary-only release of a piece of GPL'd software. On the other hand, I can theoretically profit off selling a piece of GPL'd software, as long as I make the source available and don't try and prohibit redistriubtion.

      • To give an example, you have EVERY right to do whatever you wish to the copy of linux you download. Even (or especially) under the terms of such licenses as the GPL. This freedom, of course, disappears when you try to distribute the changes.

        No, it doesn't. It carries with it the burden that you must give the same rights to whoever you distribute it to.

        You simply don't have a right to profit. Where are people given a right to profit from their labors?

        What does profit have to do with it? The GPL doesn't limit your right to profit in any way. You can charge as much as you want. You can charge a trillion dollars for your modified Linux kernel, and until someone buys it from you, you are under no obligation to provide the source for that modification to anyone.

        The right to profit from ones labors is essential to the inalienable rights to the pursuit of life, liberty, and happiness, and that has nothing to do with the GPL. But of course, you mean profit in the capitalist definition of getting more than you give...

    • [quote]Unfortunately, the Open Source community depends on a number of licenses that completely prevents this. If I actually buy a copy of Linux I can tear it apart and modify it, but I don't have the rights to simply resell my new creation. There are a number of requirements I have to meet before I can do that. I have to essentially provide a free copy of my changes in raw form to Big Brother and everyone else in order to do that. [/quote]
      If you buy a toaster and alarm clock and put them together in a new way, and sell it, you are selling not only the results of the toaster and alarm clock but also the physical presence of the toaster and alarm clock. The two are not separatable as software is. At least this is how I view it. GPL is simply a method of making software more like a phyiscal thing. If you buy a toaster, you can see the guts. If you buy software, you can only see the guts if you are given the source. Same concept.

      Also, the GPL doesn't prevent you from selling your modified version, just from selling a binary only version.

    • Indeed, you should have the right to reedit the movies you buy, and sell them for a profit. I mean, you did all the work, right? You compensated the authors when you bought the original. $15 traded for an entire market in Southeast Asia, that sounds about right.

      How dense does one have to be to not see the intent of that statement? When you buy a computer, you own the computer. When you buy a DVD, you own the DVD. You do not own the rights to redistribute the content the DVD. You do not have the rights to manufacture CPUs with identicial circuit layouts as the Pentium.

      Someday, you won't be able to resell something like a DVD, because you won't own it, you will be licensed it, and it will be keyed to your player. The same will be done for the software / hardware combination you purchased. Though you may own the hardware, it will still refuse to boot unless it runs the operating system that came with it. And to sell the computer, the buyer must repurchase the operating system. This is what Moffitt is talking about. It has nothing to do with the whiny pissing war people have with the GPL.
    • More Anti-GPL FUD (Score:5, Insightful)

      by FreeUser (11483) on Friday July 19, 2002 @03:28PM (#3918623)
      Unfortunately, the Open Source community depends on a number of licenses that completely prevents this. If I actually buy a copy of Linux I can tear it apart and modify it, but I don't have the rights to simply resell my new creation. There are a number of requirements I have to meet before I can do that. I have to essentially provide a free copy of my changes in raw form to Big Brother and everyone else in order to do that.

      This is a strawman, and a rather silly one at that.

      First, you can sell derivative GPLed works. You simply have to make the source code available to any of your customers who request it. This is really not much different than being required to make a registration certificate available to the purchaser of your car (so they can license it and own it legally), or for that matter, being required to sign an agreement restricting you to neighborhood building or aesthetic standards when purchasing a piece of property in an exclusive neighborhood.

      The GPL exists because the government has, in a fit of profoundly illadvised stupidity, created a regime of government enforced monopolies designed to empower publishers while disempowering artists and consumers. As such, being an artificially maintained monopoly marketplace, the realm of copyright (and patents) is not something you can shrug off with physical, competetive market equivelents.

      Were there no forced monopoly on copyrights, i.e. if no one had the power to take something in the public domain, modify it slightly, and make the result unavailable to you in any meaningful sense, the GPL would be unnecessary. Unfortunately, as we all know, this isn't the case at all.

      The GPL protects everyone's freedom. It doesn't give you the 'freedom' to incarcerate another (i.e. taking someone else's work, modifying it, and locking the results away from them), but in so doing it protects you from being 'incarcerated' (having the same done to your code) in turn.

      It is, in this increasingly hostile world of privately owned ideas and fenced off areas of scientific and intellectual endeavor, probably one of the few, and arguably most important, contracts actively designed to protect your freedom from an increasingly irresponsible and predatory cultural and legal climate. The fact that it doesn't allow you to exploit us without mercy is something the rest of us are quite greatful for, even if it does irk you some.

      Now, if you want to do away with the GPL, do away with copyright law altogether. When we stop granting artificial, government enforced monopolies, then the GPL, along with a whole bunch of far more offensive licenses than that, will go away, and none of us will have to lose our freedom in the process. In the meantime we need licenses like the GPL, as an innoculation against the sort of diseased, rights-restricting EULA's and licenses purpetrated by Microsoft, the copyright cartels of hollywood, and others too numerous to count.

      And this all, of course, has absolutely nothing to do with ownership of physical goods in your home, and the copyright cartel's current efforts to take even that right of ownership away from us in order to shore up their own monopoly regimes.
      • The GPL exists because the government has, in a fit of profoundly illadvised stupidity, created a regime of government enforced monopolies designed to empower publishers while disempowering artists and consumers. As such, being an artificially maintained monopoly marketplace, the realm of copyright (and patents) is not something you can shrug off with physical, competetive market equivelents.

        I am a GNU advocate and I believe that software should be free in the sense of freedom. I, however, don't agree with what you wrote.

        But even Stallman uses copyright powers on every essay he writes, and his essays aren't free in the sense of freedom. Other than fair use, you aren't allowed modify his essays and publish them on your own website.

        He reasons that there is not valid purpose to modify his views and opinions. But, he believes with everything (including music, books, and movies) there should be an unlimited right to redistribute verbatim.

        On this point, I tend to disagree with Stallman.

        But he makes an important distinction between what he calls "functional" works and "non-functional" works (sorry, he classifies MS Windows as "functional" :). With functional works, he reasons that we must have the right to copy, modify, and redistribute. This is because we don't simply admire a piece of software, but we actually use it for our daily work. So if we want modify a piece of software to make our lives easier or to correct a nasty bug, that should be our right.

        But with non-functional works, the same arguments become difficult to defend. Because while we all enjoyed "A Beautiful Mind" in the movie theatres, we don't have any real need to be allowed to modify the movie itself. However, I agree with the EFF's position that we should be allowed to time-shift and space-shift all works.

        Now here is where I disagree with Stallman. The original reason for copyright was very valid. It gave authors a limited exclusive right to their works. This was so that authors could work on large intellectual works that would benefit culture and society, without having to find another job on the side as well. In addition, it was to protect publishers from having other publishers from just copying a popular work once it was published.

        Now I find _The C++ Programming Language_ as a very useful reference and it would be sad if that work didn't exist because Stroustrup (and his publisher) didn't see much benefit from all that work into producing the book.

        This is really the only point I disagree with Stallman. He is right in that free software needs free manuals to go along with it (it makes no sense to have rewrite a manual everytime the software changes).

        However, I'd like the term of copyright for most works to be reduced quite a bit. For this reason, I am pretty anti-DRM and anti-Palladium, for the time being.

        • But with non-functional works, the same arguments become difficult to defend. Because while we all enjoyed "A Beautiful Mind" in the movie theatres, we don't have any real need to be allowed to modify the movie itself. However, I agree with the EFF's position that we should be allowed to time-shift and space-shift all works.

          First, I think this distinction between functional and non-functional works is mistaken, and I disagree with RMS on that point.

          Second, I am not advocating no protections for artists. It is a false dichotomy that we must either live with draconian copyright monopolies (of whatever length), or everything must be in the public domain. There is a huge swath of middle ground that remains largely unexplored.

          Indeed, what I am pointing out is:

          1. The historical context of copyright, which was designed to facilitate censorship, keep the pringting press out of the hands of the common man, and benefit a select group of "chosen" publishers.

          2. That, because of the desing of copyright it is not only sub-optimal in its benefit to society and culture as a whole, but is very suboptimal for artists.

          3. That we as a society pay an unacceptably high price as a result of the monopolies copyright (and patents, for that matter) grant, regardless of their benefits to publishers (and, secondarilly, to artists)

          4. There are better ways to compensate artists

          Example: Get rid of monopolies altogether. Have no copy restrictions on copying or publishing.

          Balance that with a tax benefit for the artist, i.e. an artist (or his/her duly appointed publisher) sells a book they wrote, they are not taxed on it. Anyone else can publish the work as well, but must pay a hefty tax on each copy sold, a portion of which optionally could go back to the original artist.

          Include in that a requirement of Citation, essentially encoding the common academic standards for avoiding plagerism into law (credit where credit is due), and a requirement that non-authorized publishers place prominently on the material (cover of a book, opening credits of a movie, cover of a CD, etc.) that they are NOT the authorized publisher if that is the case.

          No monopoly needed, and the artist is protected very well. Make the Authorship Grant non-transferable, and the artist is even better protected (they cannot unwittingly sell their rights to their work, they can only authorize a publisher to publish, in exchange for a royalty, thereby relieving that publisher of a tax burden).

          Regardless of the specifics, a regime designed to protect the artists and benefit society, rather than to protect and benefit the publishers would be a remarkable improvement over the status quo, without causing undue harm to the creators of the artistic works we so enjoy.
          • I don't really agree with you, save for the need for reform. I feel that this may be because you're missing to some extent the purpose of copyright. You've almost got it, just not quite.

            Bluntly, the purpose of copyright is not to compensate artists, nor to reward publishers, nor to facilitate censorship. (at least not copyright laws in the tradition of the Statute of Anne, such as U.S. copyright law)

            The sole purpose is to benefit society. Any copyright law is fine, if society recieves a _net_ benefit. No copyright law is tolerable if society receives a net loss.

            The standard for measuring benefit and loss are based upon what society's goals are.

            First, remember that these goals are shared by _everyone_. Even authors are members of society first; their interests as readers and authors are promoted just as is everyone else's.

            Anyway, society has an interest in being able to acquire, change, and disseminate information freely. This ranges from getting free books, to writing books based on other people's books, reprinting books verbatim, etc.

            There is also a distinct goal of having that information span both a wide breadth of different subjects, and a great depth of variation and exploration of each individual topic.

            Copyright is an exercise in promoting those two public interests as much as possible.

            Artists benefit from being able to rely upon works of previous artists in their own works. Everyone stands on the shoulders of those that came before.

            But it is generally beleived that a limited monopoly, preventing a lot of 'first interest' exercises, encourages the production of more broad books, and some deep books. And furthermore that this satisfaction of the 'second interest' is sufficient to not just make up for the harm caused to the first, but actually leave people in a better position than they were in had they not done this at all.

            Going too far would cause a negative public balance though, which is unacceptable, and would impair authors, since they all are readers too, and all tend to combine breadth and depth in their works. A truly original book, original in all ways, would be gibberish, after all.

            The main problem is that while we were supposed to be looking for the optimal balance point where the public is as greatly served as possible, we've wound up overshooting, and having a negative impact. Mere correction is sufficient; the underlying system is well enough.

            (Incidentally, what you're talking about is compulsory licensing. You see it in music a bit; isn't all that useful. Since you'd kill off fair use and parody among other things, I can't really endorse your proposal.
    • A common question Open Source advocates like to pose to the general populace is "Would you buy a car with the hood welded shut?"

      Of course, we all know that the answer is supposed to be no, but what most people don't realize is that this very thing has, in essence, been going on since the Clean Air Act of 1967. It is actually illegal to modify the engine in a passenger car to produce more horsepower, though such modification is seldom prosecuted. I came in on the tail end of the hot rod era; today, the integration of computers and engines has become so pervasive that the average hot rodder cannot modify his machine without a great deal of knowledge and expense. And those days of doubling or tripling the horsepower output of an engine are long gone.

      But the point is this: the same thing that happened with automobiles will happen with the computer. You will have to be a specially licensed and bonded technician in order to own certain development tools (compilers, debuggers, and the like). While you will still be able to take apart your computer, making unauthorized modifications (to thwart the onboard DRM and Palladium chips) will be illegal. Unlike the hot rodder of today who is seldom prosecuted by the police, the machine will "call home" to Big Brother if it detects that it has been modified, and federal agents will show up to "fix" your computer.

      And just wait until GPS units are mandatory in cars, and the FBI can find out everywhere you've been with a simple database query.

      The erosion of our liberties is very real. Those of us who care about our liberties need to stand up and be heard; we need to do something about this before it gets out of hand. Learn a lesson from the automotive enthusiasts - if you don't vigilantly protect your liberties, the government will take them away.

    • the Open Source community depends on a number of licenses that completely prevents this

      Ahem, proof please? This is complete bullshit.

      If I actually buy a copy of Linux I can tear it apart and modify it, but I don't have the rights to simply resell my new creation.

      Again, bullshit. What you are describing (selling a modified Linux distro) has been done by at least 3 different companies; Mandrake, Suse, and Corel are all forks of different distros.

      Do I want other people tearing apart my work and distributing the new creations as theirs?

      Huh? WHAT ARE YOU SMOKING?

      Nobody is going to tear apart your work, because it's NOT yours. The work belongs to the people who wrote the code, you know, the copy of linux that you actually bought

      Nobody is forcing you to do anything you don't want to do. If you don't want to GPL your products, then simply don't use other people's GPL'ed code. Write your own.

      I can't believe how such an obvious troll got modded up.
    • I don't know how you got moderated up. Perhaps this misconception is more prevalent than I thought.

      If I actually buy a copy of Linux I can tear it apart and modify it, but I don't have the rights to simply resell my new creation.

      If you are speaking about the GNU GPL, lets take a look at a part of the actual license:

      The actual license: http://www.gnu.org/licenses/gpl.html [gnu.org]

      1. You may copy and distribute verbatim copies of the Program's source code as you receive it, in any medium, provided that you conspicuously and appropriately publish on each copy an appropriate copyright notice and disclaimer of warranty; keep intact all the notices that refer to this License and to the absence of any warranty; and give any other recipients of the Program a copy of this License along with the Program.

      You may charge a fee for the physical act of transferring a copy, and you may at your option offer warranty protection in exchange for a fee.

      (emphasis is mine)

      Let me hit you over the head with it one more time. You can sell GPLed software for any cost you like, any cost that you think the market will allow.

      The difference is that you don't get any exclusive right to the software. And that is what the Free Software Foundation means by freedom. That everyone who gets a copy of the software gets the right to copy, modify, redistribute, and even sell the software. These rights shouldn't be exclusive.

      I have to essentially provide a free copy of my changes in raw form to Big Brother and everyone else in order to do that.

      This is also wrong, simply with the quote from the GNU GPL above. The word "may" is important, it means you have the freedom to "may" or "may not" distribute the software. That means, I can't tell you to give me a copy of your GPLed web browser off your computer, even if you modified it. Its called privacy.

      In fact, no respect for privacy was one of the original reasons the FSF considered the original version of the APSL as non-free.

      From http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/apsl.html [gnu.org]

      After studying Apple's new source code license, the APSL, I have concluded that it falls short of being a free software license. It has three fatal flaws, any of which would be sufficient to make the software less than free.

      Disrespect for privacy

      The APSL does not allow you to make a modified version and use it for your own private purposes, without publishing your changes.

    • If I actually buy a copy of Linux I can tear it apart and modify it, but I don't have the rights to simply resell my new creation.

      Yes you do, you just have to ensure that whoever you sell it to has the same rights you had.

      When you bought a copy of Linux you were provided with a copy of the source code so that you would be able to excercise your rights as the owner of what you purchased. That you are required to provide source to whoever you sell your modification to so that they, too, can excercise their rights as the new owner of what they have purchased in no way prevents you from selling it to them.

      I have to essentially provide a free copy of my changes in raw form to Big Brother and everyone else in order to do that.

      No, you have to provide the source to whoever you sell it to. That source is part of the product you are selling, just as heating coils are part of a toaster.

      I think you've been drinking a little heavily from the MS GPL FUD.


    • Check it here. [opensource.org] Basicaly, the BSD License allows you to do whatever you want with the toaster and the clock. Even sell it. En masse, if you want to. You just can't complain that the free toaster you got doesn't work with your bread size. And you can't say your clock-toaster isn't based on anything, you have to give credit to the authors.
  • My toaster sends emails, plays dvd's, works as an alarm clock, you can watch TV on it, use it as a baby monitor, opens the garage door, stores 30 gigabytes of MP3's and works as a radio.... Oh yeah, it also does something with bread.
  • I really don't know much about copyright law. However, I do know that when pharmaceutical create a new drug, the get a limited patent on it for a certain number of years, and then other companies can make generic versions of the drug. This is done so that the pharmaceutical company can recuperate some of its research spending to research the drug (and all drugs that didn't work, but still were researched), as well as make money (of course!).

    I don't see why a similar thing can't be done in general. A company makes something, and gets the full use and privacy of its item for a certain number of years. During this time it makes money and is happy. Then, after the time limit is up, everyone can then do what they want with it, take it apart, improve it, sell their idea, etc.

    True, big businesses would never go for this, because it would make much less powerful and much less money. But it sounds like a good idea, right?

    • I certainly hope you wrote that with tongue planted firmly in cheek and don't actually believe that copyright is for an unlimited time.

      • You replied to some of my other posts about copyright, and some of the stuff you said makes sense. I then assume that you have a working knowledge of copyright law and how it works. I, however, do not. I only know that if I try and and take someone else's work, be it a book or a video game or a movie, and make copies to resell, that it is against the law. And it doesn't seem to have any time limit to it

        You imply that copyright is not for an unlimited time. I won't refute that, since I've already stated I really have no knowledge of copyright law. However, I do know a women (Alice Randall) was recently sued and because she wrote an parody to 'Gone With the Wind', a book that was made into a movie back in 1936. She won the suit, but only because she proved it was a 'parody' and not a 'sequel', and thus protected by our 1st amendment rights as you have stated in other posts. Had it been a 'sequel', it would have been against copyright law (so I read). In this case, perhaps the copyright for the book wasn't unlimited, but 66 years (and still going) is pretty long.

        I'm really not trying to be trite, I'm just trying to understand how the systems works as of now.

        • I only know that if I try and and take someone else's work, be it a book or a video game or a movie, and make copies to resell, that it is against the law. And it doesn't seem to have any time limit to it

          You are correct. Let me explain:

          According to the Constitution, copyright is for a limited time only, and then the work passes into the public domain. The Constitution does not define the limited time, but leaves that to Congress to define through law.

          IIRC, the origional copyright term was 14 years, and could be renewed once for an additional 14 years. Over the last century the content industry has repeatedly and successfully lobbied Congress to extend those terms, resulting in the current law which is something like Authors Life plus 75 years or 95 years for a Work for Hire (ie, one that is owned by a corporation). Everytime copyright terms are about to expire, the content industry lobbies to get them extended again. Generally, the copyright of Mickey Mouse is the driving force behind this, hence all the Disney references in copyright discussion.

          There is some concern, that the DMCA makes copyright effectively indefinate for digital works incorporating some sort of access control. I believe this is true, and that's one of several reasons why the DMCA should be struck down. (It's also totally unnecessary, since copyright infringement is already covered by an existing body of law, and contrary to popular belief, the internet does not make things magically "diferent")

          This state of affairs is ridiculous, and goes far beyond the constitutionally stated purpose of "promoting science and the useful arts". Letting my great-great-grandchildren collect royalties on my works does nothing to promote progress. In fact, I can see no way in which it does anything but discourage progress, as nothing is created in a vacuum, and Intellectual Property laws effectively create dead ends in areas of investigation.

          Sorry for the rant at the end there. I hope that explains a little bit why people are so up in arms about the current state of copyright.

          • Thank you for your informative reply. I never even knew that copyright was even mentioned in the constitution, IANAL. It has spurred me to go and do a bit of research on the topic myself, including reading up on the Eldred v. Ashcroft case (and reading the relative constitution passage). But yes, I now can understand better some of the posts I've read here and other places, and also makes some of my earlier posts seem pretty ludicrous. Oh well.
            • You might want to look into the history of copyright in British common law as well, since US law is pretty heavily based on it. One interestig fact is that copyright was origionally created for the purpose of censorship (in 1662 I think, but I'm too lazy to look it up right now).

              Anyway, welcome to the dark side :-)

  • I am not a role model.

    I am not paid to be a role model.

    But I do take paypal. Thank you.
  • I don't know what this guy is complaining about.
    Of course you'll be able to change & modify anything you own. You just won't own much,it will be leased and subject to useage clauses.

    Knock, Knock
    (You): Hello?
    (Usage Police1): Sir, you are in violation of Section A456-G (Gratuitous use of a toaster in a motion picture) of the toaster usage contract you entered into agreement with, with Monajamoto Inc. You'll have to come with us.
    (You}:Yeah, well, uh, see, my wife and I were just palying around and....

    (Usage police2): Add resisting arrest to the charges.
    (Usage Police1): He's looking at 15years mandatory.

  • by mpawlo (260572)
    I want to break my own stories! Breaking things like this on a Friday night, when every decent Swede just wants to get drunk? .-)

    Anyway, Gnuheter is up and running now and you may read the article [gnuheter.com]. We can cope with a minor Slashdot effect, but the first 10 minutes are almost impossible with the memory capacity we can afford. Now both yours truly and Pawal [blipp.com] will watch a rerun of V [imdb.com].

    Best regards

    Mikael
  • Avoiding the issue of intellectual property, there are valid reasons not to own things you "buy". As pointed out in this book [slashdot.org], having a system where the manufacturer retains ownership of the raw materials would have some positive effects on how things are designed, the biggest of which is that manufacturers would have a real incentive to design things to be taken apart and recycled in a closed-loop flow of materials. Currently, when you buy a product, you are not only responsible for its use but its disposal, leading to an inefficient, environmentally destructive cradle-to-grave mentality.
  • In order to own your hardware, either plan to give up use of commercially produced digital content (and maybe analog content).

    Or - figure out why we can trust music stores not to pirate digital music (mostly) but can't trust people to distribute digital content only after the recipient has paid for it.

    Focus on the supply side (the P2P file server) instead of trying to push a wet noodle from the demand side (DRM attempts to surround content with an iron pipe to keep the noodle straight). Invent incentives - carrots and sticks - sufficient to overcome the small benefits to the file-sharer of free P2P file sharing.

    Carrot: a payment to the file server for making sure the file downloader first pays the file owner. There are ways to do this anonymously.

    Stick: bounties on pirates, so file servers can't be sure that stranger downloading a file is not a bounty hunter

    Carrot: make it as easy as clicking on a link on a web page - which directs some money to the web sites' file server, making them into advocates.

    Stick: banning from the legal distribution system and high profile legal action for pirates

    Carrot: P2P 'preferred server' lists - so you can direct the file service and fee to friends, family, charities, favorite web site, etc. A web of relationships supporting honest payment for content.
  • Obviously there is an attempt within the IT and semiconductor communities and all of the businesses that they interact with to extend control of products deeper and deeper beyond the purchase transaction itself.
    What intrigues me is that this giant push coming from so many directions is creating a pressure. This is just basic physics here right. You push something and you dissipate that force in a specific direction, but the force does not disappear. Indeed, rather than disappearing, it generally tends to seek to return from whence it came. Think of the tide here: it rolls in, it rolls out. Over the course of a day the tide may come in and may go out, but in between the turning of the tide the waves come up the shore and receed far back into the sea many times.
    As businesses push their control of products beyond the point of sale, they have every reason to expect that they will begin to lose control of their products before they are sold. Now who's creating the waves here?
    Well, we all know that the waves are mostly created by the moon so it's a bit misleading to ask who created the waves. The question for us on the shore is whether the tide is coming in or going out. I think it's going out if you're the ones trying to control the products beyond the point of sale. You can push water, but it's very hard to hold in your hand.

Never buy from a rich salesman. -- Goldenstern

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