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GNU is Not Unix

Nick Moffitt Interview 146

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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  • by tps12 ( 105590 ) on Friday July 19, 2002 @02:04PM (#3917990) Homepage Journal
    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.
  • Re:The Future... (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 19, 2002 @02:45PM (#3918310)
    "...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.
  • 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.

System checkpoint complete.