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[ba-unrev-talk] Re: GPL as a "chaordic" constitution for augmentation

[Note: I redirected this to ba-unrev-talk as it was getting further
afield from specific OHS design issues and more to world issues as they
relate to information management and licensing.]    (01)

Jack Park wrote:
> [snip]
> And, to repeat Chaordic Principle of Practice (POP)# 5:
> > > 5. Freely and fully exchange information relevant to the Purpose
> > > and Principles unless it violates confidentiality or
> > > materially diminishes competitive position.
> It seems clear to me that the Chaordic folks _do not embrace_ the free
> software ethical imperative ("...unless it violates confidentiality or
> materially diminishes competitive position.").     (02)

Yes, I think this clause is somewhat problematical in (POP)# 5,
especially as it relates to probably what is an implicit stand towards
owning members making money through licensing copyrights, patents, and
trade secrets, and which might seem to be at odds with Richard
Stallman's position. Based on that, one might expect that some chaordic
organizations formed around certain purposes might choose a different
license or licenses (free or proprietary) than the GPL for much of their
work on the thought that their license choice was somehow better for the
situation to achieve their purpose. My point of the essay was not to
argue that a chaordic organization must use the GPL (or any other
specific license), but it was to suggest the novel (for me :-) idea that
those who use the GPL implicitly are participating in a chaordic
organization whether they intended to or not.    (03)

However, I stand by the notion that no one is forcing people to
participate in the GPL software ecosystem. For example, no one forces
anybody to use GCC as opposed to a proprietary C compiler (unless they
are your manager :-), or to make a derived work from GCC, or to
distribute such a derived work. In that sense, a group of individuals
and companies can cooperate on a GPL project like GCC while still
competing on aspects they choose not to contribute -- such as keeping
private customer data, or making proprietary non-derived works that
cooperate with the GCC software (such as a program that automatically
translates Smalltalk to C code then run through GCC such as Squeak
does). Richard Stallman might argue the ethics of such non-free
development choices depending on the exact situation, but my point is
that choosing to cooperate by using and enhancing some GPL'd works does
not force all of an organizations efforts to be under the GPL.     (04)

For example, IBM has released code under the GPL 
as well as other free or open source licenses, but it also releases
proprietary works and keeps confidential various information. So, in
that sense, IBM has decided to participate in this vast chaordic GPL
enterprise in a way that it believes does not violate confidentiality or
materially diminish its competitive position. (In fact, in those cases,
I would think IBM made a business decision releasing GPL code enhanced
its competitive position.) My point here is to say that without
explicitly signing a constitution, sending in a member fee, or sitting
on a board of directors, IBM became an active member of the chaordic
organization that is defined by the GPL, and will remain so as long as
it wishes. To me, the ability to be in an worldwide organization just
because you decided to participate, without even having to communicate
with anyone or join anything, that is a beautiful things and holds to
the spirit of chaordic organizations.    (05)

In short, I think (POP)# 5 is a case where the GPL is implicitly
chaordic because it permits actors to decide to what extent they want to
participate, despite whatever ethical position on copyrights, patents,
and trade secrets one might read into (POP)# 5.    (06)

> And, if that is so, all that
> verbiage about the ability to relicense, sell otherwise, etc that you use
> to justify satisfaction of POP 5 notwithstanding, I simply don't see how
> you can sell GPL to folks of the Chaordic persuasion.    (07)

As for selling the GPL (or other free licenses) to people of a Chaordic
or other persuasion, I heard Richard Stallman on the car radio last week
(randomly turning channels -- surprised me!) and in response to a
comment about whether free software was essentially communism, he said
essentially the current copyright policy in the U.S. is turning old time
communist by trying to stop people from sharing published information by
making it like soviet "samizdat". The way the old Soviet Union did that
was by putting guards at every copy machine (like DRM robots guards on
computers supported by the DMCA and required by other pending
legislation), by draconian penalties for samizdat (you'd do more time
for copying a carton of DVDs than committing murder these days), by
encouraging informers (TV ads now ask people to turn in their coworkers
for copying software), by collective responsibility (making ISPs or
bulletin board managers liable for user posts under various conditions),
and by propaganda convincing people from a young age that samizdat is
wrong (by calling people who share "pirates" for copying things for
their friends). See this in his words at:
  http://www.memes.net/index.php3?request=displaypage&NodeID=650     (08)

Why should anyone consider freedom relating to copyrights or patents or
such? What we have now just isn't working and IMHO can't be made to work
down the road without some serious rethinking. Everybody hopes their
software will make them the next "Bill Gates" but the reality if that
most software projects make little money if any. (Consulting for
customization pays well on the other hand -- as shown by 90% or so of IT
dollars being spent in-house or on services and not on shrinkwrapped
software.) The U.S. is more and more reflecting Stalinist Russia because
a country needs to become a police state to support highly centralized
vested interests against a tide of popular dissatisfaction. Some think
the stock market tanked in part because Napster was shut down (signaling
the end of personal media computing and any need to upgrade or
usefulness to computers and bandwidth already purchased) -- yet artists
typical of the overwhelming majority of recording artists (those who
make no real money from their works) have even gone on record saying
they would rather their music was given away free than deal with record
labels (who don't pay them as promised anyway) and now that Napster is
shut down, CD sales are dropping (they were rising before). The same
thing is happening now as the US tightens police style "security" as it
rejects the true security of alternative decentralized energy -- even
the most trivial efforts like requiring higher MPG on cars or better
insulation in new homes -- because of vested interest in the energy
sector.     (09)

When will this end? I don't know, but I do know that if in the 1960s you
said over a million U.S. citizens would be imprisoned for non-violent
drug offenses you would have been laughed at and passed a joint to
relax. Well, there a million such people behind bars now. 
It doesn't take much of a stretch of imagination to think of a million
more people behind bars in the US for swapping songs or software (as
crazy as that may sound now) or just making an innocent mistake liking
being on the wrong web page at the wrong time (I've read of someone who
has even been convicted of having questionable data in their windows
swap file...). Incidentally, this broad imprisonment of a large segment
of its own population for questionable reasons is why people in many
nations look down on the US and why the US blocks some types of
international legislation on human rights abuses. Here is China's view
of the U.S. record on human rights:
[Not to say I'm holding up China as a model either by pointing to their
perspective...]    (010)

My point? Organizations supporting the kind of universal outcomes that
either the Chaordic Commons or the Bootstrap Institute adhere to need to
seriously look at the issues surrounding copyrights, patents, and trade
secrets and avoid becoming or remaining part of the problem. How we
transition to a society of universal abundance from a society based on a
scarcity mythology is a very difficult one -- and I myself am guilty of
selling proprietary software in the past and in fact I still do! Can the
two paths be reconciled? It's another good topic for an OHS. I justify
my own short term actions by saying I am living in both worlds --
selling some things and giving others away for free, as well as
experimenting with different models. Long term, I don't see any of the
arguments for scarcity copyrights holding up (such as driving the Sonny
Bono Copyright extension act) -- as they are essentially based on the
notions that works are only created as investments and that they are
only distributed in exchange for money -- both of which don't have to be
true (especially now that innovations by Doug and others like the mouse
and the internet have become more mainstream). James P. Hogan's novel
"Voyage from Yesteryear" confronts this issue head on. I can only hope
that someday more and more people come to the perspective that an
individual or country is wealthiest and safest and smartest and wisest
when the others around him or her are wealthy and secure and smart and
wise, as opposed to feeling wealth and security and smartness and wisdom
imply being surrounded by others who are less wealthy and less secure
and less smart and less wise. Yes, that implies dealing directly with
some very primal issues in the human psyche -- but as James Carse would
say, we should be playing an infinite game, not a finite one. Frankly,
if I want to develop proprietary software, a company like IBM pays more
and absorbs the liability, as opposed to working for free under
UnrevII's "permission to use" liability provision for a group not (yet)
freely licensing previous outcomes.    (011)

> Finally, GPL says this about patents: <copied from
> http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/gpl.html>
> "Finally, any free program is threatened constantly by software patents. We
> wish to avoid the danger that redistributors of a free program will
> individually obtain patent licenses, in effect making the program
> proprietary. To prevent this, we have made it clear that any patent must be
> licensed for everyone's free use or not licensed at all. "
> Paul, did you talk to the Chaordic folks about patents?    (012)

Not much specifically, although for the specific project I am doing (in
my spare time) I did make it clear IIRC that patent licensing would be
affected by this choice of license. I would point out that IIRC Richard
Stallman has said it is acceptable to narrowly license a patent to be
freely useable only if used in a GPL program (as opposed to be freely
used by anyone in any program). Again though, people with patents can
decide not to use them in works derived from GPL code, or if they do
make derived works from them, not to distribute them. For example, IBM
carefully decides what works to derive from GPL code and what works to
write from scratch or obtain under other licensing terms. Maybe I don't
understand the intent behind the question? Again, I'm not arguing a
specific chaordic organization should use the GPL (although I might
depending on the organization's purpose); rather I am suggesting the GPL
implicitly defines a chaordic software development organization -- even
as regards to sharing patents.    (013)

> [snip]
> In LGPL, you are permitted to distribute combined works with mixed
> licenses, assuming the other license(s) permit that as well (BSD says
> nothing about this), whereas, in GPL, you cannot mix and match projects
> with other licenses.    (014)

Actually, there are various free licenses that are compatible with GPL
code such as BSD, X-MIT, and so on (and some free licenses that are
not). So you can in various cases mix in code with less restrictions
than the GPL in a combined work.    (015)

You can also always say that the specific changes you make to a GPL'd
project are dual licensed -- both under the GPL as well as under other
less, more, or differently restrictive licensing terms. However, if
there is no way that your changes can stand alone without being
considered a derived work, then there may be no way to make use of them
except under the GPL (or by getting different license terms for the
software they are derived from).    (016)

> One thing I have noticed when I query software authors about their use of
> GPL is that most of them use it simply because everyone else appears to do
> so, and, they were not aware of the fact that LGPL could fly with GPL, but
> was not viral.  Several authors promptly switched to LGPL.  A few simply
> stated words to the effect: "GPL satisfies my needs." without further
> explanation that they fully understood the issues.  This kindof reminds me
> of why and how Microsoft gained its monopoly share of the market.    (017)

Good point. Understanding licensing has become very critical. More
informed people will make choices that better reflect their priorities.
I agree people often choose a license for reasons that perhaps don't
fully reflect what they intend. Many people do like to pick a license
such as BSD or LGPL over GPL for various reasons -- typically that they
want their work useable by a wider audience, essentially defining
freedom in a different way than Richard Stallman (sort of along the
lines of "ensuring freedom to not share" vs. "ensuring freedom to always
share").    (018)

Patents are one big difference between LGPL and BSD.    (019)

> It should be clear that I, for one, do not embrace the entirety of the fsf
> ethical imperative. OTOH, all this research is making me rethink my use of
> Apache license; LGPL is not viral (so far as I can tell) but does speak to
> the issue of patents in a way that I think is fair: 'you want to patent it?
> fine! but not with this library'
> LGPL strikes me as much closer to the Chaordic POPs than GPL.    (020)

Possibly, but again, depends on the exact circumstance. There are two
issues here -- "what license or licenses should an organization
(chaordic or not) explicitly choose to use for their software to meet
their objectives?" vs. "can a software license like the GPL implicitly
define a chaordic community?" I'm sort of talking about the latter
(implicitly chaordic), but there is obviously much good discussion that
can go on about the former (explicitly chosen license).    (021)

-Paul Fernhout
Kurtz-Fernhout Software 
Developers of custom software and educational simulations
Creators of the Garden with Insight(TM) garden simulator
http://www.kurtz-fernhout.com    (022)