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Stallman/Stanco: A Dialogue on Copyright Law and Free/Open Source Software (Part 9)

"A proprietary program is like a gang: it puts pressure on people andintimidates them."

  • July 13, 2000
  • By Tony Stanco

This is the final day of an email dialogue with Richard Stallman on the philosophy of copyright that will be published over nine days on LinuxPlanet. This dialogue arose from comments that RMS was kind enough to give me on a two-part article on software licensing that appeared on LinuxProgramming recently. (Check out the articles at LinuxProgramming: Software Licenses and Traditional Copyright Law and Looking at the General Public License and Open-Source Licenses.)

For those who are already getting bored with these emails, you should note that this series on copyright is only the beginning. There are others between Stallman and me on the formation of a company by free developers, of free developers, for a free world that will follow this series. The free company will be the vehicle for free developers world-wide to band together to defeat the closed-code, proprietary scourge that threatens to enslave the world. We should all see by now where closed code will take us with things like Carnivore, if we don't act soon.

Unfortunately, it will take over a month to publish all the emails and unveil the plan. Though some of the emails are boring, they are necessary, because proprietary must be stopped.


Day 9

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

Subj:   Re: licensing article
Date:   6/11/00
From:   RMS
To:     tony stanco

[Stanco]:

>What I should have said is that the majority of people are trying to do 
>the right or good thing. A minority (maybe even a very small minority) 
>are actively seeking to do bad, wrong  or hurtful things. The problem, as 
>Plato pointed out, is that in not knowing what is really good, people 
>that are trying to do good actually end up doing harm.

[Stallman]:

The problem is more complicated than that. Sometimes doing the right
thing brings a risk of personal harm (or people think it does). In
such a situation, they may be scared to do the right thing.  If the
feeling in their consciences bothers them too much, they may convince
themselves that the wrong thing is ok, so that their consciences shut
up.

This is one way that a social movement can make a difference: seeing
other people doing the right thing will encourage people to do the
right thing themselves.

[Stanco]:

>So I think you change society by educating people instead of forcing 
>them to accept what a "superior" person decrees is right or good for 
>them, without them understanding it.

[Stallman]:

No, this is not always true. Besides which, stopping people from
dominating others is entirely legitimate.

[Stallman]:

>>Proprietary software is a scheme to divide and
>>maltreat other people. It means doing wrong to others.  We should
>>not tolerate that.

[Stanco]:

>I agree, but should we use force/coercion (law or armies) or education?

[Stallman]:

Proprietary software is normally based on force of law and armies;
there is no reason we should not use those against them, if we can.

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>.

Subj:   Re: licensing article
Date:   6/11/00
From:   tony stanco
To:     RMS

[Stallman]:

>This is one way that a social movement can make a difference: seeing
>other people doing the right thing will encourage people to do the
>right thing themselves.

[Stanco]:

I agree and I think you have been a great example of the power of example.

[Stallman]:

>Proprietary software is normally based on force of law and armies;
>there is no reason we should not use those against them, if we can.

[Stanco]:

We have an even stronger force: a moral argument. If we win their hearts, we 
won't need billy clubs.

Also, we have a better economic argument, because we have a better business 
model than proprietary. I think we should start implementing it. I want to 
get back on that track.

I really don't disagree with you on much. I think you can convince me of 
anything, even this copyright right. Give me some time to think about it 
some more. You have generally been years ahead of people on most things, and 
that may be the case with copyright, too.

>>>>>>>>>>>>>
Subj:   Re: licensing article
Date:   6/13/00
From:   RMS
To:     tony stanco

[Stallman]:

>>Proprietary software is normally based on force of law and armies;
>>there is no reason we should not use those against them, if we can.

[Stanco]:

>We have an even stronger force: a moral argument. If we win there hearts, 
>we won't need billy clubs.

[Stallman];

This principle is not true, not in general.  People often do things
that they think are wrong, because they feel circumstances "leave them
no choice".  Of course, they do have other choices, but they find the
other choices too horrible to contemplate.  (For some people, not
having an "office suite" is too horrible to contemplate.)

A proprietary program is like a gang: it puts pressure on people and
intimidates them.  Even if people in their hearts dislike the gang and
want to get free, they may not dare to oppose it.  We need to be armed
to block the gang from intimidating other people.

>>>>>>>>>>>

The next email series goes back in time and was discussed before this series. It talks about how free software should to be armed to defeat proprietary.

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