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Phlegmak
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Well , the copyright thing is really more of another issue with Dante raised and which I choose to respond to.

It's very important to understanding where he comes from. He rejects the notion of intellectual property and even strongly objects to the term itself. From his viewpoint, a copyright or patent is a state sanctioned monopoly, not a recognition of a natural property right.

But here are some quotes which I have found which I think are good reasons to conclude (even though he might not openly admit to such things and may claim the reverse) that he is either anti-capitalist and or is not all that happy with the idea of profit motive as a primary business concern ( ok, maybe he is not against profit altogether, at least if one is willing to divert it to social projects?) :

"So I recommend that people stop listening to the mainstream media. Don't watch television news. Don't listen the news on radio. Don't read news from ordinary newspapers. Get it from variety of web sites which are not operated under the power of business money and you'll have better change of not being fooled by the systematic lies that they all tell, because they're all paid by the same people to tell the same lies or 9/10 lies. " alright, so the fact that money is involved is a reason to suspect ones motives? Oh dear...

Involvement of money, particularly large amounts of it, does tend to ruin neutrality, which is something generally seen as desirable in news. If you are seeking private arbitration, would you be fine with an arbitrator who has received considerable amounts of money from the other party?

"I could have made money this way, and perhaps amused myself writing code. But I knew that at the end of my career, I would look back on years of building walls to divide people, and feel I had spent my life making the world a worse place. " I am not entirely sure what this implies ( I dont really have a lot of context for this quote sadly), but it would seem to imply that setting out to make profit somehow divides people or makes one unhappy? I am not sure what he is trying to say here.

I believe this was about his choice to opt for writing free software instead of writing proprietary software for large corporations. The division of people comes from the copyright monopoly which denies end users their freedoms. He personally opted for a lifestyle he would enjoy and feel good about than one that would result in the greatest financial profit.

"I've always lived cheaply. I live like a student, basically. And I like that because it means that money is not telling me what to do. I can do what I think is important for me to do. It freed me to do what seemed worth doing. So make a real effort to avoid getting sucked into all of the expensive lifestyle habits of typical Americans ... because, if you do that, then the people with the money will dictate what you do with your life. You won't be able to do what's really important to you. " money tells people what to do? Its some sort of controlling influence? Er..no?

Yes, Money influences people. The need to keep up expensive habits, which he mentioned, can make money even more influential. The stereotypical example of this is drug addiction. If someone has a bad drug addiction, they may seek avenues of making money that they would not otherwise seek.

"Extracting money from users of a program by restricting their use of it is destructive because the restrictions reduce the amount and the ways that the program can be used. This reduces the amount of wealth that humanity derives from the program. When there is a deliberate choice to restrict, the harmful consequences are deliberate destruction." so charging people money for software is somehow wrong? Well, logically he would have to be against the idea of profit from software wouldnt he ( though I suppose one might find other ways to profit from software, at least in his view). I am not so sure he would apply this *only* to software.

No, deriving profit from software by restricting its usage (and denying users important liberties) is what he sees as wrong.

"...Bill Gates's idea of charity is to get school students hooked on Windows, so that they can make more money. Thats not charity I think". This in response to being asked what the biggest threat to "free"/"libre" software is in 2011. Seems to imply that he thinks profit-motive is a threat to software freedom for some reason.

It's more of the profit motive in conjunction with the copyright monopoly.

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It's very important to understanding where he comes from. He rejects the notion of intellectual property and even strongly objects to the term itself. From his viewpoint, a copyright or patent is a state sanctioned monopoly, not a recognition of a natural property right.

Then he is a fool that at attempts to deny producers certain of their most basic property rights. He has no business pretending to be an advocate of *actual* freedom ( not the monstrous perversion of "freedom" which he incoherently likes to rant about). Regardless of whether he is [ explicitly] anti-profit or anti-capitalist, he is in implicitly an enemy of both, even if he is too irrational/stupid to realize this.

For in reality, removing the ability for producers to protect the product of their labour with such laws ( leaving aside the fact that currently such laws may or may not have serious flaws in their implementation in regards to some things) would make profit in a great many industries virtually impossible for the vast majority of potential producers and capitalism would be greatly harmed.

Involvement of money, particularly large amounts of it, does tend to ruin neutrality, which is something generally seen as desirable in news. If you are seeking private arbitration, would you be fine with an arbitrator who has received considerable amounts of money from the other party?

This is entirely incorrect. Money is a means of exchange, but more than that, it is a medium by which value can be stored and saved. It does not corrupt anyone, it has no ability to do so. To say "money" ruins neutrality makes about as much sense as claiming that guns make people shoot other people. Certain ideas , desires, emotions, irrationality corrupts people, not economic tools such as money.

The fact that someone may have receive large sums of money for their arbitration services is NOT really an issue per se. I would *prefer* that the person doing this was paid in exchange for their services, at a value which matches the objective value of their services. What would worry me is if someone was paid say far *more* than this.

The rational thing to do is not to blame money and to cry that it corrupts people or that large payments for services are themselves suspicious. It is to be suspicious of those that accept payments in excess of the values of their services. They possibly are corrupt, but it is not the fault of money, it is *the ideas that they accept*, ie, ultimately their philosophies which make them so.

I believe this was about his choice to opt for writing free software instead of writing proprietary software for large corporations. The division of people comes from the copyright monopoly which denies end users their freedoms. He personally opted for a lifestyle he would enjoy and feel good about than one that would result in the greatest financial profit.

Possibly so. I am not really sure that particular quote necceasirly helps my case very much, as it might really have more to do with being consistent with certain of his premises.

No, deriving profit from software by restricting its usage (and denying users important liberties) is what he sees as wrong.

So he has a problem with producers exercising their inaleniable rights in order to profit by means that do not violate any other persons *actual* ( as oppposed to Stallmans largely imaginary rights)? So he is against the exercising of the rights of *producers* ( or at least some of these rights).

"Capitalism is a social system based on the recognition of individual rights, including property rights, in which all property is privately owned." - Ayn Rand.

So lets get this straight - he is against fundamental property rights, I think that is beyond reasonable doubt at this point. Seems pretty obvious that despite what me might claim, that he is implicitly against capitalism as well ( capitalism as defined by Ayn Rand, not whatever the hell he thinks it is ).

Edited by Prometheus98876
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Then he is a fool that at attempts to deny producers certain of their most basic property rights. He has no business pretending to be an advocate of *actual* freedom ( not the monstrous perversion of "freedom" which he incoherently likes to rant about). Regardless of whether he is [ explicitly] anti-profit or anti-capitalist, he is in implicitly an enemy of both, even if he is too irrational/stupid to realize this.

I'll agree that he adopts positions on IP which, if enacted, would be an existential step away from capitalism rather than towards it. However, I certainly do not consider everyone who defends capitalism but attacks IP 'stupid' or 'irrational,' and don't see enough about this guy personally to decide that here. The arguments in defense of IP are complex and the philosophical grounding multilayered. Suffice it to say that he gets this aspect of capitalism wrong, and that the views he advocates would endanger the rights of producers if enacted.

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I'll agree that he adopts positions on IP which, if enacted, would be an existential step away from capitalism rather than towards it. However, I certainly do not consider everyone who defends capitalism but attacks IP 'stupid' or 'irrational,' and don't see enough about this guy personally to decide that here. The arguments in defense of IP are complex and the philosophical grounding multilayered. Suffice it to say that he gets this aspect of capitalism wrong, and that the views he advocates would endanger the rights of producers if enacted.

Oh I did not really mean to imply that *everyone* that holds such ideas is necceasirly stupid or irrational. Mostly those that think essentially similar things as to those ideas which Stallman seems rather fond of. Of course, there is more to his confusion than has been covered here as well.

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Then he is a fool that at attempts to deny producers certain of their most basic property rights. He has no business pretending to be an advocate of *actual* freedom ( not the monstrous perversion of "freedom" which he incoherently likes to rant about). Regardless of whether he is [ explicitly] anti-profit or anti-capitalist, he is in implicitly an enemy of both, even if he is too irrational/stupid to realize this.

For in reality, removing the ability for producers to protect the product of their labour with such laws ( leaving aside the fact that currently such laws may or may not have serious flaws in their implementation in regards to some things) would make profit in a great many industries virtually impossible for the vast majority of potential producers and capitalism would be greatly harmed.

The inability to make profit absent IP doesn't appear to be the case, and in the US legal system in which he primarily abides, his position is correct.

This is entirely incorrect. Money is a means of exchange, but more than that, it is a medium by which value can be stored and saved. It does not corrupt anyone, it has no ability to do so. To say "money" ruins neutrality makes about as much sense as claiming that guns make people shoot other people. Ideas , desires, emotions, irrationality corrupts people, not economic tools such as money.

The fact that someone may have receive large sums of money for their arbitration services is NOT really an issue per se. I would *prefer* that the person doing this was paid in exchange for their services, at a value which matches the objective value of their services. What would worry me is if someone was paid say far *more* than this.

The rational thing to do is not to blame money and to cry that it corrupts people or that large payments for services are themselves suspicious. It is to be suspicious of those that accept payments in excess of the values of their services. They possibly are corrupt, but it is not the fault of money, it is *the ideas that they accept*, ie, ultimately their philosophies which make them so.

You are far more trusting than I would be. If a company has a long standing relationship with another company or party, than expecting neutral reporting on that party or arbitration can be difficult, just like friends don't make neutral sources. In regards to mainstream media, virtually all of the players have long standing relationships with the government, which is an especially large concern if you don't trust the government.

So he has a problem with producers exercising their inaleniable rights

Let me stop you right there. Copyright and patents aren't an inalienable right. Their current implementation demands that they be alienated from the rightsholder at some point.

"Capitalism is a social system based on the recognition of individual rights, including property rights, in which all property is privately owned." - Ayn Rand.

So lets get this straight - he is against fundamental property rights, I think that is beyond reasonable doubt at this point. Seems pretty obvious that despite what me might claim, that he is implicitly against capitalism as well ( capitalism as defined by Ayn Rand, not whatever the hell he thinks it is ).

He may be against 'capitalism as defined by Ayn Rand,' at least when you add in her viewpoint of IP, but Ayn Rand was human, and thus made mistakes from time to time. For starters, if inventions and writings in the abstract are property, then they would all be owned in a capitalist system. But even Rand acknowledged a need for them to have limited duration, and thus have the 'owner' be the public. This appears to be a contradiction.

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The inability to make profit absent IP doesn't appear to be the case, and in the US legal system in which he primarily abides, his position is correct.

If it does not seem to be the case, that is only because in fact Stallman *doesnt* get his way when it comes to the majority of industries in which the profitability of many of the major firms *rely* on the protections of various IP laws. And in which respects are his views "essentially correct" exactly, hmm?

You are far more trusting than I would be. If a company has a long standing relationship with another company or party, than expecting neutral reporting on that party or arbitration can be difficult, just like friends don't make neutral sources. In regards to mainstream media, virtually all of the players have long standing relationships with the government, which is an especially large concern if you don't trust the government.

It is not just a matter of *trust* per se. It is just that I recognize that in *general* and assuming the absence of certain forms of government intervention, most successful companies can be trusted to act reasonably rationally most of the time and to **not* screw people over just because large sums of money are involved. That sort of behaviour almost always leads to failure, in the absence of government interventiions which may protect those businesses that may engage in such activities.

Let me stop you right there. Copyright and patents aren't an inalienable right. Their current implementation demands that they be alienated from the rightsholder at some point.

Actually, I did not say that they were. You incorrectly inferred that I meant that they are. Patents and copyrights ( properly implemented ) *protect* such rights however.

The fact that Ayn Rand was fallible is not anything approaching an argument for her being wrong in this case. Sure, there is the *potential* to be wrong in any case if one thinks badly, but that fact alone does not mean that one should beleive that person is wrong in any given case. What counts is the content of the argument/claim as compared to the facts of reality, not the fact that they *might* be wrong, which is really quite irrelevant in determining the truth or falsehood of particular claim.

As for the rest of that, I am not really sure what your point is exactly.

Edited by Prometheus98876
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If it does not seem to be the case, that is only because in fact Stallman *doesnt* get his way when it comes to the majority of industries in which the profitability of many of the major firms *rely* on the protections of various IP laws.

Stallman has nothing to do with this manner. It's an economic matter of whether or not IP produces results.

And in which respects are his views "essentially correct" exactly, hmm?

That the US copyright law is not based on a natural right, but is a utilitarian system of monopoly.

It is not just a matter of *trust* per se. It is just that I recognize that in *general* and assuming the absence of certain forms of government intervention, most successful companies can be trusted to act reasonably rationally most of the time and to **not* screw people over just because large sums of money are involved. That sort of behaviour almost always leads to failure, in the absence of government interventiions which may protect those businesses that may engage in such activities.

I'm not sure I'd say there is an absence of government interventions in mainstream media. Most mainstream news is owned by companies that produce mainstream entertainment content, which means they have strong ties to the government, along with other reasons for ties. Large scale collusion with the government is pretty much a hallmark of the biggest corporations we have today (as competitive free markets wouldn't support them in most instances)

The fact that Ayn Rand was fallible is not anything approaching an argument for her being wrong in this case. Sure, there is the *potential* to be wrong in any case if one thinks badly, but that fact alone does not mean that one should beleive that person is wrong in any given case. What counts is the content of the argument/claim as compared to the facts of reality, not the fact that they *might* be wrong, which is really quite irrelevant in determining the truth or falsehood of particular claim.

Do you care to explain which element you contend she was wrong about? was her definition of capitalism wrong, was her defining of IP as property wrong, or was her recognition of limitation on IP wrong?

The simple answer to me is that she was wrong about 'IP' and that it is not a form of property. That seems to be more evident in the age of the internet, when creating artificial scarcity of a good is far less plausible.

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Stallman has nothing to do with this manner. It's an economic matter of whether or not IP produces results.

We are talking about Stallman, or so I thought. If you want to argue that IP laws do not in fact help/work, that is really another issue, however it does not change the reality of the essential points I was making about Stallman.

That the US copyright law is not based on a natural right, but is a utilitarian system of monopoly.

Got any facts to support this, because Stallman definitely does not.

I'm not sure I'd say there is an absence of government interventions in mainstream media. Most mainstream news is owned by companies that produce mainstream entertainment content, which means they have strong ties to the government, along with other reasons for ties. Large scale collusion with the government is pretty much a hallmark of the biggest corporations we have today (as competitive free markets wouldn't support them in most instances)

Even if this is true, it is really a little off topic now. The issue that this arose from is the assertion that money somehow corrupts ( or this was the implication anwyays). However, I will add that many of the biggest corporations *dont* collude with the government at all and try to avoid any such things. It is *far* from a "hallmark" of large corporations (except for perhaps those in certain industries).

[quote

]Do you care to explain which element you contend she was wrong about? was her definition of capitalism wrong, was her defining of IP as property wrong, or was her recognition of limitation on IP wrong?

The simple answer to me is that she was wrong about 'IP' and that it is not a form of property. That seems to be more evident in the age of the internet, when creating artificial scarcity of a good is far less plausible.

I did not say that I thought she was wrong about this issue. Simply that the fact that she *could* be wrong is not an argument that *she is wrong*.

Edited by Prometheus98876
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For starters, if inventions and writings in the abstract are property, then they would all be owned in a capitalist system. But even Rand acknowledged a need for them to have limited duration, and thus have the 'owner' be the public. This appears to be a contradiction.

I think this is an interesting question, albeit off topic here, so I have brought it up in another thread, this one a current thread which is strictly on the topic of IP. Please carry on that aspect of the discussion over there, if you like.

Edited by Dante
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We are talking about Stallman, or so I thought. If you want to argue that IP laws do not in fact help/work, that is really another issue, however it does not change the reality of the essential points I was making about Stallman.

If IP laws do not work or their current form doesn't work, than he is right to oppose them.

Got any facts to support this, because Stallman definitely does not.

The constitution's language makes it exceptionally clear that the US system exists 'to promote the progress.' We've also rejected the 'sweat of the brow' doctrine (and thus the notion that labor creates copyright) in Feist v. Rural.

I did not say that I thought she was wrong about this issue. Simply that the fact that she *could* be wrong is not an argument that *she is wrong*.

There is an underlying contradiction in what was stated on related subjects. Something she said must be wrong, or Ayn Rand was not living in our universe. You can't rationally hold all of those statements to be true at once, so I am asking you to say which one you do not personally accept.

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If IP laws do not work or their current form doesn't work, than he is right to oppose them.

Niether you or Stallman have managed to demonstrate that they dont yet ( except for as far as they may be poorly implemented in some cases perhaps).

The constitution's language makes it exceptionally clear that the US system exists 'to promote the progress.' We've also rejected the 'sweat of the brow' doctrine (and thus the notion that labor creates copyright) in Feist v. Rural.

I dont think so, whatever exactly that means, assuming it has an objective / clear / precise meaning. However, I am not sure that Constitution *actually* forbids the sort of thing that Stallman seems to have an issue with copyright/patent laws doing. It certainly is not an argument that they should be scrapped.

There is an underlying contradiction in what was stated on related subjects. Something she said must be wrong, or Ayn Rand was not living in our universe. You can't rationally hold all of those statements to be true at once, so I am asking you to say which one you do not personally accept.

What is this underlying contradiction which you assert and why must it result in me rejecting at least part of what she said on such things?

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The fact is exact opposite.

For starters that comment is now 3 years old. Back then MonoDevelop did not exist. Also, the Mono Runtime was a lot worse 3 years ago than it is now. Wine was also a lot worse than it is now - but still cannot run the Express Edition products in the Visual Studio family of products. And yet MonoDevelop and the Mono Runtime are still not as good as modern versions of the .NET runtime and even the Express Edition products in the Visual Studio family when it comes to making .NET products, let alone paid versions of Visual Studio. So, no "the exact opposite" is not the fact since my point was that Windows is best for .NET projects. This was very true 3 years ago and while Linux distros and their relevant software has come a long way in the last 3 years, they have a long way to go to catch up to Windows in that regard. But they will likely never catch up let alone overtake Windows in that regard given Windows and .NET are made by the same company.

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If you decided to do build career on .NET and Visual Studio whatever that's your only way.

Wrong. Linux has MonoDevelop and the Mono Runtime, which bring .NET to Linux, hence my previopus post.

EDIT:

I was replying mainly to this:

... but not enough to change the fact that Windows is the best platform to learn programming on when one has such plans

But, you see I was talking about the very thing Prometheus was referring to, ie, making .NET software projects.

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Do you realize that it's not possible to prevent reverse engineering by technology?

So what? It is immoral to do so against the producer's wishes. That is all that matters

You can say "then don't do it". But why? It's not like stealing someones car. It's in MY memory.

Why? Because you are stealing if you do so against the producer's wishes. You are stealing his intellectual property.

Please stop with this crap. I'm interested in information technology not in any of your political or economic views.

Then apparently you don't care about Rand's either since those are applications of views she also held. So why are you here of all websites?

And as I said it isn't anti-profit. Do you realize that vast majority of software that lives on internet runs free software (or at least BSD)? There is a lot of companies that invest in free software (Intel, IBM, Oracle, ...). There are companies that profit from free software (RedHat, Google).

So what? He didn't say free software is anti-capitalist, only that Stallman's views are anti-capitalist.

Regarding political views, I think I'm socialists (the middle) so don't try this "pure capitalist" crap at me.

Then, I repeat, why are you here of all places?

Sure you can. But only way to enforce these rights is to cut other rights (like privacy).

There is no right to the privacy to violate the rights of a producer by reverse engineering his software or otherwise looking at or using his source code without his permission. If you do not see that then this is the wrong place for you as this is a website for those that think along those lines and other equally rational lines from Ayn Rand.

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I don't think that Stallman intends to take that right from you. At worst, he thinks you're a jerk or rude for not sharing your source code, and he very well may be right on that matter.

No, he is completely wrong on that. I am no more a jerk or rude for wanting to keep my source code to myself so others cannot use them than I am for wanting to keep the notes for my fiction stories to myself so others cannot use them. And this is not a privacy right, but rather a right to the product of one's mind - for the same reasons one has the right to physical products one makes. That is all a copy or patent right is - ie, property rights applied to the products of one's mind. This principle applies as much to software as to other products of the mind, such as art.

Also he says that copyright today is granted for too long (Mickey Mouse).

He is wrong about that in many cases (though not necessarily all). Your example is a good example of one he is wrong about. Ones like that get such long copyright due to the fact the rightsholder(s) are still using them in productive efforts. It is the same as (talking hypothetically) if Wizards of the Coast still held the copyright to Dungeons and Dragons when it is 100 years old as they are still making D&D products.

He's suggested a possible system in which all usage of p2p technology is legalized

He of all people should know that p2p software is in fact legal and has many legal uses - such as for collaborative work, or downloading open source software, or downloading other free software that the rightsholders make available via p2p software. It is simply certain uses of it, ie ones that breach copyright laws, that is illegal.

From his viewpoint, a copyright or patent is a state sanctioned monopoly, not a recognition of a natural property right.

Then he is a highly irrational fool. That is all there is to it.

Yes, Money influences people.

1. Influence is not the same as controlling. Stallman seems to think it controls people, not just that it influences them.

The need to keep up expensive habits, which he mentioned, can make money even more influential.

This is a fictional need. Just because one has a lot of money does not automatically mean one will have an expensive life style. In fact contrary to popular belief there is such a thing a rish people and semi-rich people that spend very little money. In fact in many cases that is a large part of how they got so much money in the first place.

Let me stop you right there. Copyright and patents aren't an inalienable right. Their current implementation demands that they be alienated from the rightsholder at some point.

So producers don't have an inalienable right to the products of their minds? That is nonsense. And even if the current implemntation is flawed (I cannot comment there as I don't know US copyright and patent laws) that does not mean the concept is. The concept is about the rights of producers to the products of their minds.

For those that think Prometheus was not getting Stallman right, look at the video exit_success posted for proof that he is right. What Stallman calls "freedoms" 1-3 in that video are not freedoms at all. You have no more right to such "freedom" 1 than you have a right to view an author's plot notes, character notes, etc unless the rightsholder(s) grant you permission to do so. You have no more right to "freedom" 2 than you do to make copies of a book or movie and to then distribute them. You have no more right to "freedom 3" than you do to make an altered version of a book (say Harry Potter for example) and distribute it. And the talk of it being "necessary to live an ethical life where they help their neighbours" says a lot about how horrible his philosophy is, especially in regards to ethics.

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He of all people should know that p2p software is in fact legal and has many legal uses - such as for collaborative work, or downloading open source software, or downloading other free software that the rightsholders make available via p2p software. It is simply certain uses of it, ie ones that breach copyright laws, that is illegal.

Sure, but I think the point was that Stallman thinks it should *all* be legal, even in the cases you and I might think should be illegal / remain illegal.

So producers don't have an inalienable right to the products of their minds? That is nonsense. And even if the current implemntation is flawed (I cannot comment there as I don't know US copyright and patent laws) that does not mean the concept is. The concept is about the rights of producers to the products of their minds.

Along the lines of what I have already stated, it is better to say that patents and copyrights are the means to *protect* certain inalienable rights. But yeah, of course those are the sorts of inalienable rights that I was talkiing about.

Of course, all that aside, I would tend to agree with everything else that you have said here so far.

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Sure, but I think the point was that Stallman thinks it should *all* be legal, even in the cases you and I might think should be illegal / remain illegal.

Then if so the person I replied to used poor wording that did not make that clear.

Along the lines of what I have already stated, it is better to say that patents and copyrights are the means to *protect* certain inalienable rights. But yeah, of course those are the sorts of inalienable rights that I was talkiing about.

My point was that producers have an inalienable right to the product of their mind and that that is what the concepts of copyrights and patents are meant to address, even if current implementations are poor.

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Even though it's a few years old, I'd like to return to the subject of the original post, regarding the morality of Linux.

I believe Linux and the associated distributions are immoral, for two reasons that I didn't see mentioned earlier in this thread:

1. The code is well-documented to have violated many patents. Unfortunately, the patent holders have (so far) been reluctant to enforce their rights, but the violations nonetheless exist. Some patent holders have given their rights away in support of free software, but not all of them have.

2. The code is distributed to people without disclosing to them that by using it, they are subjecting themselves to potential claims for patent infringement -- which is basically a form of fraud.

There is at least one version of Linux that resolves part of the first issue and the entire second issue -- the one from Novell -- although I don't recall if it's available for free. In that case, Microsoft agreed with Novell to provide patent indemnity to Novell's Linux customers. However, the patent violations for non-Microsoft patent holders remain.

I should add that while I think Linux' use of the original Unix code by itself was probably moral, I do think the government actions which made that possible were immoral. Unix used to be protected by AT&T as a Trade Secret; it was not patented or copyrighted. There would seem to be a moral gray zone of sorts here, since Linux relies on information that was basically extorted from its original inventors.

On the subject of free software, speaking as a software developer with 30+ yrs experience, including very early versions of Unix, my two cents here is that many of the professional developers who are giving their work away are not being rationally selfish, and therefore they are acting immorally. In some cases, they are being moral, and those cases, I think it's fine. However, the developers I know who have done this type of thing haven't considered that they are often shooting themselves in the foot in the long term:

1. By giving their work away, they have helped to encourage a culture of "software should be free." If you are making your living writing software, this is almost certainly not a good thing.

2. IMO, free software helped to encourage the idea that anyone could write complex software; that it's more like digging a ditch as opposed to a creative effort like writing a novel or an opera. The result was a willingness to hire buildings full of very junior developers and ship code development offshore, something that has decimated many aspects of the industry, and damaged quality and the public's perception of software ("it always crashes," etc).

3. They are helping to train their competition, by providing extensive, functional examples.

Software development is an almost purely intellectual task. I think many people attack it for that reason. It's not the software they wish to destroy as much as it is the minds of the people who create it.

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1. The code is well-documented to have violated many patents. Unfortunately, the patent holders have (so far) been reluctant to enforce their rights, but the violations nonetheless exist. Some patent holders have given their rights away in support of free software, but not all of them have.

2. The code is distributed to people without disclosing to them that by using it, they are subjecting themselves to potential claims for patent infringement -- which is basically a form of fraud.

To the best of my knowledge this is not true of the kernel itself, which, as has already been said, is all Linux actually is. Nor is it true of all distributions. In fact many companies (eg Canonical and Novell, but they are far from alone there) are careful about avoiding this very thing by not including even pripority software on their CDs/DVDs that the licence lets them distribute in this manner as they don't want to be stuck to the licences of said software as they find them too restricting, but also don't want to breach copyright and patent laws and rights. Adobe Flash is one such example. So, as as been said already, some are immoral, but others are not.

I should add that while I think Linux' use of the original Unix code by itself was probably moral, I do think the government actions which made that possible were immoral. Unix used to be protected by AT&T as a Trade Secret; it was not patented or copyrighted. There would seem to be a moral gray zone of sorts here, since Linux relies on information that was basically extorted from its original inventors.

Linux has diverged from UNIX a lot by now though, including fixing many issues still unfixed in UNIX and other UNIX derived kernel/OSes (such as Apple's OS X).

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This thread had another topic, I had forgotten due to being swept up in this only somewhat related one :P

1. The code is well-documented to have violated many patents. Unfortunately, the patent holders have (so far) been reluctant to enforce their rights, but the violations nonetheless exist. Some patent holders have given their rights away in support of free software, but not all of them have.

I would agree that this would be a very good reason to conclude that it is immoral. However I have not really seen many/any good arguments as to which valid patents Linux is violating.

As for your second point, I am not sure about to what extent the users would be legally accountable in such case, not according to US law ( me not being a US citizen and all and not knowing all the details of US copyright/patent laws).

There is at least one version of Linux that resolves part of the first issue and the entire second issue -- the one from Novell -- although I don't recall if it's available for free. In that case, Microsoft agreed with Novell to provide patent indemnity to Novell's Linux customers. However, the patent violations for non-Microsoft patent holders remain.

That would be SUSE and OpenSUSE ( which is free in the "libre" and "no cost" sense of the word) presumably.

l. Unix used to be protected by AT&T as a Trade Secret; it was not patented or copyrighted

I really do not know enough about the UNIX Trade Secret stuff you allude to to comment here. Could you provide any specific information as to this or a link / reference to such?

1. By giving their work away, they have helped to encourage a culture of "software should be free." If you are making your living writing software, this is almost certainly not a good thing.

2. IMO, free software helped to encourage the idea that anyone could write complex software; that it's more like digging a ditch as opposed to a creative effort like writing a novel or an opera. The result was a willingness to hire buildings full of very junior developers and ship code development offshore, something that has decimated many aspects of the industry, and damaged quality and the public's perception of software ("it always crashes," etc).

3. They are helping to train their competition, by providing extensive, functional examples.

1) I dont really think that the people that choose to make software which they distribute for free ( for whatever possibly good or bad reasons they might have to do so )should be held morally accountable for the fact that such a culture may or may not arise. Not unless they actually do something to delibretely foster such a culture or if they do something which actively encourages it perhaps, however simply producing such software does not really count.

2) Why should they be held morally accountable for this either? If people choose to get incorrect/irrational ideas about software development into their heads, why should we blame the developers of free software unless they actively encourage such delusions / incorrect views?

3) No, this one does not make much sense to me. They are training t heir competition? Well gee, its not like their competition could not just use one of millions of *other* resources on the net to get that training, some of which may be freely to access ( but which may have valid reasons to *be* so , say because they get revenue from ads or something). Maybe if they were providing their competition (assuming they *care* if they have competition and they might not) the *only* high quality means to learn to compete. At least this is so in *most* cases I would think.

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Another reason I think Linux and the open source community have moral issues is because I know from personal experience that quite a few people who contribute to those projects do so on their employer's time, using their employer's resources, and without their employer's consent.

So, using your own time and resources might be moral, as I discussed earlier -- but using your employer's resources is really a form of theft. Using software that was created using immoral means (theft or fraud) is also immoral, in the same way that using stolen property is.

To the best of my knowledge this is not true of the kernel itself, which, as has already been said, is all Linux actually is.

Google recently lost a $5M patent infringement suit that was based on something specific in the kernel. See http://www.baudlabs.com/archives/1441

I don't have a list of the other known infringements handy, but they definitely include other things in the kernel. Microsoft has a patent on the FAT filesystem, for example, and for the way it handles long names (Joliet naming). Some might argue the infringed patents are not enforceable or whatever, but that's really an unknown until they are litigated; there is still a potential liability.

Linux has diverged from UNIX a lot by now though, including fixing many issues still unfixed in UNIX and other UNIX derived kernel/OSes (such as Apple's OS X).

True. However, it still retains the rich intellectual heritage of Unix, and therefore wouldn't be what it is today without those initial innovations. Equally important, AT&T's work established the initial market for this type of OS, including wide adoption in Universities due to a liberal licensing policy for educational institutions. Without those efforts, while something like Linux may have come along eventually, it wouldn't have had nearly the same level of acceptance.

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I would agree that this would be a very good reason to conclude that it is immoral. However I have not really seen many/any good arguments as to which valid patents Linux is violating.

See my previous post.

As for your second point, I am not sure about to what extent the users would be legally accountable in such case, not according to US law ( me not being a US citizen and all and not knowing all the details of US copyright/patent laws).

As the page I linked to showed, Google was found liable. There's no legal reason why anyone running Linux 2.4.22.x or later wouldn't also be liable.

That would be SUSE and OpenSUSE ( which is free in the "libre" and "no cost" sense of the word) presumably.

Yes, that's the one.

I really do not know enough about the UNIX Trade Secret stuff you allude to to comment here. Could you provide any specific information as to this or a link / reference to such?

A "trade secret" is a means of protecting a process or system by not disclosing how it works and requiring customers not disclose the same data. Trade secret status is lost when a non-licensee becomes aware of the protected data by non-criminal means. Trade secrets are not registered with the government. The AT&T Unix licenses required a licensee not to allow "unauthorized use or distribution of the code, methods and concepts contained in or derived from the Unix product."

The issue goes back to the 1953 consent decree for AT&T, which came about as a result of anti-trust litigation against them. One of its requirements was that AT&T was not allowed to go into the computer business. It could engage in computer-oriented research, but it could not actively market any inventions it came up with.

The Unix trade secret status was taken from them in part because AT&T was lax about enforcing their contracts. Companies usually complied well, but universities violated the terms terribly, and were never taken to task as a result. In fact, one of the early and most egregious violations was the publication of the entire Unix kernel source code in book form was John Lions' "Commentary on Unix 6th Edition" in 1976 -- which was very quickly circulated among non-licensees (I happen to have an early legal copy of one). I believe one of the main reasons AT&T did not try harder to enforce their contracts is because they felt there was a significant risk of running into the anti-trust limitations established by the consent decree.

1) I dont really think that the people that choose to make software which they distribute for free ( for whatever possibly good or bad reasons they might have to do so )should be held morally accountable for the fact that such a culture may or may not arise. Not unless they actually do something to delibretely foster such a culture or if they do something which actively encourages it perhaps, however simply producing such software does not really count.

Consider honesty as a moral virtue. We know that telling a lie is bad, because it can hurt you; not just through guilt, but also from the reaction of others. If you don't care or don't think about the consequences of telling a lie, it doesn't mean they aren't there.

As an example, imagine that you worked for someone making orange juice. Everyone worked hard, used the best oranges, and made really good juice. The quality product brought in many customers. The juice sold for a good price, and your employer was therefore able to pay you well. Then, on your own time, you decide to make lemonade, and give it away. You make lots of it. The quality might not be as high as what you make at work, but it's pretty good, and you soon develop a large following. However, people start coming into your work and saying "hey, why isn't your juice free like the lemonade guy's?" Next thing you know, your wage is declining as your boss cuts costs. You might even lose your job. The first moral question here is, first: is such a response predictable, similar to the response to a lie being predictable. I believe it is. The next question is whether your job is more important to you in the long term than what you get out of making lemonade. Perhaps you have plans to encourage others to do the same as you, and to make a living selling them lemon-specific equipment. If it is valuable to you, then you're acting morally. But if it isn't, then you aren't.

2) Why should they be held morally accountable for this either? If people choose to get incorrect/irrational ideas about software development into their heads, why should we blame the developers of free software unless they actively encourage such delusions / incorrect views?

The main irrational actors in this case are the developers.

Continuing the example above, how can your employer compete with "free"? One way is to cut costs. They might reduce staff and just make less of the same high-quality product. Or, when they see that the public accepts a lower quality product as long as it costs much less, they might jump on the bandwagon and do they same. Maybe they replace their staff with a bunch of low-paid flunkies, or they buy cheap oranges from overseas, or maybe they even ship the whole business overseas. Whichever direction they choose, odds are that your job, wage and future will be impacted. Once again, the first moral question is are those types of responses predictable by a rational person? I believe they are.

Therefore, if you give away a product similar to what you're being paid to create, it has the potential of damaging you, not unlike being dishonest does, so it's immoral.

3) No, this one does not make much sense to me. They are training t heir competition? Well gee, its not like their competition could not just use one of millions of *other* resources on the net to get that training, some of which may be freely to access ( but which may have valid reasons to *be* so , say because they get revenue from ads or something). Maybe if they were providing their competition (assuming they *care* if they have competition and they might not) the *only* high quality means to learn to compete. At least this is so in *most* cases I would think.

Someone else training your competition isn't immoral. You training your own competition might be, unless it consciously and rationally fits your value hierarchy. You may value training people more than your current job, for whatever reason. That's fine. But to deny that releasing a complex, functional, well-tested application as open source doesn't serve as education, and to deny that some of those you educate might eventually compete with you in some way, is just evasion.

A rational person will probably care if they have competition. Wages in the software industry, as in most industries, are proportional, in part, to supply and demand. If there are a large and increasing number of people available who can do the same things you do, then your wages and possibly your job are at risk; specialization and uniqueness have value.

I know many software engineers who readily admit how much they've learned from reading open source code. I can't blame them; I've even done it myself. The moral issue is with the original developer. Let's say they've invented some new, unique and cool way to do something. With that skill, they find a good job (many SW jobs used to be much more specific in their skill requirements than they are today). Then they publish an open source app that shows everyone how their new approach works. Lots of other devs read the code and say, "oh, I see, that's cool; I can do that, too!" Now the only thing special about the original dev is that he thought of it first; he may well lose his job.

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Then I think we at least need to agree that Open Source can and in many cases is contrary to Objectivist princples, though it isn't necessarily the rule.

The only reason why I would agree to that is because, anything can be against Objectivist principals.

By contrast I would call Open Source Software the natural and perhaps best thought out business strategy I have seen in a long time.

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Let's put it another way then. let's say a group of people volunatrily go off and start a commune (regardless of whether their intentions are for the "greater good" or "collaborative effort", "Mutual benefit", etc.) that states that none of them "own" the work they produce and have to share everything that is produced - and they all agree willingly. Are they still outside the pervue of morality? Or are they still immoral because they are living against man's nature?

So then, a community effort to clean up a road is automatically "collectivist" just because a community is tired of seeing litter along an otherwise picturesque landscape?

There is a mutual benefit for all of them because, it is good for the environment and they all feel driven to do it and decide to work together to do it. So because, they all feel compelled to do something they are automatically now not entitled to their own work?

I have noticed this entire discussion slides away from the subject of "Is there an Objectivist argument against linux?" towards "is there an Objectivist argument against people working together without direct monetary compensation?"

Objectively, in the creation of open source software, the creators are entitled to the software they created. Should they choose to give it to others for free, they are within their rights to do so. To suggest that Linux has anti-Objectivist elements strictly, because a product is given away for free from everything I have read is basically the same as saying that any work done for free is essentially anti objectivist.

My perception of Objectivism thus far has been that, you are not required to give away anything you don't want to. Following the same train of thought, you are entitled to give away whatever of your possessions you choose, for whatever reason you choose. The major determining factor is that you are not morally obligated to do so making Linux well within the realm of neutral when viewed Objectively.

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