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2004 Aug 11 12:16

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Re: [vox-tech] [OT] The AFPL (was: some PDF problems: screen andprint rendering do not match)
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Re: [vox-tech] [OT] The AFPL (was: some PDF problems: screen andprint rendering do not match)

On Wed, Aug 11, 2004 at 10:13:07AM -0400, Peter Jay Salzman wrote:

> Debian-legal doesn't like the AFPL.  They say it's non-free.  But we
> can't really listen to that group of bickering magpies.  They also say
> the AFL and OSL are non-free too.
> If the entire GNU GPL world magically converted to the OSL, the whole
> SCO fiasco and the "Linux contains 999 potential patent violations"
> claims would evaporate.  Can you imagine UnixWare without Apache?  The
> AFL doesn't allow you to use someone else's code while you rape them in
> court.  The AFL is more copyleft than Stallman's copyleft licenses!
> Freshmeat thinks the AFPL is free:
>    http://freshmeat.net/browse/826/
> It's also good enough for sourceforge:
>    http://sourceforge.net/projects/ghostscript/
> However, it's NOT good enough for OSI.  But that's not surprising.
> OSI's definition of open source was written by the same person who wrote
> the DFSG.  He was probably one of the first people to belong to Debian
> legal.

I don't see where freshmeat or sourceforge declares this license free,
in the links above. And I would be really surprised if they did, since
the text of the license itself specifically says that it is not
open-source (and hence not free, since one of RMS's chief complaints
about OSI is that they are a tad /too/ permissive in the licenses they

Other that, though, I agree with your assertion that AFPL is not at
all a bad license, and if it is different from "free", it is at least
not different in ways that truly impact the user's rights in
significant ways.

The one problem with the "nobody charges but the author" is: who is
the author?  If 10% of the code in a modified work is original, what
of the right of the modifier to charge for his work?

Of course, I've always felt the charge/don't charge thing is a bit
ridiculous, since the first person you sell it to can simply give it
away. You'd better charge that first person a bundle.

I agree with the writers of the AFPL that the problem with free/open
source licenses is that they restrict the ability of the developers to
be fairly compensated for their work. RMS talks about making money
through service and what not (and for some few companies, this may be
a workable model), but that really is a distraction from the issue:
you're still not being paid for all the work you did on your project,
but only for the work you did /after/ it.

Ultimately, free software operates on the "rights of the user is king"
paradigm, whilst typical proprietary EULAs focus on "rights of the
developer is king". There really doesn't seem to be a way to resolve
this practically: I agree with RMS that users should have all, or at
least most, of the rights he states in his manifesto. I also believe
that a worker should be compensated for his labor. Ultimately, I
believe there are times when the developer's rights must take
precedence, and there are also times when the user's rights ought to
be upheld: but I do believe the ultimate choice ought to be in the
hands of the person who created the thing. My creation, my choice. You
don't like it, you can always do what GNU did and rewrite it
yourself. Although then I still don't get compensated for the /design/
work I did that you probably copied.

What I love most about the GPL and Free Software is that it ultimately
comes down to "loving your fellow man" and "putting others first". It
is a completely unselfish action to license a piece of software under
a free license, and I love that. But I don't think it's right to
demand that everyone else work without any self-interest: it's a "good
deed" that you must choose to make yourself; a personal decision.

For my part, I write Free Software because I *use* Free Software. I
feel I owe it to the world: if I take something, I should give
something back.

I think a lot could be done to resolve the trade-off between the
rights of the user and those of the developer, if there were a lot
less of a psychological connection between "free as in freedom" and
"free as in beer". Even those who know the difference often assume
that the former implies the latter---how often have you heard
something like, "And it's open source, so it won't cost you a dime!"?
If everyone who used free software in a significant way felt the
obligation and duty to make an equitable donation to the authors, I
think we would have perfection. The authors would be compensated, and
the users could do WTH they want. Every author of significant open
source should provide a convenient means to accept donations (Bill has
this). I can't say I've really done this (though I've donated to
www.faqs.org), but I fully intend to donate to at least the FSF, since
the majority of software I use are their braindhildren.

Micah J. Cowan
vox-tech mailing list

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