Chad Perrin: SOB

16 April 2007

problems in open source development

Filed under: Geek — apotheon @ 05:33

You’ve probably noticed by now that I’ve taken a break from the Symantec analysis. I’ll probably get back to it. It lost its luster, and I’ve been busy with other things (changing automobile insurance carriers, et cetera). In the meantime, I’ve decided to post some of my thoughts on The sorry state of open source today (also available here). I’ll organize these comments by the part of the editorial that inspired them. I recommend that you read the original editorial on which I’m commenting before reading these comments, and perhaps keep it open in another tab (you are using a tabbed browser, aren’t you?) for reference. I will not be restating the content of the original in my comments.

  1. The Linux kernel may be the poster boy for open source development, but comments about its state do not extend to open source software universally. I don’t even use a Linux-based OS as my primary OS — I’m a FreeBSD guy these days. Of course, I have noticed a decreased effectiveness of quality control in the Linux kernel, but it’s not horrible yet, and real steps are being taken to turn things around.
  2. No . . . the real reason OO.o won’t be forked has little to do with the fact that it has gone mainstream. The real reason it won’t likely be forked is two-fold — one, the maintainers are doing a “good enough” job so that most people don’t want to go to the effort; two, it has become such a huge, bloated piece of software (just like any office suite, by definition) that the effort involved in a fork is just insane to contemplate. As for the comments about bug patching, we should ultimately realize that immediate patches are important no matter what type of software you’re using, regardless of whether it’s open source software. The fact we live in a networked world affects the immediacy of security for everyone — especially when the vendor spends four months sitting on an ANI library vulnerability report, and doesn’t release a patch until after the vulnerability is being exploited by malicious security crackers!
  3. Software patents are not part of the “sorry state of open source” software. They’re part of the sorry state of legislation and case law. Patents in general are getting way the hell out of control — an inevitable effect of a legal system that makes use of patents and intermingles corporate business with government. Software patents should definitely be eliminated. That’s a problem of law, though, and not of software, though it affects all software, not just open source software. I agree it’s a problem, and a huge problem at that, for open source software, but I disagree with the characterization of it as part of “the sorry state of open source” software. The problem of software patents, by the way, cannot be laid at the feet of some kind of mystical American worship of the Founders. If that were the case, software patents would probably be less of a problem than they currently are (the Founders have said things both good and bad about patents) and a lot of other problems we currently have would never have happened at all. The problem is not an American slavish devotion to the words of the Founders, but a very universally human tendency to cherry-pick statements from long-dead authority figures that support a given viewpoint and defend that to the death, regardless of the fact that a more comprehensive look at the situation — or even a more complete look at what those authority figures have said — would show much that contradicts that viewpoint. Anyway, Ireland has on occasion proven itself most assuredly opposed to the side of the angels in software patents, so we’re clearly not talking about an American (only) problem. While I agree with Beranger on a number of subjects, his commentary on the Constitution, the Founders, and American tradition is so full of holes that there’s little left tying it together on the subject that actually means anything at all. Stick to attacking software patents, Beranger, and stop trying to analyze US politics, at least until you have a more comprehensive understanding. Unchanging Constitution? Don’t make me laugh. I have to agree, though, that US patent law is completely screwed up.
  4. I agree, 100%, with everything said in the “Devil’s advocate” section, with one potential disagreement: Beranger seems to be saying that patents are still a good idea for other technology industries, other than IT. There’s a point where he says something that calls that interpretation of his words into question, but if he’s saying that software patents should be eliminated but other tech industry patents should be kept, I have to disagree. Even so, however, I believe that the purpose of this editorial of his is best served by not challenging tech industry patents in general, since that would provide an unnecessary distraction from the important task of challenging software patents in particular.
  5. I similarly agree in large part with the commentary in “Detrimental to Linux at large”. I don’t see Novell’s actions as “betrayal”, however. To be a betrayal, Novell would have to have done something to be a trusted member of the open source community in the first place. It’s just a corporate organization bent on increasing market share and revenues (basically in that order), and nothing else. I don’t feel betrayed, because I never expected anything else from Novell.
  6. I similarly agree with everything Beranger has to say about GPLv3, and about the contradictory nature of the GPL’s relationship with the GNU/FSF “freedom 3”. I just wish more people would also notice that the GPL materially violates “freedom 2”, as well. Freedom 2 of the “four freedoms” (numbered 0 through 3) is The freedom to redistribute copies so you can help your neighbor (freedom 2). Because you can only distribute software released under terms of the GPL under specific restrictions, that means that you can’t freely distribute it. You can only distribute it when and how you are told to do so. Furthermore, “freedom 1” is The freedom to study how the program works, and adapt it to your needs (freedom 1). Access to the source code is a precondition for this. Clearly, Richard Stallman and his cronies are incapable of differentiating between a “freedom” and an actual ability to perform some task. You have the freedom to examine and modify something if nobody’s going to shoot you for it (for example). You have the ability to examine and modify something if you actually possess it — which is completely apart from freedom. In fact, until the recent attempts by organizations like the RIAA and MPAA to eliminate fair use entirely, fair use provided you the freedom to examine and modify software in your possession already, with the only restriction being on distribution. The so-called “freedom” to examine and modify that is stated in Freedom 2 is complete nonsense. So, yeah, I agree with what Beranger said about the GPL, but he left a couple of points out.
  7. There’s not much additional to say about the business model. The only really worthwhile comments I can add are that, first, Red Hat is the only Linux distribution corporation from that list that is both more than a handful of years old and actually pursuing a pure commercial support business model (as opposed to a productized sales model with support almost as an afterthought), and second, it wouldn’t be so difficult to make money hand over fist with a support-based business model for free software if the software had greater market penetration — as things stand, that’s really the only limiting factor.
  8. There are two perspectives one can take on package management (well, three, really). The first is that software management in the open source OS world is years ahead of that in the closed source OS world. Whatever problems you may have with APT, YUM, SMART, urpmi, YAST, or any of the other major package management systems and their associated software archives, such issues pale in comparison with the lack of functionality and the regular brokenness of software management with OSes such as MS Windows. The second is that, yes, there is indeed a dismaying lack of care taken with software archives and software management systems on many Linux distributions — in fact, as I pointed out in my dramatically-titled the decay of the Debian distribution, the distribution with perhaps the best record of software stability and the best binary package management system to date started suffering from increasing issues with package stability and software management system issues (though I’d still bank on its stability long before I’d even gamble on that of MS Windows). The third perspective, which I almost didn’t mention here, is that by choosing carefully one can find oneself wondering why so many people have problems. Using FreeBSD now, I find that the way software management is handled with this OS is more stable, more robust, and even more fixable and otherwise flexible and customizable than with any Linux distribution’s software management system, without sacrificing any ease of use. By the way, I’d recommend APT (with dpkg for low-level stuff) over aptitude any day of the week for someone that actually wants complete, and sane, control of the software management system. Finally, I don’t hold out any hope for the LSB providing a miraculous save — the LSB has become a political animal that incorporates stupid, pointless, powermongering posturing as often as logical, standardized solutions to problems of compatibility. It started out as a great idea, and was quickly co-opted by people with agendas almost completely unrelated to making Linux distributions in general the best they can be. Yes, it can provide true compatibility — but only at the cost of destroying a lot of beneficial characteristics of many Linux distributions.
  9. Not only is Debian’s “testing” branch usually more stable than Ubuntu’s supposedly stable releases, but it’s more stable than almost every Linux distribution out there. At least, it was — I’m not sure whether that’s still true, since the recent decline in Debian’s stability that I’ve previously noted. Of course, I have no problem with the existence of an “unstable by design” Linux distribution whose purpose is to stay bleeding-edge, even if Beranger doesn’t seem to like that idea at all — as long as other distributions (like Debian and Slackware) stay stable in practice. It’s about choice, after all. I, for one, am not a fan of the bleeding-edge, unstable approach either, but I don’t begrudge others their decision to pursue such an approach to their computing environment. If I did, I’d be talking sh*t about Gentoo all the time.
  10. I’m a little torn on the subject of eye candy and “user friendliness” (translation: newbie accessibility) in the open source world. I think eye candy and newbie accessibility are important, so long as they’re handled well and not in a manner that shoves these things down our throats. Ubuntu shoves this crap down the user’s throat — which is fine if it’s what the user wants, but not so great for me. What I want is efficient, stable, and designed to enhance productivity. I get that with FreeBSD. I can also get the eye candy and “user friendliness” from FreeBSD that is available with Ubuntu if I want it — though, frankly, I’d probably choose something that gives it to me by default. It would still be better to choose an OS that, while giving me these things by default, allowed me to quickly and easily eliminate them if need be. The reason I’d choose such a thing, given the option, is that I recognize the need for all of the above, and don’t merely dismiss eye candy and newbie accessibility in favor of the “correctness” I actually want — nor do I dismiss that “correctness” or sideline it in favor of eye candy and “user friendly” features. I’d rather have both Beryl and fvwm available to me in a given distribution, as well as everything between, rather than just the extremes at one end of the spectrum or the other. I want the option and the ability to choose for myself, not to have my choice dictated to me. Of course, I think Beranger might be misinterpreting some arguments. For instance, he complains about statements that Linux actually does some eye candy stuff better than Vista’s supposedly “revolutionary” new AeroGlass interface because Linux shouldn’t need to be sold on those terms. On the other hand, I’ve seen people mention exactly those comparisons as a means of pointing out, not that Linux is a better eye candy platform and should thus be used instead, but that Vista isn’t doing anything new and all the hype over its mostly productivity-irrelevant “advances” is ridiculous. Sometimes, you have to say “Oh, this open source OS does it better!” before anyone will listen to you when you say “. . . and it doesn’t matter, because eye candy doesn’t help you get anything done.” On the other hand, I worry that the noise over eye candy might lead to a decrease in attention on the stuff that really matters as well, sometimes.
  11. I share Beranger’s concerns over security. I believe — or at least hope — that the existence of an opposite extreme in open source OSes such as OpenBSD will help to provide a balancing influence, and will at the very least provide an alternative for anyone with a couple brain cells to rub together, but that doesn’t change the fact that crap like what Pardus and even Ubuntu have done to security is Not A Good Thing.
  12. I agree with the concepts illustrated in the hype vs. real needs section. I’ve long been less than impressed with the new run of “desktop search” programs as well. Maybe I should just solve the problem of search applications by creating a simple GUI front end to the combination of system search utilities that actually work — locate, grep, find, which, whereis, and so on (have I forgotten any?). It would certainly be easier and more reliable than something like Beagle, built on Mono. As for the extended complaint about email notification, Mutt seems to work great for me.
  13. I really can’t disagree with the statement that “our friends are our foes”, as Beranger put it. If someone really wanted to be a friend of the open source development community, he or she would just release something under a permissive license like the BSD license and be done with it. Aside from contributing to development with free-and-clear code and making use of the improving codebase him- or herself, that would be the end of it. Period. EULAs are not indicative of friendship. Friends don’t place conditions like that.
  14. I find the commentary about evidence of malfeasance from vendors and corporate supporters from open source software troubling. I can’t corroborate or dispute any of it, but assuming it’s all true (and I don’t have reason to expect otherwise at this time) I find myself agreeing with Beranger’s dismay.
  15. The FreeBSD Handbook is excellent — better than any closed source software documentation I’ve ever seen by orders of magnitude. The same is true of the Debian online documentation (manpages, et cetera). Help fora, mailing lists, and other discussion venues abound. Documentation is good, as long as you choose your platform in part for documentation. Luckily, the most stable, secure, well maintained systems also tend to be those with the best documentation. That’s true of Debian, more true of FreeBSD, and the reason I entirely believe Beranger’s statement about the OpenBSD FAQ. I see indications of the respect for manpages declining, as Beranger does — even with Debian, the single best manpage coverage in any open source OS I’ve ever seen, in some cases manpages are being sidelined in favor of info pages. One other note here: Why does Beranger seem to be looking for every opportunity available to say good things about EU countries (or is it just non-US countries in general?) and bad things about the US? That’s just gratuitous and unnecessary.
  16. I agree substantively with the statements about how the environment at large shouldn’t be directly affected by the stability of a single application, but there’s still a significant difference between crashing X in Linux and crashing the entire OS in MS Windows. As proof of this, recently working with someone on getting World of Warcraft running via Wine on a Debian GNU/Linux system caused the system to become unusable by a user sitting in front of the computer when a couple of issues manifested (specifically, I recommend you always close Firefox before playing WoW on Linux). Luckily, it was easily recoverable by using SSH to access the machine remotely and kill the relevant process. That’s it. No work in other applications was lost. The system was just fine, once the interface was freed up from a frozen WoW instance. Hardly Windows ME. As for unfixed bugs, I find them utterly unacceptable — in free unices as well as in Microsoft Windows.
  17. I’m not convinced that the Debian project mishandled the Mozilla trademark policy. My understanding is that Debian just chose to provide modified versions of Firefox and other Mozilla software under other names with different logos, like Iceweasel, to avoid trademark infringement. That strikes me as complying exactly with Mozilla’s trademark policy — which is, itself, not really so bad. There are some people associated with the Debian project who of course have bizarre extremist views about the Mozilla trademark policy and rail against it at great length, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that the Debian project itself, as a whole, is such a problem child. Of course, I haven’t really investigated the matter in any depth, so it’s entirely possible that I’m simply missing some important details that might give me a different perspective on the matter, but I don’t see that market share matters for anything other than as competition with something like IE. I’m also quite glad that the Debian Free Software Guidelines lead to consideration of software distributed under terms of the GPL only “conditionally free”. It’s true. If you want actual freedom, use something with a more permissive license, like the BSD license, the MIT license, or the CCD CopyWrite license. I hadn’t heard about the Dunc-Bank experiment, of course — but imbeciles like that should be considered a danger of business as usual, and accounted for. Community-based distributions like Debian shouldn’t be released on a commercial schedule designed to maximize new version uptake, as that’s only really important for revenue generation, anyway; instead, they should be released when they’re ready. In any case, all of Beranger’s prognostications and observations about the decline of Debian prompt me to say that I hope he’s wrong, and he may well be wrong, but I’m not confident he’s wrong. At least I have FreeBSD.
  18. He’s right about everything he says in the “freedom and myths” section, with a first read-through at least. That’s all I’ve got.
  19. A single example of something wrong in the state of Denmark (or Linux, more literally), as in the case of the 2.5.20 kernel, doesn’t prove Linux is t3h suxx0r. On the other hand, that strikes me as a piss-poor way to handle software advances, and I do like the concluding advice (switch to *BSD).
  20. I’d say Beranger should stop beating a dead horse (he already brought up kernel stability in previous sections), but this is a new point about the old subject, and such stability concerns are of paramount importance to me. As such, my reaction is simply: Yes. I agree.
  21. I’ve never seen much useful difference between KDE and GNOME, ever since I discovered other window managers. They’re both bloated, tightly coupled, messy, sprawling, cthulhoid monstrosities. I guess they’re probably a comforting transitional middle ground for those moving in from the direction of MS Windows, though.
  22. I can’t really comment much on the *BSD-related personal experiences of Beranger, of course. Not only are they his experiences, and not mine, but I haven’t even used any *BSD in much depth until fairly recently. For the most part, I agree with what he has to say that is more objective, or at least based on information that is more objective in nature. I do have one caveat to bring up, however. For instance, Theo de Raadt likes having at least one string attached, contrary to what Beranger says — the copyright on the installer format. That’s one of the major reasons I chose to try out FreeBSD instead of OpenBSD when I was looking for a replacement for Debian as my primary OS. Considering his approach to freedom only as it applies to software licensing, however, I must agree that he’s a lot more consistent and credible than Richard Stallman and friends. It’s where you get to the edges of what’s considered “software” that he starts getting annoying and inconsistent, really — and that, in itself, at least makes a certain amount of sense. Stallman and the FSF are just self-contradictory in general, and are liars, hypocrites, or simply not very clear on the concept of logical consistency. By the way, when Beranger said “As it was once said: the BSD license protects the freedom of the users, whereas the GPL protects the freedom of the code,” he was likely referring to me, as he referred to me once before on that same topic. Perhaps the most important point of this section of Beranger’s editorial, however, is the simple fact that arguably the most important lineup of open source OSes — the *BSDs — is marginalized and ignored by many self-appointed advocates of open source software.
  23. I’m basically in agreement with everything said in the section about the open source development community shooting itself in the foot, with the exception that Beranger should have stuck to commenting on licensing. Bringing up a software bug is hardly a very useful tactic here.
  24. On the occasions that I’ve bothered to set up suspend to RAM and disk capabilities in Debian, I had no problems other than the fact that, at first, I didn’t know how to set it up. It turned out that editing a file or two and installing one or two things via APT was all I needed, but it was at first not easy to find the needed information to set it up. If what Beranger says is true (and I don’t really have reason to doubt it), it sounds like I was one of the lucky ones. I intend to find out whether FreeBSD supports such suspend capabilities worth a damn at some point — but I expect that, if it does, it will keep doing so, and will not experience these “not working in this release” problems that Beranger describes for various Linux distributions. I have seen some indications of the sort of attitude GNU/Linux system developers have toward stability and fixing/breaking things that he mentions, though I think he may be overstating the situation a touch. I hope so, anyway.
  25. I certainly agree that we cannot turn a blind eye to the problems in open source software. If there are inaccuracies in what Beranger said, I believe they are honest errors, and not FUD (with the possible exception of his obvious distaste for US law as contrasted with his impression of law in other countries). All in all, I find a lot to think about in this editorial piece, and I’m glad he wrote it. I hope a lot of open source developers draw useful knowledge from it, rather than perceiving it merely as a personal attack and railing against it, while turning that blind eye to the problems in their own house.

That about sums it up.

10 Comments

  1. Why do you hold de Raadt’s copyright on the layouts for the release CDs against him and the OpenBSD project?

    That is how OpenBSD makes most of it’s development funds, and it is not like the copyright on the CD layouts prevents people from making their own, nor does it prevent them from using the networked installation option, which is rather commonly used.

    Seems kinda silly that of all the faults in OpenBSD, you’d pick a non-issue to get your panties in a wad over. De Raadt’s insistance on doing things which cost performance, the operating system’s lack of localization, or it’s refusal to support binary drivers I could perhaps understand taking exception to, but Theo wanting recover some of the cost of development and thus not giving away free ISO images is stupid.

    Comment by Markus Vladinov — 16 April 2007 @ 09:04

  2. It’s a matter of ethics. My problem with proprietary closed source software is not only technical (though it is that, too): it is also ethical. The same applies to proprietary installer CD formats. In fact, I find ethics a far more compelling reason to hold a decision against someone than mere technical reasons.

    The fact that this is how the OpenBSD project makes most of its money is immaterial to my ethical take on the matter. At least, it’s not directly related. There’s one indirect relationship between the two: because of the enforced CD format copyright, I’m considerably less likely to ever contribute to the OpenBSD project. I have no problem with them refusing to allow downloads from their own websites without a payment to the project, but I do have a problem with them telling me I can’t pass out copies of the CD without paying for each of them.

    Frankly, I’m sympathetic to almost everything the people on the OpenBSD project have to say about software development. I want to support them. I download ISOs only from the main project websites for my choices of OSes for serious use and from recommended mirrors — not from unauthorized mirrors — for reasons of allowing them to keep better records of number of downloads and for reasons of greater trust for their ISOs than copies on some random other websites. I just find it difficult to justify directly and financially supporting the way the OpenBSD project violates ethical principles of openness as regards the installation CD format.

    Any defense along the lines that it’s open because you can dissect the CD format, even if you can’t just copy and distribute it, is equivalent to claiming that the Q Public License is as open as you’ll ever need. In other words, it’s facile and inaccurate.

    Theo de Raadt’s insistence on doing things a specific way are related to heightened security and stability, by the way. While it’s not my first choice for performance (I’ll probably continue to use FreeBSD for that, even if OpenBSD’s installer CD format is made free and clear in every way), I’m glad someone is providing this comprehensive security focus for an OS. We all benefit from that — even users of other OSes (like the millions of Linux users who make daily use of OpenSSH).

    Comment by apotheon — 16 April 2007 @ 09:35

  3. So you just find copyright itself to be unethical? So, why are you copyrighting this page? It should be, “this site and all it’s content are released into the public domain,” not, “CCD CopyWrite 2007 Chad Perrin of Apotheonic Labs,” if you actually feel there is an ethical issue with copyright.

    You can’t pass out copies of the latest Beck album without paying for them either, so you’ll never listen to Beck’s music because he’s so unethical, holding copyright over his work?

    You keep on saying that copyright is unethical, it seems insane. Theo de Raadt works to make the layout of the discs and ensures they work properly, this is his time and effort he puts into the discs in the hopes that people find them worth purchasing, in order to support the project. You’re saying that the work he does should not be copyrighted, because it’s unethical.

    Noone’s being prevented from making their own layout and selling those discs, it’s entirely legal and noone can stop them, nor do they want to.

    You’re really not making any sense with your jabbering about the QPL, at all.

    Noone is saying the disc is open because you can inspect it, it’s as open as any disc, it’s copyrighted and you cannot copy something that’s copyrighted unless permission is explicitly granted. If you object to copyright, you better stop reading books from the past five decades, they’re unethical, and using software of almost any kind, oh, and don’t go near a website – they’re just plain evil.

    Comment by Markus Vladinov — 17 April 2007 @ 02:20

  4. It should be, “this site and all it’s content are released into the public domain,” not, “CCD CopyWrite 2007 Chad Perrin of Apotheonic Labs,” if you actually feel there is an ethical issue with copyright.

    I take it you didn’t happen to notice that “CCD CopyWrite” is not the same as “Copyright”. In fact, if you bothered to read the page to which it links, you might notice that “CCD CopyWrite” basically means “kinda like the public domain, but protected against getting yanked back out of the public-domain-like terms of this license and buried in proprietary works”.

    You can’t pass out copies of the latest Beck album without paying for them either, so you’ll never listen to Beck’s music because he’s so unethical, holding copyright over his work?

    If (for the sake of argument) I buy a Beck album, and play the music, despite believing copyright is unethical, it’s not me that’s being unethical for being subject to the whims of copyright enforcers. It’s those who enforce copyright, personally or by proxy, who are acting unethically. Refusing to buy a Beck album is not a specific requirement of living ethically in relation to copyright — it’s an act of boycott, which can involve great personal sacrifice. We can only sacrifice so much in our lives before we so hinder ourselves that none of our sacrifices continue to be effective, because we’re spread too thinly (and there are too many unethical things worthy of boycott out there to count in one lifetime).

    Just to be clear, however, I’ve been boycotting the RIAA for several years now, and have not purchased a single new RIAA-label CD in that time. I’ve bought about three dollar-bin used CDs without checking whether they’re distributed by RIAA record labels in a moment of weakness. I have never (in case you’re thinking of accusing me of trying to justify “theft” or some other fatuous claim) in my life installed a music sharing service’s software on any computer, ever, at all.

    Does that clear it up for you a little?

    You keep on saying that copyright is unethical, it seems insane.

    What seems insane to me is the notion that someone can ask me to participate in my own deception, believing in this huge lie that I’m being “sold” something, then being told after the fact that I’m not allowed to use and dispose of it as I see fit — as I clearly should be able to do if I actually own it. What seems insane to me is the notion that I can supposedly buy a CD and its contents, just as I can buy a chair, but while I can copy a chair and distribute copies, I can’t even copy a CD in case I accidentally leave the original in my car all day during the summer and it is destroyed by the heat.

    Noone’s being prevented from making their own layout and selling those discs, it’s entirely legal and noone can stop them, nor do they want to.

    What the hell does that have to do with it?

    You seem very angry. Do you not enjoy my implication that something you’re doing might be unethical? Is that the problem? Is that why you reject what I have to say so forcefully without bothering to try to understand it first?

    Is that why most of your comment was sarcastic and accusatory in tone?

    Comment by apotheon — 17 April 2007 @ 03:28

  5. you might notice that “CCD CopyWrite” basically means “kinda like the public domain

    No, it’s nothing like the public domain, because the public domain is waiving of all copyright claims, there is no longer ownership of the subject – it is completely free, without any hooks. Your nonsense is a demented copyright system, one which you morally object to, yet, much like the GNU, you seem to think you must use despite the fact that you chastise others for doing the same.

    What seems insane to me is the notion that someone can ask me to participate in my own deception, believing in this huge lie that I’m being “sold” something, then being told after the fact that I’m not allowed to use and dispose of it as I see fit — as I clearly should be able to do if I actually own it.

    So, if I buy a book by Steven King, I should be allowed to competely duplicate it, word-for-word, with the exact same layout, cover and everything and then sell it or give it away as I see fit? You actually believe this? Are you actually doing this from some well-being clinic? Does your happy pill help you to smell the colour green? If I were to do this with a book, it would be copyright violation, I would be denying money to the retailer, the publisher, the cover artist, the writer, the editor and the government. If something along those lines were permitted, you would find few new creative works, as, as much as some people love to make creative things, they do need to eat. If your ideas were made law, nothing anyone does would be their own, plagerism would no longer be punishable, as it would be entirely ethical.

    Copyright protects the people making new things, it allows them to make works and helps to ensure they can profit from them if they so desire. If someone personally wants to charge me 5 bucks for their amazing book on how to play the piano, I should not be turning around, duplicating it and giving it away to everyone for the cost of the paper itself, like 50 cents – the original creator is entirely justified in wanting to be payed for his work, and I would be giving away his work at a rate where I don’t lose and money. Would that person ever make another book on playing piano, no, since he didn’t make any money beyond the original 5 bucks I gave him.

    What the hell does that have to do with it?

    It has a lot to do with it, you don’t put a chair into a machine that instantly duplicates the chair in perfect detail, including every grain in the wood. There is no such chair duplicating device. There is a significant amount of prerequisites to duplicate a completely material object, such as a chair. There are resources involved which cost a reasonable amount, there is also time and skill required.

    Duplication of data is significantly easier, cheaper and faster. A five cent disc, a computer, twenty minutes and bingo, completely duplicated disc image fully functional and only distinguishable from the original by it’s physical lable.

    I reject your foolish notions, not because I find it objectionable to be called unethical, but because I find it positively mind blowing that anyone, anywhere would be so dense as to view copyright, the act of protecting creative works, as unethical.

    You’re absolutely out of your mind, that’s the best way I can look at your opinions, you must have never tried making anything in your life if you cannot see copyright as a necessary and positive measure for the protection of artists, scientists and even regular people.

    Comment by Markus Vladinov — 17 April 2007 @ 11:32

  6. I took the liberty of adding a forward slash to a blockquote tag in your response to me — which you somehow missed or ignored when viewing the response preview — so that your blockquotes weren’t brokenly nested. Let me know if you object to that technical markup edit to make your post read clearly. That is, for the record, the only change I made.

    No, it’s nothing like the public domain, because the public domain is waiving of all copyright claims, there is no longer ownership of the subject – it is completely free, without any hooks. Your nonsense is a demented copyright system, one which you morally object to, yet, much like the GNU, you seem to think you must use despite the fact that you chastise others for doing the same.

    Let me see if I can explain this for you so you understand what’s going on:

    1. CCD CopyWrite is meant to help ensure that the recipient of a work distributed under its terms, any derivatives of it, and (if we’re lucky) anything else the recipient of the work creates, will be distributed under the terms of CCD CopyWrite or similarly free and open standards. The purpose of this is to ensure that the CCD CopyWrite short-circuiting of the usual unethical restrictions of copyright don’t evaporate on a second-hand distribution. In other words, in this sense, the major difference between CCD CopyWrite and the public domain is that CCD CopyWrite is inherited — which wouldn’t be a necessary difference if things couldn’t be subsumed in proprietary works when they’re in the public domain, which in turn means that without copyright this measure of the CCD CopyWrite license would be unnecessary.
    2. CCD CopyWrite is meant to serve additionally as a reminder that credit must be given where it’s due.
    3. No other claims related to copyright are asserted by works distributed under CCD CopyWrite (though there’s a bit in there about patents — a bit that’s perfectly safe as long as you don’t own any patents you want to enforce later that are infringed by what you’re adding to the work).

    That’s it. In other words, the whole point of the thing is to basically just create a “protected” public domain. Get it? See how that works?

    I’m considering lightening up the “credit where it’s due” part of the license considerably in the next version of CCD CopyWrite, by the way. It seems a little heavy-handed to me. Since that’s really the only part to which I could see someone objecting on the grounds that it’s not sufficiently like the public domain, when that person understands concepts like copyright law and logical reasoning in an even rudimentary fashion, I’d hope you won’t continue to claim it’s nothing like the public domain after this explanation.

    One may use fire to burn a ring around an out-of-control fire, depriving it of needed fuel to spread further. Firefighters use this tactic in dry areas of southern California all the time to ensure that wildfires don’t spread to residential areas. This tactic has become an often-used metaphor for similar conceived tactics in other areas, and thus has the term “fighting fire with fire” arisen. While some may claim that’s what the GPL does, the difference is that I’m not using napalm on children in the process — I’m just trying to contain the fire, and maybe gradually put it out.

    So, if I buy a book by Steven King, I should be allowed to competely duplicate it, word-for-word, with the exact same layout, cover and everything and then sell it or give it away as I see fit? You actually believe this?

    Sure.

    Are you actually doing this from some well-being clinic?

    Of course not. Even if copyright law is unethical, that doesn’t stop me from realizing that wantonly violating it would land me in jail or at least deep financial trouble. What kind of bizarre understanding of human behavior causes you to think such things about the way people act?

    Does your happy pill help you to smell the colour green?

    I don’t have a happy pill, nor do I need one. I’m actually quite well-adjusted. Your personal attacks in absence of reason and logic are not very convincing to me.

    If I were to do this with a book, it would be copyright violation

    No kidding. That’s why I’m not doing it. Why do you feel the need to point out the obvious?

    I would be denying money to the retailer, the publisher, the cover artist, the writer, the editor and the government.

    Actually, no, you wouldn’t. You’d be potentially reducing potential market share, which has the potential to generate revenue for the retailer, publisher, cover artist, writer, editor, and government (and am I supposed to care that the government is “denied” money it gets through one of the largest protection rackets in history?). You may not realize it, but there really is a difference between:

    1. denying someone something
    2. providing business competition

    That doesn’t solve the problem of incentive, which you brought up later, but it does clearly point out the flaw in your above-quoted statement.

    By the way, the cover artist wouldn’t really be shorted in this one as much as you think, since a copy would almost certainly not contain his/her art.

    If something along those lines were permitted, you would find few new creative works, as, as much as some people love to make creative things, they do need to eat.

    The easy, flippant answer to that would be “It’s not my fault your business model sucks.” That probably wouldn’t do anything but piss you off, however, so I’ll try to be a little more clear:

    There are other ways to make money with creative works than to try to package ideas as objects to be sold and employ governmental force to make people behave in an unnatural manner, all to create artificial scarcity so you can manufacture a market for your works. The whole point of this, of course, is to rest on one’s laurels as much as possible when something new is created, at least from the point of view of the original creator.

    There are other matters to keep in mind, as well, such as the fact that first editions are worth more to collectors than forty-seventh editions under a different imprimatur, or the fact that an established author has a fanbase that buys the new book the moment it comes out. There’s great potential for secondary revenue generation that isn’t currently being exploited, too — mostly because nobody bothers to think that far out of the box when they can just produced packaged “products” and sell them, then let the government enforce their flawed business models, without having to think at all.

    Ultimately, it’s not my job to come up with ways for other people to make money. Copyright law is unethical because it infringes on the rights of individuals on the consumer side of things. The fact that you think an author might not make as much money is immaterial to that. While I really believe (and hope) that authors could make money hand over fist in a world without copyright, I’m not obligated to answer the question of how that will be accomplished in my role as the ethical theorist here. Prove my statements about ethics are incorrect or inconsistent, or accept that perhaps copyright law should be abolished because it’s unethical, but don’t try to tell me that copyright should be enforced just because authors need the opportunity to make much, much more money than janitors by virtue of the fact that their current business model is enforced by governmental fiat.

    I make money by writing, myself. It’s not like I’m just picking on people who I don’t know and don’t care about so I can get something for nothing.

    If your ideas were made law, nothing anyone does would be their own, plagerism would no longer be punishable, as it would be entirely ethical.

    Three points:

    1. Anything anyone does would be their own, until they sold it.
    2. Plagiarism is entirely orthogonal to copyright. Plagiarism is deception — it is fraud. It’s lying about the source of some creation. It has nothing to do with the current conversation, except for the anti-plagiarism clauses of CCD CopyWrite (which I have, by the way, stated I intend to tone down a little).
    3. The way you say “as it would be entirely ethical” gives me the impression you think that making something legal is the same as making it ethical. Ethics are basically orthogonal to law in much the same way that plagiarism is orthogonal to copyright law — with the exception that law should be based on ethics.

    If someone personally wants to charge me 5 bucks for their amazing book on how to play the piano, I should not be turning around, duplicating it and giving it away to everyone for the cost of the paper itself, like 50 cents – the original creator is entirely justified in wanting to be payed for his work, and I would be giving away his work at a rate where I don’t lose and money.

    You seem to completely miss most of my arguments. Here’s one that’s relevant to that passage:

    If I write something, and charge someone five bucks to purchase it from me, I am not justified in sending men with guns to his house to prevent him from using it as he sees fit. It’s his now. End of story.

    Ultimately, everything you codify in law comes down to a question: Would you shoot your grandmother for violating this law (and refusing to submit meekly to whatever punishment you deem appropriate)? Credit where it’s due, by the way — that was a bad paraphrase of something PJ O’Rourke said in his book Parliament of Whores.

    Would that person ever make another book on playing piano, no, since he didn’t make any money beyond the original 5 bucks I gave him.

    How familiar are you with open source software development, and related activities? Are you aware that people manage to make a living off open source software all the time, contributing to it, selling it in convenient packages, and supporting it? Even writing documentation for it that is freely available online provides real money for many open source developers and those around them. There are books that are simultaneously available for free distribution online and in stores that generate revenue. The idea that someone would never write another book just because someone else made copies of it and passed it out to his or her friends is absurd.

    What the hell does that have to do with it?
    It has a lot to do with it, you don’t put a chair into a machine that instantly duplicates the chair in perfect detail, including every grain in the wood.

    Some day, that may well be entirely possible. Will you then outlaw duplication of a chair without the creator’s permission? The problem here is that you’re trying to account for technological advances not by adjusting your business model, but by adjusting the laws of economics. History has shown that changing the laws of reality doesn’t work very well for Congress — or, at least, not for the people under the thumb of Congressional legislation. I’m sure (to put it mildly) it’s the same in other countries.

    Duplication of data is significantly easier, cheaper and faster.

    So, basically, it seems that your only real objection to my statement that copyright law is unethical is that copyright law is easy to violate. One of many objections I have to copyright law — and, in fact, one of the least important — is that it is often difficult to avoid violating.

    I reject your foolish notions, not because I find it objectionable to be called unethical, but because I find it positively mind blowing that anyone, anywhere would be so dense as to view copyright, the act of protecting creative works, as unethical.

    You’re welcome to reject them and consider them foolish, but I similarly consider your inability or unwillingness to simply dismiss ideas that disagree with your own as foolish and without substance. I also find your assumptions behind the idea that copyright somehow “protects” creative works (when, in fact, it endangers their longevity by placing arbitrary restrictions on the ability to archive them for future use) facile and your arguments based on these assumptions unconvincing.

    You’re absolutely out of your mind, that’s the best way I can look at your opinions, you must have never tried making anything in your life if you cannot see copyright as a necessary and positive measure for the protection of artists, scientists and even regular people.

    The first part of this statement is an obvious argumentum ad hominem, and thus needn’t be addressed seriously.

    The second part is patently false, as I actually create things all the time. I write nonfiction for money and for personal satisfaction, and I write fiction (thus far) for personal satisfaction alone. I’ve drawn and painted, participated in the creation of music, and written software. I create something new almost every day of my life, and much of it is copyrightable.

    The entire last paragraph of your comment makes no logical points, and only draws wild conclusions and asserts insult. I would prefer, if someone is to read this and agree with me, that the person agree with me because of the strength of my argument — and not merely the weakness of yours. As such, I find it unfortunate that you use such tactics in debate, though I have too much integrity to simply delete that paragraph.

    Comment by apotheon — 17 April 2007 @ 01:44

  7. what’s this about debian/linux instability/reduced quality? i haven’t noticed any problems with debian testing in years, on three different machines…

    Comment by Justin M. Keyes — 17 April 2007 @ 06:11

  8. I can only tell you what I’ve seen. I notice you found your way to the post that was actually specifically about Debian issues, though.

    Comment by apotheon — 17 April 2007 @ 10:44

  9. “Stick to attacking software patents, Beranger, and stop trying to analyze US politics, at least until you have a more comprehensive understanding. Unchanging Constitution? Don’t make me laugh.”

    Changing (reforming!) a Constitution means more than adding lots of Amendments to a crappy obsoleted text! You know, some other countries have reformed their constitution several times since then; your country has not.

    The President being “elected” by “electors”? Don’t make me puke! This is from the old days when American-Indians were attacking carriages!

    Being be default unable to vote unless you register, because basically you don’t f–ing have a national ID? And just how many people’s registration have been denied, especially black people from South? And you still claim the US is more democratic than France, Belgium, etc. etc. Don’t make me puke again. (In many European countries you have an Elector’s Card by default, and your right to vote can’t be arbitrarily denied.)

    Your country’s political system is a tragic joke. Your President and the Federal Administration is infringing a lot of your rights, and there is nothing you can do.

    Stick to criticize my IT errors, not my political opinions. (And get out if Iraq, will you?)

    Comment by BĂ©ranger — 11 May 2007 @ 02:42

    1. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but that’s how the Constitution gets changed — by way of amendments. Are you talking about changing it, or throwing it away?
    2. I’m not sure what your point is about electors.
    3. I’d rather register to vote than allow a government that is in the process of dismantling the Bill of Rights to track me via a national ID.
    4. I never claimed the US was “more democratic” than France or Belgium — at least, not in the last few years. I also never claimed that democracy was the be-all and end-all of good government. Is that your claim?
    5. I don’t recall any denial of election rights being “arbitrary” in the colloquial sense of the term in the US.
    6. Show me a country whose political system isn’t a tragic joke, and I’ll show you where you’re wrong.
    7. I’m not in Iraq, and I’m hoping Ron Paul wins the 2008 election. He, by the way, would pull out of Iraq.

    Comment by apotheon — 13 May 2007 @ 09:22

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All original content Copyright Chad Perrin: Distributed under the terms of the Open Works License