Somehow, people find this odd, wrong, and or bad, and I dont understand it. On basically all political issues, unwavering is a good attribute. Even being an eccentric is better than not caring for the issue. eccentricness is often a key aspect before a change reach a critical mass.
Take a random politician opinion about abortion or nuclear power or any other common political subject. Say his/her opinion is "well, some should be able to do it, but then again there are problems so maybe not, and the issue is not one that need to be address today, and the system today do continue to work, and well, legal greyness is not that big of an issue, only for those in the courts...".
Clear, direct, and consistent opinion is a good thing. Diplomacy and "meeting half-way" has it places, but in politics, there is also times when it should be clearly avoided. In software politics, there are plenty of people working the diplomatic route. There is no shortage of diplomats, and a few eccentric and unwavering voices is then much more useful to maintain the goals of where we want to actually go without moving the goal in favor of diplomacy.
Only in the movies. In real life, this trait can be disastrous towards making any progress for the betterment of society.
If you see Stallman's role as the personification of an ideal, you probably laud his "unwavering" position. If you see his role as that of a pragmatic politician, who should try and find small wins when large wins are out of reach, you see probably find his "unwavering" as impractical.
You mean the movies made about people who were unwavering in real life? Gandhi, MLK, Lincoln are a few high-profile figures that spring to mind, but there are countless throughout history who have made a difference by standing up for what they believe in.
I understand your point, that romanticized notions rarely have a place in reality. But I think Stallman, even with all of his eccentricities, is the perfect figurehead for these ideologies. He is a believer, and that gives others permission to believe themselves. It's a very powerful thing.
MLK Jr's early campaign to desegregate the city of Albany, Ga., for example, is usually considered to have been a failure (in terms of return on investment) because the political dream of desegregating the entire city was seen as too big to effectively organize a campaign for:
> “The mistake I made there was to protest against segregation generally rather than against a single and distinct facet of it. Our protest was so vague that we got nothing, and the people were left very depressed and in despair” (“Martin Luther King: A Candid Conversation”).
What followed, of course, were the Birmingham bus boycotts and other campaigns with a much more limited scope. To me, this represents a "waver." In retrospect, we can say that MLK was just changing tactics and he never wavered in his belief against segregation...but is that something you would've guessed if you were one of his contemporaries? Or would you have thought, like many of his anti-segregationist rivals, that MLK was being an "Uncle Tom" and deliberately aiming for small-victories as to not upset the white status quo? It's easy to say "Well, MLK was unwavering all along" 50 years later...but had his smaller campaigns not gone so well (and he was most definitely not the only person making inroads in the civil rights movement) and resulted in only localized successes, then we would be viewing MLK as a man of compromise today.
The larger point is that effective revolutions encompass a large degree of compromises. Sometimes a leader will give on something to reduce the number of opponents he/she has to face.
So to the original commenter's point, it is not admirable in politics (art and martyrdom is a different thing) to be unwavering, at least by those who practice it and want a real degree of success.
And with respect to "art and martyrdom" - These figures, all of them, had a very real degree of success affecting political change. The fact that they are martyrs is secondary and the argument could be made that they were martyred because of their political success. In fact, these 3 sprang instantly to mind when I wrote my original comment specifically because I think it's possible (not necessarily probable) that RMS could join them in both regards. Successfully banning patents on software could potentially effect a lot of people's wallets and history has shown this to be a good motivator for creating martyrs.
No one should suggest that Stallman should have to change his beliefs. Instead, he should realize that his goal is pretty much impossible to accomplish in the current political climate. Because it is impossible, he should seek to achieve the smaller goal of successfully reforming patent law, because a small win is better than a big loss. It doesn't mean that you have given up, it just means that you realize that you aren't going to win the war in a single day.
I think the point that they were trying to make was that accepting reality and compromising ones beliefs are two different things. It's unrealistic to act as if you can enter a conflict with a party that thinks you are 100 percent wrong, and successfully negotiate an agreement that gets you 100 percent of what you wanted. But minds can be changed over time. If we can place limits on software patents, and the changes prove themselves to be conducive to a healthy economy, then we will have an easier time convincing people that the copyright system is causing more harm than good.
This was exactly my point. The parent was suggesting that MLK compromised on his stance but presented only evidence of a change in tactics.
I agree completely with your other assertions.
I think it would help to distinguish that there are really 2 arguments happening here, muddying the waters: Unwavering belief and unwavering actions.
I personally think that unwavering belief in something is commendable and this is where my comments have come from. I think this is necessary in order to effect any real change as the process is usually long and arduous.
Unwavering commitment to a losing tactic, as danso points out, is stubborn and foolish. A person who is unable to adapt when facing challenges does no favors for their cause.
This is what I was trying to get across, but you expressed it much more concisely than I.
This would seem to require -some- people to be unwavering.
But consider the gist of MLK's situation:
1) His primary goal was to create equality among whites and minorities. I'll agree that he never wavered from that. In the same way, every major figure on either side of the abortion debate, at every point in the continuum, will argue that they've never wavered for their respect for human life. The problem is getting to that big goal, and that path almost always requires wavering.
2) In support of my point, the idea of desegregation was so big that organizing a campaign against it devolved into a messy unorganized effort (current-day example: Occupy Wall street). When he tried to campaign against ending desegregation in Albany, he had very little success. He underestimated the widespread opposition to such a sea change.
3) In Birmingham, he changed his strategy to attack obvious injustices that moderately conservative whites could back. Yes, changing the bus-seating policy is a form of desegregation, but it was possible to change that policy and still have Jim Crow laws still be the law of the land.
So if you were an observer of the civil rights movement at that time, yet outside of King's inner circle, what could you possibly conclude except that from Albany to Birmingham, MLK has moderated his stance against desegregation? Certainly, as the audience that MLK wanted to reach -- the white status quo -- you could get on board with treating blacks more decently, as long as they didn't go to the same schools your kids do.
It's only after the successes of these limited campaigns that King himself could be seen as a successful leader of the movement. His strategy to fight small battles as to be more palatable to segregation-supporting whites was critical...and it was politics. Politics is about compromise and choosing battles wisely. The problem with your argument is that you don't see that one man's "choosing battles and running away to fight another day" is another man's "spineless flip-flopping appeasement", which MLK certainly was accused of being. It's only through the passage of time, when all those events are compressed into a convenient explanatory narrative, that you can think of it as MLK Jr. being a constant, unwavering political force.
I'm also impressed by your knowledge of the Civil Rights movement. I'm not sure that it sheds a lot of light on the current argument, but your comments are definitely a good read.
That's where Stallman's stubbornness bites him in the ass.
Both approaches are needed. Diplomacy will get you further short term, but unwavering commitment will be able to change things in a more sustainable way, longer term.
EDIT: To add to the discussion - not many people are aware but MK Gandhi was indeed very thorough in his use of Non-Violence and other means of protest. On few occasions when a protest became violent he was the first to call off the protest. When most of India & Pakistan were celebrating their independence he was busy caring to people affected by Hindi/Muslim riots. Having unwavering attitude is not just stuff of movies.
> There is no such thing as "Gandhism," and I do not want to leave any sect after me. I do not claim to have originated any new principle or doctrine. I have simply tried in my own way to apply the eternal truths to our daily life and problems... >> The opinions I have formed and the conclusions I have arrived at are not final. I may change them tomorrow. << I have nothing new to teach the world. Truth and non-violence are as old as the hills.
But if this is the case, then it was his belief in his country that motivated him and that qualifies Lincoln as a believer. In my mind that was enough to not delete his name after typing it. :)
It's a thin-ish book and I highly recommend it.
Gandhi actually has some interesting quotes on this topic, e.g. http://www.mkgandhi.org/momgandhi/chap07.htm
"I have sacrificed no principle to gain a political advantage."
"All my life through, the very insistence on truth has taught me to appreciate the beauty of compromise. I saw in later life that this spirit was an essential part of satyagraha. It has often meant endangering my life and incurring the displeasure of friends. But truth is hard as adamant and tender as a blossom."
"Human life is a series of compromises, and it is not always easy to achieve in practice what one has found to be true in theory."
"My aim is not to be consistent with my previous statements on a given question, but to be consistent with truth as it may present itself to me at a given moment. The result has been that I have grown from truth to truth."
I read him as saying that you can be uncompromising on your core principles while still being neither uncompromising nor adamant in your opinion.
In particular, I think that "On basically all political issues, unwavering is a good attribute" is a common and dangerous perception, in that it denies you the opportunity of admitting that you were wrong. If you change your stance after learning more, or even after the underlying situation has changed, you will be accused of flip-flopping and inconsistency.
I haven't seen the movie, so I don't know how he is being portrayed in current pop-culture, but the only thing Lincoln was unwavering in his support of was keeping the Union intact. That is generally not the issue that he was considered 'unwavering' on, but it is.
Anyway, kind of OT.
Would _open source_ have caught on if Stallman (and GNU) hadn't been there? That's an interesting question.
But being right (even very right) in the 80s and 90s doesn't make you automatically right forever after; I found his assertion that you should starve rather than write or run a single line of unfree code to be wrong and very counterproductive to spreading free and open source software.
The biggest challenge with lobbying is education. That whole reality-based thing. I've only lobbied on issues that nearly everyone is in complete agreement over (e.g. fair and accurate vote count), but the details were in dispute (e.g. touch screens are secure, reliable vs all forms of electronic voting are bad).
In the case of patents, the original US law states their purpose is to foster innovation.
The current game winner's defend the status quo making the argument that the patent system is working. Stallman and other advocates are arguing that patents hurt innovation.
Same values. Different policies.
Personally, I think that it has had the opposite effect. OSS (both the software and the ideology behind it) has changed the world. Almost all computing appliances run OSS code or interface with other machines which do. People without much money can use state of the art software for free, leaving them more to spend on the basics. All of this has been due to an unwavering political attitude.
Perhaps it is not whether an attitude is unwavering which influences the net effect but the content itself. A good idea is a good idea whether you firmly believe in it or not. Firmly believing in a good idea has a positive impact whereas the same belief in a bad idea will have negative consequences.
Both types are needed. Because Stallman is uncompromising, he'll never be in a position to make change. But he can pressure and try to convince those who are.
His role is to yank the Overton Window back towards rationality. Meaning his job is to create the space for a more constructive policy debate.
Stallman is not a politician or a diplomat. Nor should he be. Trading horses and compromise is someone else's problem.
You are confusing unwavering with stubborn. A stubborn person would not react to new evidence that invalidates their beliefs. An unwavering person would.
The only information I have relates to the outcomes of their decision process: speechs they give, statements they make to media (or reported by media), bills they sponsor, their voting record, etc.
Because this is all political theater, I don't even really know what they are actually trying to do by making these statements, these votes, etc. So there are at least two layers of obfuscation between the ideas a person holds sacred and my ability to measure those things. The result, is that when we say a political figure is unwavering, we really just mean that these little plays they act out for us always have the same theme. Even if their beliefs change they cannot afford to rewrite their own character in the middle of the scene. That would just be confusing. Better to bring in a new character entirely.
Stallman's ethical and philosophical approach is awesome, and his unwavering stand behind those things is also. I don't agree with everything the man says, but I agree with a lot of it and it's clear he's thought it all through.
I really, really, really hate this when applied to politicians though, because they ought to change their positions based on evidence. When they're crowing about how unwavering they are it's usually because they're flying in the face of common sense and raw, obvious fact.
Politicians are an odd breed though. By the time you've made it to elected office you've almost certainly had your beliefs and how (or even whether) you can express them so warped that I almost think it's unfair to hold what they say against them. They're the product of a screwed up system - most of them are (or were) smart principled individuals until they got too close to government.
The complete inability to compromise is the defining point of the republican party. I don't consider this to be a good attribute at all.
I spent years in the "the FSF are unrealistic nuts standing in the way of open source" camp too. The problem, looking back on those years, is that RMS was right about pretty much everything that mattered. I give him a lot of slack these days in my personal judgements, and the occasional shouting match with a law professor seems like a small price to pay.
An Apache-licensed kernel would appear in phones as a useless blob.
Can I get a buildable kernel tree for my Android phone? Yup.
Two key things have driven my desires for a GPL world. (1) Reading about historical software now unavailable and (2) working in the corporate world as a tools developer.
The question is pretty much, are you weighing the distributor's freedom more than the user's freedom? When you want someone to be able to use your program and not publish their fixes, MIT-style licenses become more your style. This is preferred by corporations, AFAICT. However, when you want the end user to be able to modify software and to be able to trust the software, you start wanting the GPL world. Of course, the idea of a typical non-technical user doing technical work is illogical. But with the GPL, they have the freedom to hire people to do technical work. That can be really important for things like crypto!
Another way to consider the situation is that the GPL enables viral transmission, and more broadly, forcibly enables a survival of the fittest. If software is really good and GPL, it'll get used, and the users must publish to their users, and so forth. So good software can now survive longer, perhaps after its starting point's death. This in particular struck home with me when I was reading of the software systems from the '50s and '60s. They were doing things then that were not to be done for decades. As a social value, some of those old software systems would have been tremendous. I'd like to build on old & reliable stuff, not reinvent the wheel!
A concrete way to approach this idea is to consider infrastructure tooling. I write that, every day. It's my job. Sometimes I ask myself: Don't a hundred other companies already do this? What if software licenses were so written as to require these tools to also be published? We've been able to publish one Mercurial extension, and it has been a great experience. But what if we did that with everything? I wish all the companies that developed infrastructure opened their source and worked with each other to build a common world of amazing. The GPL style license is key, because it requires this republishing thing. Under the GPL, sharing becomes required. And then someone else can build on that, and they must also share their additions.
That's the kind of world I want to live in. Not a world where we guard our little towers replicating each other's work time after time. We can go do different things, safe in the knowledge that in the common areas, improvements will be published and worked on by all.
edit: With respect to RMS-
In particular, his short story Right to Read really hit home with me when I read it in 2008 or so. I have read one or two other things by him from the... 90s I think... that really indicated he understands the logical outworkings of certain processes, as his predictions came to pass in the late '00s. I figure if you're going to agree with someone, you had best agree with someone who seems to be proven right. :-)
Unwavering opinions, in the face of shifts in the situation: bad.
Sometimes, it's hard to distinguish the two.
There's a separate, important question of how much to prioritize strategy versus tactics. Probably, we need some people to keep an eye on each, but unfortunately infighting can get bitter.
Now, whether it has changed in a way that makes the positions held by rms less relevant or appropriate is quite another question. It sounds to me like you read my comment as some kind of attack on rms: it was not intended to be anything of the kind; I very much value the man's input to our collective discourse, and tend to agree with him more than not.
It's the only relevant question in this thread. I'm sure that there's been some global temperature change since the GPL was come up with, but I'd like to hear a case about why it matters.
> On basically all political issues, unwavering is a good
I'd understand Stallman's position in the world few decades ago, when almost all software was by developers for developers. In todays world it is bordering on absurd (imho).
"Eccentric" is synonymous with "odd". It would be irrational if people somehow found him eccentric and not odd.
He wants everyone to only use the GPL and ignore everything that's not GPL, he even dislikes the term 'Open Source' and the rest of the Libre licenses.
That's a clash of interests and the reason for our dislike.
Still, the practical issues remain daunting. What becomes of existing software patents, for example? Purists may say these are not "property" but massive dollars have been paid for the rights to own them and there will be huge resistance, not to mention constitutional objections, over any idea that these suddenly should be rendered worthless by legislative action. If these stay intact for the next 20+ years, what good does a safe harbor do in applying only prospectively? More important, those with a stake in the game - even relatively benign players such as Google - want to hedge and trim on the issues in order to protect their investments, and this means that inordinate pressure will be put on Congress not to single out software patents for elimination, emphasizing instead more limited measures to help fight trolls and so on.
With so much resistance, and with an apathetic public, how to build sufficient momentum to push Congress toward a true solution? Developers might lead this charge but I wonder. Founders are mostly not directly affected by software patents and neither are employees at bigger companies who are conscripted to keep churning them out. And those most directly hit in the patent wars resist reform to protect their own investments.
So Mr. Stallman finds himself alone in his position at this conference: not because his solution is bad but because of inordinately difficult practical barriers. At least we see in this conference that persons of influence in this area are finally willing to begin seeking incremental reform. If the worst of the abuses can be fixed (e.g., the troll issue), that at least is a start. And, who knows, maybe radical changes can occur after initial progress is made. Time will tell.
It is the same problem you have with an transistion. This was studied a lot in economics, specially around the socialist transistion.
One view is this, pay out the benefiters of the old system just so you can get the institutional change. Pull the benefiters to your side.
This could be hard with software patent but it is one way to get to institutional change.
He talks about what the optimal Software Patents situation is, and why.
We are in dire straits because we ignored him 20 years ago.
It's our problem to either get to the optimal situation, or to try and fail.
For completeness, let's patent the process of getting to this optimal Software Patent situation as well just for good measure.
What jumped out at me, and I imagine anyone else on HN who read these transcripts, was that despite what was a set of the optimum circumstances for lawyers dealing with software issues, none of them had the slightest idea what they were talking about. They were way off the mark. "What is an API?" - a central issue to the case. The lawyers from neither side understood the answer. "How do people use a programming language?" Again, both sides were desperately clueless (although Oracle's Boies was obviously more so, sometimes hilariously.)
So often in reading those transcripts I wanted to grab one of the lawyers and scream in his face, "you idiot!! What the hell is wrong with you?!? Are you stupid????"
The situation with software patents is the same - the same clueless legal people are having the same clueless legal discussion about it. They don't understand how software works, they don't understand what software patents really mean, they don't understand the marketplace, and they certainly don't understand programming. Unlike me, who just sits back and screams in my own head at the clueless people who are the self-appointed architects of the legal world in which software developers and entrepreneurs will live and work, Richard Stallman is standing up and screaming in their faces about it. It must feel satisfying to do that. Someone needs to.
When you come to think of it. A contract is very similar to a piece of code. The main difference is that it is to be executed by humans instead of machines and enforced by a legal system instead of a machine's design.
Contracts have been deemed non patentable and a high bar has been set for copyrightability compared to other text because of the requirement that contract language be well defined with particular sentences having an agreed upon interpretation based on court precedents.
This means lawyers writing contracts don't have to worry, for each sentence that they write, that it may be infringing on someone else having written a similar one. They also don't have to worry that a combination of clauses have been patented and they can't use it in their contract.
Programmers on the other hand worry about it for every new piece of code they write. The bar is so low for patentability and copyrightability that we pretty much know someone somewhere has patented a large part of the code we write. We just hope nobody with the patent is interested in going after us because we aren't worth the trouble. But there is always that feeling that if ever we become commercially successful, the trolls and wolves will be waiting to try to get a slice of our profits. This is quite an annoying disincentive to write new code or 'innovate' which in this case means just plain doing our job.
You would input legal documents, contracts and laws to 'program' the machine, It would read these legal documents and compile them into legal tests that depend on case facts.
Then when you needed to judge a case, you would enter the facts or fact probabilities about the case in the machine. It would then generate a verdict and tell you which legal tests passed or failed to arrive at the verdict.
Even it it was just used as support to help courts untangle cases or for law student as an educational tool, it could be a useful machine.
Here is the kicker: All contracts and laws are actually software code for this machine.
The only hope for the system that I have seen so far is surprisingly intelligent and sensible judges injecting sanity into the system.. but that is hardly something to rely upon.
That's just my, probably controversial, take on it though.
The track record on that isn't too stellar though, considering prohibition and what not.
I remember quotes about Jefferson thinking the constitution should be rewritten every generation. Not sure about the accuracy there, but I like the idea.
I can think of a couple of reasons that don't involve lawyers being stupid:
1. If the truth is against a client's interest, a lawyer is probably going to try to confuse the issue as much as possible (unless it seems tactically unwise for other reasons, of course).
2. IIRC, they were stuck with some bad precedent to work with (especially with respect to APIs). That meant they were often arguing issues in a broken frame, rather than from first principles. My understanding is they can't effectively make the first-principles argument until the appeals get to the court that created the precedent in the first place (or higher).
1. Oracle's patents that Google supposedly violated. (And thank God most of those stupid patents were actually invalidated)
2. Oracle's copyright on its APIs that Google also supposedly violated. The API discussion involved the copyright part of the case, and here the question "What is an API" does become central, especially considering that the judge decided in the end that APIs are not copyrightable - when such a decision is made it'd better be crystal clear what is meant by an "API"
I agree that the question of "What is an API" was quite important for good reasons in that case. What was gravely concerning to me was that the lawyers from neither side had a clear idea of the answer, despite the fact that had the best possible set of circumstances for lawyers to get that kind of understanding. Specifically, their clients gave them access to some of the smartest people in the world, they had virtually unlimited time and money, and the lawyers themselves are some of the best in the country and were experienced in complex litigation with technical companies. Extend this kind of conceptual ignorance to the lawyers who are arguing about and making policy on software patents, and it's both terrifying and infuriating.
Personally I regard Stallman as one of the few moderate voices in software. Most discussion today is at an extreme best described as fascism: all privileges of decision and control reserved to a single person. Stallman is the moderate voice calling for a individual self-determination. He hasn't demanded any kind of social protections. Take a few minutes and imagine what the philosophy underlying the social democracies of Scandanavia would look like when applied to software.
Duffy on the other hand misses the point (IMHO):
"The question is, will you get very serious research that is patent-motivated?"
There is no "serious [software] research" that actually costs money. I have yet to be shown a single software patent that is the result of research and not just a spark on insight.
Sparks of insights are great. The point to note, though, is that they would have happened anyway, they do not cost anything. Granting a legal monopoly on them does not benefit society as a whole.
I have no illusion that anything will change. Big companies (with the notable exception of Google) love software patents to keep the competition (especially new players) at bay. Patent trolls love patents, which they can exploit with extortion schemes.
Last not least lawyers love software patents; not a single patent case is won or lost without the involved lawyers being rewarded handsomely.
You could argue that every patent is just a spark of insight. However, how many sparks could be made if not for all the research that came before them?
Google's driverless car comes to mind as a well-known present-day software research project. When you boil down their achievements, they are all just small sparks of insight. But without all that funding and time put into the overall research, would those sparks have ever materialized? There is little reason for one of the algorithms they have developed to just pop into someone's head otherwise.
I would stand by initial statement, though, that patents on software do not serve society as a whole.
For example, the MP3 and SIFT patents are based on research. Most programmers even today could not recreate these technologies starting from scratch.
Speech recognition is patent-encumbered, not patent-intensive. Anyone who has done any research into the field would know that.
Patent-encumbered: mobile phones
Patent-intensive: artificial joints
Literal software patents don't exist in the US system. You don't patent code, you patent what code does, so if you had to submit code, that would put an undue burden on an inventor - now I have to write code to implement my new method of delivering coffee to your house? But I don't even use any code!
Not only will this kind of thing happen, but it will become commonplace and convenient (e.g. there will be off the shelf CPU designs that support obfuscation). Imagine the digital world returning to the guild system — and the beauty of digital technology is that this could happen ridiculously fast.
Now, yes, trivial algorithms would not be worth protecting this way, and that's a Good Thing. But consider the inefficiencies and stupidity that will be created by abolishing software patents altogether. Oh and the DMCA will make any efforts to penetrate obfuscated software illegal in perpetuity.
All I care about is removing the veto power the patent system gives random strangers have over my ability to develop things they have nothing to do with.
I feel the problem is that you can recreate many of the patents being granted today just by taking a quick glance at the implementation. What do future generations have to gain by knowing that one click can finalize a purchase on a website? Knowing what precise measurements of compounds when combined together can cure a disease has a little more merit.
How many patents were infringed (1) by mistake, or (2) by somebody trying to emulate some behavior or (3) by somebody reading a patent description?
Personaly I've never seen (3) happening. It may sometimes happen when it comes to video codecs or AI, but funny how those domains are strongly linked to math ;)
Yes, stupid things get patented. Yes, the system is corrupt. But don't assume some other "simple" system or non system will have no downside.
We're actually not trying to figure out how to make violins that sound just as good: http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Stradivarius&o...
Also, Stallman is specifically talking about software, not manufacturing specialized devices.
For example: most musical instruments today are electronic. If I build a guitar amplifier out of vacuum tubes, Stallman will let me patent it, but if I build a high tech amplifier with digital preprocessing to simulate the behavior of any one of a large number of old vacuum tube amplifiers etc. then no patents for me.
So if someone makes a physical invention that does something they can patent it but if it's something a general purpose computer can be programmed to do, writing that program does not cause the computer to violate the patent.
> My suggestion is to change the effect of patents. We should legislate that developing, distributing, or running a program on generally used computing hardware does not constitute patent infringement.
I guess the phrase "Software Patents" and the strange rules about software patentability in Europe gave me the impression that they wanted to take the non-patentable route instead of the non-infringing one.
In short, I would answer your question with a question. Why can hardware violate a patent and software not?
Going from your example, in the absence of cheap programmable computers the problem of coordinating spark timing with the engine is a real engineering problem that probably required nontrivial R&D resources to get right. To the extent that distributors remained useful to the world, those sunk costs should be protected. If you didn't, there'd be a toxic second-mover advantage to just copying the other guy's R&D work.
Software just doesn't have those kind of sunk-cost discovery problem, at least not at anything like the scale other disciplines do. The fixed costs in software are different. They're almost all about execution, education, coordination, and marketing.
Imagine a software R&D guy, who discovers a new thing you can do with software. Assume the idea works, and is profitable: He's still spent a tiny fraction of bringing a product to market, even a product that is just an implementation of his invention. Patents won't fix the second-mover advantage, if any, because the first-mover costs aren't from software research.
The mismatch actually starts to matter when non-practicing inventors come into play. In the old world of industry, these guys were at least providing a public service by creating inventions nobody else bothered to fund, so it was reasonable that companies that found their inventions useful should pay for them. But in software the non-practicing inventor hasn't paid the cost. There is still the first-mover disadvantage out there of building the market, educating your users, etc. on top of the cost of turning the invention into a shipable product that everyone in the market has to pay.
Which is it? Convenient or a whole bunch of overhead?
But then again, who cares? When is the last time anyone implemented a patented idea by looking at old patents? The idea is old by the time it is patented.
> Oh and the DMCA will make any efforts to penetrate obfuscated software illegal in perpetuity.
And that is worse than patent law? How would anyone know that obfuscated software was penetrated? That only comes into play when people uses snippets of firmware anyway. They already use DMCA like this, so it doesn't really matter.
The biggest problem is the John Carmack problem of sitting down to do a week of work in a domain, and creating something that you find out is already patented.
Almost every embedded processor supports this kind of functionality (firmware in embedded flash can not be dumped). Encryption is also common place, as is code signing. I can't see you have much of a argument here, this stuff is already common place and used in addition (and sometimes in place of because it's actually a lot cheaper) software patents.
The nytimes article with the guy who DID spend lots of time trying to innovate in speech recognition, recognized as a genius in the field, who was driven out by someone elses patent.
>"Streaming online would require use of [the] Microsoft Silverlight plug-in, which would pressure people to use proprietary software. Dr. Stallman considers it wrong to pressure people to do that."
Why is Silverlight necessary? http://blog.webmproject.org/2010/12/live-streaming-webm-with...
The most popular group among the masses was the most extreme and uncouth, the sans-culotte faction that appealed to the poor working classes who wanted to guillotine the king and all the aristocrats and expropriate their estates. Hence the popularity with the masses of the Hébertist magazine Père Duchesne, which was distinguished mainly by its extremely angry tone, radical demands, and for being the first widely printed publication to use something roughly translating to "fuck" in almost every article. A vaguely representative article, entitled "Fuck the Pope": http://www.marxists.org/history/france/revolution/hebert/179...
Now that strategy might not work in all countries and eras, and in this case there doesn't seem to be public anger about patents ready to boil to the surface that anyone could tap into. But I'm not sure there's any inherent link between appeal to the masses and polite centrism.
Who else do you know is so singularly identified with such a well defined principled point of view (whether you agree or disagree)? Paul Grugman, Noam Chomsky, Chris Hedges, George Carlin?
So I'd say Stallman's doing a fantastic job.
In the UK David Ike is strongly associated with believing the royal family are lizard people but it's doing nothing to get his views any real traction.
I'd almost argue the opposite. By being so intransigent and operating outside many social norms, I think you could make a case that Stallman damages how his views are percieved.
Looking at the photo, it looks like it actually says "Don't Be Tracked—Pay Cash."
however you could always make a new account on mtgox, send the coins to the exchange and send them out to another address you made, and I think, unless the exchange gives that transaction (That is internal to their network) to the authorities, you can begin to remove your-self from being traced.
The way I see it is this, you can determine how traceable you are in Bitcoins, you can't determine easily how traceable you are with native transactions (USD, AUD, EURO, etc...) This may help you hide better
My question is this: When hackers steal 400k BTC how do they get that money out of the 'bank'?
Those funds are obviously hot at the moment to anyone who can navigate the transaction graph.
I've always savored the irony of Stallman's fight to have content creators relinquish control of their creations while steadfastly refusing to let people just call Linux by the name they choose... while also attempting to steal top billing.
"The right to copy" exists only in so far as external forces limit inherent behavior. One could copy all day (as our brains do unbidden) without anyone but the copier being the wiser or needing to care.
The credit for one's labor, on the other hand, is an inherently rivalrous "good". Terms like "steal" have a place here, as it takes away from the measurable "social capital" earned by another's labor.
It's the difference between re-printing "Alice in Wonderland" and re-printing "Alice in Wonderland, Written by <Not Lewis Carroll>".
I guess if you get to define the value and credit of one's labor, you can still maintain that there is a difference where one doesn't really exist.
The credit for one's labor, on the other hand, is an inherently rivalrous "good".
But encouraging content creators with financial incentives for creating things that consumers desire is not an inherently rivalrous good?
It's the difference between re-printing "Alice in Wonderland" and reprinting "Alice in Wonderland, Written by <Not Lewis Carroll>".
So you're okay with taking all financial rewards from the creators of content, but leave them the scraps of naming credit as though your framework is logical?
Meh... if you're going to steal from people, you might as go all the way.
Stallman is a hypocrite for demanding control of anything he creates while seeking to "free" everything everyone else creates.
"Value" distinguishes between "Someone dug a hole where I needed it" and "Someone dug a hole and filled it back up".
"Credit" distinguishes between "I dug that hole" and "She dug that hole".
If we're having trouble distinguishing between "value" and "credit", even before addressing principles of valuation, then I can no longer concern myself with this discussion.
Not that I support (software and any other) patents at all. I deliberately don't want my name on any patent. I might work on something that my employer wants to patent for they do pay for my time and creativity but I don't want my own name involved outside of that. This isn't just a principle; it has happened in reality. I wish Stallman was heard and patents were banished completely.
Why do patents like that get granted? And once they are, why aren't they extremely easy to invalidate after the fact? There is a non-trivial aspect to a patent that is supposed to be passed. It seems to me that at least enforcing that would be a nice step.
just for the record, that statement is absolutely incorrect. you can offer streams and watch streams just fine with free and open-source software. for example with ogg theora or webm.
Two lines down. I guess that line could have been added later..
The best we can do is to abolish them.
There are a lot of costs associated with just having software patents at all, no matter what the duration. Can you demonstrate why we need patents in software so much that it justifies these costs, despite the fact that in practice, we did fine without them for 20 years?
Wait, what? Google abhors patents? So all the patents they've been buying up is because they abhor them so much?
It's just a terrible situation, the only way for google (or any other software company) to protects themselves from certain death is to build up a defensive barrier of patents. And I think this is a great argument for abolishing software patents entirely.
Patents and patent trolls affect different-sized companies differently and can be competitive advantages for large and incumbent companies as barriers to entry for new companies. Bill Gates knew his competition would come from two guys in a garage (or graduate school) more than another big company, so his company would be enthusiastic about such barriers.
Here's how the barrier works against potential new entrants.
Large companies with large patent portfolios mutually license portfolios in exchange for not suing each other, giving them competitive advantages over small and new companies. A new company with one legally defensible patent can't use it to compete with Microsoft, who will claim the new company is infringing on several of Microsoft's thousands, or the mutually licensed ones with other companies. Any non-trivial code can reasonably be claimed to infringe on some patents. Even if it isn't, no small or new company will beat Microsoft.
What about trolls who don't intend to bring a product to market and just want money?
Large companies with large legal departments can defeat most patent trolls with experience and having large budgets. Paying all the lawyers may cost them money and they'll lose some, but money and experience will win most of the time. The point is it creates another barrier to entry to small companies with fewer resources to fight back. They either have to give up or pay the troll, losing profitability and ability to compete.
So patent trolls still create a competitive advantage for Microsoft. Microsoft's legal costs may decrease its margins, but they remain better entrenched, improving stability and profitability overall.
Why wouldn't Google like patent trolls?
Google's profitability doesn't depend on selling software nearly as much as Microsoft. It profits from advertising. Software patents give them advantages over small and new companies, but not as much as for Microsoft. Take away software patents (how else to get rid of trolls?) and Microsoft will be reverse engineered away. Google will continue.
So rather than reward the talented and ignore the ungifted, he'd rather punish the talented and ignore the ungifted?