Why I dislike people that dislike RMS
Feb 18, 2005
2:39 PM EDT
|Why can't they be more like Linus Torvalds? I don't get it.
As much as I feel RMS is as far on the non-diplomatic side of the fence as you can get (okay, not quite that far), I have to say that his editorial was actually very timely and I thought very much to the point -- the patent process that Gates is rallying around (and the whole "IP" thing) -- had someone been doing that to him in the early days of Microsoft, they would never have made it.
I didn't feel he disgraced the community at all, in other words.
He had a good point there. He didn't seem as bad at putting it across as he used to.
Feb 18, 2005
5:44 PM EDT
|Some people seem embarrassed by RMS and his 70s style radicalism. They need to get over judging things on appearances - do they want to end up like Karl Rove? Personally I just read the argument and if it makes sense I buy it. RMS makes a lot of sense over patents....|
Feb 19, 2005
1:41 AM EDT
|The problem, Paulie, is that RMS ain't exactly being honest, which tends to diminish the value of the good things that he says.
For example, he claims that people are confused or dishonest by using the blanket term Intellectual Property to refer to patents, copyrights, and trademarks. Well, how-dee-do, Mr. "it ain't Linux, it's GNU/Linux", where do you get off complaining that somebody has assigned a group of specific laws to a larger umbrella (includes trade secret, too, btw)? It's not different from lumping wills, trusts, powers of attorney, and the rules of inter-vivos gifts under the general category of estate law. It makes life easier.
As to his artificial distinction between copyrights and patents based on who owns the copyright, Mr. Stallman had better look again. Software copyrights are not necessarily owned by the author, any more than patents are necessarily owned by the inventor. Software written as part of employment (which might include some people who are not employees because of the way that employment is defined) is owned by the employer. Likewise, software written under a contract that assigns ownership of the copyright (most programming contracts) is owned by the assignee.
Finally, strictly speaking, patents don't ( or shouldn't ) cover ideas per se. They cover ideas reduced to practice. The distinction matters. For example, you couldn't patent the idea of a cancer cure, but you could patent a specific cancer cure, thus leaving others to patent other cancer cures.
Disclaimer: I am an inventor on a couple of IBM's software patents.
Software patents are not intrinsically evil, but they turn out to be evil in fact. The problems come from a couple of sore points:
1. Software progress is SOOOOOO much faster and SOOOOO much cheaper than in other disciplines. Patents exist (believe it or not) to bring knowledge into the public domain. In the bad old days, many companies relied on secrecy to protect their businesses. Not very good for the advancement of the practical arts. By granting a limited-term monopoly, the government offers a trade-off that lets companies profit even while knowledge gets transferred to the public.
But...Software has no manufacturing phase and has no significant capital requirements. You don't need a machine shop or fab or whatever to make your prototypes, and once your prototypes are made, you don't need to expend capital on manufacturing.
You don't need seven freakin' years to recover your investment.
2. For most of computing's history, software could not be patented. Forty or fifty years of vibrant discovery/invention/inspired noodling is off the books so far as the patent office knows. It ain't in their records because nobody could patent it so nobody did.
The PTO doesn't handle this problem very well and hands out patents for stuff that was being done 40 years ago in different clothes. HINT: PTO -- those old mainframe and scientific computing guys did a lot of neat stuff. Today's programmers and computer scientists are not starting with a blank slate.
3. Patent examiners are supposed to apply a test of non-obviousness. In other words, an innovation should not be obvious to an ordinary practitioner of the trade.
A couple of problems there.
First: remember all that missing prior art? One of the strange tests for obviousness is whether somebody did it before. If it's never been done, it supports the claim of non-obviousness. SIgh. And that's before you consider that cost-effectiveness and technical feasibility have more to do with implementations than obviousness. In the computer biz, you tend to make things that can run on hardware that will be available in the foreseeable future.
Do these guys think that programmers are a bunch of chihuahuas, or, worse, MCSEs?
People who actually develop software know what a creative bunch developers be. The PTO must think you can train goldfish to do the job.
Oh well. Enough rambling for now...
Feb 19, 2005
9:32 AM EDT
|I think RMS is correct to oppose the term "intellectual property." Because it is sloppy and imprecise, and even worse it's a deliberate, successful attempt to spread the notion that ideas can be owned. "I thunk it up, so it's mine." Which is nonsense. Hardly anyone has a truly original idea- as dinotrac and many others said, everyone builds on someone else's work, and it's supposed to be the implementation of ideas that can be protected, not the ideas themselves.
The only annoying thing RMS does is insist on GNU/Linux. Other than that, I think he is correct and necessary. It is important to hold to a pure vision and purpose, or it gets diluted, compromised, and ultimately destroyed. The proliferation of OSI "open source" licenses proves this- instead of making life easier for developers and end users, it's created an increasingly thorny legal thicket.
This Libervis piece doesn't even make sense- it wanders into rants against communism, claims that RMS is such an embarrassment that 'open source publications push him under the rug', and 'Why cant RMS be more like Eric S. Raymond?', implying that RMS wants the government to control everything. WTF?? This is one of the most ignorant pieces of claptrap I've ever read, ranking right up there with the stellar pennings of Hashish Ghosh, or whatever his name is. I don't agree with the prevalent notion that opinion piece = OK to spout off ignorantly. If it doesn't have a factual basis and sound reasoning, it's garbage.
Plus it pisses me off when nitwits like this dare to rank on the greats of F/OSS. Presumptuous pipsqueak.
Feb 19, 2005
12:38 PM EDT
| >Plus it pisses me off when nitwits like this dare to rank on the greats of F/OSS. Presumptuous pipsqueak.
Now, now, tuxchickie, true freedom is the freedom to be loudly and proudly wrong.
How would you feel if I huffed "presumptious pipsqueak" at your assessment of intellectual property?
Now that I think about it, you'd probably just consider the source.
Feb 20, 2005
7:28 AM EDT
The term "Intellectual Property Rights" is nothing like the term "estate law" to lump together trust, wills, etc.
The creation and popularization of the term "Intellectual Property Rights" is nothing less than a concsious, concerted, and coordinated effort, by those with a monetary interest in doing so, to place copyright, patents, etc., in exactly the same sphere as actual, physical property rights, which in this country have pretty much a holy status. This outcome would, in fact, represent a change from status these things -- patents, copyrights, etc. -- have been accorded up till now. Once "the public" has accepted the applicability of the term "Intellectual Property Rights", the entire framework for debate, law, and enforcement changes. In short, the popularization of the term "Intellectual Property Rights" is a classic propaganda effort.
Here's a good summary, from http://www.n-a-n-o.com/ipr/extro2/extro2mk.html#Heading4 " As we have seen, copyrights and patents cannot be considered intrinsic, "natural" rights which people have possessed from time immemorial. On the contrary, they are very artificial constructs, erected by powerful governments for very particular political purposes. However, these artificial "rights" happen to collide head-on with more fundamental basic rights, namely actual property rights."
I will do my part to make sure that this false and pernicious term does not make it into the common lexicon.
Feb 20, 2005
8:33 AM EDT
|>How would you feel if I huffed "presumptious pipsqueak" at your assessment of intellectual property?
Aw, I'd melt at getting the attention. ;) Yes, I would consider the source- you usually have good arguments with an actual foundation. Unlike the Libervis blog entry. Yeah, folks have the right to publish idiocy, and way too many of them vigorously exercise that right.
Feb 20, 2005
12:12 PM EDT
Where do you get the idea that ANY property rights are natural?
For example, does paying a sum of money and taking possession give me some natural right to my house and the land it's on? Many is the past culture that would say no.
And, what about estate law and rights of inheritance? What is "natural" about that?
Ownership and property are man-made concepts that contribute to a rational and orderly society. There is nothing natural about them.
Intellectual property is not so different from the ownership interests in land, which is itself a funny concept when you consider that the land was here before us and will be her long after we die. It rewards discovery, creativity and/or effort for the benefit of society.
Has intellectual property law been perverted and lost its original purpose?
That is a different question.
Feb 20, 2005
12:16 PM EDT
|I agree with "pyellman" - "Intellectual Property" constitutes a deliberate attempt to mix up arguments about patents, copyrights and trademarks with arguments and beliefs about real and chattel property.
I won't use the term myself, except to correct others and heap scorn on the hidden assumptions in it.
I guess that sloppy journalists (the kind who can't distinguish "worm" from "virus" and "hacker" from "cracker" and "power user" from "someone inured to windows") will now start using "IP rights" and they will soon get tired of getting corrected on that, and the same sloppy journalists will start to claim the dynamism of english as an excuse for sloppiness.
Feb 20, 2005
12:18 PM EDT
It ain't sloppy to use a term that has a well recognized meaning. It's good practice.
I notice that, on this forum, even its detractors know exactly what it means.
Feb 20, 2005
1:06 PM EDT
>Where do you get the idea that ANY property rights are natural?
It is unambiguously stated as one of the pillars of our society in the United States Constitution, wherein there is also a clear and unambiguous distinction made between property rights and copyright/patent.
>For example, does paying a sum of money and taking possession give me some natural right to my house and the land it's on? Many is the past culture that would say no.
Without any specific attempt to address your question, for the purposes of this discussion, I am staying within the bounds of American history/culture and its immediate antecedents and philosophical foundations. I thought I communicated that by saying "in this country".
>And, what about estate law and rights of inheritance? What is "natural" about that?
Good. Now we are at the meat of the matter. If you are prepared to make the argument that "Intellectual Property" deserves the same status and protections that actual property has been accorded in this country, please proceed immediately to do so. That, at least is a legitimate and potentially defensible point of view. What is not, however, fair or forthright is to suggest in any way that it has always been so, or that the history behind our existing view of property obviously and logically leads to the same protections for "Intellectual Property", since even a casual review of that history proves otherwise: until now, there has been a clear distinction between physical property and what is now being called "Intellectual Property".
>Ownership and property are man-made concepts that contribute to a rational and orderly society. There is nothing natural about them.
I claim no position on the naturalness of property ownership whatsoever. That ownership and property are generally accepted as a pillar of our society, culture, and economy is, however, an indisputable fact. That the same historical and cultural foundation provides equal protection to "Intellectual Property" is quite disputable, and in fact can be shown to be false.
>Intellectual property is not so different from the ownership interests in land, which is itself a funny concept when you consider that the land was here before us and will be her long after we die. It rewards discovery, creativity and/or effort for the benefit of society.
Claptrap. Someone in a far off land may have a clever idea long before you, but because you have the good fortune to live in the US and have access to the patent office and enforcement powers of the US government, you could trivially rob that person of his/her "property". In any case, the imperative for providing some protection for inventors, and yet not giving invention the same protection as physical property is succinctly and yet thoroughly addressed in the U.S. Constitution.
>Has intellectual property law been perverted and lost its original purpose?
>That is a different question.
That is a rhetorical question which you are using perpetuate the aforementioned propaganda. There is no history of "intellectual property law", beyond the last few decades, to point to. If you can show otherwise, please do, but without reference to patent, copyright, and their immediate kin, since, as already described, they don't count.
Feb 20, 2005
1:10 PM EDT
|Hey, I come to revive your discussion a bit if you don't mind.
I was also severely pissed off by that libervis guy, so I posted a comment (after 1000 lines of other comments from other people pissed off. At least I signed it boldly with my name H. Kwint, and country too), but after thinking a bit, I found out I was actually severely pissed of by Bill Gates and not this pathetic guy.
Bill Gates hoped people were putting up a fight about communism and open source (distracting from the problems his software suffers from), and when I read the libervis-article, I found out Microsoft was being communistic, because they want to control everything just like the government in the DDR back when it was communistic, and they want to spy on people and take away their freedom of choice. So I said no matter if RSM would be an alien, he'd still be right.
Whatever, I got interested in some patent-like stuff and found some realy astonishing mind-fucking laughable patents at an FFII site (after I decided to contributed $25 to FSF via PayPal, so lets hope they use it well).
Did you know, in the EU header files are maybe going to be patented? As well as the idea to make a shopping list from a cooking-receipt? The 'new innovative' part is you can use a keyboard and monitor for that. So if you read a cookbook and are typing a shopping list using your computer you're violating that patent. Also, SUN has patented the algorithm (laughable fact: the ONLY POSSIBLE algorithm) to convert Win95 names to WinNT names. So Microsoft isn't allowed to do that in the EU. They seem to did it just to annoy Microsoft.
These are all rubbish-patents. Mainly, there indeed isn't something new. As dinotrac pointed out, someting new should be added for a patent, something not thought out before, but to my suprise, much of these patents covered basic things known almost by everybody before it was patented ('public domain' already if you ask me). The guys at the EPO must be sleeping (sorry for putting it this way, but freely quoting out of some Gentoo-flamewar somewhere: the EPO guys must first remove head from anus, then consider patent issues).
So if you would like to have a good laugh too, take a look at the horror-patent site at
Seriously insane trivial things are patented there (be sure to look at the candidates part too, at the lower part of the page)!
Feb 20, 2005
1:41 PM EDT
|> It is unambiguously stated as one of the pillars of our society in the United States Constitution
This may come as a shock to you, but the Constitution is man-made law, and pretty recent law at that.
As you point out, the Constitution also provides a legal basis for some branches intellectual property, although copyrights, trademarks, and patents predate the United States.
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