Is there a problem with the Free Software Foundation ?

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aliasbody
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Iscritto: 09/14/2012

Hello Everyone,

Okay I think that this is the best place to ask this question, but I promise it is not a troll at all (I think...).

So here is the problem :

The FSF (Free Software Foundation), is promoting, and helping promoting the Free Software Movement, but trying to make people use only Free Software, contribution to it etc... etc...

But I've seen a lot of stuff that doesn't seem... well... right. Like for example :

1 - I've seen at least 2 videos of the FSF Staff using a Mac OsX.
2 - On the donations page they propose paypal even knowing that they are against it.

So... Am I seeing it on a wrong way or is there a real problem ?

Thanks in Advance,
Luis Da Costa

SirGrant

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Iscritto: 07/27/2010

I don't think either is accurate.

1) The FSF doesn't use Mac OS X. Could you please link to a video where as FSF staff is using Mac OS X because the computers at the FSF use Trisquel. The only thing I could think of is if a FSF member maybe happened to have Mac OS X on their own personal computer.

2) FSF is not against paypal. See FSF works with PayPal to the benefit of the free software community. Now some people boycott paypal for other reasons but the FSF is not against paypal.

aliasbody
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Iscritto: 09/14/2012

1) Dammit :S.. I was watching videos of the EFF (Electronic Frontier Foundation)... sorry ! This one was purely my fault.

2) I didn't knew about that :S I taught that there was a big boycott against paypal since even Richard Stallman publicly said that he is against paypal.

Double fault of mine then, I'm sorry once again.

SirGrant

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Iscritto: 07/27/2010

Stallman's opinions (usually on stallman.org) are not representative of the FSF unless he has his official GNU/FSF hat on. He is a very political person and he may partake in the boycott against paypal but that is for political reasons. This may include them blocking payments to wikileaks and other things. However, the FSF as an organization is concerned with free software.

aliasbody
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Iscritto: 09/14/2012

Thanks a lot for the explanations :D

Tullia
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Iscritto: 11/13/2012

Don't feel bad about posting the question, aliasbody - it's a good learning opportunity for others too - sometimes we have questions we don't voice. I was a little concerned about the FSF's 'hard line' approach at first - as an artist, I reserve the right not to make all my work public domain, and I think art (literature, music) and code are two different issues - but ultimately I decided that they had it right where software was concerned and I didn't need to agree 100% to the letter in order to support them.

Your comment about OSX was interesting because I read it as 'using a Mac' - after a comment by Chris about hardware, I'm thinking a lot about our hardware choices. I think many people don't care too much about their hardware so long as a Linux OS will work on it, by whatever means. But in the end, this doesn't really helph our cause. I wouldn't argue against it for the general user (that's also why I don't get too worked up about Free Software proponents selling hardware with Ubuntu or whatever - users need a 'gateway drug' in most cases) - but if you really care about Freedom, I'm beginning to think that the hardware needs to come first.

I think I might do some research and try to write an article about the issues.

Another thought about using non-free software - some of us are embedded in institutions which require proprietary software - even though there are reasonable alternatives, I have to use what my colleagues use, it's not actually optional. Several of my classes are based on proprietary software - I've protested to the university about it, but I still have to use it.

Magic Banana

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Iscritto: 07/24/2010

The Free Software Foundation deals with software only. Like you, its most prominent member, rms, does not put art in the same bag as software, which aims at achieving the user's work (unlike art). He does not see the freedom to modify as a requirement for a piece of art to respect the spectator's freedoms. However, he argues that the freedom to share should stand still in this context. He is also very critical w.r.t. the current delay (in most of the occidental world: 70 years after the death of all authors) for a work to end up being "public domain" (which is, by the way, different from being "free" as in "free software"). If you want to know more about his very interesting views, I recommend you his conference "Copyright vs. Community". Many audio and video recordings of it can be downloaded from this site.

On the other hand, the FSF would not approve your denomination, "Linux OS", for the operating system: Linux only is its kernel; the whole operating system ought to be called "GNU/Linux".

Tullia
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Iscritto: 11/13/2012

oh yes, GNU/LINUX. Free Software not Open Source. And now we have to say FLOSS (which always makes me think of cleaning my teeth) instead of FOSS.

It's a bit like whenever someone in openSUSE keeps grumbling about people writing OpenSuse or something instead of the lower case 'o'.

On the one hand I 'get' the point of using correct nomenclature (and pronouns, if you're talking generically about people) but... you know....

Regarding copyright, I can't help wondering if that was originally meant to protect an artist's life and children, but it's also about investment - it's tied up with the art market and the 'rarity value' of work. I agree it's too long, particularly in this day and age - I often find it an obstacle to creation when I want to do something inspired by other artists and have to hunt down rights, which isn't always easy. I suppose a solution is for artists to selectively license work and explicitly put things into public domain.

Magic Banana

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Iscritto: 07/24/2010

There should never be any artificial scarcity in the digital world: if I like something in a file, I will share it. It is called friendship or being a good citizen (any civilization is based on a common culture). Real artists like that: more people can read/listen/watch/etc. their work. Most of them would not have discovered their art without Internet.

And, that does not mean they starve. Most music artists make a living from shows (they do not make a dime on CD selling), people go more and more to the cinema (although movies are available in P2P networks), etc. If it turns out not enough artists can make a living from their art and the society wants more artists, a tax on Internet connections would be fine as far as it is well redistributed. That is to say not at all like the pre-Internet situation where majors decided alone to make a few stars they impose to the public on radio, TV, etc. with a lot of commercials.

I am actually pretty sure more and more artists have been making a living from their arts since Internet became popular. For instance, all serious studies (i.e., not financed by majors) have shown the positive effect of P2P networks on the music industry. And no, I do not care if Britney Spears cannot buy a new private jet. I care about the 99% of artists who cannot negotiate their contracts and, as a consequence, do not make a dime on selling CDs.

Tullia
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Iscritto: 11/13/2012

I really don't agree with that logic. I work as an artist/writer on the internet, and constantly find my work re-used by other people. Most don't even bother to name the artist, let alone add a link to my site. When someone republishes my work elsewhere, people read it there instead of coming to my site. They don't know it was done by me, so how does it help my reputation? Heck I've even seen people passing off my images as their own and taking compliments on them.

If people get my work somewhere else, our publishing company makes less and I get paid less. It's not beneficial to share if it actively takes audience away elsewhere.

It's not even a case of true creative culture most of the time - it's not like someone is re-envisioning my art in a new context to create something of value. They are just copying and duplicating to serve their own needs - making money on the internet - sometimes copying huge sections of my site and others.

When a teacher or NGO asks me for an image, I almost always say yes. In some cases when my company hasn't wanted to waive their fee I've done artwork for them gratis.

I had to take a desk job for a few months and it nearly killed me. I hate not making art, and when you're working all day you don't have any energy left for creativity. I don't want a private jet. I just want to be able to pay my kids' school fees.

I realize this is all anecdotal, but theory needs to reflect real life experience. I know many artists and writers and their experiences are much like mine - it's a constant, uphill battle to even make a basic living wage.

Magic Banana

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Iscritto: 07/24/2010

You completely misinterpret what I wrote:

  • I have nothing against a requirement to attribute the work to its author (the BY clause of the Creative Commons licenses);
  • I have nothing against preventing commercial use of an artistic work without the author's consent (the NC clause of the Creative Commons);
  • I also have nothing against preventing the modification of an artistic work (the ND clause of the Creative Commons);
  • On the contrary, I strongly believe anyone should have the right to redistribute the work unaltered and I actually think it helps the artists (minus the superstars) make a living.
Tullia
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Iscritto: 11/13/2012

Thanks for that clarification.

I'm afraid I tend to interpret these things through a lens of experience that doesn't always lend itself to clear logic.

wolftune
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Iscritto: 12/23/2012

ND clause is very problematic. It's similar to artificial scarcity in terms of being artificial. The most vibrant culture, just like the best software, benefits from everyone putting in their ideas and their variations, or at the very least to use things as they like. ND clause on art could even mean not altering the file format for compatibility reasons. ND should not be accepted any more on art than on software.

NC, on the other hand, is not, in principle, as bad, but in reality it stinks. The main effect of an NC license is to block the use of the item with any content that allows commercial use. All of Wikipedia is BY-SA, thus allowing commercial use (if derivatives are licensed the same way, a stipulation that is enough to block most exploitation that drives people to choose NC). If you release something with an NC license, the main thing you do is just say to people "no mixing this with anything from Wikipedia!" The *main* effect of NC is actually to make a rift in the commons and block lots of non-commercial use.

Otherwise, you are right that redistribution with appropriate credit is good for creators. The scarcity today is *attention* not works of art. The worst thing for an artist today is obscurity. All artists are basically paid by voluntary contributions in the sense that nobody needs your art in order to live, so they buy it because they like it and like you, not because they need to pay to get it.

I suggest exploring the excellent material at questioncopyright.org, and freedomdefined.org. There's also the excellent stuff at Techdirt.com.

Magic Banana

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Iscritto: 07/24/2010

The ND clause does not cover the format. For instance, in the CC BY-NC-ND 3.0:
The above rights may be exercised in all media and formats whether now known or hereafter devised. The above rights include the right to make such modifications as are technically necessary to exercise the rights in other media and formats, but otherwise you have no rights to make Adaptations.

Among "the above rights", there are the right "to Reproduce the Work" and "to incorporate the Work into one or more Collections". What leads me to your fear of not being able to include a work with the NC clause into Wikipedia. Indeed:
"Collection" means a collection of literary or artistic works, such as encyclopedias...
But yes, Wikipedia would refuse such a work. Not because of the license but because of Wikipedia's policy.

The fundamental question is: are you attacking the spectator's freedoms when using the NC or the ND clause. I do not think so.

Unlike software, Art needs not be modifiable. Spectators do not achieve their works with it. I can also understand the fear of the authors to see bad derivatives of their work... and I understand as well that Art profits from such derivations (e.g., sampling in music). An ND clause that is limited in time looks appropriate. Needless to say that I do not have anything against artists choosing *not* to use the ND clause!

For the same reason applied to companies (i.e., companies do not achieve their work with Art), I believe as well that the NC clause is acceptable. The problem is that the perimeter of this clause is vague (although, for sure, Wikipedia could include NC works if Wikipedia's policy was not against it).

wolftune
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Iscritto: 12/23/2012

I agree that the importance of freedom may be more or less in different cases, but we are still talking about freedom here. Being able to control how you use your e-mail is very important. But many computer uses are more trivial and freedom is less important. The idea that art or other non-software is not as deserving of freedom is short-sighted and simplistic. I mean no personal disrespect, but I do not accept your position on this.

Nina Paley explains it well here:
http://questioncopyright.org/rantifesto

And to clarify, my concern isn't about whether a piece of artwork can be placed on Wikipedia. That's not the important thing.

Here's the deal: I made a creative educational video that has proven to be quite popular. It used images from Wikimedia and elsewhere that were CC-BY-SA. It added real value to the commons and the world. But everyone who chose an NC license blocked me from using their photos etc. in my video, even though my video was 100% non-commercial. And chances are good that most of the material I was blocked from using would never be used in a commercial way if they had chosen BY-SA. So all they did by choosing NC was stop me. And that was NOT these artists' intent, so the license failed them.

And this is not the fault of Wikipedia, this is a fundamental problem with the NC license being incompatible with BY-SA. You cannot combine material from two sources if one says that freedom to use commercially must be allowed for all derivatives and the other says that no commercial use can ever be done without permission for each case.

And like with other freedoms, if a work is locked down with an ND or NC restriction, you have no idea what amazing valuable things might have been stopped. There simply isn't an argument for Free Software that doesn't pretty well apply to other media.

Magic Banana

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Iscritto: 07/24/2010

You can always contact an author, explain her your work and hope she will grant you another license (just for you). If she refuses then the license really fits the author's intent.

It would be like saying that the GPL does not fit the bill because proprietary developers cannot make software from it (whereas permissive licenses grant this right), whereas the authors do not want that. It may happen but I hope the authors have actually chosen the GPL knowing its effects.

And, yes, we disagree on the difference in nature between software and art. You do not make your work with art, you do not (really) need to fix bugs in art (i.e., modifications), neither you need support (a commercial activity), you do not fear a piece of art will spy on you or install a backdoor (what requires access to the source code and the right to modify it individually and collectively), etc.

wolftune
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Iscritto: 12/23/2012

Wrong. It is completely unrealistic to contact huge numbers of Wikipedia contributors to ask if you could use their work and release with a more restrictive license. If you use more than the tiniest amount of BY-SA material, you MUST release as BY-SA, and then getting permission from an author of NC content is effectively a request to change their entire license because once their work is in your new BY-SA material, it is BY-SA.

What do you mean, "you do not make your work with art?" Sure you do, as all art and culture is derivative. Anyone making anything cultural is using previous cultural resources.

You do not need to fix bugs? So there's no need to, for example, correct mistaken information, as Richard Stallman did with the GFDL'ed Free As In Freedom book to create the improved Free As In Freedom 2.0? There's no need to improve a video that is out of alignment with audio, or which has messed up color? Or in which the subtitles are not in a certain language? Or, for that matter, could be improved, such as better editing or new scenes for a documentary film…

Yes, spying and some other differences do not apply exactly, but that's far from the only reasons we care about Free Software.

Again, I do not mean any personal disrespect, but very little of your points actually withstand scrutiny. Restrictions on freedom for cultural works are restrictions on freedom and are without merit. The fact that in *some* cases, software restrictions are even worse than cultural restrictions is not an argument that cultural restrictions are ok.

Magic Banana

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Iscritto: 07/24/2010

The problem of contacting many authors has not much to do with the specifics of the license, i.e., this problem arises whatever the license and can be solve with copyright assignment... which raise, however, new issues (one entity can sublicense the work of some contributors under licenses they do not approve... what hinders contributions in the first place).

Of course, the more permissive the license, the less problematic it is (with purely permissive licenses, you can do anything without contacting the authors). But, again, I hope that authors who chose a lesser permissive license do it on purpose (not by mistake).

When I wrote "you do not make your work with art", I mean the spectator does not achieve something with art. She only "enjoys" it. She is the equivalent of the user of an application but the latter does achieve a work with it. That is, to me, a fundamental difference w.r.t. the freedoms to expect. The user of software needs the four freedoms, whereas I personally do not see my freedoms harmed by a piece of theatre, a book or a song that I cannot modify (I feel it if I am not allowed to share a copy though!).

When you write about "anyone making anything cultural", they would be, in the software world, other developers, not users. Not all users are developers and not all spectators are artists. Free software is about freedoms granted to users. Anyway, I understand your concern to promote software development and arts but, to me, it is not on the same level as freedoms.

People have the right to publish wrong informations. If a biograph respect the person she depicted, she will correct it later. Whatever the license... and no license should force her to tell the truth! What is the truth? What powerful entities want it to be?

I strongly doubt that changing the alignment of the audio and the video of a film is a derivation, i.e., I am pretty sure you can do that while respecting the CC-BY-ND license (for instance). Same thing for the subtitles (to be checked though).

Adding new scenes in a film is definitely not allowed by the ND clause. But, as a spectator, I really do not feel that harms my freedoms. I can also understand that an author may not want her movie augmented in ways she does not approve. That said, this "exclusive right" on modification should definitely not last as long as with the current copyright system (in most countries, 70 years after the deaths of all authors!). As you write "all art and culture is derivative" and, as I wrote earlier "I understand your concern to promote software development and arts". Stallman proposes 10 years after the original publication of the artistic work. That looks reasonable and, in practice, any reduction would be good to take.

moilami
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Iscritto: 09/17/2012

Thanks Wolftune of your arguments. Very interesting.

I have tried to reason why culture would be different than software. I thought I just don't understand why it would be.

Now I think that culture is no different than software. Enchanced or otherwise altered derivative works benefit both the creators and consumers.

wolftune
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Iscritto: 12/23/2012

Right. There really is no difference. Users of Powerpoint make slides in a similar way to users of LibreOffice. They have the same obliviousness to the freedom as someone watching a play or listening to a recording. The freedom to run the program on different machines is similar to the freedom to read an e-book on different devices. And it is NOT more important that you make presentation slides than that you read a valuable insightful book. On the contrary, it is infinitely more important that we have freedom regarding spreading of news and information than that a super-hero action video game is FLOSS. Any attempt to create a hard dividing line for these media is going to have so many problems that it is basically a failure in the first place.

The main reason someone might favor software freedom over cultural and knowledge freedom is because they happen to be someone who spends most of their time doing software things. There's no other justification.

Magic Banana

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Iscritto: 07/24/2010

I entirely agree with the beginning of the message: no restriction on the "use" of the work and on the free distribution of exact copies.

We disagree on the requirement to let spectators the freedom to modify the artistic work and/or make money from it. I see a difference between practical works (that aim to achieve some works) and artistic ones.

wolftune
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Iscritto: 12/23/2012

Everything that supports this divide which you accept is a bad thing. In real live cultures there are not "artists" vs "spectators". That is the source of your misunderstanding. This supposed divide is far weaker than the divide between programmers and users of software. To every extent that we have people who are strictly spectators, we have an ill society. Once you recognize that everyone is actually an active participant in culture, then your perspectives about cultural restrictions are no longer acceptable.

You should check out the documentary short video series on remix by Kirby Ferguson and the work by Lawrence Lessig (see their TED talks, which are unfortunately ND restricted but are great and worth seeing).

To put it simply, the problem with your views isn't really about your understanding of freedom, it's about your misunderstanding of the nature of human culture.

Respectfully,
Aaron

linuxbookpro
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Iscritto: 03/18/2012

I'm glad FSF tends to take an all or nothing stand on Free Software, even though it's not realistic over time it has a positive effect and brings technology to people that may otherwise not have access.