Why Human Rights Requires Free Software
Subject:   Human rights require truly free software, not the FSF's "Free" (Not!) software
Date:   2002-10-12 14:39:59
From:   brettglass
In this essay, Andy Oram uses the term "Free Software" -- with initial caps -- implying that code encumbered by the FSF's anti-commercial "GNU General Public License" is necessary to human rights efforts.

Nothing could be further from the case. The GPL, with its "poison pill" provisions, hurts the development of technology businesses in developing nations by preventing them from creating, valuable innovations that improve upon existing works. For this reason, GPLed software should not be used in such efforts. Instead, they should insist upon using use software which is truly free and unencmumbered -- such as that which is in the public domain or licensed under the MIT, BSD, or Apache licenses. Otherwise, the GPL's agenda -- to undermine business and forestall any chance of good jobs for programmers -- will hurt the very countries that human rights workers are attempting to help. The GPL deprives programmers of rights, and therefore it is inappropriate for human rights workers to use it or software under which it is licensed.

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  • Another tragic error...
    2002-10-13 13:29:16  brettglass [View] the advertisement for the book "Free as in Freedom" -- the tract of propaganda which tells a highly inaccurate history of Stallman's life and reiterates Stallman's many lies -- in the margin of the essay. Andy, you should know better than anyone that GPLed software is in no way "free."
  • John W. Adams photo Brett, your objection is pointless
    2002-10-12 17:50:13  John W. Adams | O'Reilly Blogger [View]

    Your objection is to the use of the GPL in commercial software.

    Andy Oram's entire article is about non-commercial software for human rights workers.

    Thus, your objection is pointless.

    Further, every license restricts the rights of those who accept it. For this reason, your final sentence (which finally gets around to the issue at hand) does not reach a valid conclusion.
    • Brett, your objection is pointless
      2007-08-09 02:41:37  crosbie [View]

      Well, the GPL does a very good job of restoring most of the licensee's right to liberty (otherwise suspended by copyright and patent) even if the obligation to publish source with binaries does interfere with the licensee's right to privacy.

      The GPL is almost a completely rights restoring licence.
    • The above is dead wrong.
      2002-10-13 00:03:46  brettglass [View]

      You write:

      >Your objection is to the use of the GPL in commercial software.

      Not so at all. I object to the promotion or use of the GPL in ANY context, but PARTICULARLY in cases where it could impact the economic development of nations. The GPL strips humans of the fundamental right to earn a living by improving technology. That's unacceptable.
      • John W. Adams photo Now that you've clarified...
        2002-10-13 06:30:46  John W. Adams | O'Reilly Blogger [View]

        ...please explain exactly how the use of GPL-licenced software specifically for use in human rights work has an impact on commercial software or economic development.

        Also, I'm curious exactly what you mean by "the fundamental right to earn a living by improving technology". I wasn't aware that I had a fundamental right to earn a living in any trade.
        • Article 23 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
          2002-10-13 13:25:57  brettglass [View]

          Article 23

          (1) Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favourable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment.

          (2) Everyone, without any discrimination, has the right to equal pay for equal work.

          (3) Everyone who works has the right to just and favourable remuneration ensuring for himself and his family an existence worthy of human dignity, and supplemented, if necessary, by other means of social protection.

          (4) Everyone has the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests.

          • which point...
            2002-10-17 21:40:13  david_given [View]


            I am not sure which one of the above points you think covers:
            the fundamental right to earn a living by improving technology

            can you elaborate?