How Richard Stallman’s GPL Platform Backfires on the Free Software Movement

Posted on August 5th, 2009 by bile
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The bullying of the copyright industry in Sweden inspired the launch of the first political party whose platform is to reduce copyright restrictions: the Pirate Party. Its platform includes the prohibition of Digital Restrictions Management, legalization of noncommercial sharing of published works, and shortening of copyright for commercial use to a five-year period. Five years after publication, any published work would go into the public domain.

I support these changes, in general; but the specific combination chosen by the Swedish Pirate Party backfires ironically in the special case of free software. I’m sure that they did not intend to hurt free software, but that’s what would happen.

The GNU General Public License and other copyleft licenses use copyright law to defend freedom for every user. The GPL permits everyone to publish modified works, but only under the same license. Redistribution of the unmodified work must also preserve the license. And all redistributors must give users access to the software’s source code.

The highlighted statement is incorrect. As the Ars Technica states: “Copyleft is an important part of Stallman’s vision because it compels companies that use copyleft code to open their own source code when they might not have otherwise been willing to do so voluntarily.” A right, freedom, comes from within. It is negative. It can not place an obligation on another which has not been voluntarily entered into. There can not be a right to education or healthcare in that it is someone’s obligation to provide you with them. To claim such a thing is to claim to have the right over another’s labor meaning they are your slave. In the same way copyright, and therefore copyleft, are an affront to the liberty not only for the publisher but the user. Copyright makes the customer the slave to the producer and copyleft the producer the slave of another in the name of the consumer. Rather then advocating co-slavery, where the real master are those in positions within the government and their fascistic friends, let us advocate the emancipation of all those held under the thumb of organized violent institutions.

How would the Swedish Pirate Party’s platform affect copylefted free software? After five years, its source code would go into the public domain, and proprietary software developers would be able to include it in their programs. But what about the reverse case?

Proprietary software is restricted by EULAs, not just by copyright, and the users don’t have the source code. Even if copyright permits noncommercial sharing, the EULA may forbid it. In addition, the users, not having the source code, do not control what the program does when they run it. To run such a program is to surrender your freedom and give the developer control over you.

One can not surrender one’s freedom except in that case were they have aggressed against another. And then only to the extent to which is necessary to stop the aggression. The user gives up no freedom when voluntarily using closed source software. Stallman is looking to actually restrict user’s freedom by attempting to use copyright to force companies to work within his free software paradigm and restricting the marketplace. If FOSS is indeed a better way for all involved it will naturally become the dominant method of software development and distribution in the market naturally. There is no need to force it into being through threats and violence.

We also use copyright to partially deflect the danger of software patents.

More artificial monopoly privileges will not fix artificial monopoly privileges. Approach this problem from a true freedom oriented perspective and all these contradictions will disappear as will this endless tug of war for power over the State.

I could support a law that would make GPL-covered software’s source code available in the public domain after 5 years, provided it has the same effect on proprietary software’s source code. After all, copyleft is a means to an end (users’ freedom), not an end in itself. And I’d rather not be an advocate for a stronger copyright.

Fundamentally there is no difference between what Stallman advocates and what the stricter copyright people advocate. It is an argument over degrees and not kind. It is an argument that will never be resolved so long as the conversation is held within this intellectual property box. As long as Stallman and those who agree with him can do sue companies for GPL violation (and win)… the RIAA can restrict individual’s access to things they purchase and the game console companies the same. Freedom on all sides would allow the market place to find the best solutions for all those involved without all the unproductive fighting for control and as Eric S. Raymond pointed out… the fear it creates.

A real analysis of the FOSS community I believe would show that FOSS works without copyright. Through voluntary means software stays more or less open as the original author desired. Projects which are slow to change or allow outside participation are forked or replaced and the best method for the community wins out. Those companies which fail to release modifications to the source which they’ve used in their products are ostracized often leading to the code’s publication. If the general customers of their products are displeased with the lack of openness or product flexibility they will take their business elsewhere. They will succeed or fail in the market as everyone else. Artificially sustaining FOSS through monopoly privileges is economically and therefore socially regressive and destructive. It has no place in a free society.

For more information regarding intellectual property monopoly:

“Rothbardians” For ACORN?

Posted on March 3rd, 2009 by bile
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Over on the Mises Institute blog, Stephan Kinsella blogs about this miserably inadequate post from a blogger who claims that the breaking-and-entering on the part of the thugs and thieves from ACORN, along with the assistance of their trained parasite squatters, is “libertarian.” He asks everyone to please support ACORN’s efforts to allow freeloaders to live in houses they cannot possibly finance via their own means. Read Stephan’s post for his interesting take on foreclosure resistance, legalese, and Ayn Rand.

I really didn’t want to give him any more attention, but it gets worse than the post Kinsella links to. This post is even more comical. First the blogger says that it is “particularly sad to see Karen DeCoster continually gushing about [Rick] Santelli.” Actually, “continually gushing” = exactly two posts where I mentioned him. Outside of enjoying Rick Santelli’s wild speech on CNBC, I don’t continually gush. Google will prove that well enough. Perhaps Mr. Brad should put away the thesaurus. Second, he says that I “so easily disregard the clear implications of Rothbardian property theory.” He builds in a link to “implications of Rothbardian property theory,” yet the link he builds in points to this post, by him, that does not explain how ACORN antics are “Rothbardian property theory.” He just states “the homes in question are property of the banks have no merit in terms of libertarian theory. Resistance to foreclosures is thus fully libertarian.” That’s it. It is because he says so. The reason he doesn’t support his point with actual links or scholarship from Rothbard is because there is no such thing that exists, from Rothbard, that can support such nonsense.

Of course, those of us who have studied Rothbard, or even those who have known him intimately – like a few people on this site – know that Murray Rothbard would not place himself side-by-side with the ACORN gang of thugs, cheering on their pathetic property grabs at the expense of legitimate owners.

Another important point is that the blogger completely ignores the dismal record of the squatter in question, Donna Hanks, a perpetual ne-er-do-well and professional property plunderer who attempted to live way, way beyond her means at the expense of everyone else, including her creditors. In this post, I linked to the place where you can find the legal records online. The blogger has no quarrel about her refusal to make her mortgage payments even after she refinanced her ATM house and took out $200,000 in cash to blow it on….well, who knows.

The blogger is one of a small group of left-wing (self-described), autarkist, “free-market”-but-anti-capitalist, mutualist, anarcho-syndicalist, agorist, socialist non-libertarians who call their doctrine the real “libertarianism.” They post all kinds of cute, little banners and sayings and signage and logos on their blogs. And for some reason, some of them try to hold up Rothbard as one of their own. To them, Lew is a brand of “vulgar libertarianism,” meaning people who don’t “correctly apply libertarian principles.”

They are pro-union, favor the proletariat, and hate corporations. They think corporations are illegitimate entities. Perhaps their most farcical claim is that those of us who work wage jobs are wage slaves. (See my post on this.) If you voluntarily contract with a company or individual to produce goods or services for wages, you are a part of the wage-slavery society. This is based on their hatred of formal organization and hierarchy (even if voluntary), as well as envy of careerists and people who earn a high wage. Rothbard spent his entire career fighting these types – he called them the luftmenschen. In fact, Ben O’Neill took apart their “wage-slavery” myth in an article for in January 2009.

It’s actually too zany to take seriously, but people should know how this splinter group could possibly come to support the hideous group ACORN and claim that they are acting upon libertarian principles.

bosco… your take?

While I get what Mr. Spangler is getting at it’s very vague and as said above I doubt very much Rothbard (from my readings) would support any such action. Simply because banks are little less than a branch of the government in many respects that does not negate any legitimacy in their property titles. Criminals still have property rights. Rights to those things otherwise legitimately obtained. And in the case at hand where the home had been sold to a new couple it seems they have no case. Even if you subscribe to usage based property rights it was obvious that this property while not being currently lived in was being worked on. Any system which legitimizes that type of usage policy would get very little support in general.

On this, the day of our savior’s birth…

Posted on February 12th, 2009 by bile
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Oh… I’m sorry. Obama is the savior now. Either way I recommend taking some time and reading up on the real Abraham Lincoln, the man we didn’t read about in grade school.’s King Lincoln Archive

In no particular order of importance a select few.

Libertarian Papers: a new online journal

Posted on January 22nd, 2009 by bile
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Posted by Stephan Kinsella at January 22, 2009 06:59 AM

The Mises Institute is proud to announce the launch of a new, online journal today: Libertarian Papers. Edited by yours truly and boasting a impressive and geographically- and academically diverse Editorial Board, Libertarian Papers is publishing its first seven articles today, one per hour starting at 8:00 a.m. CST. These include articles by two eminent libertarian thinkers, Jan Narveson (writing on Nozick, justice, and restitution) and Robert Higgs (on depressions and war). These are followed by two, count ‘em, two, previously unpublished memos from … Ludwig von Mises and Murray Rothbard. Mises’s is a memo dated New Year’s Eve, 1946, to F.A. Hayek, relaying his concerns and advice about the then-nascent Mont Pèlerin Society. Rothbard’s is a 1961 “confidential” memo the Volker Fund, about libertarian tactics and strategy. Provocative, fascinating stuff.

The last three articles to be published today are a fascinating three-part exchange between Nicolás Maloberti and Joshua Katz about libertarianism, positive rights, and “Possibility of the Legitimate State.”

Argh… more stuff to read.

And this is why I don’t associate myself with the national Libertarian Party

Posted on April 28th, 2008 by bile
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Libertarians call for increased communication to combat child pornography

The Libertarian Party is calling for increased coordination and communication between federal and state law enforcement agencies in order to help to apprehend and convict child predators and those who engage in child pornography.

“FBI Chief Robert Mueller was correct when he said we are losing the war on child pornography,” says Libertarian Party Executive Director Shane Cory, referring to comments made by the head of the Federal Bureau of Investigation on Wednesday before a House Judiciary Committee meeting. “We have an obligation to protect children from sexual exploitation and abuse, and we can do this by increasing communication between state and federal agencies to help combat this repulsive industry. While privacy rights should always be respected in the pursuit of child pornographers, more needs to be done to track down and prosecute the twisted individuals who exploit innocent children.”

I tend to agree with Stephan Kinsella over at LRC:

While child abuse is obviously evil and unlibertarian, it is still bizarre that the LP would issue this release. To specifically call for the national police force to work more with state and local police is not just something radical libertarians would have trouble with. It is also unconstitutional. Under the Tenth Amendment, criminal justice questions–-including murder, rape, arson, theft, child abuse, violence against women, drug policy, gun laws and the like–are to be handled by state and local governments, not the federal government.

There is some gossip that this release was a stupid inner-party power play, to make radicals, including believers in decentralist law enforcement, feel uncomfortable in the party. By forcing this issue over the very emotionally charged issue of child porn, some people in charge of the party are trying to force anarchists and other radicals to admit they do not think the federal government should be involved in such questions. Specifically, they are attacking one presidential candidate, Mary Ruwart, over this and using it as an excuse to alienate radicals.

Ruwart–who spent 19 years as a pharmaceutical research scientist for Upjohn Pharmaceuticals and holds a PhD in biophysics–says she has been unfairly attacked and her words have been misrepresented in a smear attempt. Apparently the sell-outs and compromisers are trying to destroy her career.

In any case, why should a presidential election even have anything to do with this? The 1996 and 2000 LP presidential candidate, Harry Browne, used to point out that “The Constitution recognizes only three federal crimes — treason, piracy, and counterfeiting. The federal government has no Constitutional authority to deal with any other crimes.” He convincingly argued that this was a reason even pro-life libertarians should oppose federal abortion laws. (And Ron Paul would argue that pro-Choice libertarians, for similar decentralist, Constitutional reasons, might oppose Roe v. Wade.) (See Browne on prohibition and drugs; Browne on abortion.)

Would Harry Browne feel left out of what the Libertarian Party has become?

David Nolan, the minarchist founder of the Libertarian Party, was outraged by the press release. He wrote:

“The question is, how does society best protect its members from these bad things? And the LIBERTARIAN answer is ‘rarely, if ever, by giving more power to governments, especially at the Federal level.’ I am appalled at the national HQ staff putting out a press release that implicitly disowns one of our candidates over such a relatively minor issue. First, because that’s not a proper role for paid staffers to assume, and second because several other candidates have taken overtly anti-Libertarian stances on a number of issues, and none of them have been shot at by the national staff for doing so. This whole fiasco just reeks of cronyism and witch-hunting.”

This is why I hate political activism and electoral politics. The desperate attempts to seem respectable, the constant disingenuous smearing of more principled opponents as racists or pro-pedophiles, the selling out of even Constitutional government to hysterical federal wars on terrorism and child porn, and under-the-belt punches. It’s all very disgusting.

And even Ian Free Talk Live has had enough:

The Libertarian Party (LP) had, after the late, great Harry Browne’s campaigns, been falling further and further from it’s original principles. In the early portion of this decade, when the LP removed from the party platform their calls for the abolishment of the CIA and FBI, I wrote their newspaper to say I’d not send them another dime of money until they got back to their founding principle: the non-initiation of force.As I drifted away from the LP and politics and toward market-based action, I paid less and less attention to the LP. I even said on the air recently on “Free Talk Live“, my talk show, that the only reason I was still a member is because I bought a life membership and it hadn’t been worth my while to cancel it.

Well, along comes this post on the LRC blog. I agree with the sentiments of the post, and felt this move by the LP was the last straw. I called and revoked my membership, and felt clean and fresh afterward!

The LP is dead to me and no longer resembles the party I joined ten years ago. After the 2000 Browne campaign, I jumped into LP activism. I attended meetings regularly and single-handedly organized and paid for libertarian outreach at the county fair, gun shows, and gay/lesbian pridefests as well as created and tended their website. I did and funded it all myself because of the political nature of the LP. It was not hard to notice how bureaucratic and slow they were. For example, they spent uncountable weeks debating over bylaws. Plus, at the non-bylaw-reviewing regular meetings, whenever an idea was proposed there would nearly always be someone who would derail the discussion into debate on the idea or the issue. Very little ever got done. This was just my experience with the local LP in Florida. (Nothing against the individuals, they are good people. It’s the central planning that is the major failure.)

The LP state conventions I attended were dull. Having watched the LP national conventions on TV, I can say that while some of the speeches were excellent, the bulk of the time was spent bickering over party platform, blah blah blah. I’m glad I never went to one. All of this distasteful bureaucratic, political garbage was frustrating to me, as I didn’t know what else to do to achieve liberty in my lifetime.

Since I discovered the Free State Project in the first half of the decade and especially since moving to New Hampshire, I’ve been learning about the free market and experiencing REAL, decentralized, activism. Sure, there are a bunch of political Free Staters (for those of you who still believe you can change the system from the inside), but the most exciting and effective activism has been market-based. There’s a cadre of great market-based activists (both NH natives and Free Staters) here in Keene, NH, and that number is growing. We’re creating our own media (TV, radio, print, blog) and have begun living free. If the Blue Light Gang interferes, we already have proven success at deterring their aggression. As more join in withdrawing from coercive society and joining the voluntary society, we will only be more successful as the coercive gang’s veil of legitimacy will crumble from its own inherent contradictions. Eventually, the transition to the free market will be completed and not one vote need be cast or politician promoted.

Goodbye LP. Their contribution to the dilution and destruction of the term Libertarian is appreciated. “Free Marketeer” is so much more descriptive of my beliefs. Thanks LP, for helping me realize that politics is never the solution to problems.

We will never be free by begging, but only by choice. I choose liberty. What about you? Will you join the Nonviolent Evolution?

I think the means to freedom is multifaceted. We need political and apolitical actors. If we don’t defend ourselves in both spheres we risk serious loss of ground. However, party politics will not be the vehicle for change. As you see here the “party of principle” has been infiltrated by rejected Republicans and Democrats. Mike Gravel, Bob Barr and Waine Allen Root may be better than your average D and R politician but that’s not saying much. This latest attack on Mary Ruwart has really turned me against the LNC moreso then I had been prior. The outright lies and slim being thrown around at Third Party Watch and the like is incredibly petty and sad.

The national LP will likely continue to run candidates who blow the competition away for some time but they will also likely continue to pick up D and R rejects and their downward spiral. Oh well…. one more reason to head up to NH.