MS VP Challenges GPL on Moral Grounds In Speech

May 3, 2001 1:57 PM   Subscribe

MS VP Challenges GPL on Moral Grounds In Speech
Admitting that the company is feeling pressure from open source, free alternatives, Microsoft's Craig Mundie, lecturing at NYU, will speak out against G.P.L., which he considers impractical, dangerous and morally wrong. Stallman is quoted as saying something ludicrously funny about the American revolution.
posted by rschram (14 comments total)
Here's a copy of the speech.
posted by rschram at 2:00 PM on May 3, 2001

I'm sure a lot of folks are expecting Eric Raymond to reply to Microsoft's latest anti-free-software rhetoric. Sorry, but ESR hasn't responded. He anticipated instead.
posted by harmful at 2:09 PM on May 3, 2001

"Furthermore, [open source] has inherent security risks and can force intellectual property into the public domain."

Those're a couple of incredibly outrageous claims right there.

"When the resulting software product is distributed, its creator must make the entire source code base freely available to everyone, at no additional charge. This viral aspect of the GPL poses a threat to the intellectual property of any organization making use of it."
He's trying to take this part of the GPL (which is crucial, it keeps people from stealing others work) and extrapolate it into the idea that you should not even use GPL software.

Looks like Raymond hit it right on the nose.
posted by sonofsamiam at 2:34 PM on May 3, 2001

Morally wrong? Genocide, rape, open source?
posted by aaron at 3:23 PM on May 3, 2001

One day, we'll only mention Open Source in full daylight, and never to little children.
posted by Doug at 3:33 PM on May 3, 2001

There's a serious logical fallacy in his comparison of the GPL and its principles to "newer firms that gave away products for free". After all, the GPL and other open source licences are about facilitating development, rather than encouraging customer lock-in.

They ask software developers to give away for free the very thing they create that is of greatest value in the hope that somehow they'll make money selling something else.

Well, yes. I should think that many, many developers have both worked on projects such as Emacs and GCC, and used those products to build commercial software. It's a guild mentality at heart.

And co-opting RMS's "share the software" to coin a "Shared Source Philosophy" is somewhat pathetic. But this is like the McDonald's thread, in that we should be sceptical of any labels that MS applies to its development process, given the well-established character of its core business.
posted by holgate at 3:42 PM on May 3, 2001

The way I understand the GPL, developers aren't required to give away their code to everybody, just to the people they give (or sell) the binaries. Then those people can do whatever they want with the code, and sell it again, or give it all away for free. The GPL just ensures that the binary is never distributed to anyone without also giving those people free access to the code. Am I mistaken?
posted by techgnollogic at 4:28 PM on May 3, 2001

Sure, it's immoral, if you're of the persuasion that everything ought to be for sale. To the holders of such a philosophy, sharing and working together because you care for your community is contra-indicated -- to them you should only care for yourself and the people who pay you.
posted by Twang at 4:41 PM on May 3, 2001

The M$ wonk's comments are asinine. Jesus, it's hard to imagine an operating system with more security problems that Win*. With the geek armies working on open source software, it's my impression that security holes are found faster than under Gates, et al. Am I mistaken?

Also, I've never understood the GPL. I mean I've literally never understood its terms. For example, unlike any "closed source" software license, the GPL does not contain an explicit "grant" from the licensor to the licensee. If memory serves, it uses forms of the word "grant" two or three times, but never in the context of an explicit grant. That's a standard legal term, like "last will and testament" in a written (US) will. Why is it not in the GPL? Shouldn't strong software code be protected by strong legal code?

Does anyone know of any court cases where the GPL has been directly challenged? I've been looking and asking around, but haven't found any yet. A citation would be wonderful.

That's my rant on the GPL.
posted by estopped at 5:08 PM on May 3, 2001

Microsoft 0, Hackers 9
posted by bkdelong at 5:45 PM on May 3, 2001

The GPL just ensures that the binary is never distributed to anyone without also giving those people free access to the code. Am I mistaken?

It does that, but more importantly it ensures that anyone who has access to the code may legally modify and redistribute the software. Having the source is nice, but it's the ability to fork that makes it truly free.

posted by Mars Saxman at 7:32 PM on May 3, 2001


Then those people can do whatever they want with the code, and sell it again, or give it all away for free.

There's one other aspect to keep in mind: code under the GPL can not be used in software that is not also distributed under the GPL. (Hence the GPL is sometimes referred to as a "viral" license.) This distinguishes it from e.g. the BSD license, which lets anyone use the code for anything, including closed-source projects.
posted by tingley at 8:22 PM on May 3, 2001

The Big L has his own response to Mundie's remarks.
posted by harmful at 7:16 AM on May 4, 2001

Scott Andrew has a great quote on this foolishness: "Overheard: 'Microsoft warning us about the dangers of free software is like McDonalds warning us about cooking fresh vegetables at home.'". Right on.
posted by silusGROK at 8:36 AM on May 4, 2001

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