Free As In Freedom: But Whose Freedom?

from the nobody-said-it-would-be-easy dept

It would be hard to overstate the contribution of Richard Stallman to the digital world. The founding of the GNU project and the creation of the GNU General Public License laid the foundations for a wide range of free software that permeates computing from smartphones to supercomputers. Free software has also directly inspired like-minded movements based around sharing, such as open access and open content (Wikipedia, notably).

At the heart of everything Stallman does lies a desire to promote freedom, specifically the freedom of the software user, by constraining the freedom of the developer in the way the code is distributed. That's in contrast to BSD-style licenses, say, where the developer is free to place additional restrictions on the code, thus reducing the freedom of the user.

Karl Fogel on QuestionCopyright.org recently asked why Stallman doesn't grant readers of his texts the same freedoms as for software, for example to create derivatives:

Recently we had some correspondence with an Internetizen known to us only as "openuniverse" or "libreuniverse", who resigned his membership in the Free Software Foundation over Stallman's insistence on exercising his state-granted monopoly to prevent derivative works from being made of his writings and speeches.

I phrase it that way for a reason. Elsewhere, you might see it expressed as "Stallman's insistence on using his copyright to control what can be done with his works". But Stallman himself understands these issues very well, and could easily spot the unspoken assumptions in that way of putting it. No one was asking to change his works, or to attribute to him thoughts or expressions not his. No one's existing copies of Stallman's works would be changed. Rather, openuniverse wanted to make a new work, using material from one of Stallman's books -- and Stallman quashed it.
The main GNU site explains:
Works that express someone's opinion—memoirs, editorials, and so on—serve a fundamentally different purpose than works for practical use like software and documentation. Because of this, we expect them to provide recipients with a different set of permissions: just the permission to copy and distribute the work verbatim. Richard Stallman discusses this frequently in his speeches.
Here's what Stallman said:
The second class of work is works whose purpose is to say what certain people think. Talking about those people is their purpose. This includes, say, memoirs, essays of opinion, scientific papers, offers to buy and sell, catalogues of goods for sale. The whole point of those works is that they tell you what somebody thinks or what somebody saw or what somebody believes. To modify them is to misrepresent the authors; so modifying these works is not a socially useful activity. And so verbatim copying is the only thing that people really need to be allowed to do.
Nina Paley, writing on the QuestionCopyright.org site, disagrees with the idea that "Works that express someone's opinion—memoirs, editorials, and so on—serve a fundamentally different purpose than works for practical use like software and documentation":
The problem with this is that it is dead wrong. You do not know what purposes your works might serve others. You do not know how works might be found “practical” by others. To claim to understand the limits of “utility” of cultural works betrays an irrational bias toward software and against all other creative work. It is anti-Art, valuing software above the rest of culture. It says coders alone are entitled to Freedom, but everyone else can suck it. Use of -ND [No Derivatives] restrictions is an unjustifiable infringement on the freedom of others.
As with software licenses, the question once more comes down to: whose freedom are we talking about here? The freedom for creators to decide how their creations are to be used, or the freedom of users to do with those creations as they wish? The fact that Stallman straddles this divide shows there are no easy answers.

Follow me @glynmoody on Twitter or identi.ca, and on Google+



Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  •  
    icon
    John Fenderson (profile), Nov 7th, 2011 @ 8:57am

    I agree with Paley

    I'm a huge fan of Stallman, and remain so, but I agree with Nina on this one. What would be wrong is attributing RMS (or anybody) with things they he didn't say. I think RMS may be confusing the purpose of copyright with the purpose of trademarks.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Nov 7th, 2011 @ 10:51am

      Re: I agree with Paley

      I think that even those who disagree with RMS would at least say that his consistency in all facets of his life is respectable if not imitable. This points out an inconsistency in his belief sets and actions which seems discordant.

      I think what he's trying to accomplish here is prevent further problems, especially with respect to GNU/Linux, with people leaving the GNU portion out of their writings. For the FSF and RMS, getting people to recognize the importance of GNU to the Free Software movement and the distinction between Free Software and Open Source Software is incredibly important. He speaks and writes very deliberately, and to his mind, if changes are made they can't possibly be to the good.

      So I don't think the disconnect is as large as you would believe on first glance. For the past 15 years, the FSF has been struggling with people misunderstanding GNU, "Free," and just about everything else they stand for. Granting a license to modify his opinion-based work only gives people opportunity to misrepresent the ideas and ideals he stands for.

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 7th, 2011 @ 9:07am

    Considering that Nina Paley continues to show that she has a very warped view of the copyright world, I wouldn't take her comments to mean much. She shows the fundamental flaw of "re-use" generation, they cannot tell when they should stop.

    More power to Stallman. He has a clue!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Nov 7th, 2011 @ 9:12am

      Re:

      And her view is twisted...why?

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      •  
        identicon
        Anonymous Coward, Nov 7th, 2011 @ 10:01am

        Re: Re:

        Mostly because she doesn't appear to know when to stop. Beyond the whole discussion of a remix generation, there is a point where someone's personal words and their words and their words alone. Remixing them or putting them out of context to support something that don't say (like Mike seems to do with Hillary Clinton's words).

        Mr Berman's words (and not his software product) are his words, and his words alone. She should be respectful enough to leave them alone, and not consider them fodder for whatever remixing life she wants to give them.

         

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        •  
          icon
          Modplan (profile), Nov 7th, 2011 @ 10:12am

          Re: Re: Re:

          Mr Berman's words... and ...his software product... are... fodder for whatever remixing life she wants to give them.

          Sue me.

           

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          •  
            identicon
            S, Nov 7th, 2011 @ 4:18pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            Very funny, but I hope it's obvious how this supports RMS's premise.

             

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

            •  
              icon
              Modplan (profile), Nov 7th, 2011 @ 6:58pm

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

              Only if:

              1) You're original comment became unavailable and/or

              2) Existing laws like libel and defamation can be shown to not be adequate compared to an ND clause

              I don't see what problem using an ND clause solves. You can still quote him out of context, make factually incorrect claims about what he's said, etc. without having to edit the actual work in a way that would qualify to be a derivative work. Not to mention the fact that CC licenses already contain a clause that specifically states you shall not claim the author endorses your use (whether fair use or a derivative work) of the work and you don't misrepresent the origin of the work. If someone is going to disregard that, then an ND clause isn't going to solve anything.

               

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        •  
          identicon
          Anonymous Coward, Nov 7th, 2011 @ 4:07pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          I think there is a difference between misrepresenting someone's opinion and using (a combination of) their words to express an opinion of your own because their words can better express your opinion.

          After all, what are sentences beyond a set of words that you learned from others. The formulation of your opinion is a result of imitating the words and sentences of others and modifying them to suit your personal opinion. Everything you say is a derivative of the language that you speak and the words and sentences you learned from others.

           

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          •  
            identicon
            S, Nov 7th, 2011 @ 4:31pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            The difference is that one of these things is using words as tools, independent of their origin, and the other is reusing statements made by a specific person -- and thus potentially associating new or out-of-context interpretations to the person who originally made the statements.

            In other words, if they "remixed" his speeches using such tiny snippets that the individual word combinations in question could have been said by anyone, there would be no problem -- not only would this probably fall under fair use, but it would be impossible for RMS (or them, for that matter) to prove it was him they were re-sampling.

            However, the second they begin using well-known, or recognisable, fragments of speeches which are clearly linked to RMS, they are creating the potential for misrepresentation -- even if they don't intend to.

            RMS simply thinks (correctly) that maintaining the integrity of his opinions is more important than the artistic convenience of third parties -- and he's right: he owes them nothing.

            This is basically equivalent to getting mad at a kid because he'll share most of his toys, but doesn't want to loan out the baseball with his name on it, for fear that he'll get blamed when someone puts a window out with it.

             

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

            •  
              identicon
              Anonymous Coward, Nov 7th, 2011 @ 6:08pm

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

              "and thus potentially associating new or out-of-context interpretations to the person who originally made the statements."

              Crossing the street brings about the potential of getting ran over. Driving has the potential of getting into an accident. Anything has potential to do all sorts of things. That's no reason to ridiculously restrict our behavior.

              "In other words, if they "remixed" his speeches using such tiny snippets that the individual word combinations in question could have been said by anyone, there would be no problem"

              How tiny do those snippets need to be and why that tiny? Why should we limit how we can express ourselves just because our expressions might resemble something someone else said? People express similar concepts similarly.

              "but it would be impossible for RMS (or them, for that matter) to prove it was him they were re-sampling."

              To prove to the satisfaction of whom and why? How much 'proof' should one require and why?

              "However, the second they begin using well-known, or recognisable, fragments of speeches which are clearly linked to RMS, they are creating the potential for misrepresentation -- even if they don't intend to."

              Again, anything can create the 'potential' for anything else. That's no reason to add ridiculous restrictions to our behavior. So long as the person using the words of someone else and making derivatives aren't pretending to represent that other person, there is no good reason for people to be confused and almost no one would be confused. and those who would be confused are likely confused already regardless and would likely be confused no matter what. There is the potential for someone to misread my sentences to mean something entirely different than what I meant. The solution isn't for me to stop typing.

              "RMS simply thinks (correctly)"

              Because it's your opinion that it's correct, it must be.

              "that maintaining the integrity of his opinions is more important than the artistic convenience of third parties"

              No one is altering the integrity of his opinions by using words similar to his as their own, separate, opinions. That's foolish.

              "and he's right: he owes them nothing."

              and no one owes him the privilege of not using words similar to his. If he doesn't like it, he can simply avoid speaking publicly.

              "This is basically equivalent to getting mad at a kid because he'll share most of his toys, but doesn't want to loan out the baseball with his name on it, for fear that he'll get blamed when someone puts a window out with it."

              Right now I can blame you for Michael Jackson's death. People can blame anyone for anything. But if I used words similar to someone else to express my opinion and I made clear that this is not their opinion, then no judge or reasonable person is going to think twice about mis - attributing who said what. An unreasonable (mentally retarded) person could think anything based on anything anyone says. Our words shouldn't revolve around what they might think because that would be unreasonable.

               

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

              •  
                identicon
                Anonymous Coward, Nov 7th, 2011 @ 6:15pm

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                People misinterpret contracts all the time. Anytime you have language, there is the potential of misinterpretation. Language, by its very nature, is ambiguous. The solution isn't to ban the use of contracts and the use of language.

                 

                reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

                •  
                  identicon
                  Anonymous Coward, Nov 7th, 2011 @ 6:30pm

                  Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                  The point is that 'a potential' isn't reason enough to justify unreasonably modifying our behavior. There is the potential that if you go outside, a swarm of killer bees could attack and kill you. The solution? Stay inside at all times. A 'potential' isn't good enough.

                   

                  reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        •  
          identicon
          Lawrence D'Oliveiro, Nov 7th, 2011 @ 7:43pm

          Re: “putting them out of context to support something that don't say”

          That’s called “lying”. Copyright law isn’t about preventing lyin.g You don’t need copyright law to prevent lying. You already have social (and where necessary, legal) sanctions against lying, that already serve quite well to protect against lying.

          For example, you don’t see a big, growing industry of “lie-sharing” on the Internet, which is threatening the business model of the “truth industry”. It didn’t begin with Liester, and progress through to modern sites like Lirate Bay and Liefreak, which are destroying the whole principle of “truthright”. This blog is not filled with “lietards”, dedicated to the promotion of lies over truth.

          So don’t confuse the two. It just isn’t happening.

           

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Rich Kulawiec, Nov 7th, 2011 @ 9:11am

    Is code poetry?

    Sometimes, yes.

    Sometimes, no.

    Or, if you like: is poetry code? Again: sometimes yes, sometimes no. The creativity of our fellow humans has long since shown us that junk can be art, noise can be music, and the most antiseptic expression of abstract mathematics can be profoundly beautiful and immensely moving.

    It's time to dispense with these artificial distinctions, imposed by a less-enlightened age. The future does not need them.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    icon
    jdub (profile), Nov 7th, 2011 @ 9:16am

    I would have to agree with Stallman here. It's to easy to take someones writings on there own opinions, and beliefs, and strew it out of context. I mean how many times have people being reported on, have to go back to the news, and explain themselves when a reporter had twisted what they had said in the interview to mean something that they didn't intend to mean, all do to being cut out or re-edited or something.

    I wouldn't want to be defending myself every time someone made a new work based on my opinions, and beliefs, that were taken out of context. You could easily fall down the rabbit hole, chasing that white rabbit all your life

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Nov 7th, 2011 @ 9:24am

      Re:

      But you just said that reporters and writers take quotes out of context all the time, this happens already. How will any of what you said prevent what already happens?

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    icon
    Karl (profile), Nov 7th, 2011 @ 9:17am

    Reasoning

    In his defense, he does use and endorse the Free Documentation License. It is designed to work exactly as Nina wants it to work. It is made for things like textbooks and manuals, but should work just as well for art, should you choose to use it.

    By the way, the issue here is one that has cropped up occasionally in CC licenses, too. Stallman's works are not licensed under the GPL; and under the GPL, all parts of the software that are distributed with the software must also be GPL. He's not saying the works can't be used, but that they can't be included inside the program itself, because the licenses are incompatible.

    It's like trying to make a CC-BY-NC compilation that includes CC-BY-SA works. It simply can't be done.

    Incidentally, as someone who uses the -NC licenses myself, I'm obviously on Stallman's side. On the other hand, I'm not the one who is famously an absolutist on user freedoms, like Stallman is. So, even though I agree with him, I can definitely see the hypocrisy at work here.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      icon
      Karl (profile), Nov 7th, 2011 @ 9:24am

      Re: Reasoning

      Also: Don't stop reading Stallman's essay when you've finished the paragraph Glyn quoted. Stallman has a lot more to say about art and music, and most of it is absolutely dead-on.

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Nov 7th, 2011 @ 9:33am

      Re: Reasoning

      I fail to see the hypocrisy.

      If you want to write an opinion about some one's work, include a verbatim quote to provide a context for the reader. There is no need to modify the original work. Stallman is dead on. The purpose of Freedom is to encourage knowledge growth, not knowledge replacement.

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      •  
        icon
        Modplan (profile), Nov 7th, 2011 @ 9:44am

        Re: Re: Reasoning


        If you want to write an opinion about some one's work, include a verbatim quote to provide a context for the reader. There is no need to modify the original work.

        Who has ever presented such an argument in favour of removing the ND clause? What does an ND clause forbid that couldn't be covered by libel and defamation or similar laws?

         

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      •  
        icon
        Chosen Reject (profile), Nov 7th, 2011 @ 1:33pm

        Re: Re: Reasoning

        I ... see the hypocrisy.

        If you want to write an opinion about some one's work, ... modify the original work. Stallman is dead.... The purpose of Freedom is to encourage ... knowledge replacement. Also, I like strawberry ice cream.
        I find your ideas intriguing, though I prefer chocolate ice cream.

        By the way, nothing I've just done is barred by copyright law. If I went around claiming that you said what I "quoted" you as saying above, you could sue me for defamation or libel. Or even better, you could launch a campaign showing the public that I misquoted you, which would show the public that I lied, and discredit me and tarnish my scarce reputation.

        But going back to copyright, being able to alter your work does not mean I have to attribute the work. Let's say I take the "quotes" above, but never attribute them to you. Then what is the problem? No one will say I attributed something to you that you never said, but you could still sue me for copyright infringement (and hope you don't lose on fair use grounds).

        On the other hand, to go with Nina Paley's philosophy, what if Nina believes very similarly with something Stallman already wrote, but she wants to change a few words and make it into a poem. She could probably do that today and possibly win any copyright infringement lawsuit on fair use grounds. However, if Stallman had already licensed his opinions and other such works under a GPL or GPL-like license, she could do so without fear of any lawsuit (not that I think Stallman would sue anyway, but who knows for sure).

        You seem to fear that someone might attribute misquotes to you, but that can already by done, and there are already legal and other avenues you can use to bring about justice. You also seem to fear that someone might use your work, make it better and not attribute it to you, but most of that fear has more to do with the plagiarism angle than copyright. You forget that it's just as likely someone will misquote you and not attribute the work to you, or that someone will make it better and attribute and thank you for your original work.

        So I fall in Nina's camp on this one.

         

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        •  
          identicon
          Anonymous Coward, Nov 9th, 2011 @ 11:14am

          Re: Re: Re: Reasoning

          "You can just sue someone for defamation."

          So only people who have money and the time to engage in endless legal battles may have any rights to their own words?

           

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      •  
        icon
        Karl (profile), Nov 8th, 2011 @ 6:07am

        Re: Re: Reasoning

        I fail to see the hypocrisy.

        If you want to write an opinion about some one's work, include a verbatim quote to provide a context for the reader.


        Did you read the article? The author of a computer program wanted to include Stallman's work - pretty much verbatim, and credited - in his computer program. Stallman refused.

        The irony here is that if he wanted to use Stallman's code, verbatim or not, with or without attribution, then it would have been absolutely OK. And, in fact, Stallman encourages the use of his code this way.

        The question is: what makes his words more worthy of monopoly protection than his code?

        Also, perhaps "hypocrisy" is too strong. "Inconsistency" is a bit more accurate.

         

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      identicon
      Nick Barnes, Nov 7th, 2011 @ 12:45pm

      Re: Reasoning

      Incidentally, as someone who uses the -NC licenses myself ...

      Sorry, I don't know what else you had to say, because I had to stop reading at that point. I can't afford to be sued if I inadvertently use some your work in a white paper for my non-profit foundation. Glyn had better not quote from it, or post it on an ad-supported website (such as TechDirt). And if a student puts it in a term paper, their professor won't be able to use it in class.

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      •  
        icon
        Karl (profile), Nov 8th, 2011 @ 6:00am

        Re: Re: Reasoning

        I can't afford to be sued if I inadvertently use some your work in a white paper for my non-profit foundation. Glyn had better not quote from it, or post it on an ad-supported website (such as TechDirt). And if a student puts it in a term paper, their professor won't be able to use it in class.

        You happen to be wrong on these points, but I understand the underlying concern. With ad-supported sites being the norm, and situations like the ones you describe, nearly every use could potentially be considered a "commercial use" under the definitions of someone or other.

        Personally, I remedied this by clarifying exactly what is or isn't a "commercial use." In my case, it is: 1. Directly selling the material for profit; or 2. If you are registered as a commercial entity for tax purposes. I also make it clear that in any case, third parties are exempt. Non-profit foundations are explicitly not "commercial" (since they're not registered as a commercial entity), and students using my work in class are not commercial, either.

        Its use is not automatically authorized on Techdirt, but if Glyn is merely "quoting" me, then it almost certainly falls under fair use in any case. Also, I make music, so he'd have to "quote" my music, which is kind of a different situation.

        The only issue now, is whether by defining commercial use in this way, I can still call the license a Creative Commons license (since they do not explicitly define what is commercial, though they do define certain uses - e.g. sharing on the Pirate Bay - which are not). I've actually asked about this on the Creative Commons forum, but got no response.

         

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        •  
          identicon
          Nick Barnes, Nov 9th, 2011 @ 6:09am

          Re: Re: Re: Reasoning

          "falls under fair use" is meaningless in the jurisdiction in which I live.

           

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        •  
          identicon
          Nick Barnes, Nov 9th, 2011 @ 6:43am

          Re: Re: Re: Reasoning

          Non-profit foundations are explicitly not "commercial" (since they're not registered as a commercial entity)

          On the contrary, the Climate Code Foundation, for instance, is registered as a company limited by guarantee in England and Wales (company number 7346328, in our case). That's what (almost all) non-profits are, in this jurisdiction. It is a commercial entity, exactly like any other sort of corporation, except with members instead of shareholders (and not having any shareholders means that we can't distribute any residue as 'profit' but must accrue or spend it in pursuit of the goals of the foundation). So although the goals of the foundation are plainly worthy (and eligible for charitable status, in the fullness of time), and although all work for the foundation is voluntary (and unpaid, to date), the foundation, like almost all "non-profits", is a "commercial entity".

          Similarly, teaching and research activities at many universities are not clearly non-commercial activities.

          Strongly recommended: http://wiki.creativecommons.org/Defining_Noncommercial

           

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    icon
    BentFranklin (profile), Nov 7th, 2011 @ 9:39am

    I'm with rms on this one. How does one even sample or remix or mash up writing anyway?

    Karl and others may call it hypocritical. I call it critical, as in critical thinking, i.e., the opposite of ideology. So another +1 to rms (on top of the mega +1's he's already accumulated) for not taking his good ideas too far.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Nov 7th, 2011 @ 10:05am

      Re:

      Here is an example:

      "I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal."

      I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

      I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

      I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character."

      Now, I could remix it to:

      I have a dream that one day the nation will rise up (against) the former slave owners.

      See how it works?

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      identicon
      Goyo, Nov 7th, 2011 @ 10:09am

      Re:

      "How does one even sample or remix or mash up writing anyway? "
      If it can't be done, what's the point in explicitly disallowing it?

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    icon
    Modplan (profile), Nov 7th, 2011 @ 9:41am

    I have to ask, what precisely are the uses that an ND clause could prohibit that would include misrepresentation unique to derivative works? I would think fair use would surely already allow someone to quote and misrepresent the writings of someone in various ways should it be held that the such a thing wasn't deliberate like outright libel and defamation, and what would the ND clause solve that those laws wouldn't?

    The misrepresentation argument seems like a bit of a red herring. That certainly doesn't seem to gel with any reasonable idea I can think of for an ND clause. It's using a screwdriver to hammer a nail.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 7th, 2011 @ 10:12am

    A like Stallman he is my hero, but I don't understand his position on this, once it has been derived it is a new work, if he was trying to say that one should not credit him after or make it explicit the changes made to the original text then I would agree, maybe the license needs to show a "diff" of the text so anyone could see what was changed and how.

    I just don't see the problems with derivating anything or using it to create something new on top of the old as long as conflicting changes to the opinions of an author are clearly highlighted or the work is completely striped of any references to him which has a set of other problems.

    I need to see an example of something bad happening like:

    "I am against the RIAA" and somebody derives that to read "I am against privacy" and credits the original author for something like that.

    So if there was a warning saying the original text was modified and still credit to him and pointing to the otriginal or a diff of it I don't see the problem really, even though it could confuse some.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Matt N, Nov 7th, 2011 @ 10:26am

    I understand Stallman's position, but when he uses lines like:

    "To modify them is to misrepresent the authors"

    ..I see it as sort of shorthand for saying "people are stupid." It's saying people don't know enough to go an check original, authoritative sources before making assumptions.

    Now, to an extent he is right, people in general love not having to take responsibility and one of the best ways they do that is to accept written words at face value. Just look at Fox news(or HufPo for you Conservatives).

    So I get what he's saying -- but my "problem" with it (because, of course, I have to have one) is he's attacking the _wrong_problem_, the symptom instead of the disease. The symptom is people taking things out of context and using them; the actual illness here is people who accept those words without question.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Nov 7th, 2011 @ 11:37am

      Re:

      It is shorthand for "people take it as they get it", and most of them aren't stupid, just a little lazy and don't feel the need to check every quote for authenticity at every turn.

      After all, who are you going to check it with, another website or writer that has also misrepresented it?

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      identicon
      S, Nov 7th, 2011 @ 4:14pm

      Re:

      This is just blind idealism: "Hey! Let's change the human race so people are no longer stupid/lazy!"

      This is rather like arguing against developing "therapies" for fatal diseases (HIV, cancer, etc) which prolong life, because that's not a "cure" -- only worse, because there are avenues of research which imply HIV can be cured, while no institution I'm aware of has a research program devoted to eradicating human idiocy.

      Until you can lend us the boon of magic faerie pixie dust which miraculously changes human nature, we will simply have to soldier on under the burden of our foibles sundry -- which means taking steps to account for it, instead of pretending it doesn't exist.

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    icon
    BentFranklin (profile), Nov 7th, 2011 @ 11:43am

    I also disagree that Nina Paley has an a priori right (called "freedom" in the article) to modify RMS test. She would only have that right if he granted it to her. He hasn't. So, she should not claim he is infringing on her "freedom".

    It's also a little weird of her to talk about rights and use the word freedom instead as a synonym, when it isn't a synonym, and it just sullies her point.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Nov 7th, 2011 @ 11:51am

      Re:

      tragically (or happily?) however, government rights won't suppress your natural freedom to copy and change, even at the threat of execution. Hence her post

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Nov 7th, 2011 @ 11:56am

      Re:

      Not to say I agree with her points completely, however I believe she was saying the written word, like all art, should also be able to be remixed. To some degree, I agree

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      identicon
      S, Nov 7th, 2011 @ 4:15pm

      Re:

      Agreed.

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Nov 8th, 2011 @ 8:29am

      Re:

      Many people seem to simply assume authors have some kind of intrinsic right here. But that just does not stand up to examination.

      Nina Paley has near enough an a priori right as we might hope to find. It is just JS Mill's liberty principle: we have unrestricted liberty except to the extent that it injures someone else.

      People copying/modifying things is consistent with that principle, but authors demanding control of them conflicts with it.

      There is no injury to an author in copying and modifying. The relation between copies and originals is entirely abstract -- no harm can be transmitted through that.

      But someone being restricted by the author from making copies/modifications is a very material constraint of liberty.

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    S, Nov 7th, 2011 @ 12:48pm

    Are people really this dense?

    This is really self evident.

    Speeches are NOT interpretive works; they represent the author directly -- as opposed to artistic creations which are rather more ambiguous.

    This whole bullshit about 'worthy remixes' is irrelevant: an artefact of the towering self importance of people so wrapped up in their own magnificence that they fail to understand that their opinions concerning how "good" their own alterations to other people's opinions might be, are utterly subjective.

    This is another slippery slope, exactly the same kind found in SOPA or such: "But we only want to be able to do it when we have a really good reason!"

    The fundamental problem is that once the ability to do something exists, it can and will be used -- and not just well, but poorly too.

    RMS is every single bit within his right to insist that the works which represent his personal thoughts and opinions retain their integrity -- and I'm appalled that people are stupid and egotistical enough to put their own desire to leverage his name before the right of any man to a fair and complete representation of his own mind.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Nov 7th, 2011 @ 1:20pm

      Re: Are people really this dense?

      wait, does that include things like poems and fiction stories? Because a speech may be different in that regard

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Nov 7th, 2011 @ 1:23pm

      Re: Are people really this dense?

      but does that then make books and all written works excluded from copyright protection? After all, according to you, it isn't art right?

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      •  
        identicon
        S, Nov 7th, 2011 @ 4:03pm

        Re: Re: Are people really this dense?

        In reply to both your comments:

        All this means is, RMS is not naïve.

        He knows that he is NOT necessarily a popular person in all quarters, and that many of his opinions and positions are subtle, complex, or prone to being misunderstood.

        If he wants to protect himself (and other people) from the possibility of misunderstandings arising from improper representation of his opinions as he states them, that is his right -- and there is nothing hypocritical about it.

        The notion that a person deserves not to be misrepresented (as I have stated) does not imply that works which are NOT representative of a person's opinion do not themselves also deserve protection.

         

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        •  
          identicon
          Anonymous Coward, Nov 8th, 2011 @ 5:48am

          Re: Re: Re: Are people really this dense?

          That still doesn't answer my questions, why is speech different and need extra clauses? Doesn't libel and such laws already provide enough protection for unauthorized use of a persons opinions (misrepresenting them?)

          In other words, what does this specific clause do to add to laws already in place?

           

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Willie Free, Nov 7th, 2011 @ 1:11pm

    Free Will

    It didn't take me long to learn, as a wee, small child, that in these times (and locus) that Freedom meant one is free to do as one is strongly suggested, or told, or ordered (or else!). Yeah, you have free will, but if you exercise free will in a non-approved religious way you'll burn in hell forever. Yes, you are free to express your non-violent political opinions, but by God you had better not be a Communist or Socialist, because if you are, we'll see (or some senator will see) to it that you will regret it. And so on and so forth. Manifest Destiny and the Monroe Doctrine, I figured out in the 4th Grade, is nothing more than Might Makes Right, or Power From the Barrel of a Gun. The High and Mighty preach the sanctity of life, in terms of when life beings (conception, 4 weeks, birth... fill in the blank), but you are own your own thereafter. None of this bleeding heart liberal nonsense will be freely tolerated. Oh! I see this is turning into a rant. Sorry about that.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Rex Rollman, Nov 7th, 2011 @ 3:29pm

    I love Nina, but I have to say that I agree with Stallman on this particular issue.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 7th, 2011 @ 7:59pm

    I don't think GNU is against people modifying the works of others though. Look at the GNU-FDL

    "The purpose of this License is to make a manual, textbook, or other functional and useful document "free" in the sense of freedom: to assure everyone the effective freedom to copy and redistribute it, with or without modifying it, either commercially or noncommercially. Secondarily, this License preserves for the author and publisher a way to get credit for their work, while not being considered responsible for modifications made by others."

    http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html

    and I don't necessarily disagree with these concepts, I think they're good concepts.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Rambo Tribble, Nov 8th, 2011 @ 7:51am

    I'm with Stallman on this

    Having my had own comments taken out of context and that context severely distorted and misrepresented by a "journalist", I'd have to say Stallman's concerns are valid.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 10th, 2011 @ 4:32am

    I'm with RMS

    If you modify the wording, you really shouldn't attribute it to someone else. Even if you remix the sentence order you can change the meaning. By not allowing deriative works RMS is protecting himself. Human words have more power than code.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 10th, 2011 @ 4:32am

    I'm with RMS

    If you modify the wording, you really shouldn't attribute it to someone else. Even if you remix the sentence order you can change the meaning. By not allowing deriative works RMS is protecting himself. Human words have more power than code.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here
Get Techdirt’s Daily Email
Save me a cookie
  • Note: A CRLF will be replaced by a break tag (<br>), all other allowable HTML will remain intact
  • Allowed HTML Tags: <b> <i> <a> <em> <br> <strong> <blockquote> <hr> <tt>
Follow Techdirt
A word from our sponsors...
Essential Reading
Techdirt Reading List
Techdirt Insider Chat
A word from our sponsors...
Recent Stories
A word from our sponsors...

Close

Email This