Tuesday 18 January 2011 by Bradley M. Kuhn
I realized that I should start regularly noting here on my blog when the oggcast that I co-host with Karen Sandler is released. There are perhaps folks who want content from my blog but haven't subscribed to the RSS feed of the show, and thus might want to know when new episodes come out. If this annoys people reading this blog, please let me know via email or identica.
In particular, perhaps readers won't like that, in these posts (which are going to be written after the show), I'm likely to drift off into topics beyond what was talked about on the show, and there may be “spoilers” for the oggcast in them. Again, if this annoys you (or if you like it) please let me know.
Today's FaiF episode is entitled Revoked?. The main issue of discussion is some recent confusions about the GPLv2 release of WinMTR. I was quoted in an article about the topic as well, and in the oggcast we discuss this issue at length.
To summarize my primary point in the oggcast: I'm often troubled when these issues come up, because I've seen these types of confusions so many times before in the last decade. (I've seen this particular one, almost exactly like this, at least five times.) I believe that those of us who focus on policy issues in software freedom need to do a better job documenting these sorts of issues.
Meanwhile, after we recorded the show I was thinking again about how Karen points out in the oggcast that the primary issues are legal ones. I don't really agree with that. These are policy questions, that are perhaps informed by legal analysis, and it's policy folks (and, specifically, Free Software project leaders) that should be guiding the discussion, not necessarily lawyers.
That's not to say that lawyers can't be policy folks as well; I actually think Karen and a few other lawyers I know are both. The problem is that if we simply take things like GPL on their face — as if they are unchanging laws of nature that simply need to be interpreted — we miss out on the fact that licenses, too, can have bugs and can fail to work the way that they should. A lawyer's job is typically to look at a license, or a law, or something more or less fixed in its existence and explain how it works, and perhaps argue for a particular position of how it should be understood.
In our community, activists and project leaders who set (or influence) policy should take such interpretations as input, and output plans to either change the licenses and interpretation to make sure they properly match the goals of software freedom, or to build up standards and practices that work within the existing licensing and legal structure to advance the goal of building a world where all published software is Free Software.
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Both previously and presently, I have been employed by and/or done work for various organizations that also have views on Free, Libre, and Open Source Software. As should be blatantly obvious, this is my website, not theirs, so please do not assume views and opinions here belong to any such organization. Since I do co-own ebb.org with my wife, it may not be so obvious that these aren't her views and opinions, either.
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