Hack License

Steve Thompson steve49152 at yahoo.ca
Thu Feb 10 15:43:33 PST 2005

--- "R.A. Hettinga" <rah at shipwright.com> quoted: 
> Hack License
> By Simson Garfinkel March 2005
> Stallman wrote in 1985, "the golden rule requires that if I like a
> program
> I must share it with other people who like it." Stallman continues,
> "Software sellers want to divide the users and conquer them, making each
> user agree not to share with others. I refuse to break solidarity with
> other users in this way. I cannot in good conscience sign a
> nondisclosure
> agreement or a software license agreement."

Interestingly enough, Stallman expects people to use one of the GNU
software licenses when they release a product.  Big deal.  Ideology and 
people change.  Today the significance of the open source 'movement' being
in conflict with the 'vectorialists', or rather the commercial and
proprietary software community is that the polarization of the industry is
limited to two poles:  commercial, for-pay software or free open-source
software.  Alternatives, or hybrid licensing agreements are generally
unknown to the computing public at large. 

Thus the software industry largely resembles the basic structure of the
United States federal political system.  Republican, or democrat : open
source, or commercial software.

Code that I have that is waiting for completion and formal release (some
of it has been stolen and distributed in advance of its completion) I
intend presently to license under a hybrid license that essentialy grants
unrestricted use for non-commercial and non-military purposes, but which
requires a license agreement for any commercial use.  

My thinking was that under the existing arrangement, commercial vendors
largely benefited from the efforts of many thousands of open-source
developers, thus reducing R&D costs, without necessarily returning
anything either to the community, or to the developers themselves. 
Furthermore, unless one is a high-profile open-source developer it is next
to impossible to make a living writing code that is given away to free to
all takers.  Of this last problem, it may become moot one day if the world
economy moves away from the use of money as an intermediate medium of
value exchange, but today it is necessary to have money so the developer
can pay his rent and buy food and purchase computer hardware tools.  Of
the former problem, some few vendors have recently exposed their
proprietary software to the open source community.  Sun Microsystems has
recently put their operating system on the table; the NSA released SE
Linux, and of course many smaller examples abound.

There are other considerations that remain largely unaddressed by the
present status quo, however, and I wanted to address some of them.  For
instance, I wanted to stop my software from being used by a military force
in the process of developing proprietary (and presumably classified)
weapons of mass destruction or weapons designed to be used against
[domestic] civilian populations.  Of course, I wouldn't also want my
software to be used by terrorists such as the Ted Kaczinski's of the
world.  As an individual developer, I didn't realistically expect that I
would actually halt the unlicensed use of my software for, say, illegal
purposes, but I did expect to force such people and organisations to
actually have to _steal_ the software rather than handing to them on a
sliver platter, with my tacit blessing.  While the existing judicial and
legislative environment doesn't seem to be friendly to the idea of people
taking responsibility for the purposes that their creations are put to, I
think that software professionals should put some thought to the moral
dimension of the application of their products.

The concept of "know your customer" exists today, however badly it is
deployed by extant legislation.  I believe it may be done well by
intelligent people, and surely it can also be abused.  A group of Klansmen
might release software that contained a licensing agreement restricting
its [free] use to aryans.  I think Tim might say that they should be free
to do so, because "coloured" people as well as concerned caucasions would
have the ability and right to produce nominally equivalent software to
compete with the Klansman's code.  However this view relies on the
minimalist view of government regulation, a point of view that is not much
in favour today.

Whatever the particulars of any given scenario, the point remains that the
two-pole system that dominates the software community has some rather
large holes. 

I expect that one day I will be able to afford to replace the computer(s)
that were stolen by the local "authorities", despite their ongoing and
malicious interference and harassment.  Then, I may end up finishing off a
few things for release; some of it certainly under the scheme I touch on
above, and some perhaps under a 'true' open-source license.  Some of said
software may even be useful to a non-trivial population of users.  At that
time, I expect to see how well a hybrid licensing scheme works at this
stage of the computer industry's maturation.  Until then, however, There
isn't much to be said about the flexibility of the existing choices:  it's
pretty much either all or nothing.  Ultimately, I don't think that simple
black and white choices will suffice for my purposes.



> Simson Garfinkel is a researcher in the field of computer security. He
> is
> the author of Database Nation: The Death of Privacy in the 21st Century
> (2000). He is currently a doctoral candidate at MIT's Computer Science
> and
> Artificial Intelligence Laboratory.

By the way.  I am entirely unconcerned if the concensus view of current
Cypherpunks subscribers, not to mention Usenet posters, is such that it is
believed that replies to my messages -- if any -- need to be tangential
and distracting, if not oughtright hostile, for whatever reason.  But if
the consensus view is that my thoughts and opinions are to be discounted
by tacit fiat, I would greatly appreciate it if the people who feel
strongly about it would reply in public with a statement to the effect of
"fuck off, we don't want your kind around here" or a statement phrased to
acheive the requisite degree of accuracy given the feeling of the moment. 
But until I am "voted off the island", as it were, I do not plan on simply
going away merely because of a little unacknowledged and unjustified
intellectual apartheid.

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