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GNU is actually a totalitarian regime

You probably remember that I’m not one to fall in line with the Free Software Foundation — a different story goes for the FSFe which I support and I look forward for the moment when I can come back as a supporter; for the moment I’m afraid that I have to contribute only as a developer.

Well, it seems like more people are joining in the club. After Werner complained about the handling of GNU copyright assignments – not much after my covering of Gentoo’s assignments which should probably make those suggesting a GNUish approach to said copyright assignment think a lot – Nikos of GnuTLS decided to split off the GNU project.

Why did Nikos decide this? Well, it seems like the problem is that both Werner and Nikos are tired of the secrecy in the GNU project and even more of the inability to discuss, even in a private setting, some topics because they are deemed taboo by the FSF, in the person of Richard Stallman.

So, Nikos decided to move the lists, source code and website on its own hosting, and then declared GnuTLS no longer part of the GNU project. Do you think that this would have put the FSF in a “what are we doing wrong?” mood? Hah, naïve are you! Indeed the response from the FSF (in the person of Richard Stallman, see a pattern?) was to tell Nikos (who wrote, contributed to GNU, and maintained the project) that he can’t take his own project and take it out of GNU, and that if he wants he can resign from the maintainer’s post.

Well, now it seems like we might end up with a “libreTLS” package, as Nikos is open to renaming the project… it’s going to be quite a bit of a problem I’d say, if anything because I want to track Nikos’s development more than GNU’s, and thus I would hope for the “reverse fork” from the GNU project to just die off. Considering I also had to sign the assignment paperwork (and in the time that said paperwork was being handled, I lost time/motivation for the contributions I had in mind, lovely isn’t it?).

Well, what this makes very clear to me is that I still don’t like the way the GNU project, and the FSF are managed, and that my respect for Stallman’s behaviour is, once again, zero.

Comments 12
  1. Acting like that is bad not only for the FSF but for the community as a whole. And encouraging people to fork (from RMS himself!) is completely stupid because we all know that the original GnuTLS project won’t be maintained anymore so what’s the point of doing this?I truly believe what they’re doing now is harmful and they are shooting themselves in their own foot.

  2. The FSF was always actively harmful to free (bsd/mit/x11) and open source (see OSI) software. That they have have any following is a shame.

  3. Let’s be honest, rms bootstrapped the gnu project, the userland and the big idea of co-operation that drives us all. He will be remembered in history with glory, respect and bitches because of this. But lets also be honest on the fact that he has played himself in the corner by his insistence of a maximalist idealist position. And he certainly does feel it happening, which is why he would do a thing like this ill-fated crap from the blue sky in a bid for relevance watered down to a demand to be still considered existing.What seems to be behind this is the whole gnu/linux debacle, or the fact that he never did succeed in creating all of the free operating system. Which can only be explained be the fact that his worldview and approach is actually incapable of creating something as complex as an actual kernel that would be usable on any meaningful scale. While the userland has been able to take off because it never was more than a quick errand on the path to the holy grail, which was never made to be more than to Just Work; his kernel will probably never make it because of his insistence to do it 100% right and all perfect.Perfect is the enemy of the good.Because he has failed the end boss, he has encased himself in the extremist worldview of ‘a little was good, more must be better’, stepped into a feedback loop of cognitive bias, and encased himself into an ivory tower. The tower, as always, is a place for philosophy to be practiced – that is, development of any theory that has no practical output and no connection to the reality or the real world.He got his momentum by doing some things right, but his practice shows that he never really understood his problem domain or the cause and effect dynamics in it. A significant part of his 3) profit! is therefore just luck. Free software is about people working together to get shit done for make benefit glorious nation of Kazakhstan. Rms these days seems to be more about standard $PHB style empire maintenance. This is what happens when you deny your existential problems. You either die young a hero, or live long enough to see yoursef become the villain. $deepShit.

  4. So, they wanted to keep GNU in the name, but not be a part of GNU?I don’t get how what the FSF did was wrong. They already forked everything about the project but the name anyway.How would you feel if I started a blog under your name but told you that you had no say in what got posted?If somebody wants to fork Gentoo and still call it Gentoo, then they will have legal problems. What is the point in having a trademark otherwise. If you don’t want the FSF to call the shots, then don’t put GNU in the name.We are still figuring out the copyright assignment thing for Gentoo, but my personal preference is to do something similar to FSFe, if we do anything at all. However, assignment of not, nobody can use the Gentoo trademark without the permission of the foundation. There is a general policy for community use, of course.

  5. You’re mixing concepts, and it worries me if _you_ are looking into solving the copyright assignment issues for Gentoo.”Gentoo Linux” (and not Gentoo, afaict), is a trademark of the Gentoo Foundation. It has been registered with USPTO and has to be defended. That’s good.”GNU” is *not* a trademark of the Free Software Foundation. So they have no rights to ask for a rename. Are they purporting to keep acting in the name of the FSF after leaving the GNU Project umbrella? No, so there is no misrepresentation.In your example, is it going to be a critique of what I write? Feel free to use my name. Are you going to misrepresent someone else’s content as posted by me? That’s misrepresentation, and I’ll do everything the law allows me, to stop you and possibly get something out of it for the trouble.As I had to say on the “reddit thread”:… it’s not like there aren’t already projects using a “gnu” prefix without being under FSF’s control, including Gnutella and gnuplot — the latter, not even being released under a GNU license at all, one has to ask why the heck do they use it as a name, but there’s no problem there either.One could also argue that you can rename the project and keep the library’s name the same, as the latter is functional, and you can’t trademark functionality, but I guess that’s a different story.

  6. Um. Great. I really like that change by mr Nikos, and like to show Him my respect about getting out from GNU. I would at least stop being ashamed that i’m using GNU library. GNU – Polish abbreviation: Gówno Nie Używać (Shit Don’t Use). And it will stay that way.

  7. Well, I understand why they don’t like having the gnu-prefix in a non-gnu project – particularly after being bitten by “Linux” just sounding sexier and thus being used by everyone.And for Gnutella, there were discussions. Back when I contributed to the Gnutella Development Forum, we made a point of noting, that Gnutella was actually a play on Nutella (which in turn bit us, because it was used by Ferrero to kill…).And non-registered trademarks can still be legally binding trademarks, if they are widely recognized. At least that’s the case in Germany (I read up on that to be able to ensure that no one would register the name of my project website as trademark and take it from me – as it happened with Shareaza).And as I understand it, the FSF uses copyright assignment to have strategic options for relicensing: release under LGPL to create pressure on non-free libraries without having to use LGPL from the start. Or being able to grant certain exceptions if they show to be beneficial for strengthening free software *against* proprietary software.I would prefer not having any copyright assignment for GNU software, though. That hinders more than it helps, especially since the FSF already controls the licenses themselves…I think of GNU not as a free software community, but as a battle-group against proprietary software. If you look at them like that, their seemingly unlogical decisions make much more sense. And I think we need such a group. But it has its downsides…

  8. My problem with GNU is that, as you just stated above, try things for the psychological effect — forgetting they are not in advertising, which tends to bit them back.The whole “battle group” in FSF and GNU, to me, is completely flawed and completely useless. As I said before, my allegiance stays with FSFe, who has a more “what’s Free Software is great for” approach, compared to the (failing) FSF(A) idea of “why’s non-Free software evil”.I mean, I’m pretty sure that between my customers and friends, is known, and liked — if I were to show “Windows 7 Sins” or “Bad Vista”, they would laugh like it was a bad joke, which in my opinion, it really is.Yes we need such a group, but we don’t need it in the style of FSF(A). We need more like FSFE!

  9. Hey, I think your blog might be having browser compatibility issues.When I look at your blog in Ie, it looks fine but when opening in Internet Explorer, it has some overlapping. I just wanted to give you a quick heads up! Other then that, amazing blog!

  10. I think the FSF decided long ago, that they are indeed in advertisement and not in software development anymore. They stopped paying developers and instead paid for other stuff. And I think many software developers massively underestimate the effect of PR.The GNU developers however are still in software development, and they try to make great free software. So I think it is important to treat GNU separately from the FSF.Back when I was at the GNU hacker meeting, I learned that the projects actually decide themselves whether they want to use copyright assignment. So some just don’t. Also there were many voices in favor of making GNU much more independent from the FSF. GNU is the developer group, FSF is the political group. Both profit from each other, but when FSF action hurts GNU, the FSF should change (I think).On the other hand, Bradley Kuhn who goes against GPL violations said that copyright assignment actually reduces the cost of enforcing the GPL a lot, because the other lawyers will bring up the issue of multiple ownership even though it’s futile, and the enforcer will have to debunk that, which seems to cost a lot more time in the court than it would cost in a normal discussion. So the copyright assignment might actually be useful in the long run – at least for essential utilities. But the non-GNU Android actually reduced the use of that a lot :((coming back to the article after a few month to see that I missed an answer…)

  11. This page came up in a couple of search results recently and I just wanted to post a correction to @Flameeyes remark. GNU is a trademark of the Free Software Foundation.

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