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07.26.20

Defective By Design is Defective By License

Posted in DRM, Free/Libre Software, FSF at 11:21 pm by Guest Editorial Team

Article by figosdev

Laptop with CD

Summary: “…”Safety” is a euphemism conflating what is “safe” with what is completely harmonious, as if everything in the world needs to be in complete harmony.”

Poor DBD. Although I hear about the FSF often, the FSF actually provides materials you can work with freely. Defective By Design provides materials you can do nothing with except regurgitate wholesale. I NEVER hear about Defective By Design unless the FSF mentions it. Let’s compare various “branches” of the FSF on this…

GNU Website: At the bottom, it says that pages are under a CC BY-ND 4.0 license.

“Unfortunately, the FSF continues to discourage freely-licensed works, maybe even on every page of its website.”FSF Website: Same license, along with a link to a little blurb about why NoDerivs (ND, verbatim-only) licenses or similar restrictions are recommended for “works of opinion”. This is an rms thing, and it’s anti-Free-Culture. I would be happy enough if they did like the GNU website, and simply used ND without promoting it for an imaginary/invented category of works.

The problem is that NoDerivs restrictions provide little benefit to the author, while preserving completely needless restrictions for the audience / remixers / other advocates. They won’t prevent misquotes, or in the instance of rms, complete character assassination — rms didn’t use any license on his emails that I’m aware of, but his words were still used to oust him from the FSF — so what good does ND on “works of opinion” really protect? (I made this point before he was ousted, and it is just as true now.)

RMS himself refutes the notion that copyright “protects” the integrity of works in the first place — as a response to people concerned about misusing or misattributing poorly-written or otherwise bad software to the wrong author. So what good is it for “works of opinion?” The answer is that it only reinforces a permission culture — which reinforces the perceived need for “protections” like DRM itself.

“…”Safety” is a euphemism conflating what is “safe” with what is completely harmonious, as if everything in the world needs to be in complete harmony.”Free culture advocates (many of whom were inspired by the work of Lawrence Lessig or Karl Fogel, both of whom have either worked with the GNU Project or FSF board — Fogel also served as part of OSI) know better than this. Unfortunately, the FSF continues to discourage freely-licensed works, maybe even on every page of its website.

To show just how ridiculous this is, recently the FSF created this blog post.

The main feature of the post is a freely-licensed infographic, specifically the CC BY 4.0 license. At the bottom of the page of course, you have the usual ND 3.0 or later license, and the usual link to why works of opinion only need verbatim copying.

This is largely out of sync with the community doing the most to create promotional materials. Of course Sacha Chua’s work is a “work of opinion” — it’s called “Why I Love Free Software.” Is it software? Only depending how you look at it; is it a scholarly dissertation? It’s her opinions about Free software. It’s both personal (which is alright) and political (which is also alright, of course.)

“Merely the founder of the entire movement, he was required to use his position to justify speaking once or twice out of turn.”You could make similar infographics from other works if they were freely-licensed, and many people look for freely-remixable works because (as with Free software) they like to promote things with all 4 freedoms — not only software.

For years, I have promoted this as a way of engaging more people with Free software and the Four Freedoms. I am hardly alone in this.

LibrePlanet: Just as DBD divides potential supporters over Social Justice Hooey and has even worked to divide the FSF guillotine-like, from its own head.

“Safety” is a euphemism conflating what is “safe” with what is completely harmonious, as if everything in the world needs to be in complete harmony. Let’s apply this ridiculous notion to recent activism, shall we? Here’s the title, and a line from the LibrePlanet petition:

Is LibrePlanet Safe?

“In a number of cases, RMS has taken over sessions through loud disruptions, including those of other FSF board members. Signatories are also aware of additional instances of RMS violating the Safe Space Rules.”

“The Civil Rights protests in the 1960s were extremely disruptive, and it’s good that they were.”Note that the outstanding crime here is that while a bunch of people have worked to reduce LibrePlanet talks to a sterile, tightly-managed, funeral-like affair, rms is outspoken, brash and actually interrupted a couple of times. Merely the founder of the entire movement, he was required to use his position to justify speaking once or twice out of turn.

This only requires a petition if LibrePlanet really needs to be controlled that tightly, that the president of the organisation isn’t allowed to say anything before some pimple-faced fascist hands him the “talking stick.” I find the whole thing similarly pompous to Jono Bacon’s “OpenRespect” — which I often think of as the prototype for all this rubbish.

To show how ridiculous it is to thought-police Free software activism to the point of total sterility, let’s compare LibrePlanet to another effort to make people more free, Black Lives Matter:

Is Black Lives Matter Safe?

“In a number of cases, Garza has taken over sessions through loud disruptions, including those of other BLM board members. Signatories are also aware of additional instances where Garza participated in attempts to stop traffic, including the passage of a Bay Area Rapid Transit train for four and a half hours.”

Black Lives Matter: This movement occasionally torches cars and buildings.

“Sometimes, freedom needs to be disruptive.”LibrePlanet: This movement will not tolerate an occasional question or comment from its own founder, unless explicitly permitted.

I may have my facts about BLM wrong, because I really don’t know exactly who is torching cars and buildings — nor am I trying to imply that BLM is directly responsible for destruction caused in related protests. Whether they are more “disruptive” than rms on the other hand, is hardly possible to dispute. The Civil Rights protests in the 1960s were extremely disruptive, and it’s good that they were. Sometimes, freedom needs to be disruptive. Go figure, while the tech industry routinely applauds its own technology for being disruptive, FSFE applauds people for stopping rms from doing the same thing.

The point I AM trying to make is that while people are in the streets causing real disruption (and a lot of this is probably necessary at this point — we are talking about a country that started a full-fledged revolution over tea taxes) rms was being removed from an activist meeting (or what used to be an activist meeting) from an organisation he himself created — over a couple of comments or questions.

Talk about a victimless crime. It was nothing but opportunism and mutiny from people such as the Executive Director of GNOME, an organisation that has time and time again betrayed rms, Free Software, and users alike. The same person would go on to use the GNOME blog as a platform for continuing to push the false narrative about rms the same week that he was ousted.

But while LibrePlanet has its own way of dividing and reducing support, the licensing they use allows you to step outside of their petty bullshit and still promote Free software with clips from videos and speeches — if you want to.

Are LibrePlanet speeches works of opinion? As much as any ND-clause or Verbatim-copying-only “licensed” work on the FSF website, absolutely.

“It’s these international trade agreements created by the American copyright cartels, plus American laws like the DMCA that turn breaking DRM into an actual crime.”Defective By Design: We replace technical locks with legal restrictions.

The funny thing about that is, DRM itself is really a legal restriction. While Half-President Oliva claims DRM has NOTHING to do with copyright, copyright is the only thing that gives DRM any real teeth.

It’s these international trade agreements created by the American copyright cartels, plus American laws like the DMCA that turn breaking DRM into an actual crime. Without these extensions to copyright law, DRM would simply fail and fail and fail again. DRM would be almost perpetually broken, and that would be that. It’s arguably more work to port the kernel to another platform — so do we call new CPU architectures DRM?

People practically always break DRM, because (I think Cory Doctorow pointed this out, or perhaps Michael Geist, or both) it contains the algorithm, the encrypted data, as well as the key — on the same machine! Alice and Bob and the whole gang are here! I’m afraid Oliva couldn’t be more wrong — The real way that DRM hurts your freedom is almost ENTIRELY about copyright.

Yes, it is implemented with technical means and puts chains on the user — and we should break those chains both on the technical and the legal level. But the technical means are really the weakest link in the chain. They are often (and I’m not the first to say this either) just an excuse to say you broke something, so that it can trigger anti-circumvention clauses. I not only withdrew my membership from the FSF over this (licensing) issue, It’s also the reason Oliva and I never talk anymore. I’d simply had enough.

“If you want a summary of the FSF for the past few years, and especially the next few years — it’s an organisation that in the name of being more inclusive, continues to harangue, assassinate and Shoo away its most passionate supporters.”So the FSF doesn’t even “Get” DRM — they don’t get the connection with Free Culture, and they have never gotten (no matter how many times people have pleaded with them) the idea that using free licenses for creative works would strengthen their connection with the people who are both more passionate (and more informed) about the problems of DRM and unnecessary restrictions on works — the Free Culture movement.

The result is an FSF that campaigns against Free Culture on every page of one website, while following (but not giving) the same advice on others — while discouraging free license for “works of opinion” — even on pages centred around a freely-licensed work of opinion! (Note that no licenses were violated in doing so, and I am not implying a license violation took place.)

ShoeTool is also freely licensed and I think this was a good choice. It’s a terrible shame that this comes about only months after the rms ousting, because it certainly didn’t feel like Christmas (or Grav-mass) that year. I sent rms a Grav-mass card all the same.

When the FSF says: “If we are to win the battle against DRM, it is important to have larger numbers on our side…”

And those larger numbers already exist, the problem is that the FSF (through DBD license choices, through draconian LibrePlanet poliices that kept me from wanting to attend — I never though rms would be too outspoken for LibrePlanet, but I thought I possibly would be) continues to “shoo” away these larger numbers.

If you want a summary of the FSF for the past few years, and especially the next few years — it’s an organisation that in the name of being more inclusive, continues to harangue, assassinate and Shoo away its most passionate supporters. Was all this division along increasingly arbitrary lines really necessary? Or is the FSF just a bunch of ShooTools?

One thing you do have to be careful of though, is the entire “larger numbers” argument in the first place. Of course we want more advocates — we want all software to be free. The danger is in what you’re willing to sacrifice (as with certain GNU maintainers moving to GitHub) just to get more people.

Monopolies care about marketshare, because if you don’t have it — you’re not a monopoly. When you have freedom, people often go their own way — that reduces the likelihood that everybody does (or uses) the same thing.

“Please do not confuse my criticism of the FSF as a criticism for those individuals who already “get” what the FSF is missing.”If you try to corral everyone under exactly the same solutions, you can say that people are free because the license is free, but you’re still trying to corral them — you’re trying to get them to do what YOU want, rather than what they want. How much does a free license enable people to do what they want, while you try to find ways around it to get them to all do the same things, without any choices available?

The new monopoly move is to use the license and find other ways of restricting the use. It happened with Tivo, it happened with the anti-GPL3 lobbying, it will happen with these political mutinies and political manipulations. The question is whether it really has anything to do with freedom — Or if the FSF is just singing its own praises from a better day, when it was a real thing.

I invite people who care about Free Culture to replace Defective By Design, with something of their own that is Effective By Design.

DBD meanwhile has the same restrictions that DRM has — you can’t remix it, and it’s (mostly) illegal if you break it. RMS cites “fair use” but that isn’t a right — it’s a defense. And it varies wildly, while Free Culture licensing is much more universal. I am not the first person to encourage DBD or the FSF to get wise about this — they would probably rather be right, than in touch with the reality of the situation. I guess that’s what “safe” means these days anyway — unchallenged, and as a result, unaware.

None of these comments are for Sacha Chua, who has not only done an excellent job and created an excellent example of a Free Culture work of opinion around the idea of Free Software (yes, I have my qualms about it, but they’re really not her fault — it’s the FSF that refuses to offer what she is correct in stating as advantages of true software freedom) but who responds to critique in a way that is more thoughtful, sincere and even cheerful than most of us could hope to manage. I only mention it now as the reply to her comment on my article which I intended to make, never posted.

Please do not confuse my criticism of the FSF as a criticism for those individuals who already “get” what the FSF is missing. I do not even suspect the real problems of the FSF are caused by the majority of staff — but by a select number of people at the Leadership, Membership and Intermediary levels, creating enough trouble (and misinformation) for everybody else.

“The difference is that rms does care about freedom (Trump does not) and the new FSF is more like Trump, in its painstaking and draconian control of anyone who speaks up from the audience.”I never expect to find allies from the “new” FSF, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have any. There are still lots of people who care about Free software. But there are also plenty who care about the cause that the new FSF turns its nose up at — even their own founder, what a terrible, self-defeating and foolish shame.

The new FSF considers itself good at speaking for us, but it has long been criticised for its inability to hear. The censorship, lies and other forms of bullshit coming from the new guard, prove that rms was never the (sole) reason that the organisation was deaf to its members. The FSF simply doesn’t care to learn or ever be in touch with its community. We aren’t good enough for them, to speak for our own freedom. It’s fortunate then that we don’t need their permission — unless we are silly enough to attend LibrePlanet, and pay to be told that a stray comment is a “danger” of some kind.

That’s about as out-of-touch as you can get. I suspect that sooner or later, someone will compare rms to Trump for being outspoken and brash. The difference is that rms does care about freedom (Trump does not) and the new FSF is more like Trump, in its painstaking and draconian control of anyone who speaks up from the audience. RMS didn’t deploy secret police to remove protesters, Trump did. RMS didn’t petition to have stray commenters removed from an activist event — LibrePlanet attendees did.

If you’re truly concerned about freedom, consider that — before you redefine “safety” to mean “Everybody shuts the fuck up when WE tell them to.” It has nothing to do with what was actually being said, it was simply about crowd control.

“If you’re truly concerned about freedom, consider that — before you redefine “safety” to mean “Everybody shuts the fuck up when WE tell them to.” It has nothing to do with what was actually being said, it was simply about crowd control.”No thanks, “Libre” planet. But at least we can add our comments to your videos, which remains an option even for your ousted leader. To me, that proves how liberating free culture licensing really is.

If someone is looking for a way to re-invent, recreate or reboot the thing that the DBD website is SUPPOSED to be, starting with LibrePlanet videos about DRM might not be a bad start. Of course there are other freely-licensed materials you can use for that too, no thanks to the FSF’s often backwards policy.

You could even go further and make your own freely-licensed website for Free software itself — starting with Chua’s freely-licensed image. After all, all it takes for Free software to start being about freedom again (and for her graphic to be realistic again) is enough users and developers (and authors and artists) who really want freedom.

“Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.” –Benjamin Franklin

Licence: Creative Commons CC0 1.0 (public domain)

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