what fsf got wrong

The FSF got some things wrong in this process as well. (But I had dinner in between posts.)

  • The FSF has failed to convince people that patents are a threat. The FSF folks apparently believe (1) that patents are a threat to free software projects and (2) that patents are immoral. These are distinct issues. I think if they’d focused on (1) they’d be ahead. Clearly the kernel guys think the best way to cope with the patent threat is to ignore it. The FSF has not effectively countered that argument, and so the kernel folks (and lots of other people) think that v3’s patent clauses are unnecessary and political, instead of a necessary defense against a dire threat.
  • The FSF has failed to convince people that DRM is a taking of freedom. For the kernel folks (and a lot of other people) DRM is just a choice programmers have made on top of their stack. I tend to disagree (for reasons I’ll probably make clear in perhaps another post this weekend) but however you slice it, the FSF has clearly failed in convincing people that DRM built on top of Linux is the equivalent of shackles built on top of their code, and hence, that the DRM clauses in v3 are necessary.
  • I’m not sure if this is a failure or not, but it was pretty clear from the beginning that the consultation was going to be an open way to get feedback, but that Richard was going to make the final calls. Given how famously difficult he is to convince of anything, and how the big problems to be solved by the license were apparently chosen before any open consultation, it is pretty understandable that some people (like the l-k guys) were turned off, and have chosen to act outside the system instead of within it.

These are not minor problems, but I should note that these should not completely blot out all the good the FSF has done within the process. The committee process has been a very open one, where just about anyone can contribute in a meaningful way. (Hell, they let me on one of them.) The software used to track and collate comments has overall worked well, and made it easy to spot problem areas quickly. (Sadly, it was not used on a mission statement.) So overall, despite the big-picture PR mistakes made above, the process has been very good and very smooth so far. CC, and any other community pondering license changes, should be following along to learn how to conduct a license review process.