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Dear Herr Reiser/Professor Stallman,
I read Herr Reiser's article (at newsforge) and have followed the recent
discussions about GFDL and GPLv3 with interest. I think that GNU (with
the GFDL) and Herr Reiser are headed (IMHO) in the wrong direction. My
(long) mail below summarises my reasons. May I request your patience.
I couldn't agree with you more that:
1. We should have a just system of attribution.
2. We don't want free software to be tagged with "commercials".
The method used by the academic community leads to (1) (in a substantial
percentage of cases) without much of (2). The academic community does not
insist on attribution as a *legal* requirement but puts enormous *social*
pressure for appropriate attribution.
As an example let us look at Wolfram's book "A New Kind of Science".
1. He used a lot of work done by others without attribution.
2. The academic community has uniformly attacked him for this (and for other
aspects of his book).
3. He could (legally) publish the book and it *has* received quite a bit
of praise *outside* the scientific community.
4. He has had little co-operation with scientists *except* those whom he
5. He is rich.
6. He is intellectually an "outsider" to the scientific community.
Given these facts from the perspective of the academic community it is
clear that "lack of attribution" (and other acts against the
community) has caused Wolfram to "lose out". Perhaps he is winner in the
wider non-academic community. Which community is more important to an
Like the case of the GPL, the assumption underlying becoming a creator
of science (or software) is that you *need* to create it for a variety
of reasons. Other creators *publish* their work in order to help you
in this endeavour. In a reciprocal action, you too publish your work in
order to help others create more.
Now any scientist "needs to eat"! So attribution is important in order to
get you that Professor-ship or prestigious award. But ask any academic
whether they would rather be given an award based on someone's say-so
or on an honest evaluation of their work.
Thus attribution is important *but* secondary, and copyright exists in
order to protect that aspect. It says "you may not claim this work as
your own." On occasion, you may not receive credit (or even cash!) since
people may (unknown to you) violate this principle. However, making this
attribution legally binding is an invitation to the "suits" to step in
exactly as happens with "sponsored research". For example, one of
Wolfram's employees designed a Turing machine with the smallest known
size in terms of symbols and states---but he couldn't publish since
"attributing support from Wolfram" took the form of letting Wolfram
publish a lot of work around this result.
Thanks and regards,