everything wrong with free software
"obedience breeds foolishness"
=> dividing-things-pointlessly-and-inaccurately-along-age-lines.html dividing-things-pointlessly-and-inaccurately-along-age-lines
*originally posted:* nov 2021
the overarching theme for free software in the past few years is of liquidating its assets: moving an increasing number of projects from its own servers to github (and sometimes gitlab), moving from a leadership to a lack of one, moving from holding copyright on gcc to letting ibm dictate not only new assignments to gcc, but the overall direction of gnu/linux development itself.
sadly, the budgetary (and organisational) decisions about the future of the fsf seem to be following more and more the lines of any for-profit business: cut corners, abandon what made people happy, chase short-term profits in a race to the bottom.
of course we arent talking literally about profits (at least not for the fsf itself) because thats strictly forbidden. so wherever these profits are going, theyre not ultimately going to the fsf.
and in that regard this is of course about money, though the money isnt the point this article is trying to make at all-- this article is about the EFFECTS of it being about money and increasingly for-profit-like (or pandering to for-profits) in the fsfs decision making.
im pretty sure they cant do this without a great deal of dancing around it, but for-profits do that as well and pr companies help them get away with it.
technically, it isnt even strictly necessary for this to be done deliberately on the part of whats left of the fsfs leadership-- but it seems like the alternative is that after all these decades of experience, the leadership is a bunch of suckers.
at any rate, i would repeat that this article is about the effects, and not the process. the process may never be proven and so leaves us guessing, certainly-- but the effects are right in front of us.
so lets talk about the effects.
i have said more than once that the takeover is OF free software, BY open source. muckrights has talked about the takeover of open source, but thats bunk-- the takeover of open source has gone on for decades, and open source is now occupying free software, even the fsf mailing lists. the fediverse in general is a constant, narcissistic pseudointellectual gangbang, which favours open source over free software. the fsf mailing lists do not seem a lot better, though any occupying force worth half a damn is going to be at least a little more careful when it gets to the citadel.
being careful means playing by slightly different rules, or protocols-- when youre occupying an organisation, you have to dress up anything you do as "for the overall good" of the organisation. you can even distract people from the more subtle machinations (which are still increasingly plain to see, if you continue to look) by deploying "typical idiots" who throw tired old cliches at the opposition while the "elite forces" make their moves.
this plays to the modern m.o. of the fsf, which is to lean heavily on talking points and abandon anything strategic. there has been no "innovation" (in terms of activism or fighting the actual problem of monopolies controlling users) from the fsf in years, and THATS BEEN A GOAL of open source since the late 90s when osi was founded.
but osi has already liquidated their organisation at least in terms of talent and image (as muckrights correctly points out) and the fsf is doing the same.
why does any holder of assets (talent, financial or material) liquidate their holdings? most often (at least in the public awareness) its TO SELL OFF what they have, and to fold as a company or organisation.
and the fsf is continuing to (figuratively) sell off their assets. again, i dont know if this is deliberate on their part-- we can go with the suckers theory too.
stallman of course, is their greatest asset-- when hes gone, all we will have is the software. the software is of incredible importance of course, but in a way its only as good as its defence: the cost of freedom is eternal vigilance, so the VALUE of free software is intrinsically tied to its DEFENCE, which is what makes stallman invaluable and the loss of him catastrophic-- it will devalue all free software until someone else DEFENDS it, reinvigorating its value.
for those keeping track: devaluing the defence devalues the software, which is a prelude to the software being controlled by monopolies. and as stallmans thesis has always shown: control the software, and you control the user.
weve seen what they did with that. stallman himself was "devalued" like torvalds or nokia-- these systematic devaluations are a prelude to (or more accurately, part of) a takeover, which i call the "scooby doo maneuver". it applies to the fsf or stallman just as well as it applies to nokia, and the methods are the same.
and as i said, there was a systematic devaluation of torvalds, of stallman, of gcc copyright, of the the gnu projects own infrastructure (i dont deny for a moment that savannah was begging for upgrades, but focusing too much on that fact is a bit ridiculous as a substitute for the broader picture here-- github is as much of a downgrade as gnu moving its compilation platform to windows 10!) and all of these have been "taken over" in that torvalds is half-retired, stallman is half-silent and the new president is a suit (albeit one who seems to "like" stallman, though even the president of the fsf uses github now-- and didnt perens and esr "like" stallman as well? but they helped co-opt his movement for years) and even gcc is now ibm. (except for d! which is microsoft...)
oh, and gnu cobol is... wait, this is just the icing on the (layer) cake.
as the fsf continues to liquidate, and outsource everything-- freedom as a (clown) service? we should take note of what they still hold:
they still hold the copyright to most of gnu, but with the "surprising" increase in interest in copyleft by corporations, (when has microsoft not taken interest in things it wishes to take over?) we can easily guess that the next goal is to subvert copyleft itself-- not just by "old means" like bogus patents and "testing the waters" by violating copyleft outright (tivoisation, simple non-compliance, copilot) and taking over the organisations that hold the copylefted works, but by actually subverting copyleft ITSELF-- through new organisations that want to turn copyleft "on its head" the same way that copyleft did to copyright.
will they succeed? its anyones guess, but either way they are trying.
the fsf also holds (albeit less and less) the infrastructure for the gnu project itself-- as well as the trademark.
in the past, the fsf has been "diplomatic" about copyleft enforcement, which (legally) is a subset of copyright enforcement (sometimes maybe contract enforcement-- but im not a lawyer) and this is no problem as far as i know. the fsf doesnt "have to" enforce its copyright strictly, and it isnt necessarily helpful to try except in certain egregious instances. i have no problem with that policy.
however, the fsf does not get to "choose" whether to enforce the gnu trademark or not-- if it allows "gnu" to become public domain, it becomes public domain and they will have no control over it in the future.
essentially, they can choose between enforcing the trademark or liquidating it. again, im not a lawyer, but to the best of my understanding (or misunderstanding) this is like trademark law 101.
im not in favour of OVERLY aggressive enforcement for either copyright or trademarks. companies like monster are arseholes who try to extend their monopoly farther than either law or sense (or even basic common decency) applies. so theres certainly a "too far" when it comes to trademark enforcement, and that is not required.
im not so sure that letting a bunch of narcissistic developers who shill for large hostile corporations engaged in a decades-long attempted takeover of free software itself squat on the gnu trademark is going to lead to anything other than one more liquidation of a key asset, however.
as for whether its intended, when you see an organisation spend years losing and making no serious efforts (maybe a token gesture here and there-- doesnt really count though) to right itself, treating the gnu.fools coup like its some kind of fucking game... its hard not to think this is deliberate.
the effect of allowing free software have its goals and methods dictated by its opponents is no different now than it was in 1998: it commoditises developers, making the corporate goal of developing non-free software cheaper than it even was when they outsourced to "developing" nations.
this is global fraud, and the fsf acts like its fucking playtime.
at any rate, their trademark is headed right for the toilet. maybe years from now you can buy "gnu-1000 flushes!" cleans your server for up to FOUR MONTHS!
free 30-day trial with any azure subscription. oh, they wont call it azure. theyll have rebranded it again.
microsoft trademarks are disposable, theyre dropped like ballast-- or flares for evading missile lock (basically, automated electronic decoys).
the fsf too, now seems to treat their assets as disposable-- from the trademarks to the leadership to the users themselves.
so it with with no-zilla, so it is with debian, so it is with osi, so it is with gnu itself. its just one big happy family now.
open source for everyone, and plenty of freedom to tell the user where to stick it. might as well let the trademark enter the public domain, right? since it no longer stands for anything.
maybe it should be called the scooby GNU maneuver, since it was used to liquidate the free software movement.
and if the fsf has no assets of its own, what will it do then? it will do marketing instead, which is exactly what open source did. marketing, for open source-- not advocacy, for user freedom. it will dress up the products of other companies as freedom for users, which is exactly what microsoft has always done: package servitude, market it as freedom.
it shouldnt seem so farfetched, when the fsf is ALREADY doing exactly this. it has been for a few years now. it didnt change when stallman left (because he had already stopped leading before that) or when he "came back", because (according to insiders) he never REALLY "left".
nothing has really changed at the fsf in 2021, other than the deck chairs. theyre still selling off, selling out-- and abandoning their mission.
its already done.
the latest example of what theyre doing now is like the other things theyve done, in that its one more liquidation and/or outsource. in light of their bogus excuse for not defending their trademark, theyve given a non sequitor about the "success" or lack thereof of the gnu.fools coup. this misdirection should be a red flag, unless it is shown to have a direct and sufficient legal bearing on the trademark status of gnu.
usually, letting people defraud the public with your EXACT NAME, within the SAME EXACT SCOPE and doing literally nothing about it is NOT how you defend a trademark, though perhaps some lawyers (not you, karen) can weigh in on that. obviously, anyone from the sfc who wants to throw their two cents in can sit on it, and i wouldnt put much stock in what the fsfs "team" has to say, unless of course its eben moglen (who is rumoured to be conspicuously quiet himself).
the latest example is also like the other organisations, as its one more 501(c)3 (heck, its not even the only FSF that has betrayed the public!) that has betrayed its mission and bent forward for corporate takeover. i dont blame stallman as hes a hostage, but i blame the fsf for holding the door open-- and then trying to smooth things over by treating the public like a bunch of suckers.
join them today! (that means give them money) so they can "MMMFFMMM!!" (picture the gnu head with duct tape on its mouth) for your freedom! and so they can spend your money telling people to use microsoft takeover clown services EVERYDAY in PRACTICE, while telling people NOT TO in theory!
if the dod worked like the fsf, you would pay them (hey, its tax-free though) to hold up peace signs, while they spend your donations on more missiles and invasions. THATS how full of shit the fsf is RIGHT. FUCKING. NOW.