(1) pgplot licence vs other; (2) NR

Boud Roukema boud w astro.uni.torun.pl
Pią, 19 Mar 2004, 23:00:38 CET

hi Michał,

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On Wed, 17 Mar 2004, Michal Frackowiak wrote:

> Hi!
> about GNU and GPL:
> what is the purpose of GPL? creating better, community driven software.
> imho it is more than a license, it is a philosophy. your "software" just

It is not philosophy. It is politics, because it relates to the power that
some people have over other people, and the power that people do *not*
have over other people.

The intention is to minimise the power that people have over others to
the minimum necessary - in the context of computer code.

>   do not fit GPL. it is a set of mathematical operations.
> how the hell do you want people to use it/trace bugs/improve when you
> only provide hardly readable code??????
> we could argue about the quality of the code but I do not think will do
> any good.

The point is not to argue about the quality of the code.

The whole point of the GNU GPL is that concrete discussion of the
code can happen according to rules which encourage improvement of the code.

Without distribution under GNU GPL, it is difficult to get the *feedback*
that someone has the opinion that the code is "hardly readable".

Suppose that
 - a person X distributes a computer code A under the GNU GPL and there
is no controversy regarding the GNU GPL.
 - a second person Y claims that the code A is "hardly readable".

Then there are several constructive things that can happen:
 - X can add more comments to the code and distribute an improved version
 - a third party Z who finds the code not the difficult to read can add
more comments and rapidly distribute an improved version
 - Y will then either choose to provide comments on whether or not the
new versions are more readable, or choose to do nothing
 - maybe Z will recommend the amended version to a fourth and fifth
person W and U and together X, Z, W and U will each make modifications
and the code will rapidly evolve.

With several iterations, the code will rapidly become better documented
and debugged, without having unnecessary power of some people over others.
This is the politics aspect of GNU GPL.

On the other hand, if there is a delay of between several days and
a few weeks for having the right to use the code, and then a further
delay of unknown length to redistribute modified versions, the cooperation
between X, Z, W and U is unlikely to happen, especially given that Y
feels unhappy with the code and may influence the delays.

> see my other comments below:
> Boud Roukema wrote:
> >
> > === The differences between the pgplot licence and some other licence ===
> >
> > (1) distribution: pgplot can be downloaded immediately without delay,
> > without requiring any subjective decisions by the owners on whether or not
> > to accept the request for registration.
> >
> > (2) pgplot does not require the use of further non-free packages

> > Regarding (1), could you imagine someone installing a whole lot of
> > packages, maybe with gentoo or debian, and having to wait three days
> > for the successive installation of each of 15 different packages?
> >
> > That would make 45 days if the person installing does not know in
> > advance what the dependencies of the packages are.
> >
> > IMHO, taking 45 days (or anything of a similar order of magnitude)
> > to fully install a package is clearly something utterly impractical.
> >
> It is not an argument nor a nice analogy. It seems as you are the only
> one that hates the registration process. HEALpix is a very specialized
> package with the very limiter users group. I can not see anything wrong
> if the author of such a package wants its users to register.

Let us not to provoke people into anger with words like "hate".

Some people can take these emotions very seriously.

The delay (1) is an argument, i don't understand why you say it is not
an argument.

The claim that a package is very specialised and only a small number
of people want to use it is a self-fulfilling prophecy, and it is
extremely political. It implies that an elite has the right to create
barriers to access to knowledge by ordinary people.

It is the opposite of what a university is supposed to be about.

GNU is not about superiority of an elite over ordinary people. Since
you are trying to make claims about what the true "spirit of GNU" is,
let me quote from the GNU manifesto:


> Why All Computer Users Will Benefit

>  Once GNU is written, everyone will be able to obtain

>  Complete system sources will be available to everyone.

> Schools will be able to provide a much more educational environment

Note: "all", "everyone", "everyone", "schools"

The spirit of GNU does not seem to talk about favouring an elite, on
the contrary. "all" does not mean "a limited users' group". It means

And something regarding who has the upper moral ground from the
GNU point of view:

>  "Don't programmers deserve a reward for their creativity?"
> If anything deserves a reward, it is social contribution. Creativity
> can be a social contribution, but only in so far as society is free to
> use the results. If programmers deserve to be rewarded for creating
> innovative programs, by the same token they deserve to be punished if
> they restrict the use of these programs.

While i would not go so far as recommending punishment, i do agree
with GNU that programmers who restrict the use of their programs
should not be rewarded.

If you disagree with the GNU point of view, that is your choice.

> > Regarding Numerical Recipes, i suggest that everyone on this list read
> > the License Information on page xxii of the f77 version, because there
> > seems to have been some confusion raised by your earlier message:
> >
> > http://www.library.cornell.edu/nr/bookfpdf/f0-1.pdf
> >
> >
> >>Copyright does not protect ideas, but only the expression of those
> >>ideas in a particular form. In the case of a computer program, the ideas
> >>consist of the program's methodology and algorithm, including the
> >>necessary sequence of steps adopted by the programmer. The expression of
> >>those ideas is the program source code (particularly any arbitrary or
> >>stylistic choices embodied in it), its derived object code, and any
> >>other derivative works.
> >>
> >>If you analyze the ideas contained in a program, and then express those
> >>ideas in your own completely different implementation, then that new
> >>program implementation belongs to you. That is what we have done for those
> >>programs in this book that are not entirely of our own devising.
> 1. "own completely different implementation" - copy & paste, search &
> replace is imho not sufficient and that seems to be the case. your
> implementation is identical.

It is not identical.

The "methodology and algorithm, including the necessary sequence of
steps" are close to identical, but AFAIR, no arbitrary or stylistic
choices were identical.

If you like, how about looking for any routines in gplnrec (if you
have a copy from before we unilaterally stopped distribution) which
are not covered by GSL, and then quote the code you think has
identical arbitrary or stylistic choices.

That way we could be constructive instead of getting distracted.

Hmmm... except that it might be considered copyright infringement to
quote code on a public list.

This is again going around in circles and getting back to the main
point: when code has any sort of restriction other than GNU GPL, it is
very difficult to get it started, because if you discuss it publicly, it
risks being a violation of the licence. On the other hand, under the
GNU GPL, the quotation of a code fragment in a context where it is
clear that it's covered by the GNU GPL is (i presume) consistent
with the licence.

> "Like artistic or literary compositions, computer programs are protected
> by copyright. Generally it is an infringement for you to copy into your
> computer a program from a copyrighted source." - from the very same
> chapter you quote.
> For me it would be quite ok if you are inspired by Numerical Recipes and
> include quite similar routines in your code in a limited number. But
> what you have done is not just including the routines, you have created
> a "GPLed" numerical package partly based on the source code from NR and
> added the "Copyright by Boud Roukema".

Wrong. i read the text quote above and tried to follow its
recommendations.  i may have made errors, and the benefit of the GNU
GPL is that people can quickly correct such errors.

> Is this not like being a Robin Hood? Or rather a false Prometheus?

It is like being Numerical Recipes:

"those programs in this book that are not entirely of our own

i have no idea how many Numerical Recipes routines consist of what
some people might term "intellectual theft", but NR are clearly
*not* embarrassed by this and they consider it legitimate that they have
used the methodology and algorithms, including necessary sequences of
steps, from other peoples' code.

> 2. moreover, following you definition of what one can do with the

Wrong: it is not my definition, it is Numerical Recipes' definition.

Please do not blame me for what is published in Numerical Recipes.

> copyrighted source code I can not see any point why I would not be
> allowed to use your code (fealpix and others), rearrange it ("be
> inspired") and release as copyrighted by me under a different license????
> what I would use from your code would be:
>    - methodology,
>    - algorithm (including the necessary sequence of steps).
> I would not take:
>   - arbitrary or stylistic choices (because I would rearrange the code).
> Would it be fair?

According to the authors of Numerical Recipes, it would be fair.

> > What NR claim can be copied:
> > - the methodology
> > - the algorithm
> >   - including the necessary sequence of steps
> >
> > What NR claim cannot be copied:
> > - arbitrary or stylistic choices
> >
> >
> > Do you disagree with Numerical Recipes' point of view on copyright?
> I agree but my understanding is different than yours.

It's unclear whether you agree with Numerical Recipes' point of view
on copyright or not.


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