*countable infinities only

Gregory Maxwell gmaxwell at gmail.com
Mon Jun 18 22:43:03 UTC 2012

On Mon, Jun 18, 2012 at 4:45 PM, Adam Williamson <awilliam at redhat.com> wrote:
> What I should have said is that we have no God-given right to demand
> that any computing device offered for sale must be explicitly designed
> to accommodate the retrofitting of other operating systems or software,
> or indeed to demand that any device available not be designed expressly
> to prevent it. What I was trying to correct was an impulse to assume
> that the x86/BIOS world where systems are explicitly designed to make
> execution of arbitrary code easy is the One True Way for things to be,
> rather than an accident of history, and anyone doing anything different
> must inevitably be guilty of some kind of crime or immorality and must
> be fought to the last ditch.

Indeed the laws and norms of our societies do not currently mandate
a right for devices to be easily modified by the users.

But the copyleft licenses that free software are distributed under do
require that kind of freedom be not removed via copyright as a condition
for distribution of the copylefted work because the freedom to modify the
software we use is something important and worth investing resources
into maintaining for everyone, even if it doesn't quite rise to the level of a
recognized human right. It's also the case that making sure all the users
have good access to become authors keeps the ecosystem viable and
that the participants have standing which is legally equal makes it fair
(well, as fair as anything can be... not always very).

And with the trend of software systems mediating an increasingly
large portion of our public and private lives, I think we will be fools
if we don't recognize some degree of software freedom as a human
right someday— at least if there is any remaining question of it
being denied.

We can split hairs over the current technicalities, but copyleft licenses
were created so that people could give away software without downstream
users enhancing it and locking it up again using copyright. If, practically,
technologies like secureboot and trusted boot produce the same result
through cryptographic lockdown instead of the threat of copyright
litigation then anyone who rationally choses to use copyleft would
choose to prohibit those things too.  After all, cryptographic signing
that actively prohibits users is a far more practical issue then the
threat of copyright violation litigation.

It will be unfortunate to see Fedora and Redhat in a position of arguing
against licensing that allows authors to ensure that their work isn't used
as a part of systems that deny their recipients the intended freedoms,
simply because fedora has become invested in working with the
freedom denying infrastructure— or even profits directly from it if
'competition' with radically open development practices find that they're
structurally or philosophically unable to comply with the requirements for
obtaining an automatically accepted signing key.

And keep in mind: Fedora 18 with the signed bootloader will work fine
on systems which do not permit the owner of the system to change the
keys— while this might not be the world that exists when UEFI initially
ships there is no assurance that it won't be later, and the decision to
sign now is one less argument (if only a small one) against removing
the option, and as was noted by others here at least some of the
OEMs would apparently really like to do that.

More information about the devel mailing list