Legal dangers (was Re: polarization)


What it comes down to is that if this scenario happens (all the GNOME
member companies sue to invalidate the GPL), we have already lost. The
core hackers will have become embittered and quit their jobs over it,
after long and bitter conflicts. Microsoft's claims of fragmentation
will be true. The free software companies will have tanked.  We are
not going to achieve world domination or even noticeable marketshare
at that point. We'll just be some hobbyist toy.

If we lose the support of only one or two companies, the others can
help us. We won't have lost then. We'll have strong supporters. 

But if all the GNOME member companies start suing to undermine the
GPL, and all the main hackers have quit their jobs as a result, we
have lost. They didn't get the open source message; free software
didn't work; communication failed entirely; we are not going anywhere
at that stage.

I don't think the board should distract the community with wild
speculation about things that could happen if everything goes to hell,
because if everything goes to hell it won't matter anyway; we'll have

Instead, I think the board should focus on how we can win. That means
positive solutions; helping organize the project; good communication;
technical vision; consensus building. If we win, then this type of
nightmare scenario won't happen, or at minimum we'll have enough
supporters to deal with any threats. If we lose, who cares if this
stuff happens, we've lost and are irrelevant.

This kind of worst-case speculation is actively harmful; it distracts
people from what they need to do to win, and breeds a paranoid,
adversarial atmosphere GNOME currently doesn't suffer from as much as
the average large free software project.

If we want to save up money in an account for legal defense, then
sure, that makes sense. Let's do it. We might get some legal
challenges. But other than that, it's a total waste of energy to go
ahead and worry in detail about what we'd do after we'd already
failed. Take out the insurance policy, and focus on the present.

So don't think I don't see that there are dangers; but do think that I
would not waste energy on planning to lose.


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