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Insightful, you should post more often
I just want to point out that my position on the GPL aligns with both your and Athernars. I don't like it because I don't want to impose restrictions on developers (rather than forcing the code to remain available through all it's iterations), and I see it as a vain attempt to keep the hacker ethos alive by shoving it down people's throats. Personally, I've generally used Creative Commons Attribution (i.e. do what you want, but give me credit where it's due). The free-est license of all with regard to derivative rights is obviously public domain. I was simply trying to explain how the GPL can be perceived as a free license. It uses the same definitions intellectual property as the media organisations do (i.e. copies are still the original product). Personally I see that as bad, but I see it. Other licenses that offer the developer more freedoms do not look at it this way, and consider all the original code, as part of the derived works. It's a fundamental difference that many people don't get. I don't really see what I say as being a strawman argument, but simply a different interpretation of how "software freedom" is described.
Anyway, I was never looking to start all this bickering about the intricacies of the GPL. My initial point was, that regardless of the man himself, the ideas he stands by are valid. Regardless of how socially retarded he is, the ideas behind making source code available and allowing the user to use the software however they want are noble and beneficial for the user, but make a profitable software market difficult (companies like Redhat being the exception rather than the rule), this is where most people (myself included) start distancing themselves from free software ideals, and rightly so.
I agree entirely that the guy is a bad role model for the FOSS movement, because of everything you describe, but I don't think there's anyone here that would disagree that he stands for noble ideals. The things he discuss, like the Valve implementing DRM on Linux, are concerns for free software (DRM exists solely
to take freedom from the user), but again people reject FOSS ideas because of who it is that says them. If you look at the underlying point, then he's right. You don't have to agree with his views, or even listen to the guy, but as long as you know the ideas his ranting stems from, you can see where he's coming from.
Honestly I don't pay enough attention to RMS to read his preaching, simply when his discussion makes it into my new feed (like this time) exactly because of the problems you describe, but that doesn't mean that I don't listen to the general viewpoint he tries to get across. I admit that I'm not entirely a "free software forever" preacher, I take the bits of the FOSS manifesto that I like and disregard the rest.
One issue with your point though:
Anyway, I strongly disagree with Majestic or whoever it was that said that a person who is alienated by one man did not bother to learn the message.
That wasn't what I meant at all. I meant that a person who chooses not to learn about free software and what it means because of the appearance of one man is ignorant. Hate the player, not the game. People that don't want to associate themselves with free software because of the rantings of one man are needlessly limiting their options. It's also hypocritical since there are plenty of undesirable people that write proprietary software too (I know from experience), so by that logic those people shouldn't be using software at all.