[TAG] US sanctions compliant Linux
ben at linuxgazette.net
Fri Jun 27 07:15:33 MSD 2008
On Fri, Jun 27, 2008 at 03:20:18AM +0200, Paul Sephton wrote:
> On Thu, 2008-06-26 at 18:27 -0400, Ben Okopnik wrote:
> > I just knew that somebody was going to say that. :)
> > Paul, let me recap what we know:
> > a) Simon has asked about using Linux _legally_ in Syria. This means that
> > he's concerned with international law in that regard - which lies
> > squarely across the Wassenaar Agreement (hence, my mention of it.)
> > b) The question is not whether "all open source" is being produced in
> > the US, but whether *any* of it is. I.e., if you violate "only" 1% of
> > everything connected with the export of a given item, you're still a
> > criminal.
> > c) As it happens, a very large part of Linux - many libraries, etc. - is
> > indeed produced in the US, so it's not even a question of some vanishing
> > fraction; it's an issue that is definitely applicable.
> > d) The domain that Simon is coming from - and I am making an assumption
> > here, but not the one you were thinking of - is that of a UK company.
> > The UK is a signatory to the Wassenaar, AFAIK.
> > Does this make my statement a bit more understandable?
> Sure- and I don't think I misunderstood your initial post. Thanks you
> for the clarification though.
OK, I wasn't clear on that. Your reply seemed to miss my point.
> > > If exportation of the Linux operating system is prohibited to said
> > > countries, then are _imports_ of the Linux operating system as produced
> > > by citizens of those countries not also prohibited from said
> > > countries?
> > I couldn't say, but that's not the question that was being asked - and I
> > can't actually make out how that would be relevant.
> Relevant in that there are two sides to any agreement. In simplest
> terms, a barter exchange you trade your pig for a tin of beads. You
> don't just give the pork away for nothing. Export has an opposite in
> an import. If the law says you are not to do business, then that law
> should go both ways. What I see is a ban on exports, but no equivalent
> ban on imports.
Ah - there's that magic word "should". Has little relation to how laws
work, unfortunately, and _no_ relation at all to international law.
There are plenty of situations in the latter where you're screwed no
matter what you do - because something that you're required to do by one
country is completely forbidden by another. The fact that one country
makes gilliwhillikins available for export imposes no duty whatsoever on
any other country to make it legal to import them; this comes under the
heading of being 'sovereign' (a term that Robert Heinlein defined as
something found in the dictionary between 'sober' and 'sozzled', and of
little meaning otherwise.)
> > > If some clever fellow from Syria or Iraq at some time in the past
> > > contributed to an open source product before such restrictions, then is
> > > his copyright not violated by a subsequent imposition of a prohibition?
> > I wouldn't think so. He still owns the copyright to what he's produced.
> > Copyright, however, has nothing to do with the right to export or import
> > anything - please correct me if I'm wrong.
> Nit picking perhaps, but theoretically, one should be scanning every bit
> of code you have for possible contributions sourced from any of those
> countries and stripping them out. Using someones contribution and
> refusing to reciprocate in allowing him to use yours is unethical in my
Let's extend that, then. How much does that "clever fellow" owe back to
the people who created Linux in the first place, to the people who wrote
the man pages, to the people who created the programming language that
he used, or posted programming information on the Net, etc.? Does he,
then, actually "own" that code in that sense? By your definition, he
doesn't - if that technical debt (to misuse a common term) applies to
those who use his work, then he owes as much, if not more, of a debt to
One of the majort effects and benefits of open source licensing is that
the *actual* debt imposed downstream is clearly defined rather than
being some nebulous thing that can never be paid off and would require
some heroic, showy action - like ripping out all code created by someone
who may or may not be on some shadowy list created by some government
agency. As long as the people who benefit from that "clever fellow"'s
code acknowledge his contribution (AFAIK, importation of *names* from
Syria, etc., has not yet become subject to restrictions), that debt is
paid in full - except for possibly the part that can't be enforced by
any government but is given freely by ethical people. It's called
'respect', and as I've frequently mentioned here in LG, it's the major
currency of the open source community. That part can't be bought, sold,
stolen, forced, or regulated - but it can be earned by "clever fellows"
who contribute their effort to the community.
> > Anyway, there was no arrogance intended - or, as I think I've shown,
> > inherent - in what I've said.
> Ben, I am sorry if it came across that I was accusing _you_ of
> arrogance. Certainly not!
Thanks for clarifying that, Paul. I didn't think you were, but I'd
rather clarify than leave it hanging.
> What I meant to say, is that for the "Office
> of Asset Control" to impose restrictions on open source implies their
> belief that open source is their asset to control. I find that
> arrogant. Certainly, a great part, even possibly most of open source is
> of American origin. However, the law does not make the distinction
> between "American open source" and "Foreign open source"- which is
> really so mixed up in single OS, app or library code as for the
> difference to be indiscernable.
Yep. And the problem is that it's within their control - at least to the
extent that they can punish any American who violates their rules. In
short, they have the guns, so they get to dictate to anyone they can
threaten with those guns. Perhaps I'm too cynical in my viewpoint that
any government anywhere is nothing more than the biggest criminal gang
in the country, and thus gets to boss other criminal gangs and to make
the non-criminal citizens pay them protection money... but I've found
little in all my experience of the world to contradict that. I must, in
all fairness, point out that some of these gangs are less than rapacious
than others - but that gains them no merit in my book; their restraint
is usually that of a bully who is afraid of pushing his victim too far
rather than some sense of morality or mercy.
(Damn it, how did that 'RANT' switch get into the 'On' position? I must
have bumped it.)
> Whilst I abhor terrorism in any shape or form, and it may pique me to
> think that our Neighboring country, Zimbabwe, might be using open source
> to help run their corrupt government, or be used to further insiduous
> plots against the west by scaly characters in Iran, Iraq, Syria, Libia
> (have I left anyone out) etc. etc. The fact remains that not everyone
> in those countries are uneducated or evil, and there is very little
> practical value in the sort of export restrictions to which your refer.
> The good guys will abide by the law- but don't for a moment think that
> the bad guys are in any way deterred. Particularly unaffected are the
I won't go into this much further except to say "I agree with you" -
doing so would have me ranting again. I will, however, cite a relevant
entry from my quote file:
"The trouble with fighting for human freedom is that one spends most
of one's time defending scoundrels. For it is against scoundrels
that oppressive laws are first aimed, and oppression must be stopped
at the beginning if it is to be stopped at all."
-- H. L. Mencken
* Ben Okopnik * Editor-in-Chief, Linux Gazette * http://LinuxGazette.NET *
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