Subject: Re: Merger
To: None <firstname.lastname@example.org>
From: Richard Stallman <email@example.com>
Date: 09/03/1994 03:21:29
I found and updated a faq file that addresses many of the issues
that people have just raised--as well as others that will probably
come up soon. Here it is.
* Hasn't Apple lost its lawsuit?
It was widely reported in the news in 1992 that Apple had lost the
lawsuit. Unfortunately that is not so.
What happened was that the decisions of the district court were mostly
going against Apple. Apple decided it had little chance to win if those
decisions stick. Their real remaining chance was in the appeals court.
So they decided not to bother with a trial conducted under the
decisions of the district court judge. They said to that court,
"Please rule against us so we can start the appeal right away."
This was reported in some news articles as "Apple has lost the
lawsuit," but actually it was a legal tactic.
As of June 1994, the appeal was still undecided. The court of appeals
can affirm the district court judge's decisions about points of law,
or it could reverse some of them. If they do that, the trial will
resume in the district court and Apple could win.
* If Apple does lose the lawsuit against HP and Microsoft,
does that mean the rest of us are safe?
No. Microsoft signed a license with Apple around 1983.
This affects the case.
Apple based their case on a list of around 100 points of similarity
between the Macintosh OS and New Wave. The judge had to rule on whether
each of these points could be admitted.
For some of the points, the judge ruled that they were outside the
domain of copyright. That is a true victory for our side (though it
is not final, as the court of appeals could reverse these rulings).
For other points, the judge ruled that the license between Microsoft
and Apple covers them, which means that Apple cannot use them in a
case *against Microsoft*. The judge said there was no need to decide
whether these points were outside the domain of copyright, given that
they were inapplicable in this particular lawsuit.
So if you or I write such a window system, and Apple sues, we don't
know what would happen with those points. You and I don't have such
licenses with Apple, and we are not likely to be able to get them.
The judged ruled that a handful of points were within the domain of
copyright and not covered by Microsoft's license. If the trial had
proceeded, a jury would have decided whether these few points
constitute "substantial similarity". Deciding this by jury is
basically like rolling dice, but Apple apparently thought they were
not likely to win that way because the number of admissible points of
similarity were too few. Hence the decision to go straight to the
* It's not fair to single out just one company to blame.
There's no obligation to be fair to people who attack your freedom.
When there are several attacks at once, it may be better strategy to
fight one attacker at a time. If it is, you should do that.
As it happens, we treat all the look and feel aggressors alike. We
criticize equally all three mass-market software companies that have
started look and feel lawsuits and not subsequently changed their
However, it turns out that the other two don't make operating systems
(or not operating systems very many people use). So the issue of
whether to support such systems doesn't come up, except with Apple.
* Every company does some nasty things; it's unfair to condemn just one.
The omitted middle step in this argument is that all wrong actions are
equally wrong. People usually omit this step, because the argument
sounds much weaker when the step is mentioned.
Actions that are shameful and wrong vary in several dimensions, including
* how commonplace they are
* how much harm they do
* how long the harm lasts
* whether there's a way to avoid problem if you want to.
Many companies sometimes mistreat their customers, their employees, or
their suppliers. The effects of these wrongs are usually temporary,
and you can avoid them by not being their customer, employee, or
supplier as the case may be.
A look and feel lawsuit attacks the freedom of all programmers. If it
succeeds, the harm lasts for 70 years. And we can't avoid the problem
by not doing business with that company.
Look and feel lawsuits are both especially nasty and quite rare.
The perpetrators deserve special condemnation.
* Microsoft is no nice guy either; why should you take their side?
The side we have taken is our side and your side. It also happens to
be Microsoft's side, but that's not important. What's important is
not Microsoft, but our freedom.
* It's more important to support Macintosh users than to fight Apple.
Whether we support Macintosh users is an issue that affects a fraction
of the user community for a short period of time (a few years).
Whether we have the freedom to implement a GUI affects *all* of the
users we might ever support, and for decades.
Clearly the latter is more important.
* Isn't it unfair to Macintosh users if you don't support their machines?
In a free country, each of us can choose which projects to work on.
Since there are so many projects, inevitably we choose to do a few
of them, and we choose not to do most of them.
Since you are free to decide which project to do, you cannot be blamed
for choosing a project other than Macintosh software. Most
programmers's work is not Macintosh software. If you join that large
group, you can hardly be blamed.
The FSF has chosen not to work on the project of supporting Macintosh
and other Apple systems. We think that spending our time and
attention on this would be self-defeating. We can't tell you what
projects to choose, but we hope that you will make the same choice for
the same reason.
* Since most Macintosh users don't approve of the lawsuit,
isn't it wrong to punish them?
We are not trying to punish them. That's not our motive in deciding
not to support Macintosh systems. Our motive is to punish Apple
and to raise awareness of the interface copyright issue.
Macintosh users support Apple with their money--they reward Apple's
bullying, and supply funds for it. Some of them regret that this
helps Apple threaten our freedom--but regret is all they offer. They
don't take any action to stop or discourage Apple's bullying.
Apparently they want us to be satisfied with regrets in place of
We regret that our measures cause inconvenience for Mac users. We
hope that they will accept these regrets in place of action.
* If a Mac user says, "I choose the product, not the company,"
isn't that legitimate?
Translated, this means that he decided to judge solely by how their
products benefit him, ignoring how they treat everyone else.
If that's how little he cares about the rest of us, he shouldn't
expect more than that from us.
* Aren't there some people who have no choice besides using a Macintosh?
Ridiculous! Even in advanced, wealthy countries, most people do not
own a Macintosh--or any kind of computer except for embedded systems.
There must be something about a Macintosh that convinces people they
can't live without it. And they expect the rest of us to drop
everything to cater to them. It resembles the attitude of a junkie.
This is another reason to keep away from Macintoshes--because you
don't want your mind to be warped by them.
* Wouldn't it be better to spread GNU software on Macintoshes
and win more support and sympathy from Mac users?
The issue of Apple's lawsuit has nothing particularly with GNU.
It's not quite a coincidence that the FSF decided to take a strong
stand against Apple. If you practice standing up for principles, you
are more likely to do it when a new occasion arises. But every
programmer who cares about his freedom has a good reason not to
develop software for the Macintosh. Not free software, and not
In general, distributing Macintosh software is not going to convince
users about anything regarding Apple's lawsuit. The only thing it is
likely to do is make Macintoshes more attractive and boost Apple's
* But considering GNU software only, wouldn't it be better to
encourage Macintosh versions and win more sympathy from Mac users?
Some Mac users already say they agree with us about the lawsuit--but
they don't turn this into meaningful actions; it is just lip-service.
There's no reason to think that sympathy from additional Mac users
would do any more good than the sympathy some have offered so far.