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Gary W. Swearingen garys at
Mon Apr 10 16:38:14 UTC 2006

"Michael T. Richter" <ttmrichter at> writes:

> ex·tort
> : to obtain from a person by force, intimidation, or undue or illegal
> power :
> Note carefully here the word "undue".  It doesn't have to be illegal
> power.

American Heritage has "extort" even looser: To obtain (...) from
another by coercion or intimidation; to exact; wring.

And, of course, coercion, is not necessarily physical.  "Unjust" and
"while misusing authority" only make the extortion worse or illegal.

But there's a phuzzy line on the good end of extortion.  When copyleft
says you can't publish derivatives unless the deriver pays in kind
with a copyleft on his own work, is that extortion or just another
commercial deal in the form of a trade or barter in IP?

There's certainly a level of coercion ("to compel by pressure", eg, of
deadlines) involved, but not even I would call it extortion, even if
it seems to meet some definitions.  Despite what I wrote above, the
concept does seems to require some considerable degree of injustice or
something more than just coercion or pressure.  Though many an
entrepreneur would be comfortable with "exact" and "wring".  I have no
doubt that RMS is proud of all the IP that he has exacted and wrung
from software developers that would have otherwise preferred to keep
their work closed or even open it under a X11/MIT/BSD-type license.

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