Subject: Re: Free Software vs. Open Source
From: Craig Brozefsky <craig@red-bean.com>
Date: 13 Feb 2002 11:29:55 -0600

"Larry Augustin" <lma@vasoftware.com> writes:

> I have not been able to discern any difference between Open Source and
> Free Software with regards to the end result: source code being "free"
> in the sense that the FSF defines "free".  Both communities seem to have
> the same goal.

I would agree with this assesment, with the caveat that this is true
within the current intellectual property regime and that that section
of the law is likely to undergo considerable change in the near
future.  Also, license enforcment issues will change as delivery,
distribution and development technologies change.

Perhaps a look at the debate over the application of the GPL to
"application service providers" is an example of where future rifts
will occur at the level of license enforcment.  When the context we
operate in changes, than the distinctions between FSF and OSI
positions becomes more important.  The FSF position requires that the
effects of such license enforcment decisions be evaluated not just in
terms of the amount of Free licensed code produced, but also in the
amount of non-free code it supports.

I'm planning on carrying out the Free Software revolution until
completion, or until I die, so I find that essentializing the
differences away thru focusing on the immediate context of copyright
licensing to be shortsighted.

Perhaps another way to look at the differences would be to consider
what happens 20 years down the road when Free Software has achieved a
critical mass and nearly replaced non-free software in the social
metabolism of software production?  Take it the other way and ask what
the difference between the two is when we pass thru a global recession
or depression.

I won't try and predict what will happen, but I do know that it's
quite likely that different positions will be taken up depending upon
what one sees as the essential property of Free Software.  We can look
thru history, the French Revolution, the Russian Revolution, to see
this process of parties with seemingly meaningless distinctions
becoming enemies, or the other way around, as the material conditions
for their struggle change and those otherwise inconsequential rifts
becoming critical policy points.

> 	2. There may be reasons for supporting Free Software other than
> a moral belief that all software should be free.  The Open Source
> community is willing to be flexible in the rationale behind Free
> Software and is accepting of pro Free Software arguments based on
> economic or other rationale.  RMS and the Free Software community do not
> seem to allow for these other arguments.  Again, by allowing for a
> different rationale, it may be easier to achieve the end goal.

But simply supporting Free Software is not the same as what the FSF,
or myself for that matter want. I want all software to be Free, and
while I am certainly willing to make compromises with non-free
software, or with others that support Free Software in the current
situation, I cannot abandon my original intent, nor pretend that it is
a non-critical distinction between my motivations and the motivations
of others, unless I want to risk becoming marginalized and having my
progress rolled back when the material conditions change such that my
previous allies are now stopping me.

> I believe that RMS and the FSF have slowed the acceptance of Free
> Software by their unwillingness to compromise on these two points.  I
> believe that adopting the terminology and arguments presented by the OSI
> would accelerate the acceptance of Free Software.

I don't think point 1 has had any real effect on the slowing of Free
Software's development.  I don't think you have evidence to support
that position.  It's really a weak critique IMO.

As for point 2, the definition of acceptance is a sticking point.  If
acceptance means having FS take a place next to proprietary software
in the social metabolism of software production, than yes, the FSF has
slowed that because that is not their goal.



-- 
Craig Brozefsky                           <craig@red-bean.com>
                                http://www.red-bean.com/~craig
Ask me about Common Lisp Enterprise Eggplants at Red Bean!