Subject: RE: Patent-based dual-licensing open source business model
From: "Lawrence Rosen" <>
Date: Thu, 14 Sep 2006 11:06:19 -0700

Mark Wielaard wrote:
> I know I have seen similar explanations before from other people who
> talk about Free Software. So privacy for the user seems to be a common
> theme for a lot of people dealing with software freedom.

I appreciate the power of the examples you cited (below) from the Debian
Free Software Guidelines about the freedom to practice secret,
non-distributed internal modifications. International Characters certainly
has no interest in denying castaways their freedom to survive on a desert
island, or dissidents their freedom to act anonymously against a tyrannical

Rob Cameron, the founder of International Characters, said it best in a
discussion we've been having with Richard Stallman:

> Perhaps the way forward is to recognize that the right to make
> internal modifications without redistributing is a kind of privacy right.
> Privacy rights are fundamentally human rights. These are important
> rights to stand up for in so far as they apply to human beings. But
> surely it is not a general principle that human rights should apply
> to corporations like Google or BoA. This is the fundamental
> requirement of our business model that we must address.

The evocative images that religions use to convince adherents must
occasionally be challenged. Having frequently been a dissident myself, and
often working alone on the desert island of my computer, I am obviously
sympathetic to the Debian Free Software Guidelines. But I also want to
support free software as a business model that requires those who
commercialize my inventive and creative works to tithe an appropriate amount
of money back to my church.


> > > I always assumed the 4 freedoms implied and guaranteed that users had
> > > privacy when dealing with Free Software. Just looked at the Free
> > > Software definition and
> > > indeed it says: ...
> >
> > Ahhhh, so that's the religion! You'll notice I said that we have a
> different
> > philosophy broader than that of FSF. I know what FSF wants. But I cannot
> > understand why it must be that secret internal modifications are called
> > free. Starting from first principles, explain the reason behind the FSF
> > definition of free software, and don't simply point me to the bible.
> Is it religion if the scripture agrees with what you deduced yourself
> already? :) I only wish I could write so clearly and succinctly as the
> people who wrote that bible. Then I wouldn't have pointed you at it.
> Really, just like the 4 freedoms just capture nicely the axioms of
> software freedom for most people (at least for me), it seems that what
> logically follows from them is also explained by whoever wrote the Free
> Software guidelines.
> To me the right of privacy is something fundamental when I am working
> for myself or just work together with my friends. And I always assumed
> the combined "freedom axioms" imply that you don't have to release any
> of the modifications, or tell anybody about them. It wasn't till I
> looked it up that this is also explicitly what others (or at least the
> FSF) seem to think it means.
> Another datapoint (courtesy of a quick google for dsfg, freedom and
> privacy). The DFSG, precursor to the OSD, seems to have some handy
> guidelines to determine whether software really is Free Software/Open
> Source:
>         "The Desert Island test". Imagine a castaway on a desert island
>         with a solar-powered computer with an Internet connection that
>         can't upload. This would make it impossible to fulfill any
>         requirement to make changes publicly available or to send
>         patches to some particular place. This holds even if such
>         requirements are only upon request, as the castaway might be
>         able to receive messages but be unable to send them. To be free,
>         software must be modifiable by this unfortunate castaway, who
>         must also be able to legally share modifications with friends on
>         the island.
>         "The Dissident test". Consider a dissident in a totalitarian
>         state who wishes to share a modified bit of software with fellow
>         dissidents, but does not wish to reveal the identity of the
>         modifier, or directly reveal the modifications themselves, or
>         even possession of the program, to the government. Any
>         requirement for sending source modifications to anyone other
>         than the recipient of the modified binary - in fact any forced
>         distribution at all, beyond giving source to those who receive a
>         copy of the binary - would put the dissident in danger. For
>         Debian to consider software Free it must not require any such
>         excess distribution.
> I know I have seen similar explanations before from other people who
> talk about Free Software. So privacy for the user seems to be a common
> theme for a lot of people dealing with software freedom.
> Cheers,
> Mark