Subject: Re: the walls have ears
From: "Stephen J. Turnbull" <>
Date: Fri, 28 May 1999 18:25:54 +0900 (JST)

>>>>> "rms" == Richard Stallman <> writes:

    SJT>     Yup, and it's hard to get "more free" than BSD.

    rms> That depends on how you measure freedom.  You can measure by
    rms> what is permitted by the license of a specific release of the
    rms> program, or you can average the freedoms that the users of
    rms> the program have.

    rms> If you use the former method, the BSD license is certainly
    rms> more permissive than the GNU GPL.  But if you use the latter
    rms> method, you will find in many important cases that the
    rms> average user of the non-copylefted program has less freedom.

I disagree.  Averaging freedoms has two bugs in it.  First, if person
A has "freedom" X but person B does not, then society does not have
"freedom" X.  Rawls was right, IMHO.  That is of course a very
controversial statement, which I don't want to discuss because I don't
think I can convince anybody who believes otherwise.  This implies
that BSD is a _non_-free license simply because it is non-viral; thus
I think it a bug.

The second is that _assuming_ the free version exists---which it does
by definition if we are discussing BSD-licensed software---using the
non-free version is a matter of choice, and therefore admitting the
non-free version increases freedom _in itself_:

    rms> BSD is an example of this.  When you think of "BSD", perhaps
    rms> you tend to consider only the free versions of BSD.  But
    rms> there is also a non-free version of BSD.  I don't know what
    rms> fraction of the users of BSD systems use the non-free
    rms> version, but it could be substantial.

They (or somebody they delegated the decision to, perhaps by accepting
an employment contract or matriculating at a University) made that
choice.  They still have the freedom to use the free version, although
admittedly they are likely to find the cost of breaking the "lock-in"

"Lock-in" is an issue of transactions cost, not an issue of freedom.
Freedom can be made to appear and disappear by social convention, but
costs cannot, any more than politicians with comforting the bruised
brains of 13-year-olds in mind can make pi equal 3.

University of Tsukuba                Tennodai 1-1-1 Tsukuba 305-8573 JAPAN
Institute of Policy and Planning Sciences       Tel/fax: +81 (298) 53-5091
What are those two straight lines for?  "Free software rules."