Subject: Re: GNU License for Hardware
From: Ben_Tilly@trepp.com
Date: Tue, 12 Oct 1999 19:44:07 -0400


> One of RMS's more dubious accomplishments is that people all over the
world
> are agonizing that "free" as in "free software" doesn't have anything to
do
> with price. Moreover, they soured to the point where they're even
disparaging
> happy hour (a/k/a "free beer").
>
Proving that - yet again - Richard is misunderstood by those who have not
tried to understand him.  There is a world of difference between IE and
Mozilla, even though both are purportedly free.  And do you really want to
claim that Sun's Community Licence is acceptable?

> The fact is that free (unrestricted) availability of software and the freedom
> (opportunity) to change it can only be universally possible by making software
> available free of charge. It is precisely the confluence of all of these shades
> of meaning that makes "free software" the ideal term.
>
Wrong.

Making software available free of charge does not lead to freedom to modify
said software.  And therefore asking people to do so does not lead to the
end that Richard desires.  Conversely many examples exist showing that in
practice people can make money by selling support, warranties, and the like
around freely modifiable software.  So while code may be available, the
result is not no cost (or even low cost in a few situations) software.

> One way to see this link between free price and the other freedoms that RMS
> cherishes is to observe that proprietary software interests restrict those
> freedoms precisely in order to limit availability and jack up the price and
> profits they covet. (Even to the further detriment of their customers.)
>
Actually many examples exist where proprietary software attempts to flood
the market.  In fact with WinCE Microsoft is paying companies large sums
of money to install it!  (At issue is control of the standards...)

> The irony of this is that while RMS keeps harping on the semantics of libre
> vs. gratuit, the very first requirement set forth in the OSD insists on free
> (no royalty or fee) redistribution for "open source" software. The title may
> say "Open Source Definition", but the OSD is the clearest definition of free
> software we have to date.
>
AFAIK Richard has no problems with the direct results of licences that
meets the definition of the OSD.  His objection is to more indirect effects.
For instance BSD licenced software may be free, but does it contribute to
having more software become free in the sense that Richard thinks is
important?  Or does the freedom stop with that version of that package?

> In an earlier email to this group, RMS characterized "the Open Source movement"
> as "rejecting all talk of freedom, principle and non-material benefits." It
> seems closer to the mark to suggest that it is RMS who has wrapped himself up
> so exclusively in the principle of freedom that he rejects all talk of material
> benefits. Such a stance is terribly self-limiting. Throughout the whole history
> of the capitalist era, freedom and material wealth and comfort have been
> intertwined inextricably. And nowhere is the economic benefit of freedom more
> clear than in software -- with its unique ability to support near-infinite
> reproduction at near-zero cost.
>
Richard is correct.  The Open Source movement's rhetoric most certainly
takes the stance that OSS can and should be supported because of
pragmatic benefits.  The problem is that even when those benefits are
documented, the resulting freedom only makes sense (for the people
producing it) for some forms of software.  Richard's position is that this
approach, while it covers some distance, cannot and will not ever cause
all software to become free.

In other words for Richard the material benefits for the producer are a
nice benefit.  The real benefit is that there should never again be, for
instance, a printer that tells you it is done when it has not started, and
which cannot be programmed to automatically tell you if it is having
trouble.  (Ironically I am sitting 5 feet from an office printer that has
those *exact* limitations...)

> RMS has said that he considers OSI and FSF to be like "two political parties
> within our community". Perhaps he has something like the Clinton Republicans
> and the Dole Democrats in mind, but it plays more like the two sides of a
> Lite Beer commercial: More Freedom! Fewer Bugs! Both are true, and both are
> important. Why can't you guys get it together?
>
Because the two groups have fundamentally different goals.

The Open Source folks think that it is a great idea to have people
open up software for all sorts of practical benefits.  Richard and the
free software people think that all software, everywhere, should be
modifiable and it is an injustice if this is not the case.

Go off and read their respective manifestos!  Richard does not say
what Eric Raymond would like him to say, and Eric's goals do not
address Richard Stallman's.

All that said, I agree with Eric more than Richard...

Cheers,
Ben