Subject: Re: Free Software vs. Open Source
From: kragen@pobox.com (Kragen Sitaker)
Date: Wed, 13 Feb 2002 17:20:22 -0500 (EST)

The errors and inaccuracies in this thread are coming rather too fast
for me to correct them all, and I'm not sure it would improve matters
any if I did; but there is one real gem here.

I think Ben Tilly's suggested description of the disagreement between
the open-source and free-software movements is accurate and
evenhanded.  It seems to me that, if the FSF were to use this
description for the open source movement rather than the somewhat
inflammatory and less accurate one it currently uses, free software
and open source advocates would be able to spend more time writing
free software and advocating that others do so and less time arguing
with one another, having hurt feelings, and making personal attacks on
each other.

Also, the current FSF message impedes the free software movement from
effectively building upon the advocacy groundwork done by the open
source movement by setting up an artificial opposition between the
movements and associating acrimonious negativity with the free
software movement.

The feelings of many people concerned have been unnecessarily hurt by
the careless actions of others, and so it may be too late to advocate
this kind of cooperation.

For those who haven't bothered to read the whole thread, here's what
Ben said; the prose is already relatively clear and should need
relatively little work to reach Stallman levels of clarity.

>   The open source movement limits itself to arguments for free
>   software that do not cause any controversy.  We in the free
>   software movement believe in free software for stronger
>   reasons, and are compelled to question beliefs that others
>   take for granted.
> 
>   The open source movement identifies many basic tasks that people
>   want to do with their software.  They find great value in
>   allowing people to do them freely, and great value in people
>   insisting on having the right to do these things.  This basic
>   list of tasks includes running, copying, distributing, studying,
>   changing and improving the software.  We agree with them on this.
> 
>   Where we go beyond is that we do not accept that anyone has any
>   right to DENY these privileges to others.  Therefore anyone who
>   tries is wrongfully taking something of value from others.  This
>   is a form of theft.  You shouldn't steal in this way, not only
>   because you might be rewarded for not stealing, but because theft
>   is wrong...
> 
> I believe that this line of reasoning correctly represents the OSI, the
> FSF foundation, and allows free software proponents to benefit from the
> work of open source advocates.  It will not please people who accept the
> open source arguments but not the free software philosophy, but at least
> it clarifies where the disagreement is.