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Re: Lawyer's evaluation

From: Stephen J. Turnbull
Subject: Re: Lawyer's evaluation
Date: Wed, 24 Sep 2003 14:27:39 +0900
User-agent: Gnus/5.1001 (Gnus v5.10.1) XEmacs/21.4 (Portable Code, linux)

>>>>> "Miles" == Miles Bader <address@hidden> writes:

    Miles> No, those miss the point entirely.

    Miles>   `Emacs is Free Software'

    Miles> I.e. establish the term `Free Software' as a category.

That would be nice, but I was unable to execute it.  The problem is
that many users think they already know what "free software" means.
We do _not_ want to bring those associations up at all, unless we have
enough space to unambiguously define free software.  I don't think we
have the space in this blurb; the GPL does give a definition; it takes
seven lines (including the "GNU Emacs is Free Software" statement
itself).  Those seven lines do absolutely nothing to encourage reading
of the GPL itself (and why should they? in their context, you're
already reading the GPL).  In fact, by giving a legalistic definition,
they tend to discourage reading the license, I'm afraid.

I've tried a couple of times to incorporate the phrase "Emacs is Free
Software", but was unable to come up with anything I was happy with in
less than 5 additional lines (and they still tended to presume that
something like "free as in speech" would make sense to the reader in
context).  I already consider the blurb I wrote too long.

You're welcome to try.  The main problem is probably that I'm too
close to my own words to be an effective editor.  Do consider my
explanations of why I wrote what I did, but I'm probably too close to
those, too.

    Miles> Names are important.

Precisely.  That's why I'm so careful to avoid abusing this one.

    Miles> Muttering on about `true software freedom' and `truly free
    Miles> software' seems to simply try and avoid doing this

No, although I did have some subtleties in mind when I chose that
wording.  The word "freedom" _never_ means "the property of being free
of charge" in idiomatic English.  The phrase "software freedom"
establishes the right context in which to introduce the term "Free
Software", and the rest of the blurb shows concretely how GNU Emacs is
free.  Ie, it's a semi-deliberate "tease", and one PageDown in the GPL
will put the full definition in their faces.  "Truly free" isn't quite
as distinctive, but it does imply no hidden catches even if the reader
insists on interpreting it as a matter of "market price".

    Miles> (not to mention risking flamewars from BSD fans :-).

That's their problem.  As perhaps you know, I am in full agreement
with them on the definition of "truly free software".  However,
Emacs _is_ a GNU project, and here I use the GNU (and OSI![1])
definition.  Since, despite my private opinions, I am personally
comfortable with that, I see no reason why the GNU Emacs project
should avoid an inclusive definition.

[1]  Yes, there are technical differences, but they're small.  AFAIK,
the FSF/OSI differences have to do with the context of advocacy and
concrete application of what are really very similar definitions.

Institute of Policy and Planning Sciences     http://turnbull.sk.tsukuba.ac.jp
University of Tsukuba                    Tennodai 1-1-1 Tsukuba 305-8573 JAPAN
               Ask not how you can "do" free software business;
              ask what your business can "do for" free software.

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