[Top][All Lists]

[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]

Re: [Fsfe-uk] Liberated software

From: Philip Hands
Subject: Re: [Fsfe-uk] Liberated software
Date: Sun, 10 Oct 2004 13:45:03 +0100
User-agent: Mozilla Thunderbird 0.7.3 (X11/20040830)

Chris Croughton wrote:
On Sat, Oct 09, 2004 at 09:40:01AM +0100, Simon Waters wrote:

I think the mistake is to worry too much about the misunderstanding
of the term "free", and concentrate on sending a clear message that
software that doesn't cost anything, but to which you have no right
to inspect, modify, or redistribute, isn't free software.

But it is, that's the problem.  As someone else pointed out, the word
'free' is almost as overloaded as the word 'love', and any and all of
the meanings are as accurate as the others.

All of these things are ambiguous, and it doesn't help much to adopt the Humpty Dumpty "words mean what I want them to mean" approach.

The fundamental problem is that only a tiny percentage of software users know anything significant about licence conditions, be they proprietary, or Free.

Of those, few know anything about the plethora of Free software licenses that we have, or what they might imply.

Of those, only a fraction are aware that things like YaST (under it's old license) or qmail are not Free Software and/or Open Source.

Of those, many are under the impression that Open Source is supposed to be different from Free Software, for example thinking that Free Software means that the software must be under the GPL, whereas Open Source includes BSD, say.

Of the people that are aware that the intent is that FS == OSS, there are presumably some who are unaware that despite the fact that the intent was to mean the same thing, the reality is that FSF, Debian and OSI have managed to differ on the interpretations about things like the APSL 1.x.

So we're left with some tiny proportion of the population that have a clear idea of what the stuff is that the terms "Free Software" and "Open Source" are supposed to describe.

There are many more that are adamant that they know that Open Source means that you get the source and no more, for example, and would tell you that qmail is Open Source, but not Free Software, because it's not under the GPL (or some such nonsense).

It seems that the proposed solution to this lack of understanding is to come up with yet another name for the thing that almost nobody is currently capable of recognising.

Anyone not already in the know is bound to think (as they do about OSS & FS) that if you have more than one name for something it must indicate that there is some important difference between the named things, and that that difference is the defining feature of whatever it is you're talking about.

Forget the name argument, and just explain to people that:

  The software we're interested in (by whatever name) comes with
  permission (or freedom) to modify the software, and redistribute the
  result, without first asking the copyright holder.

  If it doesn't have at least that, then it's not Free Software (as the
  FSF uses the term) no matter how cheap it is, and it isn't Open
  Source (as the OSI uses that term) even if you get to see the source.

  ... and it isn't Liberated Software, even if you stole it ;-)

Once we have a few more people contemplating that licensing distinction, we can start worrying about the best name for the thing to which we're referring, but since we'll probably all be dead long before that happens, I'm not overly worried about that phase of the project.

Cheers, Phil.

P.S. I happen to prefer Free Software as the name, simply because the misunderstanding of that term seems to be easier to deal with than the misunderstanding of Open Source, but I'm not going to waste my breath trying to persuade IBM's or RedHat's marketing departments that they should drop the Open Source term. A regular mention that they are synonyms would be an improvement though.

Attachment: signature.asc
Description: OpenPGP digital signature

reply via email to

[Prev in Thread] Current Thread [Next in Thread]