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Re: [libreplanet-discuss] Gratis software being released as proprietary

From: J.B. Nicholson-Owens
Subject: Re: [libreplanet-discuss] Gratis software being released as proprietary
Date: Fri, 07 Aug 2015 18:16:41 -0500
User-agent: Mozilla/5.0 (X11; Linux x86_64; rv:31.0) Gecko/20100101 Icedove/31.8.0

Pen-Yuan Hsing wrote:
Anyway, thanks again for your input thus far, from what I've gathered
here's some points from what you've suggested:

* Free Software is important for science because it can be peer
reviewed like any other method, and users can trust the methodology
(i.e. software) you created.

This is important, but not of paramount importance. The most important thing is to behave ethically. Treating others ethically when it comes to computer software means granting others the freedoms of free software.

* Free Software development is not uncontrolled. They still get full
attribution/credit and control the official release. Others just get
to submit changes or fork their own versions.

I'm not sure what you mean when you say "uncontrolled" here because that word doesn't mean a lack of attribution. Democratic development of software is naturally controlled by each developer according to their own wishes. People are free to associate as they wish to share their improvements.

* Free Software will be of higher quality.

This is not guaranteed, no matter how one defines 'quality'. Free software is about securing and protecting the four freedoms for all computer users. Thus low quality free software is a more ethical and wise choice than high quality non-free software. With enough development work the program quality will improve. If one is denied the freedom to run, inspect, share, and modify the program only its proprietor determines how that program changes. A proprietary developer's values may not be the same as yours. Since you're not allowed to know what they're doing it follows that you can't trust what they do.

* Even if they one day want to sell this software, keeping it Free
will actually make it easier.

I don't know if this is true as this is a highly subjective consideration, but one's ability to distribute copies of the software for a fee (what I take you mean by selling software) is certainly an attractive point in favor of such a sale for me.

* Free Software will avoid unmaintained software from permanently

Sure; anyone can maintain free software on their own. They could choose to do so without informing anyone else. Therefore there's no way to know if any free program is no longer maintained. The most one can say is if a particular developer is no longer maintaining their copy of a free program.

Finally, I believe there will be great value in creating an extensive
FAQ about Free Software to answer and rebut some of the issues I
mentioned before.
How can we develop something like this?

I recommend the texts on and hearing the talks on the website. These are wonderfully informative and deal with the issues you're raising. Keep in mind that the free software movement has been around 30 years so there's quite a lot of thought covering the topics you're getting into.

I recommend against calling what you're doing "open sourcing" a program as that is a reference to a different movement which favors developmental methodology over software freedom; in fact, that movement does not frame anything they do in terms of ethical action (valuing software freedom for its own sake). There's a couple of essays on this difference:

The older essay:

The newer essay:

both from the same repository of essays I pointed to earlier.

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