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Re: [libreplanet-discuss] ethical edtech edit-a-thon

From: Aaron Wolf
Subject: Re: [libreplanet-discuss] ethical edtech edit-a-thon
Date: Fri, 15 Mar 2019 20:12:24 -0700

On 2019-03-15 7:25 p.m., wrote:
> On 2019-03-13 08:30, Aaron Wolf wrote:
>> On 2019-03-13 7:05 a.m., wrote:
>>> I follow what you're saying about open/open source and not demonizing
>>> it, but would you mind clarifying the part about open source not really
>>> being different? What is it in near unity with?
>> The set of licenses that the OSI approves as "Open Source" and that
>> FSF/GNU approves as "Free software" is near unity. Hence, the set of all
>> software in the world that is "Open Source" is near unity with the set
>> of software that is "Free/libre".
>> The distinctions are almost not worth mentioning. The Watcom license
>> *requires* the publishing of changes, even changes for only private use
>> — and the OSI approved it while FSF did not. The FSF has approved a
>> couple licenses the OSI felt were just not legally clear enough but no
>> other objections… almost no software in existence uses any of the
>> disputed licenses.
>> Now, there's DEFINITELY philosophical distinctions. People often get
>> confused because of how strongly Richard Stallman pushes against "Open
>> Source", but if you look carefully, he always says "call it Free/libre,
>> don't call it Open Source" and similar. He cares what we call it, but he
>> doesn't want people to think that "it" is a different thing per se.
>> Besides political/philosophical issues, the practical matter is that
>> lots of people in the "Open Source" perspective make FLO software
>> specifically for use in *proprietary* end products while the
>> "free/libre" perspective opposes the creation of proprietary software.
>> But they still acknowledge that the "Open Source" *part* of the
>> proprietary development is unambiguously "free/libre" software.
> I guess for me it comes down to the fact that, while yes they are 'near'
> unity (open source and free/libre), the differences between them are
> great enough that a pioneer of free software and the pioneer of the
> copyleft paradigm is adament that the terms should not be conflated.

YES, RMS strongly opposes the conflation of "Open Source" and
"Free/Libre" as *terms* but he does not emphasize the idea that we
shouldn't conflate the *software*.

> As a proponent of both open source and free/libre (which is also open
> source admittedly, but with additional benefits). Of course it could be
> argued that open source has it's 'benefits'. But as Richard Stallman
> points out,(maybe one could argue it's just his point of view, but it's
> a pretty defensible point of view, imo) the benefits espoused by OS/OSI
> are mostly practical advantage and aren't a 'movement of freedom and
> justice' as he (and many others) view the free/libre movement. I'm new
> to the discussion/distinction myself so I looked into it a bit after
> reading the article you linked. Stallman's words on the subject are here
> if anyone isn't familiar.

To be clear, the article I linked has that in a footnote, it's directly

> His perspective is summed up here I think.
>> The terms “free software” and “open source” stand for almost the same
>> range of programs. However, they say deeply different things about
>> those programs, based on  > different values. The free software
>> movement campaigns for freedom for the users of computing; it is a
>> movement for freedom and justice. By contrast, the open     > source
>> idea values mainly practical advantage and does not campaign for
>> principles. This is why we do not agree with open source, and do not
>> use that term.
> So, while, they're NEAR unity as you say, the differences are actually
> great enough that he does not not agree with them.

For perspective, RMS is picky about lots of words (and I'm not saying
he's wrong necessarily, though I don't agree with everything precisely).
He says we should say "Digital Restrictions Management" rather than
"Digital Rights Management" for example. I agree with him 100% there.
But those are two terms for *exactly* the same thing.

It's like saying whether we say "illegal immigrants" versus
"undocumented immigrants" — the political ramifications are significant,
the meaning matters, but we're 99% of the time talking about the same
immigrants. Maybe it *matters* not to conflate the terms, but it would
be wrong to insist that they refer to substantially different people.

> Additionally, from the link you posted, it seems clear that the OSI has
> held quite different perspectives on open source than it does even now,
> and of course they could change course in the future. For those reasons,
> I agree that the distinction should be kept clear for everyone,
> especially new-comers like myself. I've extolled 'open source' but I
> will likely (after more research) shift to free/libre and speak more
> clearly when discussing OS vs Free/libre. I think all of the real
> enthusiasm in the space (the sustainable enthusiasm) is due to the
> additional philosophies espoused and championed by the free/libre movement.

I'm with you here. I still today see lots of people using "Open Source"
with NO care for the free/libre values. I often have conversations where
I bring up this semantic debate as part of emphasizing that *I* feel the
free/libre issues matter. If people say "free/libre", I know they
understand those values at least somewhat. If they just say "free" I'm
less sure (because of the ambiguity of the term), and if they just say
"open source" I have no idea. Likewise, if they say "FLOSS" I'm not sure
because at some point any term kinda loses its edge when it gets used
enough. The "President" of the U.S. was named that to emphasize nothing
more than *presiding* and intended to be not much honor and nothing like
the power of a King. But because it has power, the term has come to have
a feeling of extreme power and importance.

> Of course, the article you linked also talks about the advantages of the
> open model and community contributions. Those are also great causes to
> champion. I think the free/libre movement includes that though, and goes
> further, so again, the distinction is important.

The free/libre movement *can* emphasize openness, but there are lots of
cases where free/libre software is developed without much transparency
and just sort of thrown-over-the-wall with very little room for
collaboration. But it's NOT that free/libre promotes that, it's just
that "open" promotes the collaboration more explicitly.

> Of course, the movement isn't about dictators or absolute authorities,
> so discussion is healthy. These are the things I've learned from the
> free/libre movement.

>From my view, if we could erase all the uses of "open" and "open source"
and make everyone use only free/libre, that would be fine. But we can't.
And I see all sorts of downsides (including the errors in this thread
that I initially replied to) when people see "open source" and try to
imagine how it is something *entirely* different.

So, "free/libre" actually refers to all licenses that allow the four
freedoms. Nathan here had the error of thinking "free/libre" meant only
GPL-compatible. But a common *wrong* view out there is that "free/libre"
refers *only* to GPL-style copyleft and that even GPL-compatible
permissive licenses don't count. That sort of confusion comes up because
people try to make sense of WHY these different terms are used.

So, whatever term you prefer, it's important that people understand that
it's nearly-all the same software, just like the analogies I mentioned
above about political terms in other cases.

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