But what does one talk about with the father of the Free Software Movement?
Freedom of course!
While this post will read as if we had a long and fruitful debate, the truth is I changed the subject when I realized that he was unbending and not willing to accept any observations other than his own. So my observation that there is a hypocritical element to his position was getting nowhere fast.
Steve tried to interject for clarification since we were discussing such a small nuance to “freedom” but even that was met with inflexibility. In fact he repeated his wording exactly as he had before Steve’s question.
Here’s the issue as I see it…
Freedom is an inalienable right. I also believe wholeheartedly that if you have a restriction of any kind you don’t have true freedom.
I also understand that true freedom is rare and elusive. Laws, taxes, social mores and such are all limiting factors. You can have some freedoms, like the freedom of speech, but I also don’t believe the US is a Free country when there are so many questionable laws still on the books (yes, Patriot act, I’m talking about you and your sleezy friends!)
You should also understand that I’m all for of some laws and mores. For instance, when we all know what side of the street to drive on, its good for everyone. You would also misunderstand this blog post if you come away thinking that I dislike the GPL and/or the Free Software Movement. The fact is I’m a fan and have deep respect for the movement as a whole.
As I see it, if you’re going to explain to a crowded room that you can’t…
… call something piracy because it didn’t attack any boats;
… use the term “Intellectual Property” because it refers to multiple laws;
… call an Operating system Linux because the Linux Kernel wasn’t fully effective without the rest of the GNU operating system and vice versa…
Then you must absolutely be certain that you’re not acting hypocritically when it comes to the use of the term “Freedom.”
For me, the question is, how can software really be “free, as in Freedom” when there are restrictions built into it’s license?
Stallman’s stance is that he respects your freedom, but in return you must respect the freedom of others. Then he explained that share alike/copyleft clauses needed to be included because he didn’t want to lose ground. To open up a code base only to have it taken away again isn’t an acceptable situation.
I say that’s a risk you have to take if you’re going to insist that what you’re trying to do is make all software free.
Freedom always comes with a choice. When you have good information and care about the outcomes, you always make the right decision for you. Besides, if information or desired outcomes change, you always have the option to make new choices.
So if you’re to ask for a simple clarification – the Four Essential Freedoms outlined in the Free Software definition do define freedom. However this Free software definition points out that there’s a flaw in copyleft when it states,
“For example, copyleft (very simply stated) is the rule that when redistributing the program, you cannot add restrictions to deny other people the central freedoms. This rule does not conflict with the central freedoms; rather it protects them.”
It’s cleverly written and on quick glance you think “oh it’s about not adding restrictions, that’s Kosher.” But it brings you back to reality when you see that it’s a rule (aka restriction) that needs to be clarified in the second sentence of the quote.
Conflict or not, rules are restrictions and restrictions limit freedom.
Am I the only one seeing this as wordplay and a form of restricting Freedom?