DRAFT FAQ: Free vs. Open

Philippe Verdy verdy_p at wanadoo.fr
Thu Jan 10 21:44:55 UTC 2008

> De : Raj Mathur [mailto:raju at linux-delhi.org]
> It's be unfair, when contrasting a philosophical movement (free
> software) with a pragmatic one (open source), to not mention the raison
> d'être for the philosophical movement.  Does anything remain of the
> free software movement once you take the philosophy away?

Yes! The licences themselves and the rights and obligations they are
conveying. Based on these, you can adopt the philosophy you will, as long as
you respect the licences.

Most importantly, the licences are effectively allowing further developments
and progress and offers very ample space for improvement, without
limitation. That's why the associated software is perceived as "free" like
freedom/liberty, or "open" (to competitors or alternative solutions).

In fact, if all knowledge of the humanity was still in the "closed"
category, progress of humanity would have stalled completely. We all live
and highly depend on common grounds, and this is this common that gives us
freedom in every domain, not just computing, including freedom of speech (we
share common languages, common orthographies, and we also have the right to
modify it or improve it for our needs).

However, this common is regularly under attack by those that want to take
exclusive ownership on it, even if we have inherited it from the many
generations before us. The most threatened common resource is the Earth
itself and its nature and environment, including common sea resources, and
the air we breathe, but also more recently life itself (also subject now to
patents, even if it involves our own cells and constituants, or our own
genetic patrimony).

There's clearly a philosophic concept to consider when we speak about
preserving our rights, the rights of our descendant generations, and our
conditions of life: property can be recognized only as a fair way to
recognize our efforts to preserve the commons and get fair returns from our
work. But it is (and must be) necessarily limited in scope (domain), area
and time: outside this, every created or inherited value has to be shared,
because this is vital for every one on Earth.

You could argue that software is not a vital need, however the usage of
computing technologies is so widespread that it conditions now the existence
of almost everything we use and need today, including when it's up to defend
out public rights (in politics, or in laws). We DO need a commons ground for
software, like we needed it for everything else before computers that we
needed to just get the simple right to live.

But I want to be clear: there's legitimacy in preserving private property,
because this is the way to control that we get fair returns from our
efforts. Free/open software certainly changes the economical model, but it
does not destroy the economy; instead it creates an economy based on small
advancements, but numerous ones, made by many and negociable at any time
between an unlimited number of parties:

That's what I view as the concept of the "Bazaar" economy, in contrast to
the cathedral model. Every economic studies show that globally, the Bazaar
is much more productive and progresses faster than the cathedral, and its
inventive economy benefits to many more people. It is also much more
resistant to crisis, and avoids complete or severe collapse. It is much more
adaptive. In essence, the Bazaar is the economic transcription of natural
life that has also evolved and survived during billions of years even in the
most difficult and ever changing conditions.

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