DRAFT FAQ: Free vs. Open

Philippe Verdy verdy_p at wanadoo.fr
Thu Jan 10 22:33:41 UTC 2008

Raj Mathur [mailto:raju at linux-delhi.org] wrote:
> Envoyé : jeudi 10 janvier 2008 04:55
> À : license-discuss at opensource.org
> Objet : Re: DRAFT FAQ: Free vs. Open
> On Thursday 10 Jan 2008, Rick Moen wrote:
> > Quoting Raj Mathur (raju at linux-delhi.org):
> > > I'd avoid the footnote on the awkwardness (or otherwise) of FLOSS;
> > > how about replacing it with FOSS, which is rapidly becoming more
> > > popular anyway and is presumably less awkward?
> >
> > Here's why:
> >
> > When OSI was founded in 1998, one of the main objectives was to
> > overcome the failure of the "free software" public-relations effort
> > to reach a broad audience, the problem being primarily related (of
> > course) to the inherent ambiguities of that term in the English
> > language.  (French speakers, among others, lack this problem.)

It's unfortunate that the moto "free as libre" was not more widely
advertized, instead of trying to convince that this is not "free as a beer",
which is even more confusive because almost all beers are not necessarily
costly or use proprietary receipts. English on opposite has "freedom"
(mostly the same as "liberty") but many people also use the term too
broadly, as if freedom meant no obligation at all, and consider "liberty" as
historically and politically oriented, i.e. non neutral.
Anyway, the term "liberty" exists in English, and the computing industry has
created much enough new terminology. I can't understand why the term "free"
was deprecated in favour of "libre" (yes, it's the French term, but its is
the same root understood in English "liberty" or "liberation" in English and
French, or "libertad" in Spanish).

I won't say that the FSF needed to change its own name, it does not have to.
But this has still created lots of confusion in native English speakers and
authors, that really did not want that their distribution be completely
gratis, even though the GPL did not require this (it is only required to
offer a gratis offer for the sources only, and provide it at a price just
covering the cost of the source distribution support, this cost becoming
mostly void if the sources are just made available on a network accessible
to the public without additional conditions, and where most of the cost is
directly and already supported by the downloader of these sources).

These conditions are even less restrictive as those required by law in some
domains (for example, when participating to a commercial lottery that comes
with advertizing mailings in France, the participant can request the
official rules to the organizer, that MUST also pay back the cost not only
for delivering the reply itself, but also compensate the cost for the
initial postal or phone request, such as postal stamps or minutes of call at
reasonable public price for the basic service: it's up to the advertisers to
support all the costs generated because they have a legal obligation of
providing all information to the consumer required by law without generating
more costs for the consumer, that would be interpreted as illegal hidden

There are similar obligations in commerce in general to protect the
consumer: detailed and signed billing, nor propagating false information,
honouring the contracts and all advertised offers, keeping the secret of
transactions to non-parties to a private commercial contract, detailing the
procedures publicly for official public markets (so that the public can
control them)... All these are "rules of the game". Rules are necessary for
the equity and balancing of obligations by all involved parties.

The key definition of "freedom" is about diversity, choice, and fair
balancing of conditions, not their complete removal (the "jungle law" or the
rule of the strongest body), it privilegiates the right of the living
individuals (each given equal rights and obligations, which may be
aggregated only if these individuals share common interests and are full
part of the same organization or group representing them to defend these
interests); in essence, groups and organizations are accepted (see freedom
of association) as a way to organize this freedom, and initiates the concept
of democracy (i.e. the right of the majority, which still has to be balanced
so that non-party individuals can still exercise their own freedom with
their own limited rights and limited obligations): the largest the group or
organization, the more they agreggate the rights of their members, but also
the more they aggregate obligations to protect individuals and not abusing

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