GNU License for Hardware

Tom Hull thull at sco.COM
Tue Oct 12 21:37:42 UTC 1999

One of RMS's more dubious accomplishments is that people all over the world
are agonizing that "free" as in "free software" doesn't have anything to do
with price. Moreover, they soured to the point where they're even disparaging
happy hour (a/k/a "free beer").

The fact is that free (unrestricted) availability of software and the freedom
(opportunity) to change it can only be universally possible by making software
available free of charge. It is precisely the confluence of all of these shades
of meaning that makes "free software" the ideal term.

One way to see this link between free price and the other freedoms that RMS
cherishes is to observe that proprietary software interests restrict those
freedoms precisely in order to limit availability and jack up the price and
profits they covet. (Even to the further detriment of their customers.)

The irony of this is that while RMS keeps harping on the semantics of libre
vs. gratuit, the very first requirement set forth in the OSD insists on free
(no royalty or fee) redistribution for "open source" software. The title may
say "Open Source Definition", but the OSD is the clearest definition of free
software we have to date.

In an earlier email to this group, RMS characterized "the Open Source movement"
as "rejecting all talk of freedom, principle and non-material benefits." It
seems closer to the mark to suggest that it is RMS who has wrapped himself up
so exclusively in the principle of freedom that he rejects all talk of material
benefits. Such a stance is terribly self-limiting. Throughout the whole history
of the capitalist era, freedom and material wealth and comfort have been
intertwined inextricably. And nowhere is the economic benefit of freedom more
clear than in software -- with its unique ability to support near-infinite
reproduction at near-zero cost.

RMS has said that he considers OSI and FSF to be like "two political parties
within our community". Perhaps he has something like the Clinton Republicans
and the Dole Democrats in mind, but it plays more like the two sides of a
Lite Beer commercial: More Freedom! Fewer Bugs! Both are true, and both are
important. Why can't you guys get it together?

Robert J Hale wrote:
> Sign!  I hate to contiue this "SPAM" but I would like to agree and
> disagree with Richard.  Free_____  is not the right word due to the dumb
> conotations people have in the US or English speaking world.
> I think Richard is right that it should reflect the Freedom of ___ but we
> should choose a new word that is not sonomyous with FREE, ie no charge.
> I think someone should get out the dictionary and see what other words
> would bring about the proper understanding and we should reflect the true
> unfettered choice we are bringing into the world.
> My opion here in the north.
> Robert in Alaska
> PS.  Thanks for all you have done Richard.

 * Tom Hull -- thull at, thull at, thull at

More information about the License-discuss mailing list