[ppc-mobo] Re: GNU License for Hardware

John Metzger john_metzger at worldnet.att.net
Wed Oct 13 21:29:06 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)

GPL covered software is not unrestricted. There are very important

> availability of software and the freedom (opportunity) to change it

so long as NO non-free (in Richard's definition of free) software is
impermissibly mixed with the "free" GPL code.

As I understand it (correct me if I'm wrong please) the following isn't
permitted under a strict GPL license. I modify the IBM POP design to include
a USB and Firewire ports. I then want to use a non-free (proprietary, binary
only, third party) USB and Firewire stack, cause that is the only software
I can find to drive the chips (assume no free software exists for those
functions). But I can't mix them with the GPLed Linux kernel because I can't
pass on the source code nor the right to redistribute the USB or Firewire
code, even in binary form, because my supplier wants a per copy royalty for
that code and thus I can't distribute Linux to support my enhanced hardware.

> can only be universally possible by making software
> available free of charge.

that sounds like free beer to me. Some folks just don't know where to find
the free beer, don't want to waste time looking, etc. so they just buy cheap
beer from Red Hat (which is fine).

> 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.)

How is the customer severed by having no software to drive their hardware in
the above example? They should simply wait until "free" software appears or
do without USB or Firewire all together?

> 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
> 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

Partial freedom.

> that he rejects all talk of material
> benefits. Such a stance is terribly self-limiting. Throughout the whole
> 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.

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