[nSLUG] Richard Stallman in Halifax

Daniel Morrison draker at gmail.com
Fri Jan 30 13:20:35 AST 2009

2009/1/30 Joshua B. <juggins at gmail.com>:
> On Thu, Jan 29, 2009 at 9:47 PM, Michael Crawford <mdcrawford at gmail.com> wrote:
>> Regarding the confusion over the two distinctly different meanings of
>> the single English word "free"...

> I don't think the two meanings are all that distinctly different.
> "Free" means unrestricted, the requirement to pay for access, or the
> right to use, is a fundamental restriction.

"I am free", or "I am a free man", which seems to mean, according to
you, that "I cost nothing".  Or perhaps, that I have the freedom to
charge whatever I want for myself, including "nothing".

How do you explain that most every other language in the world has two
separate words for the two separate meanings, if in fact they are not
"all that distinctly different"?

> You can't impose a
> requirement to pay for something unless you have the power or right to
> restrict its use. The freedom to use something without paying is just
> one of many possible freedoms that exist in addition to the four
> enshrined in the FS manifesto.


To be able to use something without paying for it is NOT a freedom.

Freedoms apply to people.
Zero cost applies to objects and services.
Only living animals fall into the category of being both 'free' (to
run wild) and 'free' (zero cost in pet shop), mainly because we can't
make up our minds whether animals are property or beings.

Free software can be free, or it can cost money.  Proprietary software
can be free, or it can cost money.

However neither software have inherent "freedoms".  "Freedoms" apply
to people, not things.

> If "Free" means only the four freedoms then it's definitely a narrower
> reading of "free" which encompasses all conceivable freedoms.

Challenge: name a "freedom" which is not permitted by Free software.
Hint: a restriction (i.e. the right to restrict distribution of
portions of the software, such as the source, is not a freedom).

You are falling into the proprietary software developer's carefully
laid trap.  You are saying that Free software must be bound ONLY by
the the "Four Freedoms". In fact it does not, and even the four
freedoms are optional.  You don't HAVE to run the software, you don't
HAVE to study the source code or make changes, you don't HAVE to
distribute copies, and you don't HAVE to distribute modified copies.
You may, if you wish, read it as poetry, set it to music, set it on
fire, or ignore it completely...

> I think
> it is characteristic of ideologues to define down terms until they are
> narrow enough to be preached in unequivocal terms. However, it would
> be more intellectually honest to start with a term that is
> sufficiently specific in the first place, or to coin a word for your
> own purposes than latch on to a general term taking advantage of its
> mass appeal and then attempt to impose restrictions on it.

I think you're passing judgment based on a faulty premise, namely,
that Free software is somehow only free from some narrow viewpoint.
Only once you establish this premise, can you start to say that RMS is
distorting the concept of freedom.


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