GNU Philosophy Drives Libre Licence Model

Posted by dcparris on Jan 5, 2006 9:16 AM EDT
LXer; By DC Parris
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  LXer Feature: 05-Jan-06

In light of Tom Adelstein's recent article, "Time to Cull Proprietary Software from Open Source Branding", LXer Editor, Don Parris, reminds users that the GPL exists for a reason.

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LXer Editor-in-Chief, Tom Adelstein, wrote about the need to cull the proprietary software from the libre/Open Source software branding. His argument is that developers and vendors should not use libre software as a ruse to get free development and maintenance for their projects. He went on to say that vendors should make real contributions to the community, rather than paying lipservice to the concept. I wholeheartedly agree.

I hope that people begin to see why the philosophical element of libre software cannot be ignored. Eric Raymond and others have tried to push that aside. In the process, they are not advocating a lack of philosophy, but rather a different philosophy. Open Source is not merely an approach to software development, although it is at least that. It is a rather different philosophy from Stallman's, even if the folks behind it won't acknowledge that. Whether they are intentionally disguising the issue, or blind to the reality is up for debate.

The libre philosophy is the foundation upon which Stallman built the house. Without the philosophy that drove Stallman to write libre software, we lose sight of the purpose - to keep software free (as in freedom). Free software drives innovation and services in ways that proprietary software will never do. Without the philosophy, one can only reach the conclusion - as Raymond did - that the GPL is no longer necessary. Once we reach that conclusion, we can begin to return to the non-free license model, and call the libre software movement a failed experiment.

Ironically, depsite the failures of many to capitalize on the libre license model, libre software is far from a failed experiment. There are too many major and minor GNU/Linux distributions available to even suggest that libre software has failed. I have long understood - and presume most of the community has also - that businesses would have to experiment heavily in order to develop successful business models. How many small-time consultants are in operation because of libre software? Look at the new computer manufacturers stepping up to compete against Dell, HP, and the gang, selling libre operating systems. It's coming together - slowly, but surely.

Many consider Stallman to be to eccentric to deal with. The correct term is uncompromising. He has to be uncompromising because so many out there are compromising his mission and vision - and sneering at him along the way. I wonder where the Christian Church would be today if Paul and the other Apostles had compromised their faith. The fact is, many no longer take the Christian Church seriously today because so many Christians are seen to compromise their faith. Where would America be today if the Continental Congress had compromised on freedom. America would still be subject to English rule had Washington cut a deal with Cornwalis. Stallman recognizes the importance of not compromising our freedom.

I will take issue with Tom's notion the GPL should be used exclusively. Stallman will not likely view Tom's association of the GPL with "Open Source" in any positive manner. However, Stallman recognizes the X-11-styled licenses (There are something like 70+ BSD licenses) as legitimate free software licenses. He may prefer to use the GPL exclusively, but he recognizes that non-copyleft licenses are still free software licenses. I will agre that we should stop allowing vendors to create custom licenses with various restrictions, and call them "Open Source", let alone "free/libre".

Whatever one thinks of Stallman, he developed a license and wrote code because he had a philosophy that drove him to do so. The philosophy did not derive from the code or from the license. The license conveys the philosophy. All licenses convey a philosophy. Legal systems are built upon and convey some underlying philosophy. When we compromise our philosophy, our faith, our freedom, we lose so much more. If your philosophy supports proprietary software, then supporting libre software is a compromise of sorts. It is interesting that proprietary developers tend to be willing to compromise their philosophy, while libre software developers tend to be far more dedicated to their philosophy. I wonder why that is?

» Read more about: Story Type: Editorial; Groups: GNU

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Stallman is 100% correct devnet 14 2,127 Jan 6, 2006 5:01 PM

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