The point of freedom

Paula on November 15, 2018

Hello guys, how are you doing? I've had in my mind a topic for a while now and I'd love to share and hear from you about it. It's not quite technic... [Read Full]
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I believe in the value of sharing code and solutions publicly. It can create a virtuous cycle of improvement for everyone. However I do not view it as a moral imperative. Because releasing open source software creates a sort of implicit unpaid job for someone (probably yourself) to maintain it. It simply does not make sense to me to be rewarded with a huge burden for trying to help out. Passion could be another reason to take an unpaid job, but I tend not to be passionate about specific solutions to problems -- I would happily switch to a better solution if one came along. So I try to keep the things I release simple or where they can be easily extended without source code modification. But just in case, I also used permissive licenses. I would rather companies internalize the source instead of asking me to add features. Or better yet, I'd rather them make their own open source version that they maintain.

I also think that full products are especially difficult to build as open source, at least until after the core vision for the product has been solidified. Because as humans, when we discover something new we naturally try to use it in every possible way. So you get that person who wants the CRM app you are building to also play music and do time sheets. It's human nature for people to ask. This is already a challenge just working privately with customers/users. So building in public makes it more likely for features to sneak in which dilute the core focus of the product. IMO.


It’s nice to be able to offer the option, for those who want it, to use our code.

When they disagree with a community policy, they’re free to look at what we’ve done and build on it in a different direction.

And if they’re very happy with what we’ve done, they’re welcome to do the same, more out of friendship than disagreement.

It’s a general net win for everyone involved. And it’s a lot of fun!


RMS misunderstands what a freedom is. GPL explicitly prohibits the using of the software as I want if I occasionally want to make money out of it and not give the sources back. The latter is a real freedom, and it was brought widely to the community by Linus. (Also Berkeley and MIT licenses existed before.)

Personally, I am publishing anything I do which is not explicitly under NDA to the public domain for 25 years already. Including, but not limited to source code, poetry, novels, teaching hours. I think I do it simply because it’s kinda in a human nature. I earn enough to pay the bills—and I prefer not to become a bezos.


It's because free software is more about the freedom of others. And GPL does not prohibit making money out of GPLed software. Making money in software is not equal to restricting the freedoms of the people that use that software. That's a single model, and a mostly obsolete one at that.


I doubt I follow.

I said, “GPL explicitly prohibits the using of the software as I want if I occasionally want to make money out of it and not give the sources back.” Do I belong to others regarding RMS?—Indeed. Does my freedom suck?—Indeed.

Thing is, you can still make money out of it if you give the sources back. It totally changes your relationship with the person you're giving the sources to, be it your customer or the whole wide world. That's what Paula's post is about.
RMS probably doesn't understand lots of things, but he understands what freedoms is all about. It's about agency and empowerment, yours and the others. Giving freedom to others is no prohibition for you. You keep all your freedoms as an author (including making money, only not by restricting others' freedoms), but you share some of them with others.

I don’t buy it. You are arguing with either part of my statement. That is a fancy demagogic ploy, but it does not deserve time to confront.

Giving freedom to others is no prohibition for you.

Please let me decide what is a prohibition for me.

GPL implies restrictions. Restriction is an antonym of freedom. That simple.

No, it is not simple. Human societies thrive on the premise that anti-social behavior is prohibited.

Just like killing people is prohibited, arbitrary restrictions to freedom are prohibited.

The GPL is not an arbitrary restriction to your freedom. It exists only because the basic assumption in the software world is that there is no freedom of the user.

As RMS has explained over and over again, in a world where arbitrary copyright laws that restrict user's freedom do not exist, there is no need for the GPL.

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