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Re: Fedora Freedom and linux-libre

On Jun  9, 2008, Les Mikesell <lesmikesell gmail com> wrote:

> Alexandre Oliva wrote:
>> The tolerance for non-Free Software in Linux's sources (and anywhere
>> else), be it non-Free firmware blobs, be it drivers developed under
>> NDA (whose code is obscured and harder or impossible to understand and
>> adapt to one's needs as a consequence of the NDA), all revolve around
>> acceptance, endorsement and even promotion of unethical practices that
>> I don't want to condone or participate in.

> Not wanting to participate in distributing code without source is one
> thing; calling it unethical is something else and implies that
> everyone else is wrong for doing it.

Merely distributing non-Free Software is not unethical [intent or
disregard for harm upon others], it's only immoral [harmful to society
at large].  It's imposing the restrictions that render Software
non-Free that's unethical.  Accepting them, passing them on,
encouraging others to do so are all bad, but they're not as much of an
aggression as initiating the disrespect for others.  In fact, most
users who accept such disrespect, and many who pass it on, are more
victims, even though they're ultimately helping the aggressors.
Failure to resist violence does encourage the aggressor to keep on its
act, but being overpowered is not the victim's fault.

> And again, vendors who distribute code without source are not
> necessarily unethical

I don't see how else to describe it.  It's willful deprivation of
useful information for understanding and improvement of one's copy of
a program, and deprivation of additional contributions to society.  I
don't care how market pressure or other reasons one may use to justify
such acts to one's own conscience.  Such reasonings as "it makes
business sense" or "it's more profitable" or "other businesses do it"
could be used to justify slavery as well.  Although slavery deprives
people of more fundamental freedoms, dependency on technology nowadays
is growing the importance of the not-so-fundamental human rights that
amount to the 4 essential freedoms of the Free Software definition.

> Personally I consider competition and equality (i.e. having your
> choice of components) to be much more important than source
> availability for any component.

Source code is essential for only two of the four freedoms, so don't
bother focusing only on that part.  Don't let yourself be misled by
the term 'Open Source'.  Even open source activists know it's not just
about the source being open.  It's a matter of not being artificially
prevented from doing a number of things that every software user
should be entitled to do with their own copies of software, just like
they're entitled to store whatever they like in cupboards they
purchase, figure out their functioning, remove internal walls to make
room for larger items, and create other identical or different
cupboards for themselves and for others.  Same goes for chairs,
tables, houses, bikes, etc.  The fact that software is mostly
intangible should make all this all easier, rather than becoming a
tool to create dependency and control people.

> Thus restrictions on combining and redistributing components are
> much more evil, unethical, and detrimental to long term developments
> than any current NDA or binary blob could ever be.

I agree with that to a large extent, but it's the law.  As long as the
law is the way it is, it can be at least put to a better use, to
maintain a level playing field.

Remember, the GPL doesn't prohibit combining or redistribution, it's
the law that does; the GPL permits very broad cases of combination and
redistribution that respect others' freedoms.

But then, see, I'm not trying to prohibit anyone from creating this
combination that contains non-Free Software or distributing it.  What
I'm concerned about is maintaining a variant that doesn't contain any
such non-Free Software, and offering it to whomever might be
interested in using it.

Alexandre Oliva         http://www.lsd.ic.unicamp.br/~oliva/
Free Software Evangelist  oliva {lsd ic unicamp br, gnu.org}
FSFLA Board Member       ¡Sé Libre! => http://www.fsfla.org/
Red Hat Compiler Engineer   aoliva {redhat com, gcc.gnu.org}

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