why free?

Ben Finney ben at benfinney.id.au
Mon Jul 18 02:02:18 UTC 2005

On 18-Jul-2005, Markus wrote:
> But what i don't understand is why should every software be free or
> why non-free software shouldn't exist?

The seminal work on this is Richard Stallman's essay:


The essay has been translated into many languages, links are at the
bottom of that page.

> www.gnu.org/philosophy and the german book "Freie Software zwichen Privat-
> und Gemeineigentum" but i couldn't find a answere of my question. There are
> a lot of arguments about the advantage of free software but no real
> arguments why non-free software is always bad.

My understanding of it is that useful information in any form is
naturally shared between people, and this is a normal, helpful thing
to do with it, regardless of its subject or form.

Is freedom always a good thing? If the benefit outweighs the harm,
yes. I believe that sharing useful information is an act which is so
beneficial that its freedom should be unrestricted.

To restrict the freedom of people to share useful information is an
exercise of power over others.

Is exercise of power always bad? If the harm outweighs the benefit,
yes. I believe that the harm (to all people) caused by attempting to
restrict the freedom of others to share useful information is far more
than the possible benefit (to a single person, or very few people) of
the restriction.

> I think free software has many advantages, in the first place for
> Hacker and "computer-freaks",  what i mean is for people who use the
> computer to create new things and tweak it the way they like it. But
> today many people uses the computer just as a tool or as a toy. They
> aren't interested how it works, like they don't want to have the
> plan for their power drill, TV or phone. They just want to do their
> job and thats it.

They also want to be able to use it for any purpose they need to, now
or in the future, without some "usage license" gatekeeper getting in
the way. For this, they require Freedom 0.

They also want to be able to share it with their friends and
colleagues when they start working on similar tasks. For this, they
require Freedom 2.

They also want to be able to get help using and adapting the software,
and to get timely improvements and fixes, on fair terms for a fair
price. Thus, there needs to be a market for third parties to
understand how the software works and offer their services to the
users. For this, they require that Freedom 1 and 3 are available to

All users of a piece of software, therefore, need all four of the
software freedoms to be available to everyone, even if they do not
enumerate them or use them personally.


 \     "I must say that I find television very educational. The minute |
  `\   somebody turns it on, I go to the library and read a book."  -- |
_o__)                                                     Groucho Marx |
Ben Finney <ben at benfinney.id.au>
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