FAQ for giving lectures about Free Software (revision 2)

Georg C. F. Greve greve at fsfeurope.org
Fri Jul 7 12:27:10 UTC 2006

Hi Shane,

thanks for taking the time to write the FAQ, I think this could help
many people in their talks. We should consider to put it online on the
Fellowship site, maybe.

That said, I don't have time to comment more verbosely, but there is
one point in particular that I would like to comment on:

 || On Fri, 07 Jul 2006 01:03:04 +0100
 || "Shane M. Coughlan" <shane at shaneland.co.uk> wrote: 

 smc> Q: What about questions about the difference between Free
 smc> Software and Open Source?

 smc> A: "The fundamental difference between the two movements [...]

I know that it is very strong in the United States, but I
fundamentally disagree with the "two movement" notion, and I don't
think that spreading it will help Free Software.

To begin with, I do not think that "let's not talk about freedom" is
sufficient to constitute a different movement. Also, I've met people
who talked about "Open Source" with very different viewpoints and
motivations. It would be impossible to say that "everyone who uses
that term means X."

This is in particular made worse by the fact that the term is used on
two different bases: a) software licensing, b) software development
models. These two have nothing to do with each other, really.

There is Free Software developed in an extremely closed approach, and
there is an increasing amount of proprietary software developed with
more "open" approaches.

While some may find certain approaches more "natural" for Free
Software, ultimately there is no connection between the two, the
development model is irrelevant when it comes to the fundamental
question: do users have the four freedoms?

In the end, I think we have to take it at face value.

OSI -- according to its self description -- proposed "Open Source" as
a marketing term for Free Software. There are different ways to
evaluate the outcome. Looking at the weakening of Free Software's
"unique sales proposition" (freedom), and considering the confusion
and weakening of substance by introducing more ambiguous terminology
with various different meanings, I think that initiative failed.

So it is probably best described as:

 "Open Source was proposed in 1998 as a marketing term for Free
  Software. It failed to transport the essentials and caused much

In other words: There is only the Free Software movement.

Some people refer to it under various headings, including "Open
Source", for various reasons. Often these reasons are based on lack of
insight into how the term weakens the substance, sometimes they are
based on private or proprietary commercial interest in trying to use
the confusion for mislabeling proprietary products and models. Other
reasons exist.

Ultimately, this is only an issue of choosing the most effective
terminology, which requires terminology that does not easily yield to
misappropriation. Free Software is the oldest term, it is the one that
was first published, and the term that has done this job best.

That is why anyone who is interested in clarity of language, which is
especially important to science, law and politics, should talk about
Free Software.


Georg C. F. Greve                                 <greve at fsfeurope.org>
Free Software Foundation Europe	                 (http://fsfeurope.org)
Join the Fellowship and protect your freedom!     (http://www.fsfe.org)
-------------- next part --------------
A non-text attachment was scrubbed...
Name: not available
Type: application/pgp-signature
Size: 314 bytes
Desc: not available
URL: <http://lists.fsfe.org/pipermail/discussion/attachments/20060707/691c5663/attachment.sig>

More information about the Discussion mailing list