Fwd: [Foundation-l] File format policy

Ben Finney ben at benfinney.id.au
Sun Jan 20 10:54:23 UTC 2008

On 20-Jan-2008, Alex Hudson wrote:
> On Sun, 2008-01-20 at 11:41 +1100, Ben Finney wrote:
> > If you truly want the policy to be robust, it's important to avoid 
> > the fallacy that programs can be discretely separated from other 
> > interpretations of digital information.
> That's not a fallacy, it's a difference of opinion.

It's a fact that bit-collections can be simultaneously "program", 
"documentation", "art", and "documentation". Therefore it's a fallacy 
to name those categories and expect that bit-collections will fall 
into exactly one of them.

> It's perfectly possible to talk about digital works in terms of what
> their function is, what freedoms you might need for those functions, 
> and whether or not a work is free for a certain function.

You're saying the freedom of a work depends on the function an 
arbitrary person has in mind for it? Who gets to be that person? What 
if one recipient of the work has a different function in mind for it? 

This logic leads to a single work being both free and non-free. That's 
not a way to draft a robust policy on freedom of works.

> Without the function it's pretty meaningless. You can't point at a
> random binary, without knowing its function but knowing its license, 
> and call it either "free" or "not free".

Certainly I can. It's not at all necessary to know the purpose to 
which a work will be put to come up with a good definition of "free 
software". The FSF already did so, though they insist on only applying 
their definition to programs.

The free software definition requires that works be free to use for 
*any* purpose. Works licensed such that they meet the free software 
definition are free by that definition; others are not. The function 
of the work doesn't need to come into consideration at all. I argue 
that if it *does* come into consideration, then you are making freedom 
of the work contingent on what the recipient intends to do with the 
work, and that by definition isn't free.

 \         "Pinky, are you pondering what I'm pondering?" "I think so, |
  `\     Brain, but what kind of rides do they have in Fabioland?"  -- |
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Ben Finney <ben at benfinney.id.au>
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