On receiving an interview request from Uber

J.B. Nicholson jbn at forestfield.org
Sun Dec 18 23:00:11 UTC 2016

Charles Cossé wrote:
> I get the feeling that the FSF communities hold an underlying belief
> that the freedom being espoused is somehow fundamental, as in a
> universal truth or moral oblication.

Software freedom is an ethical issue for the free software movement. This 
is one of the defining characteristics of this social movement and one of 
the things that distinguishes it from the younger, proprietor-friendly, 
right-wing business reactionary group called "open source" which talks 
about a developmental methodology in an attempt to speak more to business 
interests by way of developers.

> But regardless of how hard-line of a stance each individual takes, isn't
> there some irony there?  After all, "freedom" should also mean "freedom
> to license ones software however one pleases"?

You need to catch up on what discussions have been going on for the past 
few decades. This issue is well-covered in 
https://www.gnu.org/philosophy/freedom-or-power.html. In short, no, 
licensing is not a freedom it's a power.

You could also listen to any of the FSF representative's speeches given 
over the past 20+ years many of which are archived at 
https://audio-video.gnu.org/ in formats that favor free software.

> Another point which I'd like to discuss is: Where does FSF draw the line?
> Are there not some instances where not revealing everything is alright?

There are distinctions to be made between generally-useful scientific 
knowledge, artistic & political expression, and information about personal 
lives. Many speeches at the location I've already pointed to cover this. In 
the context of this thread about cars, an ethical arrangement would be one 
where the car owner has complete corresponding source code to their car and 
that software is free software. This arrangement, had it existed for the 
owners of VWs and other makes, probably would have prevented the scandal 
where VW (and others) cheated environmental testing. So we know what power 
proprietary software allows automakers to get away with -- "proprietary 
software in cars is at least equally, if not more, dangerous" as Brad Kuhn 
said in http://ebb.org/bkuhn/blog/2016/08/13/does-not-kill.html.

> We put our faith in closed systems every day, and software is just one
> type. It oseems like this same notion of freedom would/should apply
> everywhere, if it is real or universal, and not just to software.

You should reconsider your use of the word "closed" instead preferring 
"proprietary" or "non-free" because they're clearer and refer to software 
issues that existed well prior to open source. These terms also make no 
reference to open source, and that's appropriate because you're discussing 
the very thing that open source wants to avoid (software freedom) and 
distinguishing along a line that open source doesn't want to distinguish -- 
whether computer users are free to run, share, inspect, and modify the 
software on their computers or not.

Open source doesn't mind proprietary software because for them this issue 
comes down to a developmental methodology which means they might ask for 
permission to develop the software too, but if they don't get that 
permission they're fine endorsing whatever a proprietary software business 
says should be endorsed (see recent announcements of Microsoft's 
proprietary software running on GNU/Linux systems for recent examples). 
This is why proprietary software businesses like open source; putting a 
shine on preserving user subjugation is much like businesses that want to 
come off as environmentally-friendly but don't want to make any substantive 
changes in what they do so they engage in what's known as "greenwashing". 
"The appearance of doing the right thing is eventually more important than 
doing the right thing." as Brad Kuhn pointed out when discussing this 
similarity in his talk https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-ItFjEG3LaA calling 
open source "openwashing". Both the older 
https://www.gnu.org/philosophy/free-software-for-freedom.html and newer 
https://www.gnu.org/philosophy/open-source-misses-the-point.html essay also 
address how denying a user's software freedom is entirely compatible with 
open source but not at all a part of the free software movement.

Unfortunately the only current source I know of for Kuhn's talk is YouTube. 
I recommend using "youtube-dl" to download and see it so you can avoid 
Google's proprietary code, tracking, and specify the format you want. 
used to work but appears down now.

> Taking the case of elevator software, the elevator company would pay the
> developer then give-away their intellectual property.

Copyrights, patents, mask rights, and other grants of power exist. These 
various grants of power last for different times, cover different things, 
and cost different amounts of money to obtain and enforce, so there are 
more factors separating them than uniting them. Therefore mashing them 
together (as the term "intellectual property" does) doesn't convey that you 
understand what you're talking about. Consider adding 
https://www.gnu.org/philosophy/words-to-avoid.html#IntellectualProperty to 
your reading list.

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