What's so important about the ethics of free software?

Paul Boddie paul at boddie.org.uk
Mon Dec 19 23:19:22 UTC 2016

On Monday 19. December 2016 21.14.22 Charles Cossé wrote:
> I was not referring to legalities, but responding to your claim that I was
> somehow forbidding them to learn how the program works.  If you have the
> complete source in-hand then you have the ability to learn how it works.
> Your statement remains factually incorrect.

But perhaps the point is that learning how something works may not be 
sufficient. What if you want to apply that knowledge?

What if you want to modify a program teaching letters and words, for example, 
to teach a different alphabet or a different language than the one supported? 
Will the author let you do this or will they bring a case of copyright 
infringement? What if you ask the author to support those things and they 

What if you want to write your own program to do the same thing because there 
aren't any others that might? Does the author then claim that you are 
infringing their copyright, or failing to prove that, do they threaten you 
with infringement of their "special patented techniques"?

Yes, it's great that humans are creative and can make things that educate and 
entertain others, and it is possible to learn things from using proprietary 
software. But proprietary software can have a corrosive effect, tempting 
people into acquiring it and then obliging them to continue doing business 
with companies that exercise the control in the relationship.

Is it ethical to bind educational institutions to purchasing policies that 
they cannot easily escape, and to see them having to spend money on things 
because people (teachers/parents/children/management) expect a particular 
piece of software and then insist on it, regardless of whether it remains the 
right choice?


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