Free software and open source philosophies differ sometimes with radically different outcomes

Paul Boddie paul at
Sat Nov 18 13:54:52 UTC 2017

On Saturday 18. November 2017 07.13.12 Jonas Oberg wrote:
> As has already been said, people sometimes talk about "open source" when
> they refer to the four freedoms, or vice versa. I do not think it's
> helpful for anyone to try to divide people by the terminology they use.
> I can not stress this enough, because it strikes a nerve. I am what you
> might call a neoliberal -- or at least a liberal of some sort. I have
> no patience for socialism and I've never voted for the right.

Neoliberalism and liberalism are not the same thing. And, honestly, if people 
didn't want anyone to mention how terminology is used by different groups and 
why this is done, why was the topic even brought up on this list?

So, an article was published on a site run by a corporation that would clearly 
prefer to rehabilitate the "open source" term, avoiding the use of "Free 
Software" for reasons I have already mentioned. I appreciate that it acts as 
some kind of reminder that the software under the different labels can have 
the same properties, and I understand that people can talk about "open source" 
while actually thinking of "software freedom".

I personally used "open source" myself for quite some time before realising 
that it didn't communicate my motivations. A substantial reason for not 
continuing to use the term was the way "open source" was being used to 
emphasise efficiency and other properties that are orthogonal to the actual 
properties conferred by the licensing, meaning that "open source" was being 
used to advocate unsustainable economic models for Free Software development.

What all this leads to is those people Hellekin mentioned who "have [a] large 
disposable income and sit on top of the pyramid" doing very well telling the 
minions that Free Software licences applying to the code those minions have 
contributed to Free Software projects don't need to be upheld. This, largely 
because those people at the top of the pyramid would like to do things in 
their own personally-lucrative way.

One of those people even went on the record recently to boast that he had used 
his influence to eliminate his employer's financial support for one of the few 
organisations who can be bothered to pursue Free Software licence violations 
to the extent required to uphold the interests of copyright holders and end-
users. Pulling down what is probably a good six-figure dollar salary while 
giving the minions and end-users a promise of "jam tomorrow", compelling them 
to donate what they can spare to remedy the situation, is a pretty good 
example of neoliberalism in action if you ask me.

Maybe such people do use terms like "Free Software" and "software freedom" 
with a straight face, but the hypocrisy would be obvious. Far better for them 
that they use terminology that doesn't make people think about freedoms.


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