Is lack of software freedom a valid reason for refusal?

Florian Snow floriansnow at
Fri Sep 22 13:57:26 UTC 2017

Hi Carsten,

Thank you for your email.  Those are some interesting questions, even if
the situations may not arise quite like that in reality because those
are usually jobs available that don't pay well and require little formal
training.  So the unemployment office would eventually resort to
offering you one of those.  I will answer in more detail below because I
still think it is a good debate to have because it helps us flesh out
the details of our philosophical position.

Carsten Agger <agger at> writes:
> * Suppose I'm unemployed and dedicated to only using free software - I'm
> offered a job where I'll have to use Windows and Microsoft Word. If I
> refuse the job because of software freedom. Can I still be claim
> unemployment benefit?

I am not sure it would be necessary to refuse that kind of job.  I
wouldn't want to have a job like that, but I am not sure that taking it
would be detrimental to software freedom as a whole.  Perhaps setting a
bad example by using non-free software may hurt our movement and if you
use non-free formats to communicate with other people.  Your own
software freedom may or may not be affected.  There are plenty of
companies out there that use Free Software on their employees computers,
but don't let them change even the configuration because it is
controlled centrally.  In those cases, there is no practical difference
between Free Software and proprietary software.  As I said, I still
wouldn't like it though.

> * I'm an unemployed programmer and get offered at job where I have to
> *write* proprietary software - I refuse because I won't participate in
> taking users' freedom. Can I still be claim unemployment benefit?

I think the question of getting benefits comes down to the same as the
first question:  Is there another job available for you and will the
government accept your reason for refusing the job?  I think the first
one is usually true, but what if this job programming non-free software
is the only job in the world?  Then you would be in trouble most
likely.  Perhaps you could treat your prinicples as a religious belief
and that might help in certain countries (probably not in Germany) or
you could treat your principles as a mental health issue.  Other than
that, I don't think you could refuse the job.

> * I want to park my car in the city, but it's only possible to pay by
> downloading one of two proprietary apps (real-world situation in
> Copenhagen) on my smartphone. Can I refuse to pay an eventual fine on
> the grounds that I couldn't pay?

No, you get a fine because you have the choice of parking elsewhere.
The situation is essentially the same for people without a smartphone.
If there is an alternative solution for them (pay by phone call or text
message), then you could use that as well, but if there isn't both
situations pose the same problem.

If it is a private company that uses those apps, then I see no issue at
all.  If it is the government, then I would say the government should
generally not force its citicens to use non-free software.

Happy hacking!

More information about the Discussion mailing list