ethical interpretations of FS (was: Re: [Fsfe-ie] Patent letter #3)

Ciaran O'Riordan ciaran at
Sat Jan 24 23:09:31 CET 2004

Ian Clarke <ian at> writes:
> I think it is important to be clear on what an organization's
> philosophy does and does not imply, and besides, debating is fun!

of course :)
onward indeed...

> I believe the philosophy of free software is that you should have
> access to the source code to the software that *you* run on *your*
> computer

By this claim, if in twenty years time all computing is done via Free
Software thin clients accessing unknown or proprietary software on other
computers, the Free Software movement will have succeeded.

Your interpretation of the FS philosophy must therefore be incorrect
since that is obviously not the aim of the FS movement.

> If having shell accounts on MS Windows boxes helped to advance the
> cause of IFSO in some way, [...] I think we would be failing the IFSO
> were we to refuse remote shell accounts on a Windows box,

Most Samba developers have MS Windows boxes, and the GNOME hackers in
RedHat have a shared MS Windows box.  I think this is ok because they
are working to make freedom more accessible to others, and this
accessibility cannot be achieved without access to certain pieces of
proprietary software.

Similarly, 20 years ago when there was no Free Software operating
system, Stallman used Unix to write GNU.

So I accept that there can be justifications for the use of proprietary
software, but these situations are so rare that we can ignore them until
they happen, and we can decide on a case by case basis if they do.

> I think that it is very important that people involved in the IFSO
> (indeed any organisation) be extremely cautious about "ethic creep".


The current system that IFSO uses for collaborating on documents is
all Free Software (GNU Mailman, Python, GNU/Linux, Exim).

You've suggested moving to a system that involves Free Software thin
clients accessing undisclosed software.  I see that as negative ethic
creep, and there is no necessity for the creep.

Ciaran O'Riordan
Irish Free Software Organisation:

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