[Fsfe-ie] Re: ethical interpretations of FS

Ian Clarke ian at locut.us
Mon Jan 26 12:50:33 CET 2004

Ciaran O'Riordan wrote:
>>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*
> 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.

Flawed logic I'm afraid.  Consider this equivalent statement:

"If the goal of Christian Aid is to ensure that there is no poverty or 
hunger in the world, and if in 20 years Earth was hit by a comet leaving 
everyone on the planet dead, then Christian Aid will have succeeded."

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

"Your interpretation of the goal of Christian Aid must therefore be 
incorrect since it is not the aim of Christian Aid to ram a comet into 
the Earth".

Pointing out the potential for an undesirable scenario which doesn't 
specifically conflict with the goal of an organization does not imply 
that this goal must be extended to oppose that undesirable scenario.  To 
do so would eventually result in all organizations trying to do everything.

> 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.

Yes, and it is your decision in this case that is at the heart of this 

> 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.

The software is not undisclosed to the person on whose hardware it runs 
- that is all that matters relative to the philosophy of the Free 
Software movement.  Your desire to extend this philosophy is akin to the 
leader of Christian Aid, on the basis of my imaginary argument above, 
spending some or all of Christian Aid's money researching ways to 
deflect comets.

I would argue that this would be mission creep for Christian Aid, just 
as your desire to encourage me to disclose the source code to software I 
run on my computer is mission creep for IFSO.


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