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[gNewSense-users] Morality, Services, and Source code

From: Peter Rock
Subject: [gNewSense-users] Morality, Services, and Source code
Date: Mon, 05 Feb 2007 19:15:57 +0100

> Date: Mon, 05 Feb 2007 01:29:08 +0200
> From: Yavor Doganov <address@hidden>
> Subject: [gNewSense-users] Re: Freedom and webapps
> To: address@hidden
> Message-ID: <87veih4i4b.GNU'address@hidden>
> Content-Type: text/plain; charset=US-ASCII
> Peter Rock wrote:
> > 
> > > Likewise, but remember: The goal of the Free Software movement is
> > > to liberate everyone.
> > 
> > We can only point to the door. We cannot make people walk through
> > it.
> Certainly, but by applying certain principles in our behaviour we can
> raise awareness of these issues.  Saying "I won't join your project
> because it is hosted on a site that doesn't respect users' freedom" or
> "I won't send you a message because I don't use non-free IM protocols"
> may sound funny, but if we all raise and do this, we will prevail.

It does not sound funny at all if this is the case. But when Google
keeps secret its source code for Gmail but does not require me to
install any proprietary software on my machine to use Gmail, I do not
see any problem if they keep secret the source code. That's their

> > I understand that corporate entities are a major issue. However, in
> > the context of free software, the only question is "what is the
> > status of the software's copyright and patent portfolio". So long as
> > these come up clean, it matters not if the software is engineered
> > and distributed by a corporation or not.
> It doesn't matter if it is developed by a company, I hope that more
> and more companies will develop free software.  A corporate entity is
> not an issue, it becomes and issue when the company becomes large and
> powerful as Disney.

In the case of software, the only issue is the copyright and patenting
of the source code. The size of the company matters not. In fact, the
bigger the better if they are making exclusively free software. 

> > > I think that if I vote for something through a webapp, or if I
> > > place a bet for horse races, or if I order a remittance to my
> > > bank, or if I buy a mips machine from the US through eBay, or
> > > merely any operation I can think of, I have the moral right to
> > > know how that system works.
> > 
> > Of course. So make sure the webapp you are told to use is free
> > software. Or the voting machine or banking machine...etc. 
> It is not, in most cases.  When I protest, I'm told that this is a
> "service" and it doesn't affect my freedom.  I don't think that's the
> case, so I refuse to use it.

If the webapp does not require you to install proprietary software on
your machine, then there is no reason to protest.

> > Every machine that you own or are told to use as a citizen should
> > run only free software.
> It is wrong, I think, to judge based on the ownership of the machine.
> That way of thinking will lead us to conclusions that we cannot
> accept.  It is a dangerous path.

Well we can then judge based on the ownership of the copy of software if
you like. We can even imagine for a second that software needn't
hardware. Now if all the software I have is free, then I have no
problem. Even if someone else runs a service on their aggregated
proprietary packages that allows me to connect to their aggregation.
That's unfortunate for them that their software is non-free, but I still
don't see how that is my problem so long as they don't require me to
make a package of mine non-free in order to use their service.

> I have machines (not all of them are my property)

You've lost me already with this contradiction.

> How about machines at schools?  They are not property of the students,
> they're provided as a service by the school administration to
> facilitate the education process.  It would be a grave mistake to say
> that only the school (e.g. the "user" in our context) loses its
> freedom.

The school is the students. So if the school has lost its freedom, so
have the students. Therefore, software on school machines should be

> The same goes for public libraries and for companies as well.  I don't
> think that it's right the employer to force the employee to use
> non-free software.  I refused to accept such usage several years ago
> and I'm still not fired.

Good for you. I totally agree with this statement. It is not right to
ever force anyone to use non-free software.

> Following this logic we can say, and it won't be wrong in that sense,
> that Microsoft is providing a service to the people to use a computer
> for office work, education, entertainmeent, etc. -- that their OS is
> merely a service.

I don't understand.

> > > There is not even one reason for anybody to hide the source code
> > > of any software,
> > 
> > I disagree. I don't see any reason for anybody to publicly
> > distribute software and hide its source code, but I think people
> > should have the right to make software and keep their source code
> > secret.
> Of course they ought to have that right.  But if you write some code
> and use it yourself, nobody is affected but you.  Technically
> speaking, that software is free software for its only user.  But if
> you let me use the program, or let me use the service that this
> program facilitates (as you seem to call it, for me it's nearly the
> same thing), I expect to have the same freedoms that you have.

I guess this is where we disagree. If I write a program it is free. And
let's say I put it on a server that allows others to connect to it with
free software and a free protocol. I don't think I should be obligated
to release the source code and allow others to copy it. It may be in my
best interest to do so, but at worst, what I've done is stupid - not


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