Why the distinction between free software and GPL software is important

Art Alexion art.alexion at verizon.net
Sun Apr 29 17:45:58 UTC 2007

On Saturday 28 April 2007 07:43, Graham wrote:
> Art Alexion wrote:
> [snipped]
> > When referring to an object -- like software-- rather than a living
> > thing, most native English speakers probably presume free of cost unless
> > context dictates the contrary.
> Most people understand the concept of "free speech" as being speech
> without restriction, the "free" being understood as freedom.

I agree.

> Free software is about that same freedom, software as you wish to use
> unrestricted.  

> Windows has lots of "freeware" programs, but you would only regard them
> as being free in the sense of no cost.  They are not free software
> because they use an Operating system to make them work that is not free
> as in freedom.

I don't agree with this.  I am not buying the argument that otherwise 
unrestricted software is somehow itself restricted simply because it runs on 
a proprietary environment.  If we bought that logic, Linux -- and Stallman's 
emacs -- cannot be free because they run on proprietary hardware.

> Whether you agree with the stand or not, the modern era of computing and
> the internet started with people wishing to co-operate and share, and
> the community of Linux users has grown because of it.  I think its
> important to keep the philosophy of free software to the forefront,
> because that keeps reminding us WHY we're going somewhere and keeps us
> from taking the path of least resistance to get there (and taking away
> some of our freedoms in the process).

Oh, I do agree with that, and think that an ethic that restricts software use 
because it doesn't meet someone's personal definition of 'free' violates the 
user's freedom.

> I'll leave as your description of software being an object and not a
> "living thing", as there are many in the field of AI who would disagree
> with you :-)

Thank god I am not one of them.  It cheapens life to think that code can be as 

> Graham


Art Alexion

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