Why the distinction between free software and GPL software is important

Art Alexion art.alexion at verizon.net
Sun Apr 29 18:18:04 UTC 2007

On Sunday 29 April 2007 13:45, Art Alexion wrote:
> 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.

 I rethought this after reading my post.  No software can't be free in this 
sense, and neither can speech.

When one refers to free speech, it is nonsense to think of the speech as free.  
It is the speaker who is free.  The speech cannot be free.  It has no will of 
its own to encumber.

In the same sense, the speaker cannot, by his or her self, be free.  The 
speaker's freedom derives from a social pact with the community in which the 
speaker acts.  It is that community that permits the speaker's freedom.

Likewise, software cannot be free because it has no will of its own.  It is 
the community that endows the freedom to recipients -- listeners in the free 
speech metaphor -- to use the software as they please.

Do I think any of this is really important?  Mostly not.  I just hate it when 
windbags, like Stallman, try to impose a reality with flawed intellectual 
foundations.  So often such self espousing proponents of freedom tend to 
spend a lot of time telling others what they should or should not do.


Art Alexion

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