01.13.20

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Open Letter to Richard Stallman About the Free Software Movement

Posted in FSF, GNU/Linux at 1:34 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

By Thomas Grzybowski and figosdev

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Summary: New letter to the founder of GNU and the FSF; the authors “wish to have it published as an open letter as well.”

Dear Richard,

This is a open letter of concern about Free Software and the Free Software movement, which a number of people share. It’s about a loss of freedom in the Free Software domain which we see taking place. I would like to present our concern to you here:

“There is a developing view in some areas of the Free Software community that the tech industry – much as a whole – is looking at Free Software as a goldmine for their exploitation.”Now I think we can agree that the raison d’être for technology industries is profit. And the Free Software movement is not against profit, as such. A fair and logical progression from the premise that industry is essentially about making a profit would be that industry is motivated to make a profit from Free Software. Now that may be okay, and then again, it may not… There is a developing view in some areas of the Free Software community that the tech industry – much as a whole – is looking at Free Software as a goldmine for their exploitation.

First I would like to suggest a slight shift in meaning to the term “Free Software”. I think you will agree that Freedom is a practical matter, which is to say it is realized in practice. Another way to put this: it is not the software which is intrinsically free (software does not care), it is the users/developers who become free upon their use of the “free” software. Now, if the users’ ability to (“freely”) benefit from the freeness licensed in a software project is in any way impacted, the users are losing some portion of their software freedom.

“The license remains as-is, but yet system elements or a non-free development environment can make the software far less free.”The major mechanism for the protection of Free Software, Users, and their Four Freedoms, has been the GPL. And the GPL has worked very well. This may have lead to an over-reliance on this single device. Entities which strive to take advantage of the vast resources encompassed by the FOSS ecosystem have been searching for ways to better benefit themselves beyond that which is given to them by the GPL and the Four Freedoms. They seem to have found some ways.

How is this being accomplished? In general, through the implementation of processes (and code even) which gives certain entities more and more control over the software. The license remains as-is, but yet system elements or a non-free development environment can make the software far less free. Keep in mind that “control” is closely akin to “ownership”, and so means of control can thus be monetized. There need be no malice nor overt malfeasance involved, yet the loss of freedom prevails. I hesitate to name examples here, as these projects and environments are even now areas of controversy. I hope you are open to explore this perspective in more detail.

Thank you,

Thomas Grzybowski and figosdev

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