The Original Sin of Free Software

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Today, some 35 years after Stallman’s 4Fs, we can see that Free and Open Source Software is, in almost all conceivable ways, triumphant. It has won its struggles against Microsoft, it is the core of almost all smartphones, it lies at the heart of the networked world we all inhabit.

Amidst all this glory, however, there is something utterly broken about the FOSS world. In short, it is one-sided, devoid of economic rights, and an active agent in the oppression of us all.

As a result of the underlying assumptions and conceptions of the FOSS movement, there is no methodology to require the sharing of changes and improvments with the commons. The entire focus of the FOSS movement is specifically geared towards individual rights, the focus of the Open-Source movement is on ensuring that coporations can freely take the product of individual labour and profit from it.

There is some problematic bits here.

This seems to ignore or be ignorant of the advances the AGPL has made.

There is a lot of conflating between Free Software and Open Source in their cultural diagnosis; which I often feel is a mistake. The RMS formulation of Free Software is consciously neutral on economic considerations. Not because their unimportant, but because their considered a seperate question or axis to be handled separately. Copyright and licenses are likely ill equipped for shipping economic and funding models.

We likely do need more leadership in building funding models around open source. But hitching it to the license isn’t sustainable.

I do think however Eric Raymond and the like do share a big blame for framing “Open Source” in terms of capitalism and business which was an explicit goal of theirs.

Limitations on USE have been considered time and time again and almost always are bad ideas. Im even personally FOND of a few non-FLOSS license which limit use. But concede the practicalities make them bad ideas. One of the few things FLOSS has going for it is wide license compatibility. Limitations on use if popular will quickly fragment things and prevent a whole lot of code reuse.

A requirement to upstream or atleast make all changes available to upstream has been tried on numerous occasions. It has a lot of pragmatic problems, which causes this to be very burdensome in practice and it doesn’t survive paradigm shifts in software distribution well. It can also become very nebulous overtime who or want constitutes upstream.

This Fosdem talk is relevant: FOSDEM 2019 - What did I just agree to?

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