It's Time to Talk About Free Software Again

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Bruce Perens

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Feb 18, 1999, 3:00:00 AM2/18/99
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It's Time to Talk about Free Software Again

I'm Bruce Perens. You may know me as the primary author of the Debian Free
Software Guidelines and the Open Source Definition. I wrote the Electric
Fence malloc() debugger, and some pieces of Debian. And you may remember
me for having brought the TIGER map database to free software. If you want
copies of that, you can get them through Dale Scheetz <dw...@polaris.net>.

About a year ago, I sent out a message announcing "Open Source". Eric Raymond
and I founded the Open Source Initiative as a way of introducing the non-hacker
world to Free Software. Well, thanks to Eric, the world noticed. And now it's
time for the second stage: Now that the world is watching, it's time for us
to start teaching them about Free Software. Notice, I said Free Software,
_not_ Open Source.

Most hackers know that Free Software and Open Source are just two words for
the same thing. Unfortunately, though, Open Source has de-emphasized the
importance of the freedoms involved in Free Software. It's time for us to
fix that. We must make it clear to the world that those freedoms are still
important, and that software such as Linux would not be around without them.

One of the unfortunate things about Open Source is that it overshadowed the
Free Software Foundation's efforts. This was never fair - although some
disapprove of Richard Stallman's rhetoric and disagree with his belief that
_all_ software should be free, the Open Source Definition is entirely
compatible with the Free Software Foundation's goals, and a schism between
the two groups should never have been allowed to develop. I objected to that
schism, but was not able to get the two parties together. Another unfortunate
fact is the certification mark dispute which has gone on between Software in
the Public Interest and the Open Source Initiative for a whole year. That was
entirely my fault.

Sadly, as I've tended toward promotion of Free Software rather than Open
Source, Eric Raymond seems to be losing his free software focus. The Open
Source certification mark has already been abused in ways I find
unconscionable and that I will not abide. I fear that the Open Source
Initiative is drifting away from the Free Sofware values with which we
originally created it. It's ironic, but I've found myself again siding with
Software in the Public Interest and the Free Software Foundation, much as I
did in 1995. I feel that the Open Source Definition, which was copied from
the Debian Free Software Guidelines, should still be our touchstone, and I'll
be working to promote software that fits that definition, but independently
from the Open Source Initiative.

Thanks

Bruce Perens


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a...@luvmusl.net

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Feb 18, 1999, 3:00:00 AM2/18/99
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I'm interested in learning about this, Bruce. While avoiding
the use of names on any points of antagonism (avoiding "flame"
buttons, friends), in what ways has the Open Source Definition been
deviated from?

IMO, it would be nice to see many _of the best_ developers and
systems analysts able to make a livelyhood at working with Linux for a
long time without marketing moguls buying it all away. It also seems
to me that it benefits us all to give _everyone_ a chance at a good
education and career, regardless of early income, without draining
resources from governments via student loans. ...any correlations
here?

Art

On Wed, Feb 17, 1999 at 07:27:09PM -0800, Bruce Perens wrote:
> It's Time to Talk about Free Software Again
>

Bruce Perens

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Feb 18, 1999, 3:00:00 AM2/18/99
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From: a...@luvmusl.net

> I'm interested in learning about this, Bruce. While avoiding
> the use of names on any points of antagonism (avoiding "flame"
> buttons, friends), in what ways has the Open Source Definition been
> deviated from?

I'm afraid that anything I say on debian-user would end up on Slashdot.
I don't want to sound "catty" in public, and would rather be done with
that argument than stretch it out any longer. If you really need to know
about this, it would be best to call me on the phone, US Pacific time
10AM-9PM, at 510-526-1165.

> IMO, it would be nice to see many _of the best_ developers and
> systems analysts able to make a livelyhood at working with Linux for a
> long time without marketing moguls buying it all away. It also seems
> to me that it benefits us all to give _everyone_ a chance at a good
> education and career, regardless of early income, without draining
> resources from governments via student loans. ...any correlations
> here?

I'm not sure I understand the question. My concern is with having a good
set of _free_ software that does lots of things. I'm not against non-free
software, but I really dislike non-free software that masquerades as free.
Some people criticize my promotion of free software because they think it
keeps people from making a living writing non-free Linux software.

I hope that makes sense.

Thanks

Bruce

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