#F-0Fighters of the World, Unite!

Forewarning: This is about the fourth attempt at a cogent response to this blog post.

In a footnote to ‘What is free software?’, the reason why ‘the four essential freedoms’ are numbered 0, 1, 2 and 3 is:

…historical. Around 1990 there were three freedoms, numbered 1, 2 and 3. Then we realized that the freedom to run the program needed to be mentioned explicitly. It was clearly more basic than the other three, so it properly should precede them. Rather than renumber the others, we made it freedom 0.

These freedoms could hardly be more anthropocentric. Insisting on a ‘freedom from fatal bugs’, or a ‘freedom to run without human intervention’[1] might be more important for many users, but The Four Freedoms are instead, all about computer software users. Computer software users come first. It is not about improving the quality of software first, but about how computer software is used best:

Roughly, [Free Software] means… users have the freedom to run, copy, distribute, study, change and improve the software.

The fact that corporations have since become F/LOSS ‘users’, critically reliant on F/LOSS is both the reason for it’s triumphant success, and the reason for it’s mopish descent from these first principles.

The Free Software Foundation, (FSF) and Open Source Initiative’s strict insistence that all use cases cannot be revoked, as a matter of principle is an open invitation to Big Tech to join the party whenever they want. They are loving free invitation. It’s all about ‘Free Software’ as in ‘Free Beer’ for them!

Free software is most famously known as being a matter of liberty, not price.

Ironically, it’s price that has been the real cause célèbre. F/LOSS contributes massively to cost savings associated with creating capital goods, (e.g. web infrastructure); creates new markets for bundling proprietary products and services; attracts capital finance and enriches private investors through billion-dollar share repurchasing schemes.

To stop the rapid retreat towards corporatism, the moment to advance software freedom is now.

More than ever, we need ‘Freedom Negative Zero’. We need to join in an historical movement by using licenses that include the freedom to add restrictions on what purposes a program can be used for.


[1]: The most popular convention among pro-business types is to promote a morally tenuous resemblance between ‘software freedom’ - the freedom to use software unencumbered and ‘corporate freedom’ - the freedom to make profits for shareholders without any other obligations.

Good Read: https://mako.cc/writing/hill-when_free_software_isnt_better.html

That’s certainly what activists say. But every time I’ve gone looking, I’ve found more people enthused on price. And I went asking about “free software”, not “open source”. When it comes to price, “free software” is actually a far better tag line! If someone left a couch on the street and put a note saying “open” on it, I wouldn’t feel comfortable carting it away.

The best parry I know for “free as in freedom, not as in beer” is “when’s the last time you paid for free software?”