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Stallman and Kuhn on the freedom to choose license

Mikael Pawlo
writes:

As
reported by Gnuheter
, a new essay published by Bradley M Kuhn
och Richard M Stallman carries the title “Freedom or
Power?”
. The authors state something that we might have
suspected from
essays from Kuhn and Stallman before
, but now is a little more
clear, if still ambiguous:

“However, one so-called freedom that we do not advocate is
the “freedom to choose any license you want for software you
write”. We reject this because it is really a form of power, not a
freedom.”

The essay is interesting in the light of an earlier essay

published by Eric S Raymond
. Raymond states:

“In other words, Stallman and Kuhn want to be able to make
decisions that affect other developers more than themselves. By the
definition they themselves have proposed, they want
power”.

Tim O’Reilly started the debate with his weblog of July 28,
2001: My
definition of freedom zero
, where O’Reilly states:

“If Freedom Zero for developers is the freedom to offer
software on whatever terms the developer sets and a user will
accept; Freedom Zero for users is the right to choose whatever
software they like, without interference from platform vendors who
try to deny that choice.”

The issue is not simple. Stallman and Kuhn could be attacked on
liberal grounds and even more so on libertarian grounds. This
notwithstanding, you probably find a point in their statement:

“We believe you should decide what to do with the software
you use; however, that is not what today’s law says. Current
copyright law places us in the position of power over users of our
code, whether we like it or not. The ethical response to this
situation is to proclaim freedom for each user, just as the Bill of
Rights was supposed to exercise government power by guaranteeing
each citizen’s freedoms. That is what the GNU GPL is for: it puts
you in control of your usage of the software, while protecting you
from others who would like to take control of your
decisions.”

I am not sure whether Raymond, Stallman or O’Reilly is right,
but to paraphrase Esther
Dyson
: the conversation continues.

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