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Re: Bruce's rhetoric

In article <19971114234654.05397@flora>,
Marcus Brinkmann <Marcus.Brinkmann@ruhr-uni-bochum.de> wrote:
>Actually, you need some lessons in free software history. The term "free" in
>conjunction with software was introduced by, guess it, Richard Stallman
>(RMS). So, I think, "free" has a traditional interpretation in the software
>community, and I get really sick if some authors say that their software is
>free, and in the next sentence you have to send them a postcard, can't use
>it on other systems, or not for commercial use.
>Please look in your /usr/lib/emacs/*/etc/ directory. There is a file named
>WHY-FREE in it. It says:
>"This is why we say that free software is a matter of freedom, not

I've read the "freedom, not price" line many times, and cannot help
but think that RMS and co. are using the term misleadingly.  I know that
-they- understand what they mean by it, and loads of other developers know
what they mean (and I know what they mean; indeed, I'd prefer it if their
usage was understood by everyone...), but the rest of the world doesn't.
However, I cannot for the life of me think of a better term...

I'll explain why I think it's misleading.  When you use a term "free
<something>", the "free" can refer to freedom or price.  If the
<something> is concrete (beer, TV set, meal), "free" tends to refer
to price.  If the <something> is abstract (speech, verse, market),
"free" means freedom.

(I know this split is not perfect -- I'm currently looking at a dictionary
which lists several exceptions -- but it's what I feel is the general

Where the confusion comes from, I think, is that we developers tend to
think of software as an abstract quantity, amenable to modification and
reuse etc.  The rest of the world regards software as a unit of commerce;
they buy "a software product", install it on a PC, and use it.

I'm not sure that those people will understand free software until
they see software as we do, as a form of expression, somewhat abstract,
rather than as a floppy or CD with a price tag attached.

Charles Briscoe-Smith
White pages entry, with PGP key: <URL:http://alethea.ukc.ac.uk/wp?95cpb4>
PGP public keyprint: 74 68 AB 2E 1C 60 22 94  B8 21 2D 01 DE 66 13 E2

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