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Re: It's time to talk about Free Software

Wichert Akkerman <wakkerma@cs.leidenuniv.nl> writes:

> Previously Joseph Carter wrote:
> > I think it's time to abandon the Open Source, Eric can HAVE it.  We need
> > to wake up those of the community that have a clue and dig in for what's
> > going to be a very long night.
> I don't agree: as long as Eric does not own the Open Source-trademark we
> can do some damage-control.
> Wichert.

I would contend that we can also do damage control without keeping the 
Open Source trademark.  Namely, by publically declaring "Open Source
software is not necessarily free software, some examples are ...; we
dispute strongly the claim that OSS gains the same advantages of free
software - OSS success stories should be scrutinized carefully, to see 
if the success is really a matter of the software in question being
free, not merely Open Source."

Or something like that.

However, what can we do by holding onto the trademark?  Veto ESR's
judgement about what qualifies as Open Source, thus starting a huge
flamewar in which it appears that SPI is out to get ESR and the whole
Open Source movement?  Villify Debian in the eyes of the suits which
ESR has courted?  Even worse, convince business-people that their
worst fears about free software are true - that free licenses breed
dissent and balkanization?  I remember when MS execs were asked for
comment on Netscape releasing Mozilla as free software one notorious
quote ran along the lines: "I don't see why they're destroying their
product in this manner.  In a year or two there will be dozens of
competing, incompatible versions of Navigator out there - it'll be a
complete mess and will be easy for internet explorer to move in and
clean up."  This view probably does not stop at Redmond city limits;
suits are predisposed to see freeing their software as the first step
on the road to chaos (in which there is no consistent profit), and we
don't really want to encourage that view.

What we would really like - that ESR's writings which tout (sp?) the
benefits of Open Source software be reworked to explicitly tout the
benefits of free software - is not something we can make happen by
controlling the Open Source trademark; certainly this will never
happen if we use our control of what ESR has reason to consider his
(under the property model described in "Homesteading the Noosphere")
in such a way as to make him look foolish. (say, by denying Open
Source certification to some license ESR has approved)

In short, yes, it is likely that if we give up control of the Open
Source trademark it will be abused by people who want to gain the
benefits of the labeling without really taking the scary step of
freeing their software.  However, I don't want to deal with it.  If we
retain control of the mark, then we will eventually be confronted with
a choice: either bless (contrary to, I believe, the ideals of many
folks here) software that's non-free as Open Source, or overrule ESR
and company.  Neither action is one I'd like to see SPI take.

I propose we give up the mark with a public statement something like

"SPI's mission is to serve various free software [link to RMS's
explanation of the term] projects by doing all of the legal things
that the actual project members no longer wish to do.  For some time
now, SPI has held the trademark to the term Open Source, allowing ESR
of the Open Source Initiative (OSI) to administer it, under the
assumption that Open Source was simply another name for free software.
However, it has become apparent that while all free software is Open
Source, not all software which has been or is likely to be awarded
Open Source certification by OSI is free [again link to RMS's
definition?].  Therefore, it is the opinion of SPI that OSI is no
longer a free software project.  Rather than cause the factious
confusion that would ensue if SPI were to simply revoke ESR's right to
administer the trademark, SPI has decided to transfer ownership of the
Open Source trademark to OSI.  SPI would like to thank ESR and all the
present and former members of OSI who have made the Open Source
trademark something of value to the business community and have
thereby helped to image the image of free software as well.  However,
we feel that we cannot be a party to promoting software which, while
it may be granted Open Source certification, is not free."

I suggest links to RMS's definition rather than the DFSG because in
this statement I feel that the "why" of free software (that is, why
the DFSG are written the way they are) is more important than the
"what" (that is, the DFSG or other similar laundry lists).

Perhaps preface this statement with something that says "below, when
we say free software, we refer not to monetary cost but to the freedom
of the end user" or some such explanation, for those who get the
announcement via media which do not support hyperlinks.

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