Where I stand on Freedomware
It's good news, to say right off. As some might know I've had a big paradigm shift in my mind for the last months when I found myself believing in what I never thought I'd believe in, yet now it feels like a natural progression of who I was. I became a voluntaryist, someone who believes all human action must be voluntary and not coerced and someone who is for that reason alone against government. "Voluntaryist" is essentially an "anarchist", but while the latter points out what we are against (coercion, government) the former points out what we are for (voluntary action, free market, peace).
This frankly put me at odds with my prior beliefs in Free Software. No longer believing in copyright law, how do I approach Freedomware licensing? Seeing non-initiation of force and fraud as the central and universal moral, is proprietary software really immoral? Those and similar questions coupled with the fact that I occasionally feel so much more passion for these newly discovered voluntaryist ideas that Freedomware movement seems like fighting the consequences rather than the cause yet I was so deeply involved with Freedomware via this web site and my plans for Freedomware campaigning - I just had to think it all through to see what my final decision about it should be, no matter what it is.
Well, the good news is that I have ultimately decided to continue supporting Freedomware and fairly actively so I hope. What's changed is only that I no longer accept strategies of promoting Freedomware which rely long-term on the state and its coercion. I also am no longer a Free Software purist who would call people who release or use proprietary software as immoral because, if they aren't forcing anyone, the argument I can make for its "immorality" is just too weak. I can't see it as immoral anymore.
What I feel makes Freedomware nevertheless important, worth promoting and simply in most cases a better option for a computer user are the following. These points form the basis of what I see as the cause of Freedomware from now on:
- The Culture of Sharing - The whole mentality of openness towards people sharing, of willfully providing a copy of software under no terms or under terms which allow you to do anything you might ever want to do with it. This can't go wrong. It's a Good Thing to support whether we are in a government coerced society or in a free market. Sharing is always good.
- The power of source code - I find this to be extremely important. When everything fails, the governments and their corporados start using technological means to restrict your freedoms, to force certain rules of living upon you (including how you use your own property), how can we fight back if not with technology and how can we use technology (so dependent on computers today) without source code. Access to the source code is a precondition to freedom indeed.
- Property rights - People should be helped understand that a copy of software which someone gives you with "strings attached" and without source isn't really yours. Such a relationship can be described merely as "renting". The only way you can possibly believe that you actually own that CD (you can't really own software itself I think), is if you can and are allowed to do *anything* with it, even if it included putting it in a burner and copying the contents to 10 other CDs. Also, without the source code, you have less control over what's going on in your machine. Drivers with source code are extremely important here.. how can you call that graphics card your own if you aren't even allowed to know how it works or improve and share the software that makes it work?
- Freedom awareness - This is really the bottom line of promoting Freedomware, to get people aware when making their choices. Today people rarely think about the terms under which they get software (I deliberately avoid the word "license" ) and they are being misled by people telling them that when they buy software they own it or that when they copy it without authorization ("piracy") they "steal" it. When we start talking about freedomware to people it's hard not to mention the terms (in whichever way they are expressed), not to mention the availability of source code. Once they start asking these additional questions when they choose their software (what are the terms and is there source code access) they are more empowered to make the right choice. The usual side effect is that people start to think more and think about their freedom. Thinking about Freedomware is what started me on my way to become a voluntaryist today, for instance.
In short, maybe my support of Freedomware can be summed up in this nice little slogan:
Freedomware - "Freedom aware" not "Freedom or else"
It portrays two kinds of promoting freedom. First is where you want to increase people's awareness so that they themselves are more empowered to free themselves! Second is where you define freedom and then start chastising people for not following it as well as threatening with eventual force with statements like "Proprietary software should be illegal", something Richard Stallman said. That's no way to go. If your credo is "freedom or else", you're not really supporting freedom. You just want your choices imposed on other people, rather than empower other people to choose themselves.
So that's about it. My mind is made up and I'm glad I can continue to support Freedomware as part of the movement to make technology accessible to all and empowering individuals like myself. While I indeed wont anymore be hampering on people who use some non-free software and frankly I am guilty of doing that too for the very small minority of time, I will continue to use and promote Freedomware as a preferable technological tool for everyone who wants to be free and empowered.