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http://www.freesoftwaremagazine.com

Recently, in this column, I spoke about how we can lose our free software choices if we don’t use them. Sticking with that choice is not always easy so how do we get others to make it, particularly in a world where the choice is often made for them. How can we advocate free software in a world where others don’t seem to care?

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anna's picture
Created by anna 6 years 24 weeks ago – Made popular 6 years 24 weeks ago
Category: Philosophy   Tags:
aboutblank's picture

aboutblank

6 years 24 weeks 21 hours 25 min ago

3

Proprietary Software is Anti-social

It is a mistake to depend upon proprietary software if you value autonomy and freedom. When you understand why proprietary software is an anti-social tool that is designed to keep society divided and helpless, then advocating free software becomes an ethical issue and not a matter of popularity or convenience. When you understand these things, any other reason to advocate free software is superficial; they may be valid but they remain superficial. To arrive at this conclusion requires that you understand the nature of computer software and why relinquishing any free software right is harmful to society.

A computer program is made up of instructions designed to make a computer perform useful tasks. A user should have the right to run a progam (freedom 0) and tinker with the programming code (freedom 1) if they wish to remain autonomous. Without these rights, the user is helpless (no longer autonomous) as the user becomes subject to a master whenever there is the need to modify programming code.

It is very important for members of society to cooperate with each other and share resources. Society is hindered whenever society is divided from cooperating or sharing knowledge and resources with each other. A computer program is a tool that is designed to make a computer perform useful tasks. Without the right to share computer programs (freedoms 3 and 4) and the knowledge contained within them (freedoms 3 and 4), society is divided from helping each other. People may say that restricting the flow of proprietary knowledge is beneficial to society as it requires society to create more proprietary knowledge resulting in a society with more knowledge. This argument is a form of the broken window fallacy. It is better if society cooperates and improve what exists rather than needlessly reinventing the wheel.

This is the truth that RMS discovered some time ago. If you wish to be free and upstanding member of society, then you should reject anti-social proprietary software as it is designed to make you helpless and keep you divided from the rest of society.

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crimperman

6 years 23 weeks 5 days 14 hours ago

2

I agree which is why I wrote it

"It is a mistake to depend upon proprietary software if you value autonomy and freedom. When you understand why proprietary software is an anti-social tool that is designed to keep society divided and helpless, then advocating free software becomes an ethical issue and not a matter of popularity or convenience. When you understand these things, any other reason to advocate free software is superficial; they may be valid but they remain superficial. To arrive at this conclusion requires that you understand the nature of computer software and why relinquishing any free software right is harmful to society."

I'm not sure whether you are disagreeing with the article or not and if so - on which point. Much of what you are saying here seems not to conflict with what I wrote in the main article. For example I am not advocating dependence on proprietary software and in fact the purpose of the piece was to encourage those who feel their advacation of free software on *ethical* grounds may fall because the world does not seem to care.

This was why I suggested arguments to use within an explicitly ethical framework. I agree that using free software should be an ethical decision[1] - it certainly is for me. The problem is that for many simply telling them about the four freedoms isn't always enough. Appealing to their ethical nature with additional arguments will get their interest and once you have it you can expand into the four freedoms.

[1] Recent popular distributions for example tend not to focus on this and instead focus on convenience and "value". These are invalid reasons alone to use free software IMHO but they are some of the reasons that people start using it.

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aboutblank

6 years 23 weeks 3 days 16 hours ago

2

complement your article

People don't inherently understand the ethical reasons of free software as this topic is not easy to think about. I did not think about any of these things until I learned of RMS's ideas and even then, I didn't fully understand the implications of freedom and helplessness until a few years later. This topic combines the nature of computer programs, the social aspect of computer programs, and the ethical aspects of depriving society of their freedoms W.R.T. software.

I intended that comment to complement your article. I intended to make it easy show that it is dangerous to rely upon proprietary software, to make it a little bit easier to convince users to value software freedom; i.e., to value their right to help themselves and remain autonomous and cooperate with their community. I could write a much longer essay on this but I'd essentially be repeating RMS's work ;) so instead, I wrote that comment to address liberty as short as possible.