Free Software

It's not about the license

Presented by Larry Garfield (@Crell)

A modest proposal

Martin Shkreli

Martin Shkreli, Turing Pharmaceuticals

Lego people mining
A child would make a great miner
If your business model requires doing something unethical, you don't have a business model.

Ancient history

(The 70s...)

An over-simplified history of Unix

Richard Stallman

Richard Stallman and Larry Garfield

New York, 2015

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Richard Stallman

By Sam Williams - Taken from the cover of the O'Reilly book Free as in Freedom: Richard Stallman's Crusade for Free Software, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

This meant that the first step in using a computer was to promise not to help your neighbor.
—Free Software, Free Society, page 18
Computer users should be free to modify programs to fit their needs, and free to share software, because helping other people is the basis of society.
—Free Software, Free Society, page 18

Richard Stallman

  • Started GNU Project
  • Free Software Foundation, 1985

But what license?

X Windows
Their goal was not freedom, just “success,” defined as “having many users.” They did not care whether these users had freedom, only that they should be numerous.
—Free Software, Free Society, page 22

Free Software Definition

  1. The freedom to run the program as you wish, for any purpose.
  2. The freedom to study how the program works, and change it so it does your computing as you wish.
  3. The freedom to redistribute copies so you can help your neighbor.
  4. The freedom to distribute copies of your modified versions to others.
Use, Learn, Improve, Share

General Public License

  • You have all four freedoms...
  • .. on condition that you extend the same to your users




Goodbye, "free software";
hello, "open source"

The logo of the Open Source Initiative
  • Triggered by Netscape releasing engine, 1997
  • Rebrand
  • "Free" scares businesses
  • "the term makes a lot of corporate types nervous" —Eric Raymond
For instance, Wired magazine said that Robert McMillan, editor of Linux Magazine, “feels that the move toward open source software should be fueled by technical, rather than political, decisions.”
Caldera’s CEO openly urged users to drop the goal of freedom and work instead for the “popularity of Linux.”
—Free Software, Free Society, page 54 (published 2000)
As one person put it, “Open source is a development methodology; free software is a social movement.” For the Open Source movement, non-free software is a suboptimal solution. For the Free Software movement, non-free software is a social problem and free software is the solution.
—Free Software, Free Society, page 57

Linus' Law

Given enough eyeballs, all bugs are shallow

Only true for malicious code

Proprietary software has no security at all in one crucial case—against its developer. And the developer may help others attack. Microsoft shows Windows bugs to the NSA (the US government digital spying agency) before fixing them.
—"Free Software, Free Society", Page 31

Source: Sean Gallagher, "NSA Gets Early Access to Zero-Day Data from Microsoft, Others," 14 June 2013

Free Software is about
protecting users from developers.

From us.

If the users don’t control the program, the program controls the users.

—Richard Stallman, "Free Software, Free Society", Page 30

1st Moral Principle of the web

When a computer receives conflicting instructions from its owner and from a remote party, the owner always wins.

—Cory Doctorow, Former EFF Director

How to protect the future web

Free Software is Civil Rights
applied to software.

Sara Golemon Medtronic 722 Insulin Pump
A John Deere Tractor
At the end of the day, I bought this equipment, and I want everything I need to keep it running without relying on the manufacturer or dealer.
—Rancher Jeff Buckingham
Our choice is not between "regulation" and "no regulation." The code regulates. It implements values, or not. It enables freedoms, or disables them. It protects privacy, or promotes monitoring. People choose how the code does these things.
People write the code.
—Larry Lessig, Code is Law, 2000
Free Software advocates have been warning of this for 30 years.

XKCD #743

The ASP loophole

(Application Service Provider, not Active Server Pages)

If I only let people use it over a network, they never get a copy of the code so they don't have Free rights to the source!

Affero GPL

Affero GPLv3


General Data Protection Regulation

Amazon Alexa

Written any Alexa Sklls lately?

Facebook Login
Facebook Like?
Facebook Dislike!

GPL web software gives users no rights to control their own use or data.

AGPL web software still gives users no rights to control their data.

What right do you have to your own data?

What right do your users have to their own data?

Principles of Free Software

Helping other people is the basis of society

When a computer receives conflicting instructions from its owner and from a remote party, the owner always wins.

If the users don’t control the program,
the program controls the users.

People write the code.

We have an ethical obligation to not enable abusive control

We can build... cyberspace to protect values that we believe are fundamental. Or we can build... cyberspace to allow those values to disappear. There is no middle ground. There is no choice that does not include some kind of building. Code is never found; it is only ever made, and only ever made by us.
—Lawrence Lessig, Code 2.0

Software is a moral act

  • I reserve the right to use this code to control you against your will.
  • I will not use this code to control you, but you can use it to control someone else.
  • I will not use this code to control you, and you may not use it to control others.

What moral statement
will you make?

Further reading

Free Culture,
Lawrence Lessig

* Cold open: ** Biz plan: Spyware on computers ** Biz plan: Child mine workers ** ** Conclusion: If your business model requires doing something unethical, you don't have a business model. * History ** History of copyright? Maybe, could be off topic. ** History of RMS/GNU, MIT too permissive ** Linux and GNU/Linux (brief) ** First moral principal of the web (Doctorow) * Code is law (Lessig quotes) ** LGPL * Examples ** Deibold Ohio voting machines *** *** (great quotes here on actual problems seen) *** ** Sara Golemon insulin pump ** CPAP machines ** John Deere Tractor DRM *** *** *** Not a case of "modify and improve software", but "replace broken part, need holy blessing for new part" ** Dmitry Sklyrov ** Parole AI *** *** *** (has picture) * Open Source ** Rebranding to avoid "Free" ** About quality software, not freedom * More history? Not sure here. ** Something something SaaS ** AGPL (need history, maybe this goes later?) * Options ** Control someone else ** Let someone else control someone else with your code ** Copyleft ** What choice will you make?