Felix Stalder on Wed, 19 Dec 2001 16:23:01 +0100 (CET)

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[Nettime-bold] Re: <nettime>The Fading Altruism of Open Source

>As it happens, I had come across the free speech/free beer distinction
>without having to consult the gnu website.

I think the free speech / free beer distinction is really counterproductive
at this point. I understand it's historical value in rallying US hackers in
the context of a culture that fetishes "individual freedom" to a degree
that it's something that one has no longer to explain or argue for. Free
speech = good, in all circumstances. I'm not arguing against free speech,
what I'm arguing against is the idea that free speech offers a good
metaphor to understand the value of free software / open source.

Lessig, in his new book The Future of Ideas, offers a much better
definition for what "free" in this context means. He writes: "a resource is
'free' if (1) one can use it without permission of anyone else; or (2) the
permission one needs is granted neutrally" (p.12). Our roads, for example,
are free in Lessig's sense. This is the case even if a toll charge is
levied because the charge is imposed neutrally. Everyone pays the same
price independent of the purpose of driving on the road. A road would no
longer be free if, say, Coke had sponsored its construction and therefore
could prohibit Pepsi trucks from using it.

In this definition, there is no difference  in the freedom created by open
source or free software.

>It still seems to me that the
>freedom of Free Software is largely, but not exclusively tied up with the
>normative absence of money. This allows the purists to insist that those
>who wish to work across the divide 'do not care about freedom' or are 'only
>in it for the money'. And behind that, of course, is a desire to preserve
>the mystique of a hacker elite.

I agree with Keith, the absence of money per se is not a virtue. Insisting
on the evils of money in all contexts, is the simple inversion of the
capitalist logic which says making money per se is good.  The
transformation of resources and their impact is what really matters. And so
far, I haven't seen anyone who could show the open source approach
transfers time and money (or donated hardware if you prefer) into worse
code or less code than the FSF approach.


Les faits sont faits.

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