Felix Stalder on Wed, 19 Dec 2001 21:52:41 +0100 (CET)

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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 its 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

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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