what is "free software"? why do people say software isn't free, even though you can download it for free from the app store? (long, serious) 

there are a lot of ways you could define "free software". for example, you could say candy crush or CCleaner is free software, because you can install it for free.

when people say that software is "free as in freedom", or "libre", they mean something else. under these definitions, neither candy crush nor CCleaner would be free software. in order to be free by these definitions, software needs to fulfill these four criteria:
- the ability to run the software for any reason, without restrictions. this means that the free version of teamviewer is not libre, as it tells you that you must purchase a license to use it commercially.
- being able to study and modify the program's inner workings. this requires the source code being available. software that doesn't provide the source code thus cannot fulfill this term, and software like snapchat, which bans users for running modified versions, is definitely not one of these.
- being allowed to redistribute the software. if you buy a macbook, you can install updates for free, but you certainly aren't allowed to redistribute these updates.
- being allowed to distribute modified versions to others. if you're not allowed to download the app, make some changes, and send that to people, it breaks this rule. the youtube app is free, but google wouldn't allow you to do this.

all of the software mentioned in those four basic rules is "free", but not free. this distinction is often used by saying "gratis" or "libre" - gratis software is free as in "free donuts", but libre software is free as in "freedom".

as with anything, it's hard to make clear cut rules to define what is and isn't an example of libre software. the cooperative software license prohibits most companies from using the software, but is otherwise entirely libre. this violates the first rule above, but i would say it's still a free software license, although the free software foundation would disagree with me on that.

here's a link to the cooperative software license: - check section 4 for the restrictions mentioned above.

and finally, here's a link to the FSF's article on what is and isn't free software. this is where those four rules came from - the FSF calls them the four essential freedoms.

neither of these links are necessarily an endorsement of the contain contained within.

re: what is "free software"? why do people say software isn't free, even though you can download it for free from the app store? (long, serious) 

@lynnesbian I think it's cute how you changed the usual statement "free as in beer" to "free as in doughnuts"

Also piggybacking off of this, i feel the most interesting example of what free as in libre is and isn't is looking at the JSLint license, which has had controversy over one particular line:

"The Software shall be used for Good, not Evil."

This line, even though it's kinda silly and not really enforceable, makes the JSLint license a non-free license. Although, it did also lead to them having to release a statement at one point authorizing IBM to use their software for evil, so I think that's pretty funny:

re: what is "free software"? why do people say software isn't free, even though you can download it for free from the app store? (long, serious) 

@frinkeldoodle @lynnesbian if putting "don't use my software for evil" or "if you're a fascist, Nazi, or general bigot, I hate you and I would stop you using this if I could" makes my projects not libre then nothing I ever make will be libre

@lynnesbian it kinda seems like software licenses that say you can't use the software for evil would be strictly better than truly free licenses :blobcattilt:

@00dani that's my opinion, but not the FSF's, and they say that licenses that include such "anti-evil" clauses aren't truly free licenses

@lynnesbian now i'm thinkin abt a d&d-style alignment system that has free/proprietary and good/evil as the two axes

fsf are free neutral

lynne is free good

@00dani it took a while but i made it :blobcatpeek:

it was kinda hard to think of good proprietary software but i went with rar because it help people compress files even if they won't let people know how it works

@00dani i feel like i'm gonna get at least one angry response to this :blobcatderpy:

@lynnesbian @00dani I personally see BSL as a more free license than the gpl

@lynnesbian @NightRose hmm you know what, rar isn't good any more. it's not even as good as the public domain compression/archive formats

swap it with odyssey imho :blobcatsip:

@lynnesbian @00dani

I would agree with the FSF on this.

It's the same concept as free speech. It's great until someone decides to use it for evil, after which you realize you didn't want it to be free in the first place.

@ben @lynnesbian hate speech doesn't actually fall under free speech to begin with tho

pol & violence ment 

@ben @lynnesbian @00dani but that doesn't work because hate speech laws exist, and also most people on here will tell you they're woefully inadequate. I think we should be deplatforming the alt right, it's been pretty clear to data scientists that alt-right reactionary culture breeds white supremacist terrorists -- but I'm not in charge.

but anyways, I don't see your point -- 100% free speech is bad, so is enforcing 100% libre software.

re: pol & violence ment 

@jacethechicken @lynnesbian @00dani

(that is my point, so yes, you do see it)

re: pol & violence ment 

@ben @lynnesbian @00dani oh I thought you were going the other direction lol

@lynnesbian @00dani this is why i don't care about "MUH FREE SOFTWARE" purists

libre != good
anti-evil clauses are necessary to defeat proprietary bullshit

@lynnesbian @00dani outside of even considering whether or not such a thing would be good, it's not something that you can achieve with a software license!

Copyleft has been successful by relying on the legal framework of copyright/intellectual property to build a software commons. "You can't use this software for evil purposes" is unenforceable from a copyright perspective (not to mention impossible to agree on what "evil" means)

Sign in to participate in the conversation
Lynnestodon's anti-chud pro-skub instance for funtimes