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<nettime> Free Software / Free Solutions
douwe on Mon, 1 Sep 2003 23:12:04 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> Free Software / Free Solutions

Hi Nettimers,

It has been suggested on this mailinglist that the Free Software approach
might be extended other areas (among others in the Six Limitations to the
Current Open Source Development thread). I fear myself that this is like
trying to gain a freedom we used to have and that we seem to have lost
without noticing it.

When Richard Stalman started the whole Free Software movement, he did not
think it was something new. Software had been free (as in free speech)
until the age of the shrink wrapped software. You wouldn't really have all
rights to software in the early days, but you would have access to the
source code. If something was wrong with software, you'd fix it and send
it to the original writer of the code, who would probably own the
copyright. Then at one point, it became normal not to distribute the
source code, but only the compiled version. Ever since, if you would buy a
program with bugs in it, you could no longer fix it, even if you knew what
was wrong. Richard Stalman didn't like this, thought about how to fix this
and came up with the Free Software Foundation.

What happened to the software world, is also happening in the non-virtual
world. It used to be the case that if I bought a car, I could do whatever
I wanted with it. Now, with the DMCA and the coming European IP
Enforcement directive, these freedoms are threadened. Reverse engineering
is a freedom we're losing, so we need open car design or even open cola.
To me the worst thing, is that we're losing the right to tinker (see also
my blog at: http://douweosinga.com/blog/0308/2003Aug27_1)

If, as suggested in atreyu42's article at:
http://www.kuro5hin.org/story/2003/8/25/232239/774 fabbers become a
feasible way of producing things, I fear that this will not lead to
greater freedoms, as in that the consumers will be able to download
designs as much as they want and produce what they want. To me it seems
more realistic that the designs will be protected by some Digital Rights
Management scheme and the copying or exchanging of designs will be made
illegal, much as has happened to the music industry.

If somebody invented a way to produce things for free, like a matter
duplicator, would that really get rid of poverty, or would the powers that
be decide that unauthorized copying should be illegal? In the end, I think
Free will win, because a society based on Free would be more efficient and
more attractive, but this will take some fundamental changes in the way we
think about production.

Douwe Osinga

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