[Fsf-friends] Re: Light on Free Software

Ramanraj K ramanraj@md4.vsnl.net.in
Sun Nov 16 19:17:04 IST 2003

Please refer to a legislative Bill of South Australia available at 
[extract given at the bottom of this posting]

Most  of the  operative  words  in the  State  Supply (Procurement  of
Software) Amendment Bill  2003 Bill would be very  familiar to RMS and
those in the free software movement  for a long time, and are found in
the GNU Project documentation.  If  the first and last lines of clause
17A(2) use the expression "free software" instead of "open source", it
would be more true, direct, straight and avoid future inconveniences.

We read the words in law in their context and historical setting.

The History of the Open Source Initiative (OSI) web page says:

"The "open source" label itself came out of a strategy session held on
February  3rd  1998 in  Palo  Alto,  California.   The people  present
included Todd  Anderson, Chris Peterson (of  the Foresight Institute),
John "maddog"  Hall and Larry Augustin (both  of Linux International),
Sam  Ockman (of  the  Silicon  Valley Linux  User's  Group), and  Eric
Raymond. ..."

The OSI faq answers: How is "open source" related to "free  software"?  

"The Open Source Initiative is  a marketing program for free software.
It's a  pitch for  "free software" on  solid pragmatic  grounds rather
than ideological tub-thumping.  The winning substance has not changed,
the  losing  attitude  and  symbolism  have.  See  the  discussion  of
marketing for hackers for more."

The Open Source Case for Hackers argues:

"Mainstream corporate  CEOs and CTOs  will never buy  "free software."
But if we take the very  same tradition, the same people, and the same
free-software licenses and  change the label to "open  source" -  that,
they'll buy"

I buy this argument, wholly.

But,  the apprehension  that  we  will read  "free"  or "open  source"
literally is unfounded. For  instance, we understand "judicial review"
in its historical and rational  context, and not merely the content of
just two words.  Using the expression "free software" instead of "open
source"  will avoid  needless back  tracing.   We  ought to  spare the
future generations, of  looking into the Open Source  history and then
again look into the GNU Project history in a round about way.

While initiating the GNU Project, RMS wrote:

"From:   RMS%MIT-OZ@mit-eddie   
Newsgroups:  net.unix-wizards,net.usoft
Subject:  new UNIX  implementation 
Date:  Tue, 27-Sep-83  12:35:59 EST
Organization: MIT AI Lab, Cambridge, MA ....

"I consider that  the golden rule requires that if I  like a program I
must  share it  with  other people  who  like it.   I  cannot in  good
conscience  sign  a  nondisclosure  agreement or  a  software  license

So  that  I  can  continue  to  use  computers  without  violating  my
principles, I have  decided to put together a  sufficient body of free
software so that I will be able to get along without any software that
is not free.


The reasons for free software are clear enough from the start.

The GPL together with the  GNU Project and philosophy justify, require
and warrant the use of the word "free software" in such legislation.

We  could ignore  the South  Australian Parliament  Bill,  because its
scope is  confined to the State  of South Australia. But  in the legal
field, we  often see  a cascading  effect and it  is more  likely that
other  legislation  will  follow  the  same  style.  It  is  therefore
important to set the correct and right precedents from the very start.

K. Ramanraj.

The  Parliament  of  South  Australia
 State  Supply (Procurement of Software) Amendment Bill 2003.

Principle applying to the procurement of computer software 17A.  

(1)  A  public  authority  must,   in  making  a  decision  about  the
procurement of  computer software for  its operations, have  regard to
the principle  that, wherever  practicable, a public  authority should
use open source software in preference to proprietary software.

(2)  In this section- 

"distribute" means distribute for free or on payment of the reasonable
costs of distribution; 

"open  source  software" means  computer  software  the  subject of  a
licence granting a person a right-

    (a) without any limitation or restriction, to use the software for any
    purpose; and

    (b)  without any  limitation or  restriction,  to make  copies of  the
    software  for   any  purpose;  and  

    (c) without  any limitation  or restriction, to  access or  modify the
    source code of the software for any purpose; and

    (d) without  payment of a  royalty or other  fee, to
    distribute copies of 

	(i)  the   software  (including  as   a  component  of   an  aggregate
	distribution  containing  computer  software  from  several  different
	sources); or

	(ii) a derived or modified  form of the software, (whether in compiled
	form  or in the  form of  source code),  under the  same terms  as the
	licence applying to the software;

"proprietary software" means computer software that is not open source

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