[Fsf-friends] Free without ambiguity and overapplicability

Ramanraj K ramanraj@md4.vsnl.net.in
Sun Nov 30 17:53:42 IST 2003

First, a note on why "Free without ambiguity and overapplicability" was 

When the OSI was recently requested if it could pitch "free software" 
directly before the UN and other government circles, Mr. Russel Nelson 
of the OSI wrote:

>Please accept that we'll call it open source, and you'll call it free
>software, and that we both mean the same thing.

>[... a proprietary software company...] gives away free software.

>Sorry, but "free software" is inherently confusing. Why do you think
>RMS always has to give his free speech/beer footnote?  Why do you
>think proprietary software companies give away free software?  Because
>they're our friends?  I don't think so.

Had the reply been positive, all this would be superfluous.

A literal study of the expression "free software" shows that we use the 
expression correctly, without any "inherent confusion". "Free Software" 
on it own, makes clear literal sense and the free speech/beer example is 
a useful analogy. The "inherent confusion" arises and lies in 
proprietary software companies saying they are giving away free 
software, without setting the software totally free without 
restrictions. Proprietary software companies may give away free cd's, 
free dvd's, or free packs but if they say they are giving away free 
software, then it can be so only when they give their software under the 
GPL or like free license without proprietary restrictions, and not 
otherwise, for reasons already seen.

>Ramanraj wrote:
>>/ Freedom is the noun form of the adjective free.  Freedom is derived from
/>>/ free.
>Anil worte:
>The reverse is the fact.  And through this  only a single meaning of the word 
>'free' is evolved. And that same word 'free' is used for various other 

Let me clarify both, the grammar and the derivation.

Software is a noun. We use the adjective "free" to qualify the software 
produced and used by the free software community. We have Freedom in 
using free software, and here "Freedom" is a noun.

The OED says: OE freodom (FREE(1), -DOM)
[meaning in Old English, FREE(1) is a reference to the root word free]

The Words of Wonder web site has the following to say about the the word 

Sources differ on its origin, or rather from which language. Most 
indicate that /freedom /comes from O.E. /fr//e-odo-m/, later as M.E./ 
fr//e-do-m/. Reputedly used by Chaucer in a sense of 
politeness, good 
 Of course, it is the noun form stemming from the adjective/ 
free/, which comes from M.E./ fre- /from O.E. /fre-o/ "free, exempt 
from, not in bondage;" also "noble, joyful," from P.Gmc. /frijaz/; from 
PIE /prijos/ "dear, beloved." The verb is from O.E. /fre-on, fre-ogan/ 
"to free, love."

.... .... ....

The modern day definition of /freedom/ has many variants, many of which 
are most applicable to our daily on-the-TV-and-in-your-face meaning: 

state of being free;
easy, unconstrained action;
 and most relevant 
to the discussion: 
free permission to use something belonging to another.


Though we do take freedom for granted, it is seldom free, and won only 
after a long and tough fight.

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