Freedom to Maintain The Status Quo

The Culture War in Open Source is On

Nathan Schneider, writing at Model View Culture:

The bug that has been lurking in the open-source codebase all along, for the partisans, might be best summarized as neutrality. The OSI’s Open-Source Definition prohibits value judgments about such things as “fields of endeavor,” business models, and technology stacks. The Free Software Foundation puts the idea this way: “The freedom to run the program as you wish, for any purpose.” As long as the code remains free and open, users—whether individual or corporate—should not be constrained by a licence in what they do or how they make money. Any such constraint, the argument goes, is a slippery slope. During his brief return to OSI’s email lists, (Eric S) Raymond quoted Thomas Paine: “He that would make his own liberty secure, must guard even his enemy from oppression; for if he violates this duty, he establishes a precedent that will reach to himself.” Restrict others, and it will come back to haunt you.

I’ve had this link in my Pinboard for months, and just got round to re-reading it.

In reality, the “political ratfucking” and “vulgar Marxism” that Eric S Raymond bemoaned on his (brief) return to the OSI turns out to be others pointing out that perhaps we should be more thoughtful about how Open Source is used. Neutrality, in situations where Open Source is being used for ill, means you’re effectively siding with the oppressors.

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