Free as in... freedom?

Free as in... work for free.
Free as in... profits for free.
Free as in... free to destroy our common future.
Free as in...

What are you referring to when you use the word freedom?

I think "freedom" is one of the most popular words that is being used in a way that it can mean just what you choose it to mean.

Recently, I have been looking into the question of licencing and I am glad that I found some approaches that resonate a lot with my take on the things. I came across the following article and I wholeheartedly recommend to read it.

logicmag.io/failure/freedom-is

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Please consider having a look at this other writing as well, in case you want to get some more inspiration:

boringcactus.com/2020/08/13/po

@Phairnix I only skimmed over this cause i couldn't read past the "the flagship FOSS project is Linux'. It's not, Linux is confused Torvalds thinking GPL means only he gets to make money on it. If Linux upgraded to GPL 3 (or even wanted to) android would have been an open platform now.

The flagship FOSS project is GCC and it is the reason why we have any free software today at all and why the monopolist had to settle for LLVM, which was claiming superiority for decades now, and it still hasn't achieved it, I'll gladly watch it go down trying to support the proprietary forks galore it has spawned along with every fad it could use to market itself, but if it actually supersedes GCC, that would be the first major loss for FOSS so far, in any market that they actually had a real fight in.

@namark @Phairnix I double this opinion. it's a sophisticated web of pseudo free software that has its only goal to conquer and gain the full control over all open source for the sake of coprorations. I see this as clear as day light, but sometimes I wonder whether other people ever think about the motives behind the big trends and bright leaflets.

@iron_bug
Thanks for your comment. I am not quite sure about which opinion you are referring to. Who is trying to gain control over all open source for the sake of corporations?

@namark Thank you for your input.

However, I find your approach to facepalm without having actually read the articles in question a bit strange. Is that how you always engage in discussions? Are you here to talk about something else altogether? You are welcome to share your opinion, but I kindly ask you to make reference to the content of the articles at hand.

Your other comment makes me actually think that you actually agree with one point the author is trying to make, namely that the industry needs to change.

@Phairnix the facepalm and the main point was in the other reply, where I addressed a specific part of the first article. I can give you an exact quote if the paraphrased one doesn't ring a bell. The second article I didn't continue to read because the whole premise was wrong, and I addressed that.

The author by no means thinks that the programming industry specifically needs to change in contrast to other industries, they clearly imply that political all encompassing change is necessary, because they seem to be oblivious to what most programmers actually do and get paid for.

Now care to address any of my points or continue to completely ignore what I wrote and grasp at straws by hyper focusing on wording.

@namark To start with, I would like to point out that I am still learning about the issue and that it does make sense to be clear in your wording, so that I can understand what you are talking about. I am happy to learn from your vast exprience in the field, but I would also love to see you stay respectful and polite. That is how you might actually enlighten me and the rest of us who do not grasp the correct way to deal with the licences.

As far as I can see, the second article does contextualize the question about who is presumably the flaghip project. I did actually get the impression that the author recognizes the merit of GCC, while not attributing the actual leadership to anyone.

And, yes, I did refer to all encompassing industy change, too. I think the main point is about seeing the reality of the workers in the overall economic context. I do agree that this needs to be resolved in order to overcome the current paradigm of corporations exploiting workers and developing technology for free. My understanding is that FOSS simply cannot compete in the market to start with. Are you suggesting that the free software movement, whoever that is, should just accept that all the relevant technology continues to be controlled by the big corporations? I am not sure if I understand your business model correctly.

@Phairnix I prefer to express myself freely in this obscure corner of the internet thought something as disruptive as text message in FOSS software, that said I am indeed abrasive, and if it's too much feel free to ignore me.

I don't think they recognize the merit of GCC by calling dead in favor of LLVM. This is a "FOSS has been tried and failed" mentality that is very prevalent, while in reality it has barely been tried. GCC an example of the project that actually follows the principles (unlike Linux which is openly against them) and does everything to remain viable as FOSS and to this day it's doing well. It is one of the few projects that is actually trying.

FOSS can not compete in markets established by proprietary software by definition. Those are snake oil markets that rely on exploitation, if you can't imagine a different market that you fail to understand the concept of FOSS. Simply compare it to similar engineering markets. Ask yourself why do you have local mechanics, machinists, plumbers, electricians, construction workers etc. that offer affordable service to general public, while nothing like it for software. Most programmers are working for a some company that holds a monopoly on a virtual "product" or is aiming for one. The avarage programmer is not selling their code, that's total nonsense, they work for salary doing R&D, their work has very little to do with the nature of the business that fuels it.

Now all these engineering industries are not fundamentally different, they are just subtly different. The subtle difference in software industry is that there is no product, there is no production cost, and the distribution cost is negligible. A viable business models for FOSS thus remain the installation/configuration/maintenance services and warranty (again explicitly mentioned in GPL), the same thing your local mechanics, plumbers and electricians do. This is what is needed and yet very few people in my experience seem to realize that. No you should make the next big thing that will replace some piece of proprietary software and make you famous, no you should not start a political revolution, none of those things will help, you should knock on your neighbours door, ask them what they do on their computer, and try to make FOSS operating system work for them, Do it once or twice, do it well and you can start an honest business, the kind that FOSS needs throughout. A common complaint is that an average user lacks the technical knowledge to use a FOSS operating system, and that's where you come in, brave sysadmin. Help them, tune the system to their needs, maintain the system for them, haggle and argue regarding what your warranty covers and what it doesn't, operate at a loss and go bankrupt, then dare to say that you tried a FOSS business model and it didn't work.

Your final question is also confusing to me, the article seems to dunk on GPL, while GPL is actually the answer to your question. If you don't want FOSS to lag behind proprietary - use GPL (not like linux, but like GCC). GCC was never behind proprietary compilers, it was always ahead, and it is still ahead. It is on par with LLVM and it remains to be seen who comes out on top in the long term. GNU userland is also still holding strong, even though not as notable, and again Linux is by no means an example of FOSS being tried, it's an example of what happens when you back down, and there are plenty of such examples.

@namark Thank you for your clarifications. You might want to reconsider your abrasive tone, as it might indeed lead to people to ignore your otherwise valuable input.

I thought that the point was precisely that FOSS has not been put into practise on large scale. My understanding is that it is considered a "fail" because it cannot compete because of the general market dynamics. I understand that it can compete qualitatively, but if it cannot become a viable alternative for other reasons, then I think it is a fair point to question the approach. Did I get it right that GPL does restrict the use in the sense that corporations cannot commercialize modified derivations without being open source? I am struggling to get all the details of the licences correct, as it is quite complicated after all.

Regarding your comment that there is no product, do you actually mean that the software in question is a gift and the business is about offering a service? In how far is the business model different from the approach of propietary software that is not a gift and there is also the same additional business, namely the service?

On a sidenote, I would be interested to know why you discourage political change. Having a business is actually quite political, as economic power is precisely the thing that has most influence on the political course of the world. Just think about Facebook bringing Australia to its knees and changing legislation because of economic pressure. Democratically elected politicians seem to be representing industrial lobbies, rather than the interests of the citizen.

@Phairnix yes, GPL prevents proprietary redistribution (and distribution of derivative work) and demands same terms for those, except for warranty (that is if you copy free software you got under some warranty to give to your friend, the warranty would not apply to that copy, only to the original). There are several versions of the license with different definitions of redistribution and derivative work (GPL, LGPL, AGPL). There are also old and new version, notably version 2 and 3 in context of linux, which refused to upgrade to 3, publicly admiring that they did not understand what free software movement was before, and now that they do, they are against it.

What I mean about competing is that you can not just substitute FOSS for proprietary software. New markets need to be defined that will replace old markets. Instead of buying and software from a international megacorp with barely any tech support, you would buy a warranty on particular installation of FOSS software from a local business that can be held accountable. Instead of "sorry algorithm did a woopsie, it happens, deal with it", your community can fund an actual moderators of a locally run network to hold accountable. These kind of businesses will then themselves support the necessary programming R&D, just like mechanics support machinists, construction workers and organizers support architects.

Software is not a product to be a gift. It's nothing without your machine running it, and your machine is the only real thing. You can pretend it's a product and do everything in your power to maintain that illusion (such as DRM and obfuscation), but that would be just that, snake oil. The proprietary software business can not provide maintenance and warranty, as the system is no auditable. If I can't see what you did how can I tell you even did anything? The car runs when you pour some gasoline in it, but does it mean it runs on gasoline, or something else and burns gasoline for no reason. If I can't open the hood I can't tell. In such environment no quality standards can form for anyone to even adherer to. So these services that FOSS business can provide a proprietary software business simply can not. What today maybe called warranty or service on proprietary software is just pretence by any reasonable metric.

I'm not discouraging politics out of blue, it's in direct response to the article that claims that everything else has been tried and there is no other way other than major political reform. There is a way, the one that was suggested from the very start by introduction of GPL, the one barely anyone tried, and that does not require any major political or economic reform. It just requires some honest plumbers work, something software professions of today are not only incapable of, but also apparently oblivious to.

@namark I do get the point about only open source products being auditable. That is the exact reason why I trust them as a not so knowledgable user.

Why not have major political reform giving support to GPL then? I mean, there are initiatives like public money, public code adn such. I am not so sure about the assumption that market dynamics alone will magically give rise to the masses of honest plumbers that are capable to put into practice the alternative. People keep working for the megacorporations for a reason, do they not?

@Phairnix Literal local plumbers don't work for megacorps, not yet at least (freakin uber, though cars are cancer anyway). If you teach young programmers in universities and colleges that they can start their own honest businesses they, instead of instilling working for a international monopoly as the highest aspiration in them, if you teach kids in school to accept such businesses, instead of accepting some proprietary software as natural law, maybe they wouldn't end up in such situations. Otherwise people just do what they do regardless of what the law says.

But of course, you do you, and solve all your problems they way you want, political reform and all, just don't go around claiming that all other alternatives have been exhausted, and that you arrives at your conclusions by pure logic from principles of FOSS, and not your own inherent biases(I mean the article author in this case I guess). It's obvious that the politics is the premise and the ultimate focus, and FOSS is just an excuse in this case, another fad to peddle on.

@namark I totally agree with you on the notion of educational reform. That is a good starting point. Unfortunately, the educational systems, public institutions and offices in general are infested with propietary software and a major requirement in the labour market is to have skills in those products.

I also welcome your sane attitude to be aware of inherent biases, as I try to practice that myself. In this case, I get your point that the author sounds overtly negative about the problems of the licences. I would not go so far as to accuse being manipulative with that though, as it is just a personal assessment of the strategies within the free software movement. I think it is quite clear that there is no agreement on the right stance anyway, given the divide in the community.

However, I do think that it is not so simple to exclude the political framework altogether. Naturally, confusions may arise when politics refers to institutional activities only, when social interactions in general, such as economic activities, are actually political and relevant. I would rather say that any human endeavour is not strictly apolitical, as we live in a society and our lives connect and influence each other in many ways. There is no use of technology without ethical implications. Is it not also a bias pretending to be apolitical when you are not?

Anyway, as I see it, your disagreement with the criticism of the approach as presented in the article comes back to the question whether the success of FOSS is viable by means of the current practices or not. My understanding of the conclusion of the author was that there are some serious shortcomings with the licencing because of the economic context, evidenced by the modest success of the alternatives in comparison to the propietary products so far. I do not know in how far the progress is stagnating, but I do see megacorporations making the profits of their lifetime. Digitalization is in the hands of a few dishonest businesses, everything else is still marginal.

With respect to the alternatives that might continue being exhausted in the future, what is your take on the peer production licence? I think it does address some social issues related to the business model, as workers rights are given importance.

@Phairnix "Everything is a bit political" vs "everything must be solved through a all encompassing political revolution"... hmmm... notice a difference?

Regarding peer production license, first time hearing of it. A copy of cc-nc-by-sa that tries to excludes the "evil corporations"? Sounds like a band-aid to me that doesn't solve the core issue. They already happily throw breadcrumbs at various permissively licensed projects(MIT, BSD) to keep the devs happy and compliant (sticking with permissive license), defining yet another pathological goal for up and comers - "oh yes I wish big corpo funds mah open sauce, that would be the best, money solves everythiiing" - no it wouldn't be, make a proper business, and don't try to ride on the success of the very thing you are trying to abolish. Of course it also disallows warranty, excluding the possibility of alternative fair business as I described, thus having to stick with "software is a product" nonsense, and various pathological business practices it spawns, such as "you could just download it for free, but why won't you just pay me cause I'm so awesome and made it for you, while I sit on my ass and do nothing and continue to manipulate you through marketing hype, since after all it's an actual thing that your are getting and you are getting that actual thing for free only cause I'm so nice".
Not to mention CC licenses are inadequate for software in general, since they don't properly cover binary distribution, but I guess they lacked the legal oomph to copy GPL.

@namark Well, I did not read that "Everything must be solved through an all encompassing political revolution" in the article at all. Was there something special that made you think about that? In general, I don't even know in how far the term revolution is useful these days, as it is one of those words that can be used to mean whatever you want. Historically, it means a violent revolt against the political establishment, such as what happened in France with the monarchy.

Regarding your criticism of the peer production and CC licences, I think I get the shortcomings with respect to the pathological business practices, as far as I can read between the lines of your discursive style. I would love to know what you identify to be the core issue, as that might further clarify your take on the things. By the way, I am not only interested in all this because of software, but licencing in general. Would the GFDL or something similar resolve the issue at hand in things related to intellectual property in general? You mentioned that the engineering industries are quite alike, even though there is a subtle difference when it comes to software. Are intellectual property rights comparable at all or is it completely out of context?

@Phairnix Here are some direct quotes from the article that essentially go "logic tells me we must go full commie, there is no other way":

"If you take the core tenets of free software to their logical conclusion, you end up with a desire to reverse all kinds of commodification by transforming property rights in their entirety",

"The only way to set information “free” is to restructure the economy such that information production can be free, with contributors no longer needing to get paid for their work because crucial goods like housing, transport and food are available as free public services"

and there are many more.

In my eyes IP law in general is secondary to IP law as it applies to computer technology, because in general it's unenforceable. You can't prevent an average person from telling something they know to their peers, or copying/modifying a writing or images or sounds they own, it's just impossible, hence in practice the law only applies to big monopolistic publishers who can be realistically targeted, and in that context (of no computer technology existing) serves to protect the rights of authors to an extent. Even if it's all digital, you still can't prevent people from doing those thing on their own machines, unless they are infected by your proprietary software/firmware that utilizes obfuscation or cryptography to enforce IP rights. It is in this context that the law turns into a tool for exploitation of general public and where the problem lies in practice. Does that mean that the law is theoretically flawed? Sure, but I'm not particularly interested in that. I can philosophize here and there, but I'm not a lawyer. All laws are theoretically flawed, how they manifest in practice is what matters. For instance if copyright law simply did not exist, the practical implementation of it in the form of DRM could still freely exist and be used to exploit people.

@namark As far as I understood those quotes, they indeed refer to the problem of wealth distribution in the form of a commons-based production, in case that this would be of interest. For me it is, as I think that poverty is precisely a consequence of wealth accumulation due to the mode of production. I try to summarize my understanding of our discussion:

On the one hand, the produced free software does not have any exchange value, as it cannot be commercialized as such. It thus goes to the stock of common goods that anyone can access freely. At the same time, a corporation cannot appropriate the product as they are obliged to offer a derived product that is also open source, and it would hardly be worth the effort to maintain one for practical reasons. In consequence, the free software under GPL does not directly create income for anyone. Free software is being produced by the workers for free in the sense that they need to engage in other economic activities that create the income so that they can realize that productive labour. The producers of free software are partially working for free, as they do not get anything in return for their production of software, and are otherwise selling their labour.

On the other hand, the material consumer goods that the workers need for their subsistence always have some exchange value as they are being commericalized and the production does have associated costs that need to be covered by that. I mean, there could be a bakery that hands out bread for free, if the costs of the production in the form of the material costs of the end product and the labour of the workers would be paid for from the surplus of some other economic activity. In a way, that business model can be observed in soup kitchens, where donations are the source of funding for the food and volunteers provide the labour for free in order to organize the distribution. Again, the volunteers need to engage in other economic activities in order to guarantee their own subsistence.

With respect to other kind of immaterial production, such as knowledge and cultural content, the same problem persists. If you want to distribute the product for free, you need to have some other source of income in order to pay your bills, as you cannot create exchange value with your product. For example, content creation for Wikipedia is a noble activity, as it adds to the stock of common goods that can be accessed freely, but it is not a business for the content creators. They just provide their labour for free.

I would say that this is the economic context in which copyleft is collaboratively spreading freedom, namely, producing free wealth as a common good. But, it is always restricted to immaterial goods, as the underlying mode of production does require certain proprietary rights and an exchange value. Copyleft is nothing more than a special form of distribution within that business model.

So, yes, I agree with you: the production of free software actually cannot be called production at all.

I do perceive it as free labour though, regardless of the fact that it is not recognized as such in the economic sense, in a similar way as domestic labour is invisible in the form of caring for the elderly and children or cleaning, for example. Paradoxically, it is still possible to pay someone for such services, but those who do not have the means to do so, simply do that work themselves for free. In general, I think it is a question of economic privilege and exploitation of labour.

Did I get something wrong with respect to the work associated with free software and the dynamics of the licences therein?

Now, the topic of intellectual property is also very interesting. It does seem to have some similarities, but it might show also some differences regarding the economical context, right? Wouldn’t academic papers be a good example for the publishers proprietary control of the intellectual production? I mean, scientists do not actually get paid directly for that labour either, do they?

I will try to wrap my head around the legal reflexions as well. So, copyright law can turn into a tool of exploitation and be quite absurd, but, for practical questions, doesn't it also protect the commons?

I find this to be a fascinating conversation, thank you!

@Phairnix "In consequence, the free software under GPL does not directly create income for anyone".
My whole point from the very beginning is that is can directly create income for the right kind of business. You can't let this software is a product mindset go can you? Even stating that out loud you still conclude as if it is, and as if programming is a production.
R&D engineers exist. It's not some unprecedented unimaginable new lifeform, they are paid a salary to do their work. The research might go nowhere and develop nothing of use, but that's a given and a known, you just have to invest upfront and hope for the best. If an R&D electrical engineer(or a team) comes up with a new useful device or a component, it creates income opportunities for 3 different kinds of business, the production, the distribution, and end user service. (there is gatsekeeping and copyright/patent abuse in electrical engineering as well, but that's beside the point, if anything they are leaning from software industry on exactly how much abuse they can get away with, not the other way around).
Programmer are R&D engineers (most of them today, open source or not, are paid a salary to do R&D), but in their industry the first two businesses are not viable, without exploitation of the end user. The production is simply not a thing, it does not exist, the cake is a lie, and real opportunities for distribution business are negligible due to peer to peer network technologies such as torrents. Hence the third is the only one left - end user service. But it doesn't even exist today, why? Because we opted to pretend that production and distribution are real things, and having real experts that honestly serve the general public goes directly against our ruse. They will simply bust it. That's where GPL comes in, it says: stop the nonsense, here is some software, use it to create real business - configuration, installation, maintenance service provided directly to general public, provide warranty on your installations, set quality standards, then your business will fuel further R&D, that will be even better, cause it will be incentivezed to provide best service to end user, under established quality standards, and not run on pure marketing, hoping to land on a random pop culture fad. And to this freaking day most people don't seem to get it, everything is politics and GPL = communism apparently.

@namark I don’t think that we are essentially talking of different things. I guess that it is also a question of technical terminology, that does not always make clear what the concepts behind the words are. These kind of discussions refer to a complex reality and all of us are not perfect communicators.

My whole point, as far as I comprehended the article, was to describe in economic terms that the free software by itself does not represent a mode of production precisely because it does not have an exchange value. I think that was the intention of the author as well. Free software is free, but I think it would be a failure to not consider it «something». Free software is an immaterial tool and constitues as such a producer good because those tools can be used as input for the capital goods that can then be used in the production of goods and services of economic value. Free software tools are only partially capital goods, as they depend on the physical device as part of the end product, that is finally a means of production. And I think here lies the problem: the economic context requires that kind of analysis, namely the necessity to consider the nature of the function of the thing in question in the productive processes and the exchange value creation.

Free software cannot be sold and that means free access to a substancial part of a means of production. I think that this is the greatness of free software. It defies the notion that intellectual property is needed in the process. Workers and end users benefit from the approach, as they have free access to the tools that they need for their economic activities or simply for the sake of leisure. I think that the intention of the author was to point that out: what if we were to apply this approach more generally?

People would have free access to all the means of production as there would not be property rights that appropriate the workers of a part of their labour. That is the central issue: the owners of the means of production accumulate wealth because they extract value from the workers by renting their producer goods to the workers.

Imagine that someone wants to make a living with a digital tool. Let’s say the idea is to create cultural content and be an «influencer», something that is becoming more and more common. The thing that would create the income is thus information. To start with, the worker needs the devices, that have to be bought, as most material things have an exchange value. The free software is free of charge as it is already a freely accessible common good. Equipped with the digital devices, the autonomous worker needs to pay for the electricity and the access to internet, the immaterial space where the content is to be published. There is the question of technical infrastructure, as internet could be a free common good as well, but I am not entereing in those details now. Electricity might actually be created for free with renewable energy, but that would require an additonal investment in the equipment. All those material things considered, the producer also needs shelter, food and water in order to live. Those things can be either possessed or rented and are needed for the business. The worker thus proceeds to create a fancy video with information about all sorts of interesting and useful things. What is needed, is a client that somehow pays for that content, as the bills of the material inputs have to be paid. Now, what do we observe? People become Youtubers...

So, what is the business? The company that owns Youtube accumulates wealth as it commodifies the data that is being mined from the public and is being sold to other companies. Another aspect can be product placement, as some companies are interested in contracting the content creators directly for marketing purposes. Value is being extracted from the content creator in order to fill the pockets of the owners of the digital platforms and commercial companies.

The alternative would be to find a way to distibute the content on an independent platform, but as happens, PeerTube does not work that way and the potential public is limited anyway, in comparison to the enormous outreach of Youtube. The digital environment does offer some other alternatives to the business model, but the option to go with Youtube and the marketing machinery is the one that offers the best incomes, if you happen to be successfull, and the easiest way to set up a business. The same thing happens with all the other technological and digital giants: they have a succesfull business model, not because they are more ethical or efficient, but because they control the material and intellectual property.

As we can see, the question of property rights is determinant in the process of creating a business and the alternatives are rather limited. Sure the content creator could try to offer the service to the client directly in the hope to be paid for offering information, but that is not what we see happening outside of some consulting services, that are also rather specific.

I think that this is why free software is rightfully not considered that successful in the process of freeing information generally. It is a wonderful example within its limited scope of software, but the economic context suggests that it is not creating a freer society and does not compete considerably with the power of corporations. The social conditions remain untouched and free software is being considered only a technological activity. No, it is not political participation either, at least not directly. Who are the people who profit most from this mere technologial comprehension of the issue? Guess what? Microsoft and company, as they can continue cashing in with intellectual property rights and their economic power.

I would like to point out, that in addition to the question of economic power, property right is also a political consideration, as those rights are defined in a legal framework. And it is this legal context that lies at the very basis of free software and is being rightfully questioned by putting into practice an alternative model of distribution, namely the copyleft.

In general, my commentary was initially intented to point out something that was not already being discussed in the articles: the whole debate about freedom is being coopted and banalized.

With all this focus on building up the argumentative hegemony with respect to who gets to define the correct use of the concept of freedom, we forget that freedoms are defined by law. Those can be in terms of basic human rights or of economic freedom. Therefore, the debate does have intrinsic political relevance. Now, we can perfectly see, that some prefer to give free information a definition that simply refers to the limitations: you can do whatever you want with it. It is exactly this approach that leads to companies appropriating the free software, namely by creating derivatives that can be commericalized. I think that it is rather counterproductive to not allow the restriction that is being imposed by the GPL or some kind of creative commons licence regarding information in general. It just means that corporations are given the freedom to exploit workers.

Now, I think that the real threat to society lies within the loss of a clear concept of freedom generally. Individual freedom mostly exists in a social context in which that very same freedom affects other people. Unfortunately, some political initiatives are not even remotely taking that into consideration and trying to establish individual freedoms as the only standard.

Just consider the covid pandemic: people are reclaiming their right to not wear masks as a matter of individual freedom. The real hazard, established as an objective truth by the scientific method, is of course the fact that not wearing masks contributes to the spread of the disease and endangers fellow citizens and can potentially harm or kill them. Do those members of the community not have the right to be protected of the irresponsible behaviour exhibited by individuals who fail to recognize their responsiblility and the limits of their individual freedom?

The same can be said with respect to cars also: people reclaim their right to continue polluting the environment and contributing to manmade global warming. Is that not a general hazard to the population established by science?

The thing is that I observe that «freedom» has become an empty political slogan in order to justify whatever comes to your mind and I am worried about that. Was there not some philosopher who warned about that?

@Phairnix sure, there are some geniuses around here that would claim that real freedom is freedom to kill anyone they deem unworthy, but software freedom is not ambiguous in any way, it is often colloquially explained/defined as "the four freedoms": to run, to study/modify, to redistribute copies and modifications. Legally you can take GPL as the definition. I'm not aware of any other remotely rigorous definitions for software freedom, and yes there is plenty of "how is it freedom if I can't do anything and everything I want", but that's irrelevant, just read the preamble of GPL, it's fairly clear what freedoms it's about even to a layperson, and you need to be intentionally playing dumb to not understand it.

Back to software as product. No software is not a producer good or capital good nor even partially. Yes it can be used to do things that at some point might make you some money in some way, still doesn't mean it's a good or a product. If I teach you basic arithmetic you can use that knowledge to run a bakery(though these days I guess that's not a requirement anymore) and make money, doesn't mean basic arithmetic is a product. My teaching is worthless without your learning, a teacher and a student labour equally to make a study worth something (theoretical teacher here, real life teachers do a lot more than just regurgitate information). In the same way when you get a piece of software, your computer is the student and theirs is the teacher, one is worthless without the other and information itself is worthless without either. You must be insane to model or define this interaction as some form of exchange of goods.

You accept this fallacy of software being a free product, and go ahead and use it as an example of economy where everything is free, and go "wouldn't it be wonderful, just like free software" (the article being even bolder than that, claiming that free software simply can't succeed without communist utopia). And yet free software has largely failed in biggest markets today, precisely because of the mindset you accept and preach, the strive to replace the made up products of the proprietary software industry, without even considering the alternative of offering services or warranty to general public (and in small markets where it did succeed, it continues to succeed despite the article deeming it dead). But you can't make poison that is not harmful. Youtube is a far fetched example, but if there is a free software alternative to youtube (which in this case would mean decentralized, cause it hasn't yet extended it's choke-hold on the client side like netflix), it should not look, feel or market itself in any way that resembles youtube. That's why peertube can't succeed as it is now, it tries so hard to mock youtube, that as a torrent client it's totally useless, meanwhile torrent trackers across the world are still trucking along with unparalleled collection of data (including videos) and immense throughput capacity, ready to replace your youtubes and netflixes on a whim of the creators. The latter just don't want it yet, many actually want control over distribution that a platform like youtube offers, they don't want anyone copying and remixing their videos, they love issuing copyright strikes left and right, because their videos are physical goods of course, their product, and they don't want anyone stealing it from them, so they stay with youtube, and they are directly invested in youtube being the only place where all the videos are and the enforcer of their copyright. It's not the evil youtube that seized the means of production. In my opinion many of these corporation that are deemed evil, are not so evil yet, they are just extremely dumb. The infamous algorithm was not conceived as a tool to usurp us and enact the will of our overlords, it's there cause the site exploded out of proportion and poor bastards couldn't do moderation it in any other way, they didn't have enough human resources or even hope to ever have enough, but of course they are too proud to present it as anything other than excellence and innovation.

Also somewhere there you seem to come to a conclusion that GPL is better than more permissive licenses, good, and a direct contradiction to what the second article you liked suggests: to just ignore it all and live in a bubble until a political reform magically fixes everything that is wrong with the world, or to comply with status quo and make money by sucking proprietor's ass for bread crumbs (btw if you want to do it, no judgement, but go with MIT/BSD/BSL and the likes, instead of whatever politically charged BS that guy suggests, you'll get more crumbs).

@namark But is it not the case that GPL functions under a legal framework so that the free software is being defined as intellectual property and the licence speciefies what is allowed and what not? Otherwise the code would exist without a licence whatsoever. The code exists as that legal subject, right? I mean, that is all there is about immaterial property anyway. It is an agreement that something has value and that is enforcable under the legal system. If that legal subject has no exchange value as a product, so be it. It still exists as that idea that you can use for something, be it for your learning or for entertainment. I think the only thing we disagree upon, is the word we use for that immaterial entity which is the idea, be it a code or a recipe.

Likewise I might have a wonderful methodology to produce a bread and I can make a patent for it. The recipe does nothing on its own, you need the ingredients to make the end product. Yet, you don't necessarily need my teaching in order to bake the bread: the recipe is enough if you have the knowledge to make it work.

I did already mention that intellectual and material property have different characteristics, but as we can see, they both belong to the same productive process and are both part of property rights in general. You may not like the idea to reclaim also material commons, but the information under copyleft does exist as immaterial commons, I don't think that there is denying that. I just like the idea that there is a possibility that free bakeries and free bread can exist. The only thing I have been doing is referring to the economic context in which the freedom of free software manifests itself.

Immaterial things are tricky things to wrap your head around, such as money. Money is not real. It is only a question of trust and legal obligations.

@namark To sum it up more boldly: everything we do happens in a legal framework of which property rights are a part and there is no technology without knowledge. Would you agree that software is a tool?

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@Phairnix teaching was an analogy, in a pure sense conveying information, not in a broader sense of active tutoring. If you give a recipe to a bakery, then by the same analogy you are teaching the bakery. The baker indeed does not need to be actively taught by another person. Your computer also does not need the other computer to run the software. What's your point with that?

Patent abuse can effectively make a public recipe into product to sell, the point is that's wrong.

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