Richard Stallman's Abuse of the Word “Freedom”

By Xah Lee. Date:

Richard Stallman, his use of “free” in his concept of Free Software and Free Software Foundation, is a abuse of English. I do not know he did this with the intent to ride the ambiguity for the marketing benefit of the catcher word “free”, or innocently due to the fuzziness of English. In any case, from the numerous talks and lectures he gave, it is apparent he is abusing the concept of freedom to gain supporters.

Non-free, is misleading term for proprietary software. People started to refer to proprietary as non-free, because Richard Stallman abuses the words “free” and “freedom”, and as a consequence, his followers started to call other software that are not compatible with his ideal, as “non-free”.

Despite the fact that the word “free” does not refer to price, but proprietary software isn't necessarily restraining freedom. In fact, the issue of whether source code is non-public has little to do with the concept of liberty. Richard Stallman's vision of software is “free”, in the sense that coder community can freely look at the source code and make use of it. That sense of “free” is a point of view. As a contrast, proprietary software is also free, in the sense that entrepreneurs and businesses can freely develop and sell their software without worrying about some coder making copies with minor or no changes and put it out free of charge that destroys the benefits for their initiative. (this is why, there are little innovation in Open Source software in comparison to commercial software.) [see Software Freedom is Free Speech or Free Beer?]

Please do not use the word “free” like he want you to. When referring to his philosophy of software licensing, please say “open source”, or “FSF Ideal Software”.

Don't say “non-free” to refer to commercial or proprietary software that are disliked by FSF. Simply just say software, or commercial software, or non-FSF ideal software.

For those of you FSF or Open Source fanatics who are illiterate of the pertinent social sciences, i recommend:

Basic Economics by Thomas Sowell. Buy at amazon

I read the first edition in the dot com are ~2000, alone with other books that helped me understand stocks and related financial things. I've read Thomas's book 2 more times in the early 2000s. [see Reading Notes on Basic Economics]

Another interesting book by Sowell is: A Conflict of Visions: Ideological Origins of Political Struggles By Thomas Sowell. Buy at amazon. It'll teach you something about FSF ideals.

This essay is originally a post at: Source .