The free software

Call to free coders: Free our software.

[En Franšais]

Free software arises from a reflexion about the nature of a software. Some people sell software, making even big profit of that activity. Free (in the two meanings of the word) realesing a software does not have the profit as a goal. The gratuitousness of the software is a proof of that. And for freedom to copy, modify, include into other projects, it is clearly an attitude born of the desire to share knowledge and realizations with all others human beings.

One question remains anyway: do we have to distribute a software under a licence or put it in the public domain?

Do we need a license?

Today, most of the free software are distributed under licence. I personnaly prefer the public domain approach. I don't think it is a good thing to distribute a free software under a licence, whatever it is.
The principal of a licence, whatever its nature is, whatever permitable it is, is of a legal and legislative order. A licence is nothing without a justice that imposes (yes, imposes) to individuals to respect its terms. And this justice, to impose its decisions, needs a strength, the police. So, distribute a software, even free, under licence, supposes the existence of a justice and a police. In those conditions, can we still dare to use the term free software? Does something that requires laws, magistrates, excutive corpse to exist can pride oneself on the attribute of freedom?
I don't think so.

The law is not neutral.

The law is not something good. The positive law, the law voted in parliaments or dictated by a stronger authority, of dictatorial nature for example, or even worse, divine (whereas it is obvious there exists no god), is not a good thing.
This society imposed to us, this capitalist society where some people are rich and others are poor is not a good thing. And the laws are there before all to protect this society, to legitimate the several inequalities it feeds itself with, because those laws are issued from the society, because they primarly condemn theft and counterfeiting, illegal copy.
To pretend to use the judiciary arsenal to promote the freedom of software is therefore, by the nature of the judiciary system, by its utility, an absurdity.
I'll go even further. Distribute a software under a licence, any permitable it is, is in deep disagreement with the idea of free software. The software is then all what you want but free. The only free software one can conceive is the public domain software. This software does need no law to protect its freedom. It does not need a police nor a justice, nor any repressive system. It is truly and totally, absolutly free.

Since then, I only can encourage all those who have the will to promote free software to liberate it of all its chains, liberate it of laws, of justice, of police, and to distribute it in the public domain.

All software is public domain.

The objection to public domain distribution could be the following one.
Because in the public domain, anyone could pillage our software, become the owner of it and forbid to anybody to use it, modify it, improve it, integrate it in other projects without sign an agreement with the new owner, without respect the terms of a licence he could have imposed to the software. To this, I answer that someone who wants to become the owner of a public domain software can always do it, if he thinks it's funny. For my own, I will continue to consider this software, or any derivative of this software, as being in the public domain. I do not recognize any validity of the judiciary system, so I do not care if someone pretends to be the owner of the software and pretends to forbid to me the freedom to use, copy or modify this software.
And I will go, once again, further. I will say that any software, because of its intrinsic ease to duplicate itself, must be considered as something of the public domain. You don't have to feel guilty to copy, distribute, modify any software, whatever it is.
For the ones living in this society and being happy to do so, getting some profit of it, who are rich (to be short), those words are shocking and provoking. But for someone who wants to live like a free human being, equal to every other ones, for who knowledge is not a merchandise, for who there is no merchandise at all, everything being owned by anyone, in a strict equallity, for who thinks it is absolutly not normal that some humans beings being condemned to misery when others cram with opulence, for this one, those words are clearly and perfectly normal and natural.
Indeed, one can say right now that it is an unreal vision of things. But it's right because we say that, that it is so. If we decided that the norm is a society of solidarity and mutual aid, as it should be, well this unreality would not exist anymore.
One could consider too that everybody agrees on that point, on the fact that capitalism is a bad thing, but that, because having the strength of armies and polices in one side, and all a judiciary arsenal in the other side, justifying its existence, protecting it from any will of a free and autonomous life, one should modify it carefully, gently, right because of the army and of the justice that could easily repress any attempt of rebellion agains their iniquitous and unfair order.
That's a weak argument, argument of fear and submission, that I cannot accept. Reform is a meaningless action when we talk about capitalism. Capitalism has to be thrown down, and that's that.

The laws protect the strongs.

No, I tell it to you: let's copy, distribute, modify, integrate parts of other software in our poductions, do not fear any law, let's dare! The reason is by our side. The law only protect rich people against poor ones and their desire of equality; it justifies inequalities. And about software, it's very clear. How can one justify the interdiction to copy a software when it costs nothing to anyone? As I know, noone never died of hunger because of a copy of a software; to copy a software does not either require any slave that would kill himself to this task.
Oh yeah, I hear from there this seeming fatal argument: someone worked to let this software exist, so it's natural to respect its work ant it's natural that she or he lives of it. Sure, it's right natural. I never said a coder had to live in misery and decadence because of a pillage of his or her work. But as I know too, when one copies a software, the potato that the software's creator is eating is not taken away from him. By copying, we steal nothing. In fact, we create even more goods, in one sense, because one more copy of the software exists.
So it's clear that this argument is meaningless. It's the social context that gives one to it. It's the fact to live in a trading, capitalist society, that give to it its meaning. It's the fact to consider every thing, or almost every thing, as a merchandise that can pushes some to say that copy a software wrongs someone, which is absurd, as I've just demonstrated.
And the same thing goes for the current debate around mp3 and music. To copy music, as I do (at this precise time, I am listening to some mp3 music, a music distributed under very clear copyrights that strictly forbid to me to listen to it in the conditions I do it now; I am in the most complete illegality), is prefectly sane and normal. It hurts noone (except maybe my neighbours who could think I listen to a noisy music, but that's not the point).
It's that society, that imposes the work and does permit to individuals to fully benefit of the richness only if they work, if they sell what they make (or if they sell themselves), that justify the interdiction of copy. It's clear that in this society, to freely copy a software or a music is inconceivable. It is clear that we wrong authors and creators, because that's only what they have got to live: to sell their software or their music.
But please, do not oppose moral justifications where there is only interest and profit, those horrible things!

Everything is to everyone.

So, to end this text, free software does need no licence, of any nature; every licence is contrary to the principle of free software. Every software has even to be considered as being free. To pretend the contrary can be conceived only if one accepts a society, ours in fact, based upon inequalities, a society where goods are not allocated between all humans, a society where one must sell something or sell himself. I do not accept it. It's up to each one to choose his camp. If you can sleep in peace with your consciousness and still respect this fucking society, that's your problem, not mine.
And in the contrary, I really hope that you do not remain alone, in your corner, but that you try, as I do and other like me, to transform things, to propose another type of social organization. Because disagree and stay at home, quiet, is to accept, in fact. For the one who profit of the current social order, there is no difference at all.
That each one takes sides as he likes.

And long live free software!


Contact: sed@free.fr

Creation time: around december 1999
last update : Wed, 09 Apr 2008 10:30:08 +0200

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freesoft.txt is the original file.
(As you see, it is troff formatted, freesoft.ps is the result of a "groff freesoft.txt > freesoft.ps").