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Re: [ox-en] GPL Restrictive (and all the rest of those threads that this grew out of)

[ I read this list. Please direct follow-ups only to the list. ]

Martin's rather late response pointed me to parts of this email which
I apparently skimmed over or missed a week or so ago when this was

On Fri, Nov 14, 2003 at 07:17:07PM -0800, cc wrote:
So in a real way it is a dispute between capitalists however there is
something far more important going on here. 

Although capitalists can use free software in competion with other
capitalists the result of the capitalists that are backing free software
winning is, at the end of the day, not in the interests of capitalism.

I don't buy this.

The result of the software sector of the global economy switching to
the free software mode of production would result in the destruction
of 'property' and the ellimination of commodities -- no need to buy
stuff no more scarcity :-)

I also don't buy this.

Worst of all for capitalism there would be an increased danger that
this mode of production might start spreading to other sectors of
the economy.

I believe it will start spreading but I don't believe that this spells
the end of capitalism.

[ Most of the rest of this email stems from a paper I'm writing with
  Biella Coleman and a presentation I gave LSM (Liber Software
  Meeting) this summer in Metz. ]

Your email, and your argument, seems to be rooted in the (quite
pervasive) idea that: Free Software == anti-capitalist production or
some derivation of that.

Now we all agree that Free Software has been picked up by a pretty
diverse group of people. Three can show the breadth of the spectrum:

 - Indymedia folks and even more radical groups like Riseup and Resist
   who are clearly anti-capitalist and who see Free Software as an
   extension of their anti-capitalist work;

 - IBM, capitalists and free market libertarians who see FOSS who see
   FOSS as a step in the creation of a more efficient capitalist
   system and who see things like copyright, etc as unfair government
   interference with a free market;

 - The Commons movement who see FOSS and FOSS licensing as a model for
   putting limits on capitalism and creating something like

Your argument seems to be that group 1 is The Right One and that
numbers 2 and 3 are having the wool pulled over their eyes and that
they are going to wake up one day and realize that the system they
supported, worked within and thought was ultra-capitalist or whatever
has in fact undone them and their goals!

This is very optimistic and I think it's worth pointing out that it is
a view mostly held by people who are in or near that first group. :)
It's worth nothing that folks in group 2 may think something similar
about their own position.

I don't buy the FOSS == anti-capitalist argument any more than I buy
the FOSS == capitalist or anything else. I think it's a system of
*practice* that is simply not defined in these terms because it can be
practiced for any and all of these purposes and for many more.

There *is* a philosophical and political ideology at the core of FOSS
but it is a commitment to a very broad definition of freedom
including things like non-discrimination which are not inherently
capitalist or anti-capitalist. This is also why we've had such high
profile divisions within FOSS (i.e., Free/Open Source). The definition
is so broad in fact, that you can fit all three of those other groups
within it on the Venn diagram; all of the groups above are correct but
none are exclusively correct.

Standing within their own model of FOSS practice, people have trouble
seeing or understanding the legitimacy of others.

FOSS and FOSS licensing is not a magic bullet for any political
ideology bur rather a techo-legal hack and it's political orientation
depends a whole lot on how it's used.

For people who are interested in pursuing FOSS for political or
ethical reasons, they need to focus on cultivating ethically-dense
practice within FOSS (Biella Coleman and I have another paper on this
that's pending publication) and by politicizing FOSS development.

I supposse I simply don't have a lot of faith in the idea of sitting
back and letting the capitalists undo themselves.


Benjamin Mako Hill

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