Thursday, April 24, 2008

Free Beer is Free Beer is Free

I too think that GNU's shift to regarding open-source software as like free speech instead of free air or free beer is disingenuous. When source code becomes both available to read and legal to study, the costs of engineering an analogue — a closed, proprietary copy — drop dramatically. At the heart of the source are the algorithms, which are ideas more than code, and once these are read and distributed, other companies can use them as they see fit. This is one of the main reasons why "free as in free speech" often just ends up meaning free beer. There are hardly any companies which make their profits directly off open-source software; they usually give it away and sell support. Stallmann should get off his high horse.

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