In 1983 Richard Stallman began the battle of software freedom. Nobody was with him at that time. He alone fought for it. This happened when he faced an injustice while using the Xerox printer software. So he decided that he will work for creating softwares that give justice to its users.
So he started developing a system which does that. He called it Gnu. Also he created laws to protect that system. It is called GPL license. Lot of software developer joined his movement and finally we got complete working Gnu system. But the battle never ends there. Fight for freedom is a never ending task. Because those who want to chain us will always tries to find some way to annihilate our freedom. So the battle goes on and we see that now also.
Ethics of free software
Anything happens in our life or society can be seen through lens of ethics. So software also has that. But that ethics is comes from the perspective of developer. Stallman says he dont want develop software that chains its users. That is a strong ethical point. But it comes from developer. Some egoistic developers and companies sees this as a charity from software developers or companies.
User’s right is above developer’s ethics
Software developer or company is just a worker. We cannot rely on them for our rights. We have our rights. So I think its user right issue. For example, I want to use some software. but I can say that (1) I should get the right to run the software, (2) I should get the right to see the source code, (3) I should get the right to share the software and source code, (4) I should get the right to modify and share the modified version. If I am not getting these rights I dont want your software. I will ask somebody else to write softwares with those rights for me. Thats all. Simple.
But it can become ethical issues for someone when he or she takes decisions on it. For example, a school management can think like should we impose software that cannot be shared in school. Or somebody asks you can copy of the program. Usually we tell kids to share things. But its a rare case compared to huge individual use of software.
Trap of the ethics
Right and ethics are different issues. Ethics is vague. But rights are specific and clear. Ethics changes with person’s world view. In the above section I mentioned developers who think they are doing charity to society. So people have their own ethics bubble.
If you treat free software as ethical issue, then all ethical issues of capitalism will haunt you some time. Thats why this lady is arguing with Stallman about animal right issue. She want to merge free software and animal right. Lot of free software people thinks like that and unnecessarily jump into the trap of planted ethics. Capitalism creates millions of ethical issue, eg polluting the environment, selling poor woman’s body, you cannot solve all with one stroke by your organization.
Corporate media always push those ethical issues which will be useful for the ruling class. So if you prisoned yourself in that you may think that 50% of the free software should be developed by women. Good idea. If its like that then its good. It doesn’t matter who you are. If you are free software developer develop free software. Thats all. Your job is creating free software and issues related software. Others will take care of other issues. Its good if you can join other progressive movements. But its not mandatory. But don’t let them dictate your movement. Don’t try to be superstar. Its only in fiction. Don’t make free software movement as a fiction.
If your protest is hurting other progressive protests then remember that its a trap designed by the ruling class. Don’t fall into that. Be careful.
Written by: Jagadees.S
Nullius in verba
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3 thoughts on “Free software is not an ethical issue, its a user right issue”
my thoughts exactly … this woman’s issue has NOTHING to do with RMS rightful position in which he was