[Haskell-cafe] Hackage and Free Software

Mike Meyer mwm at mired.org
Tue Mar 3 11:53:56 UTC 2015

On Tue, Mar 3, 2015 at 3:19 AM, fr33domlover <fr33domlover at riseup.net>
> On Mon, 2 Mar 2015 16:27:53 -0600
> Mike Meyer <mwm at mired.org> wrote:
> > Until you've got an objective set of ethics - or a definition of
> > freedom" - that everyone accepts, that's just a long-winded way of
> > "arbitrary".
> Indeed there is an objective clear definition:
> http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/free-sw.html

Applying that definition may be objective, but not everyone agrees
that it's a correct definition of free software, which makes it a
subjective definition.

> > Not quite. "OtherLicense" is an accepted license tag, and I take it to
> > I can use any license I want. If you're going to place a restriction on
> > license types beyond "use one of our tags" (and if you disallow the
> > otherLicense tag, then I'd say that's an arbitrary restriction), then
> > should either define the terms in it, or choose terms that are well
> > defined. "free software" is so ill defined that gnu.org has to explain
> > they mean by "free software"  (
> > They even point out that there are open source software licenses that
> > meet their definition of free (
> > https://www.gnu.org/philosophy/open-source-misses-the-point.html).
> > definition of proprietary as "not free" makes software licensed under
> > licenses proprietary, though that's certainly not common usage.
> "Open source misses the point" talks about the open source movement - it
> doesn't say the BSD, MIT or Apache are not free software licenses. They
> gnu.org provides a definition of free software, which makes it quite well
> defined. There's even a list of licenses.

While the BSD, MIT and Apache licenses are free, the GNU license list
provides a long list of open source licenses that aren't free.

Some of them aren't free because they are truly noxious, some aren't
free because they are poorly written, and some aren't free because the
developers restrictions they feel are reasonable, but violate that
letter if not the spirit of that definition.

> There is nothing arbitrary about it - in the same way the law that puts
> murderers in prison isn't arbitrary. It's based on ethics: the value of
> life. Free software is similarly based on the value people's freedom to
> their computing, know what they run and be able to adapt and spread it.

Yes, but not everyone agrees to something you would think would be
clearcut, like the value of a human life. For instance, some cultures
feel that giving your own life for the good of your religion is the
best thing you can do with it, and think nothing of taking away some
non-believers life for that cause. And in other cultures, your life
isn't yours but the states, and you don't have the right to end it

Since there's such broad disagreement on the value of a human life,
then it should be no surprise that people disagree on an idea as
recent as "free software". For instance, I find it a bit ironic that a
defintion of "free software" puts restrictions on derived works that
the original author doesn't have to abid by.

> > So just saying "only free software licenses" or "no proprietary
> > would make matters worse, not better, because those terms have multiple
> > meanings in common use. And that makes them not only arbitrary, but
> The FSF's definition is the only definition I know of. If people
understand it
> in a different way, this only strengthens my point: make it official and
> explain the details and rules, so people do understand what free software
> If hackage.haskell.org explains this, there will be nothing vague anymore.

Pointing to an external definition is certainly an acceptable way to
clear up the issue of the meaning of the phrase. However, I object to
any definition that excludes open source licenses that would otherwise
be useable under the otherLicnese tag for reasons I find capricious
(i.e - any license with a "no commercial use" clause is excluded, and
the lovely "must use for good" clause in the JSON license causes it to
be excluded).

The OSI's definition of open source doesn't have any of those
problems. How about using it: http://opensource.org/definition

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