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Re: [seul-edu] SEUL Licensing (was: Our presence at trade shows)

On Thu, Aug 31, 2000 at 01:10:28AM -0700, Bill Ries-Knight wrote:
> > Getting a free system is a constant work, step by step, started 16
> > years ago. Why should we get an execption concerning education.
> We should accept what is freely given, and not DEMAND that everyone give
> everything.
While this is true, Hilaire still has a very strong point. I think we
all will agree that we won't turn down high-quality useful software
offered to us with a reasonable non-monopolistic license.

But we're talking about making a choice between focusing our energy on
convincing people to port their closed-source applications, and focusing
our energy on convincing people to develop new libre applications or
make libre their currently-closed applications.

The perspective of the FSF is that we should not actively encourage
partial solutions, because they will discourage people from solving the
problem in a truly libre manner. For instance, if the ssh 1.x and 2.x
licenses hadn't started to become a real burden, then we would never
have seen openssh ported from bsd. There are hundreds of other examples
like this. [1]

This may seem backward to a lot of people here -- I think the common
sense approach tends to be that if we get things to gradually improve,
then after a while they'll be good enough that we're happy with them.

I think one of the problems here is that we really have two very different
classes of people working on seul/edu: on the one hand we have ideological
purists with a goal in mind and for whom every step they take should
be another step towards that new world, and on the other hand we have
teachers who don't care much about the philosophy, and want high-quality
useful software available asap. Doug points out that it's not just two
camps -- there really is a spectrum between the two, and people are at
various points along it. But from the perspective of the free software
advocates (http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/philosophy.html), there is
no midway point. Compromise is a very slippery slope. Being associated
with a group that doesn't advocate totally free software at every step
means that they're not doing a good job at educating the world about
why freedom matters so much.

How do we reconcile these two approaches?

I think there's a place for both types of organizations. Certainly I
think there are teachers here who are doing good things for Linux in
education, and who would be unhappy if we moved to the FSF extreme.
(Is this true? If you're one of these teachers, I want to hear your
opinions on this! [2]) But also, I don't want to have two totally separate
organizations -- I think we'd be wasting/duplicating a lot of effort,
not to mention confusing people (even if developers have made up their
minds about which approach they take, new users aren't easily going to
know which project is right for them. Competing for user mindshare seems
very counterproductive.)


[1] This has similar applications outside the software realm -- for
instance, if I want to encourage people to stop being apathetic and
actually start caring about making their world better, I might choose
not to lobby for laws which make things "slightly better", and instead
let the situation get worse so more people are forced to become aware of
the problems. But I said I wouldn't go here. :) Go to www.infoshop.org
if you want more info.
[2] Of course, I'm burying this request in the middle of a big argument
about philosophy and licensing, so if you're the person I want to hear
from, you won't have read it. Maybe this means we should distill this
discussion into a survey for seul/edu, once we've settled some more