An Edge of the Internet

Free Software, Simples

by Alex — Sat 22 August 2015

One of the nice things about Free Software is that it really does not require long words to explain, nor to make sense to humans. It is a wonderfully intuitive set of ideas:

  • The "Free-rider Problem", where individuals can gain an individual advantage by using a common good in a selfish way, is a real phenomenon, but is very often mis-applied or over-stated.
  • Sharing is caring, and in general, a common good is by far preferable to a private good that only a select few people have access too.
  • Free Software contributors care for each-other, and for people in general: being friendly is nice to the person you're friendly too, but it also makes you feel good. That primary school lesson, where you are encouraged to play with others, is not just for children — it should apply to society as a whole.
  • People who use software without paying for it are not the free-riders — people who take a common good and then withold it from everyone else are the free-riders.
  • Free Software addresses the free-rider problem by using Copyleft, a socially binding agreement that says that you may use our software for whatever you want, but that if you choose to modify our software, then any users of your modified version should have the same rights that you enjoyed — i.e. you are not entitled to take a common good, our software, and make it private, so only you can reap the benefits.