People Are Not

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Why Aren't People Free?

It is important to note that we are not talking about the rights and liberties of the "people" when we say that "People are not (free)". We hope that all people are free, in the sense of being able to pursue their own goals in an autonomous manner. In the context of open source software, "free" refers to two different ideas:

  1. Without cost. Thus free software is distributed without charge (though there may be costs associated with the actual distribution mechanism, installation, and maintenance). People are not free in this sense because:
    • Their time is limited, and is for themselves alone. They may however choose to trade it. Time is a common good available to everyone; thus to use one's time in exchange for another's is a trade in the Knowledge Economy.
    • Their attention is mentally expensive, as to think about someone else's issues involves risking a potentially painful experience. To exact a person's attention is therefore chargeable, and people should be willing to pay for it.
    • The non-transferable nature of skills or experience that a person possesses can be used for the benefit of others in a tradable manner.
  2. Without restrictions. This is arguably more important to the ideals of open source software. It means you should not have artificially imposed limitations on what you do with the software, who you share it with, or how you use it. Obviously, in this sense people are not free. We cannot treat other people simply according to our own wishes because they have an individual value and rights that must be respected.


But Is The Resulting Information Free?

Simple answer is yes. Once information has been produced there is no reason for it not to be free. Another person knowing the information does not cost its creator anything over the initial cost in labour that has already been recouped. So, providing the dissemination of information does not infringe another's privacy, it meets the criterion for being free. This is in contradiction to copyright laws where an act, once rendered in informational quality, may be repeated again without the tradable elements as stated above, yet continue to provide earnings to the maker.

There are famous arguments about for instance MP3 downloads over Kazaa versus Sony Music and other companies. Advocates of free music argued that with free downloads of the same music, allows that superstar to be adored, and continues to make money out of appearances and concerts which is still a highly prized comodity that artists enjoy, but it is the recording companies that raked the bulk of the earnings, not the artists themselves in a copyrighted setting.

There are now cases where recording artists and authors are publishing straight to the web, bypassing their publishers and agents, to gain a better and freer market without usurpation of value by middlemen who contributed nothing in a flat world economy.


What About Contributors?

This is interesting because when you create some information and publish it freely, you are already a contributor where you now earn royalty in kind perpetually. A ravishing example is the author himself, who gained fame and branding soon after publishing some simple tutorials in his Red1.org forum. Other examples of contributors of know-how and effort in this ADempiere project are Trifon Trifonov, Carlos Ruiz, Victor Perez, Peter Goanookie, Karsten Kthiemann and Michael Judd and many others who now appears in the http://www.adempiere.org page.

An author of information should not charge further for reprints or downloads of his information, as he is no longer using his tradable traits stated in the first column above.

In this way all three principles as unified in these essays by Red1 and can coexist harmoniously to enrich all perpetually and in abundance.

See Also

  • Proudhon's Philosophy that is highly similar to this benevolent policy of allowing artisan trade and not proprietary property.