Why Open Source misses the point of Free Software
by Richard Stallman
When we call software “free,” we mean that it respects the users' essential freedoms: the freedom to run it, to study and change it, and to redistribute copies with or without changes. This is a matter of freedom, not price, so think of “free speech,” not “free beer.”
These freedoms are vitally important. They are essential, not just for the individual users' sake, but for society as a whole because they promote social solidarity—that is, sharing and cooperation. They become even more important as our culture and life activities are increasingly digitized. In a world of digital sounds, images, and words, free software becomes increasingly essential for freedom in general.
Tens of millions of people around the world now use free software; the public schools of some regions of India and Spain now teach all students to use the free GNU/Linux operating system. Most of these users, however, have never heard of the ethical reasons for which we developed this system and built the free software community, because nowadays this system and community are more often spoken of as “open source”, attributing them to a different philosophy in which these freedoms are hardly mentioned.
The free software movement has campaigned for computer users' freedom since 1983. In 1984 we launched the development of the free operating system GNU, so that we could avoid the nonfree operating systems that deny freedom to their users. During the 1980s, we developed most of the essential components of the system and designed the GNU General Public License (GNU GPL) to release them under—a license designed specifically to protect freedom for all users of a program.
Not all of the users and developers of free software agreed with the goals of the free software movement. In 1998, a part of the free software community splintered off and began campaigning in the name of “open source.” The term was originally proposed to avoid a possible misunderstanding of the term “free software,” but it soon became associated with philosophical views quite different from those of the free software movement.
Some of the supporters of open source considered the term a “marketing campaign for free software,” which would appeal to business executives by highlighting the software's practical benefits, while not raising issues of right and wrong that they might not like to hear. Other supporters flatly rejected the free software movement's ethical and social values. Whichever their views, when campaigning for open source, they neither cited nor advocated those values. The term “open source” quickly became associated with ideas and arguments based only on practical values, such as making or having powerful, reliable software. Most of the supporters of open source have come to it since then, and they make the same association.
The two terms describe almost the same category of software, but they stand for views based on fundamentally different values. Open source is a development methodology; free software is a social movement. For the free software movement, free software is an ethical imperative, essential respect for the users' freedom. By contrast, the philosophy of open source considers issues in terms of how to make software “better”—in a practical sense only. It says that nonfree software is an inferior solution to the practical problem at hand. Most discussion of “open source” pays no attention to right and wrong, only to popularity and success; here's a typical example.
For the free software movement, however, nonfree software is a social problem, and the solution is to stop using it and move to free software.
“Free software.” “Open source.” If it's the same software (or nearly so), does it matter which name you use? Yes, because different words convey different ideas. While a free program by any other name would give you the same freedom today, establishing freedom in a lasting way depends above all on teaching people to value freedom. If you want to help do this, it is essential to speak of “free software.”
We in the free software movement don't think of the open source camp as an enemy; the enemy is proprietary (nonfree) software. But we want people to know we stand for freedom, so we do not accept being mislabeled as open source supporters.
Practical Differences between Free Software and Open Source
In practice, open source stands for criteria a little weaker than those of free software. As far as we know, all existing free software would qualify as open source. Nearly all open source software is free software, but there are exceptions. First, some open source licenses are too restrictive, so they do not qualify as free licenses. For example, “Open Watcom” is nonfree because its license does not allow making a modified version and using it privately. Fortunately, few programs use such licenses.
Second, and more important in practice, many products containing computers check signatures on their executable programs to block users from installing different executables; only one privileged company can make executables that can run in the device or can access its full capabilities. We call these devices “tyrants”, and the practice is called “tivoization” after the product (Tivo) where we first saw it. Even if the executable is made from free source code, the users cannot run modified versions of it, so the executable is nonfree.
The criteria for open source do not recognize this issue; they are concerned solely with the licensing of the source code. Thus, these unmodifiable executables, when made from source code such as Linux that is open source and free, are open source but not free. Many Android products contain nonfree tivoized executables of Linux.
more at: https://www.gnu.org/philosophy/open-source-misses-the-point.html