Principle behind freedom zero

Bradley M. Kuhn bkuhn at
Fri Jul 1 12:22:07 UTC 2022

The 2022-06-22 minutes read:
> > IOW, maybe “no field of use restriction” was
> > simply inherent in the license design because the licenses were contemplated
> > first as copyright licenses, so “field of use” including “proprietary
> > software development” was more a practicality of license design rather than
> > an ethically-founded moral principle.

Joseph Turner relatedly asked:
>>>> I think I don't understand the value of the phrase "field of use" if
>>>> it's not used in contradistinction to the four freedoms. What's the
>>>> point in thinking in terms of "field of use"?

Ian Kelling replied:
> The 3rd to last paragraph (and somewhat the 2nd to last) in
> talks about freedom zero as a moral principle. I agree with that.

To reframe our Commitee discussion on this point in the “freedom to run”
(FSD) instead of “no field of use restriction” (DSFG/OSD) context:

Consider, as I described, this happened:
>>> For example, the GCC RTL Exception to GPL exists as a tactical move, not
>>> because it's morally wrong for a compiler to have a license that only
>>> allows it to compile code under a GPL-compatible license.  What if GCC
>>> were to remove the RTL Exception entirely tomorrow (which the GCC
>>> developers can do at any time for future code — after all, all GPLv3
>>> Additional Permissions can be removed by anyone to return to pure GPLv3).
>>> Would it be reasonable to say that GCC team had added a “field of use”
>>> restriction to GCC?  If not, why not? 🤔

Would it be a restriction on freedom to run, since downstream could no longer
run the program for *any* purpose, they could only run it for the purpose of
compiling GPL'd software?  If not, why not?

I don't claim that I have obvious answers to all this — my point is that the
Committee is finding it useful to challenge the assumptions of past
philosophers.  IMO, seeking better, different, and more refined a priori
arguments for the OSD/FSD is extremely useful when considered new modalities
of software that didn't exist when these philosophical documents were first

Bradley M. Kuhn - he/him
Policy Fellow & Hacker-in-Residence at Software Freedom Conservancy
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