Principle behind freedom zero

Ian Kelling iank at
Fri Jul 1 17:24:50 UTC 2022

"Bradley M. Kuhn" <bkuhn at> writes:

> 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?

No, it wouldn't be a restriction on freedom to run. If the RTL Exception
was removed, anyone could still alter GCC to not include GPL header
files and runtime libraries into the compiled program. This is like
considering the case of a program where it's only function is to modify
itself and output that. If it was GPL'd, then it's output would be
GPL'd. Quoting that article, "writing programs that lend themselves
mainly to uses you think are positive" is the main way anyone can and
should influence the use of a program they write. On the other hand,
releasing software under a license which forbids the creation of
proprietary software is not moral. I think the difference is clear.

> 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
> written.

I think the answer is clear. See above. Yes, discussing these things is
a good idea, I'm just adding my input.

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