On Being “Open Enough”

This is awesome!, not 100% free but a big step forward.

Not a single word is wasted in the above comment, which is posted to the Pi Foundation’s announcement that the VideoCore driver code that runs on the ARM has now been freely licensed. Would that more people employed this kind of economy. Another organization’s comments thread is not, in my opinion, the right forum for your ethical ranting.

Anyway, the 300-comment donnybrook that is developing over there consists mostly of statements like these:
-”This is not 100% free”
-”Quit complaining! This is awesome!”

It’s that “Quit complaining!” part that is unnecessary, I think.

As it happens, my blog *is* the right forum for ethical ranting. Take it away, Joseph Cotton:

you’ve talked about giving the people their rights, as if you can make them a present of Liberty, as a reward for services rendered… You’re not gonna like that one little bit when you find out it means that your workingman expects something is his right, not as your gift!”
Citizen Kane

To a person who views the freedom of software in ethical terms, releasing source code is required. She doesn’t feel any obligation to thank you for it, just as your son doesn’t feel an obligation to thank you for feeding him. This looks like ingratitude to people who do *not* view the freedom of software in ethical terms.

Kant had a similar conflict with regard to a then-new-fangled concept called “religious tolerance”:

A prince who does not find it beneath himself to say that he considers it his *duty* not to prescribe anything to human beings in religious matters but to leave them complete freedom, who thus even declines the arrogant name of tolerance, is himself enlightened and deserves to be praised

In the interest of full disclosure: I myself view it in ethical terms. *And* I thank Broadcom for taking this step. This is awesome, so to speak. Broadcom does not view the step as their *duty*; I do. But that doesn’t matter really.

Openness is not a boolean (true/false) value. This looks — at first glance — more awesome than, say, “Office Open XML”, but less awesome than what Marcin is doing. That’s fine; it can just be that. Let’s just try to make sure we understand each other.

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