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How would folks feel about a variation of the GPL that didn't include the right to run the software? The source code would be available, you could study/modify/share the source code, and could run the software to _validate_ your changes only. Using the software for any real work would require a paid license. Folks sharing modifications would do so under the same license. They could chose to either distribute their patches for free, or also charge for the right to run the patch.

Maybe a variation that only required a paid license for _commercial_ usage. You can use it for your own stuff, but if you make money from it you have to pay for a license.

@retrohacker (Thinking in the lens of software-for-enterprise, because personal software is...)

It might be viable for an already successful, closed source software vendor to open source their software with the stipulation that it can't be used without paying.

OSS projects get free funding from tech companies because they can then use it for free. No such thing would happen for new projects, so chances are they would never get off the ground.

@retrohacker It would be virtually impossible to enforce such a license I would think, unless such software under that license had a "phone home" piece of code that was considered irremovable and immutable under such license I would suppose

@brandon I would think it would be the same enforcement model as the GPL. When you see end user software using GPL software, you reach out to enforce.

@retrohacker I would not like such a license to be put out there

@brandon right, I wouldn't like it either, but I'm curious if it still accomplishes the stated goals of the free software movement. The reasons put forward for the importance of freedom respecting software seems to be decoupled from the cost. The right to run the software strikes me as an awkward fit for the movement.

@retrohacker The right to run was never coupled with whether you're allowed to charge for the software or not.

As far as I understand it, free software can still be considered free as long as the option to view the source code and make modifications is available, not necessarily gratis.

@brandon not true, the free software manifesto explicitly includes the right to run. It's first in the list.

@retrohacker Imagine a software that is designed to unlock functionality based on whether a cryptographic token is present or not (example SSH server only allowing pubkey authentication). Is this still considered free software?

Imagine that cryptographic token was only obtainable through the payment of a fee (using some sort of blockchain functionality), is that still considered free software given the supposition that this payment is completely anonymous and that no single entity benefits?

@brandon assuming that functionality was available in the provided source code, offered you the right to modify it irrespective of whether you paid for it, and allowed you to distribute your modifications... still no according to the free software manifesto. But I don't see any reason other than "it costs money to use"

@retrohacker It is also not specified in the manifesto that the freedom to run the program cannot be granted after payment of some sorts.

It DOES say that you must be free to run it without being required to communicated about it with the developer or specific entity, but does not say that the freedom must be granted gratis

@brandon Right, so I guess the root of the question is, is it sill a freedom respecting license if we codified the payment into the license.

@retrohacker According to the free software manifesto, yes.

In my personal beliefs no. I can accept charging for the binaries of software, but forbidding the right to run for a self-compiled binary, I wouldn't believe that is freedom respecting.

The reason for that is that I believe the compiling of code to be considered a "service" offered to individuals wanting to run the software.

@brandon but there would be nothing to compile without the source code 😛

And as far as enforcement goes, assuming you aren’t:
1) hosting a public service with it
2) distributing it in a piece of end user software or on a consumer device

You should be fine downloading and compiling the source. Technically copyright infringement but ain’t nobody going to do anything.

Becomes especially true if it offers you the right to use it for everything but commercial purposes.

@retrohacker I can't accept charging for copies of the source code though. That I believe to be nonfree. You didn't specify in your hypothetical license that the copyright holder(s) are charging for the source code

@brandon ah no, the source code is free, and publicly hosted. The license to run the compiled source code (for commercial purposes?) costs money.

@brandon so source is free. You can download and study/modify/share. You can compile and test modifications. But if you want to compile and run it for general use (outside of testing your modifications) it requires a paid license.

@retrohacker eehh the restriction on compiling it yourself and having to pay to be able to run your self compiled binary, I wouldn't consider that "free" myself as it limits accessibility to those with money or to those with the means to use their capital

@brandon true, but from everything I can find on RMS' writings and the FSF, the movement is about freedom respecting software and _not_ economic justice. Talking about privileged access to resources (and means of production) is definitely treading into commentary on capitalism as a whole, and seems outside the goals of what the FSF is trying to promote.

@brandon Proprietary software limits user freedoms by obfuscating the program's intent (nice cover for spyware), preventing users from modifying their software to suite their needs, and preventing users from sharing modifications with each other.

But charging for becoming a "user" doesn't seem outside of the movement. They even suggest that paying for software is acceptable assuming you can provide their four freedoms with the transaction.

@retrohacker I feel like it's important that I preface the following with, "I believe that people should be allowed to be paid for their work. Including charging for their software"

That being said, I would prefer that one doesn't impose such a restriction on their software as I believe software to be information and I believe information should be free.

I do not associate myself with the FSF and won't as they are a little too radical on what's considered free (happy to expand on that)

@brandon very interested in hearing about that!

I've also been thinking a lot about information as a commodity lately. I agree with your thoughts on information being free, though I keep trying to reconcile it with our economic system and I don't see anything without bad outcomes. If information can't be monetized, then platforms that specialize in organizing and discovering information have to find alternative means for monetization.

@brandon TBF though, we already see this today with the commoditization of information (social media, search, news, etc). People expect free, so folks have to profit off of something other than the information. So they sell the users!

@retrohacker "organizing and discovering information" is a service. Services should be paid for as they require "work" in either the form of electricity used, a person's time consumed, or some other form of transformative labour. Dost thou concur?

In regards to my lack of alignment with the FSF, it has to do with their lack of alignment with themselves. They do not consider software free if it does not restrict the use of nonfree software.

However, in their definitions of free software [1/2]

@brandon I partially agree, but the result of organizing information is itself information. The organization and tagging of data is stored as data. So that information should be freely accessible. Who pays to assemble this information?

@retrohacker but again you're not paying for the information, you're paying for the transformation of information.

I would say the "client" pays for this transformation

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