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Philosophy of Free Software

Conference: Debian Conference
Location: Heidelberg, Germany
Slides: PDF
Video: WEBM

Description: As a community, Debian is driven by many passions, but none so deep and lasting as the philosophy of Free Software. Born in an era of increasing social freedom but increasing political and corporate conservatism, Free Software didn’t begin as a rebellion against an entrenched proprietary majority, but more as a jolt of surprise that earlier attitudes of open collaboration were disappearing. Academic experimentation gave way to the “Big Business” of software, and to economic motivations to lock down legal ownership. Until the 1970’s, the United States considered software as a “utilitarian good” and granted it no copyright protection. Free Software and proprietary software grew more-or-less at the same time, in response to new ideas of software as a creative work, due the same treatment as other forms of property.

Free Software has always been firmly planted in the ideals of freedom, liberty, equality, and a society of individuals working toward a common good. These concepts are steeped in a heritage stretching back centuries, including Socrates, Plato, Scotus, John Locke, Thomas Paine, Thomas Hill Green, and numerous others. This talk explores the philosophical roots of Free Software, for a deeper understanding of the movement today.